A group of doctors and lawyers intending to sue NATO for the 199 bombing of Serbia “has no chance of winning.” This is what Belgrade-based Danas is reporting, citing its interlocutors.
Such a chance does not exist without the fundamental research that the group refers to, said the article.
The special team, as they calls themselves, intends to prove a link between the increase in most serous diseases, especially cancer, and NATO’s use of depleted uranium during the bombing.
Slavica Djukic Dejanovic, minister without portfolio in charge of demographics and population policy, told the daily that the impact of depleted uranium on health is an answer yet to be provided by experts who deal with radiation, not by ad hoc groups.
“It requires a very extensive research and taking a professional stance that has nothing to do with politics. As for the NATO bombing, tons and tons of bombs were dropped on Serbia, it is the largest civilizational disgrace of those who have done it without the decision of the UN Security Council. Would it be fair to get compensation? It would be. But I think that processes should be launched when the prerequisites are created for that response to be positive, not merely to be saying like Calimero – ‘it’s an injustice’,” said Djukic Dejanovic.
Lawyer Goran Petronijevic is of a similar opinion. He believes that the state and its institutions should stand behind an extensive research into the effects of depleted uranium and other bombs dropped on Serbia.
“It is certain that large quantities of depleted uranium had been used, that it has certain adverse effects, many experts say, even fatal. Some causal connection between certain diseases and depleted uranium exists, but what, and to what extent, the answer must be provided by science. It is the state’s fault that experts have not yet provided the answer to this question, because serious, extensive research costs a lot. And it should be financed by the state,” Petronijevic said.
The lawyer added that it was another question why the state has not done this to date.
“What are the institutions embarrassed about? What are they afraid of? Are they under pressure, or have they faltered due to some other circumstances, I do not know. It’s possible this is due to the plans of future Euro-integration, so this shouldn’t be talked about to avoid additionally setting people against NATO,” said Petronijevic.
He added that as a lawyer, he thought it was safer to go into the case against NATO with completed research, rather than conducting it on the fly during the process.
“The NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 used between 10 and 15 tons of depleted uranium, which caused a major environmental disaster,” said Srdjan Aleksic, a Serbian lawyer who leads the legal team, which includes lawyers from the EU, Russia, China and India.
“In Serbia, 33,000 people fall sick because of this every year. That is one child every day,” he claimed.
NATO’s press office says it’s now aware of Serbia’s allegations, but gave no further comment.
When asked as of why Serbia has decided to sue NATO 19 years after the attacks, the lawyer said “considering the horrific consequences for our population… it is never too late to sue someone who has caused an environmental catastrophe, someone [who] bombed Serbia with a quasi-nuclear weapon, i.e. depleted uranium.”
The Serbian lawyer says 19 countries that were part of NATO at the time need to pay compensation for “for the financial and non-financial damages… to all the citizens who died or fell sick as a proven result of the NATO bombing.”
“We expect the members of NATO to provide treatment to our citizens who are suffering from cancer,” Aleksic said, adding that the bloc “must also provide the necessary technology and equipment to remove all traces of the depleted uranium” from Serbia.
“The use of banned weapons” by the US-led military alliance in the Balkans “was a violation of all the international conventions and rules that protect people” from such kind of weapons, the lawyer claimed, adding that NATO also used depleted uranium in Iraq in 1991.
“The alliance has not been put on trial for this act, but the consequences are disastrous,” he said.
In its 2000 report on depleted uranium, NATO confirmed the use of the munitions both in Iraq and in the Balkans.
“In Iraq, about 300 metric tons of DU [depleted uranium] ammunition were fired by American and British troops. Recently, NATO confirmed the use of DU ammunition in Kosovo battlefields, where approximately 10 metric tons of DU were used,” the report says.
The UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has also admitted“there is evidence of use of depleted uranium (DU) projectiles by NATO aircraft during the bombing campaign.” However, the UN tribunal has pointed out that “there is no specific treaty ban on the use of DU projectiles.”
Reporting on the consequences of the use of such munitions for civil population and the environment, a NATO report said that “in the vicinity of the impact point of DU ammunitions, it is not excluded that individuals unaware of the contamination… could have accumulated radiation doses and/or could have incorporated uranium quantities exceeding the internationally recognized limits.”
In May, Balkan Insight reported that around 50 people from the Serbian city of Nis, who have been suffering from cancer and have “seemingly relevant medical documentation” have asked the legal team of 26 lawyers and professors to represent them in the case against NATO.
NATO launched airstrikes in what was then Yugoslavia in March 1999, having interfered in a sectarian conflict between Serbians and Kosovan Albanians. As clashes between the local population turned violent, the US-led military alliance made a decision to respond to what the it said was ethnic cleansing of the Muslim population of Kosovo, without the backing of the UN Security Council.
With no UN mandate, NATO bombing of Serbia lasted for three months, having resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths.