Pointing the Finger: Civilian Casualties of NATO Bombing in the Kosovo Conflict
31 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2015
Date Written: 2001
The conduct of NATO's bombing campaign against FRY in early 1999 entailed several breaches of the laws of armed conflict with respect to civilians. While these breaches may not necessarily be of a kind suitable for prosecution by the Tribunal, whether due to an absence of evidence, an absence of identifiable individuals who can be properly held accountable, or for jurisdictional reasons, they should not be forgotten. A key factor leading to the breaches was that NATO was conducting a war on humanitarian grounds, sanctioned not by the United Nations but by the public in NATO member countries. As "public support for intervention was conditioned on the prospect of minimal casualties" for members, in too many cases NATO appeared to give absolute precedence to the lives of its forces over those of the civilian population, including the Kosovar Albanians it was fighting to protect. Thus, in several incidents the primary beneficiaries of NATO's precision weapons technology were the aircrew, who were able to direct attacks from higher altitudes at lower risk to themselves, rather than the civilians. At a broader international level, the civilian casualties of the NATO bombing reveal the critical need for development of the laws of armed conflict in the context of humanitarian intervention.
Keywords: humanitarian intervention, Kosovo, NATO
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