Milosevic, Clinton: both war criminals?
by Sandy Shartzer
from Marin Peace News, August / September 1999
Could President Clinton be charged with war crimes for his
role in the Kosovo war?
Under the statute creating the International Criminal Tribunal
for the Former Yugoslavia, yes he could. And if he were, he might
Created by the UN to deal with "any serious violations
of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of
the former Yugoslavia since l991," the Tribunal can hold
heads of government "individually responsible" for crimes
they planned, instigated or ordered. It indicted Yugoslavian Pres.
Slobodan Milosevic in May for a "campaign of terror and violence"
against Albanian Kosovars in Kosovo.
Crimes triable before the Tribunal (with possible charges
against Clinton in brackets) include:
* "Willful killing" of civilians [targeting civilian
areas; bombing people who could not be identified as combatants,
some of whom were Albanian Kosovar refugees; striking the TV station
in Belgrade knowing civilians would be inside].
* Extensive destruction of property "not justified by
military necessity" [destroying Serbia's civilian infrastructure].
* "Employment of poisonous weapons or other weapons calculated
to cause unnecessary suffering" [use of depleted uranium,
which can cause lingering death from cancer; use of cluster bombs,
which litter the landscape and kill unsuspecting children and
* "Wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or
devastation not justified by military necessity" [speaks
* Attacks on undefended towns or buildings [the Serbs had
almost no defense against NATO planes; bombing of the Chinese
Embassy and Belgrade TV station; strikes that hit hospitals, nursing
homes, etc., etc.].
British law professor Glen Rangwala asked the Tribunal in
May to indict Prime Minister Tony Blair, saying "There is
now overwhelming evidence that NATO is consciously violating cardinal
principles of humanitarian law."
The Tribunal is not the only forum under which Clinton and
other US and NATO leaders could be charged.
The US War Crimes Act of 1996 makes war crimes punishable
in US federal courts, with penalties up to and including death.
(The Tribunal for Yugoslavia has no death penalty.)
Under the UN Charter, initiating the war against Yugoslavia
could be a "crime against peace", a charge used in the
Nuremberg trials against Nazi war criminals.
Former Nuremberg prosecutor Walter Rockler says, "The
Nuremberg Court found that to initiate a war of aggression, as
the US has done against Yugoslavia, is not only an international
crime, it is the supreme international crime." Only the UN
is allowed to intervene militarily. Countries can only use military
force legally in self-defense.
An unofficial "Independent Commission of Inquiry to Investigate
US/NATO War Crimes Against the People of Yugoslavia" convened
July 31 in New York City to indict Clinton, Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, German
leader Gerhard Shroeder and others for war crimes.
The Commission's charges range from humanitarian (deliberate
targeting of civilians and infrastructure) to political (the "drive
by US imperialism to conquer all of Eastern Europe and the former
southern republics of the USSR").
Led by former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and the International
Action Center (IAC), the commission will hold hearings around
the world, including (in late Oct.) San Francisco and other West
Coast cities culminating in a "War Crimes Tribunal"
with an international panel in New York City.
For more information: call the International Action Center
(IAC) in San Francisco at 415-821-6545 or visit its website at