NATO’s Aggression Against Serbia and Montenegro in 1999
The NATO launched a military intervention against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) on March 24th, 1999 in the name of protection of human rights of Kosovo Albanians. In other words, the 78 days of barbaric air-strikes were formally justified by “humanitarian intervention” which was mainly based on the false flags and fake news (like the Rachak case) by Western corporate mass media or brutal lies from the ground (like by William Walker – a Head of the Kosovo Verification Mission).[i]
In essence, regional organizations like the NATO, according to the UN Charter, do not have the right to interfere in internal affairs of any country, not even in internal affairs of their own member states. This superior international document and instrument of global security explicitly demand the approval of the UNSC for the undertaking of any armed action by any regional organization. The NATO never asked and never became authorized to carry out military intervention against Serbia and Montenegro in 1999 and, therefore, according to modern Public International Law, this “humanitarian” intervention under arms was a pure act of brutal aggression against a sovereign country and as such a crime against peace. Subsequently, human rights served in this case just as a justification for the realization of certain geopolitical aims in the Balkans. It became of crystal visibility in February 2008 when Kosovo Albanians proclaimed an independent Republic of Kosovo which became recognized by all US’ satellites around the world. In 1999 NATO did not bomb Serbia and Montenegro for the sake of Kosovo independence but only to protect “human rights” (of Albanians). However, the same NATO nothing did to continue the protection of human rights (of Kosovo Serbs and other non-Albanians) after the war when the province became put under complete protectorate and control by the NATO who nothing did to prevent comprehensive ethnic cleansing of the province committed by Albanian extremists (former members of the KLA).[ii]
Although, as it is presented above, every armed intervention is strictly prohibited by both Public International Law and the UN Charter, the NATO, established in 1949 on the foundation of Article 51 of the UN Charter which is dealing with the right to collective and individual self-defense, attacked the FYR on March 24th, 1999 with continual barbaric air-strikes for the next 77 days. The term “air-strikes”, the NATO was regularly used at its own press conferences during the aggression on Serbia and Montenegro like the term “collateral damage” for the mass destruction and civilian casualties resulted by the NATO bombing. In their official statements, NATO’s officials declaratively claimed that the focal reason for those (illegal) air-strikes was a set of humanitarian issues among them the most important have been three: 1) protection of individual human rights, 2) violation of Albanian rights in Kosovo as a national minority, and 3) prevention of the potential policy of genocide and ethnic cleansing against ethnic Albanians by Yugoslavia’s security forces. Nevertheless, the aggression was accompanied by dirty and powerful media propaganda which was, of course, directly supported by a number of politically “correct” legal and human rights experts for the purpose to wash the brains of the Western audience. Most of them justified the aggression with the right of Kosovo Albanians to self-determination, although such right is not supported by any valid international instrument if the right to self-determination means the destruction of territorial integrity of the country. However, the same experts did not recognize the same right to self-determination to Croatia’s and Bosnia’s Serbs during the break up of ex-Yugoslavia.
To keep in our mind, according to Public International Law and the UN Charter, the aggression also includes bombing by the armed forces of one country against the territory of another country or use of any arms and armed forces of one country against the territory of another as, for instance, NATO used Kosovo Albanian KLA as ground forces during the Kosovo War. But the crucial fact in relation to the 1998−1999 Kosovo War was that since there was no real humanitarian catastrophe before the NATO aggression starred on March 24th, 1999 against the FRY, it had to be created what exactly NATO did during the air-strike campaign of 78 days in order to justify its occupation of the province after the war followed by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008.
Violation Of Human Rights In Kosovo
No one claims that human rights of all citizens including and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo-Metochia have not been violated to a certain extent before NATO’s military campaign in 1999. This fact was approved in several resolutions by the UNSC before the NATO aggression but what is systematically hidden as a fact is that original flagrant violation of human rights in the province came from the side of Albanian KLA as this terrorist organization launched a widespread policy of attacking, kidnapping and killing of the Serbs in order to provoke Serbia’s security forces who reacted as they did it by violation of human rights of those Albanians who participated in the actions of and/or supported the KLA’s activities. Here we have to keep in mind that a majority of Kosovo’s Albanians did not support the methods of combat by the KLA including and Dr. Ibrahim Rugova – a political leader of Kosovo’s Albanians. In order to calm down a political situation in the province, the Yugoslav Government concluded with different international organizations, like the OSCE or the NATO, several agreements allowing the OSCE monitoring mission in Kosovo-Metochia. The Yugoslav Government as well as agreed to restrain the activities by its security forces if the opposite side (the KLA) would do the same. That the Albanian side before NATO’s aggression was committing war crimes is clear from the invitation to both the Yugoslav and Kosovo’s Albanian sides by the international community to cooperate with the UN special Tribunal (est. 1993) for the crimes committed on the territory of ex-Yugoslavia (including Kosovo-Metochia too). The fact was that regarding this invitation to cooperate with the Tribunal’s prosecutor in the Hague, the leaders of the “Albanian national community” were also invited but not only the Yugoslav side to participate in the investigation for all offenses within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal. The Albanian side was, in other words, invited to participate in the investigation of personal involvement of the KLA members in the crimes committed against other ethnic groups in Kosovo-Metochia, with the final political aim to secede the province from the FRY.
Nevertheless, in no one resolution on Kosovo before March 24th, 1999,[iii] it was not mentioned any “threat to peace” in the province nor did they order the UNSC to form international armed forces with the right to re-establish the peace and order in Kosovo, that was to undertake certain armed actions against Serbia and Montenegro. In 1998, the FRY as a sovereign state was combating separatist Albanian movement in Kosovo-Metochia, in some cases with inordinate use of force, but, nevertheless, there was no real humanitarian catastrophe at that time. The recent historical experience of violation of human rights according to contemporary definition, in the province suggests that the critical situation was escalating with the creation of the KLA in 1995 which took comprehensive terrorist actions for the sake to bring about the secession of Kosovo from Serbia. The Yugoslav security forces came into serious conflict with different groups of the KLA, and the judiciary of the FRY accompanied by relevant experts and scholars justifiably qualified the armed actions of Kosovo’s separatists as classic terrorism and criminal acts against a sovereign state.[iv]
In essence, there were prior to NATO’s aggression on the FRY the problems of protection of human rights in Kosovo-Metochia, but certainly no to such extent as it was exaggerated by the Western mass media and policymakers at least no bigger than in many other corners of the world like in Colombia or Turkey’s eastern part populated by ethnic Kurds. Surely, the situation in regard to human rights in Turkey since 1994 onward is much more serious than it was in Kosovo-Metochia in 1998 as the Kurdish human and minority rights are drastically violated like in 1994 when a large number of the Kurdish villages were destroyed by the Turkish police and regular army’s forces and when almost one million of ethnic Kurds fled Turkey to neighboring states but the US administration simply did nothing to protect the Kurdish human rights. Even no initiative was launched for the UN to undertake a legitimate international action in order to prevent Turkey’s authorities to stop with the production of a humanitarian catastrophe.
Producing Humanitarian Catastrophe But Characterized As No Aggression
The focal result of NATO’s bombing of Serbia and Montenegro was a huge number of refugees of all nationalities from Kosovo-Metochia that became, in fact, a real humanitarian catastrophe. However, during such exodus of people, NATO’s military aggression under the umbrella of the “armed humanitarian intervention” became even strengthened in spite of all prohibitions which have been existing in Public International Law. However, during and after the bombardment of the FRY, the UN resolutions, like the UNSC Resolution of June 10th, 1999, simply did not mention the bombardment at all for a very reason: if mentioned it would have to be officially qualified as “aggression” what means a violation of Public International Law and the UN Charter. In this case, however, due to the established voting system in the UNSC (threat of using Russian and Chinese veto rights), no resolution could be adopted. The Resolution of June 10th, 1999, in fact, is speaking only about deployment of international security forces including and those of the NATO in the province after the war for the sake to “…establish safe environment for all people in Kosovo, as well as to facilitate safe return of all displaced people and refugees to their homes”.[v] In other words, nowhere in the whole text of the resolution is mentioned the bombardment of the FRY and, therefore, a pure act of aggression against a sovereign state. That was the same with another previous resolution adopted during the aggression (Resolution 1239 on May 14th, 1999) which does not say any single word about NATO’s bombardment but instead it only says that international community expresses serious concern in respect to the humanitarian catastrophe in and around Kosovo as a result of continuing crisis but who produced this crisis is absolutely unclear from the text of the resolution. The same text confirms the rights of all refugees and displaced persons to return to their homes in a safe and dignified manner but what was a real background of the crisis is not clear. According to the UN resolutions on Kosovo, the NATO barbaric bombardment and a classic act of aggression on a sovereign state, in fact, believe or not, never happened!
We have to mention that there were several attempts by Russia and China in the UNSC to adopt an appropriate resolution in which would be recognized that NATO’s air-strikes in 1999 really happened on the ground and subsequently they had to be characterized as “aggression”. However, such resolution’s proposals failed as not being adopted for the only reason – used veto rights by the USA, the UK, and France (the Western obstruction).
Arguments Against Humanitarian Intervention
There are several focal objections by the scholars, policy-makers, and lawyers to humanitarian intervention advocated at various times. Here, we will address the most important arguments against humanitarian intervention taking primarily the case of NATO’s bombing of the FRY in 1999:
- No real basis for humanitarian intervention in Public International Law. The common good is best preserved by maintaining a ban on any use of force not authorized by the UNSC. Interveners have typically either claimed to be acting in self-defense according to the “implied authorization” of the UNSC resolutions and the UN Charter or have refrained from making any reasonable legal argument based on Public International Law at all.
- States do not intervene for primarily humanitarian reasons. States always have mixed real reasons for humanitarian and other interventions and are very rarely prepared to sacrifice their own soldiers overseas. It means that humanitarian intervention is guided by calculations of national interest but not by what is best for the victims in whose name the intervention is formally carried out.
- States are not allowed to risk the lives of their own soldiers in order to save strangers. Political leaders do not possess any moral right to shed the blood of their own citizens on behalf of suffering foreigners. Citizens are having the exclusive responsibility of their own state, and their state is entirely their own business and, therefore, if a civil authority has broken down this is the responsibility only of the citizens and political leaders of that state but not of the foreign powers.
- The issue of abuse. In the absence of a not politically colored mechanism for deciding when a real humanitarian intervention is permissible, states have a possibility to espouse humanitarian motives just as a formal pretext to morally cover the pursuit of national self-interest as, for instance, A. Hitler did with the Sudetenland.
- Selectivity of response. States all the time apply principles of humanitarian intervention selectively following their own national interest but not real protection of human rights. In other words, a state’s behavior is always governed by what the Government decides to be in their interest and, therefore, states are selective about when they choose to intervene. As an example, the selectivity of response is the argument that NATO’s “humanitarian” intervention in Kosovo in 1999 could not be driven by real humanitarian concerns as it has done nothing to address, for instance, the very much larger humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur, a province in West Sudan (Darfur genocide).
- A problem of moral principles. There is no generally reached consensus on a set of moral principles about humanitarian intervention which should not be permitted in the face of disagreement about what constitutes extreme cases of the violation of human rights.
- Practically, humanitarian intervention does not work. Humanitarian intervention is not workable as the outsiders cannot impose human rights especially by those who have the same problem in their homes. Democracy can be established only by a domestic struggle for liberty but not from the outside. It means that human rights cannot take root if they are imposed by outsiders. The argument is that the oppressed people should by themselves overthrow non-democratic authority.[vi]
The norms of Public International Law and doctrine of collective security after 1945 presented above, unfortunately, did not stop different forms of armed interventions around the globe but especially by the US – a country which became a global champion of aggression. Armed “humanitarian” interventions are still and are going to be a reality of the present and future international relations under the umbrella of the R2P.
After the Cold War, the most brutal, illegal and shameful “humanitarian intervention” was in the southern Serbian province of Kosovo-Metochia in 1999 that was, in fact, NATO’s aggression against the FRY in a form of an air campaign. However, beside this example of “humanitarian intervention” as a violation of Public International Law, there were many similar interventions before like when in 1983 the USA invaded a sovereign state of Granada with some 8.000 soldiers under justification to protect the lives of about 1.000 American citizens living there under the belief that they were threatened due to the unrest in this country. However, the real reason of such “humanitarian intervention” has been of purely political and geostrategic nature rather than humanitarian one as US’ troops occupied the whole island (state) of Granada including and those parts in which US’ citizens did not live. The focal proof of abuse of Public International Law was a fact that the American troops de facto occupied Granada as they stayed on the island even after all the American citizens had left and changed the Government of it.
From the presentation above, it is quite clear that NATO’s military action against Serbia and Montenegro in 1999 cannot be characterized as a just war of “humanitarian intervention” even according to the criteria by the 17th-century Dutch philosopher Hugo Grotius not to speak about the modern set of criteria incorporated into the UN Charter and Public International Law. Therefore, the action was rather a classic example of brutal military aggression against a sovereign state covered by politicized Western mass media. It is true that “media are not only spectator in modern conflicts, but must be considered active participants forming public opinion and also creating and directing threat perception”[vii] that was exactly the case of the 1998−1999 Kosovo War when the Western corporate mass media succeeded to convince public opinion that NATO’s “humanitarian intervention” was a just war.
Reposts are welcomed with the reference to ORIENTAL REVIEW.
[i] About the Western lies on the Kosovo War, see in [Lesly Alan Horvitz, Christopher Catherwood, Encyclopedia of War Crimes and Genocide, New York: Facts On File, 2006, 270−271]. The authors wrote this chapter and suggesting the further reading list exclusively on the „sources“ of those warmongers who attacked the FRY and their political supporters – notorious pro-Albanian and Serbophobic Western „academicians“ and „journalist“ like NATO’s General Wesley K. Clark (who bombed Serbia and Montenegro in 1999), Noel Malcolm, Tim Judah, Julie Mertus or Michael Ignatieff.
[ii] Мирко Чупић, Отета земља: Косово и Метохија (злочини, прогони, отпори…), Београд: Нолит, 2006.
[iii] For instance, Resolution 1203 on 1998-10-24 or Resolution 1207 on 1998-11-17.
[iv] Др Радослав Гаћиновић, Насиље у Југославији, Београд: ЕВРО, 2002, 292−304.
[v] Milan Paunovic, „Humanitarian Intervention as an Abuse of the Principle of Prohibited Use of Force in International Law“, Eurobalkans, Autumn/Winter, 1999, 22.
[vi] Andrew Heywood, Global Politics, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, 325−328.
[vii] Žaneta Ozoliņa (ed.), Rethinking Security, Rīga: Zinātne, 2010, 219−220.