This is my legal argument for Blair to face a war crimes trial over the attack on Serbia ;
Formal Criminal Complaint.
I wish to make a formal criminal complaint against ;
A) Tony Blair MP
The former British Prime Minister at the time of the attack on Serbia who authorised British involvement in the illegal attack on the Serbian TV station, Radio Televisija Srbije - ( RTS) on April 23 rd 1999.
This complaint relates to the attack on the civilian Serbian TV station, Radio Televisija Srbije - ( RTS) on April 23rd 1999 by .
The attack on the TV station is defined under Article 147 of the Geneva Convention as ;
"Wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including... wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly."
This attack is classified as a war crime under Article 147 of the Geneva Convention as the Serbian TV channel headquarters was ;
1) undefended by the Serbian military and not a military threat of any kind to British troops,
2) was not a military installation run by the Serbian Military
3) was staffed solely with civilians and not any military personnel
4) was not a legitimate military target as it was not indulging in aggressive military or hostile actions that could have threatened British troops
5) the illegal attack on the station resulted in the deaths of Serbian civilians who were non-combatants.
6)the attack on the TV station was an example of wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity
7) The attack, or bombardment, was against an undefended towns, villages, dwellings, or building
8) The attack involved the destruction or wilful damage done to institutions dedicated to religion, charity and education, the arts and sciences, historic monuments and works of art and science, in that the TV station was an essential part of the TV media in Serbia to educate the Serbian public about NATO attacks, the dangers of the bombardment and also provided them with information to enable them to escape areas where NATO bombing was threatening the lives of civilians.
9) was a crime against peace as the attack included the planning, commencement, and waging of aggressive war against Serbia in violation of international agreements.
10) the attack was an example of waging an ' Aggressive War ' against Serbia defined as a hostile military act that disregards the territorial boundaries of another country, disrespects the political independence of another regime, or otherwise interferes with the sovereignty of an internationally recognized state.
Most war crimes fall into one of three categories: crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and traditional war crimes. Crimes against peace include the planning, commencement, and waging of aggressive war or war in violation of international agreements. Aggressive war is broadly defined to include any hostile military act that disregards the territorial boundaries of another country, disrespects the political independence of another regime, or otherwise interferes with the sovereignty of an internationally recognized state.
UK Legal Status of the Convention.
The British police have a duty under the Geneva Convention Article 146 to investigate and prosecute Tony Blair as the UK is a High Contacting Party to the convention ;
The High Contracting Parties undertake to enact any legislation necessary to provide effective penal sanctions for persons committing, or ordering to be committed, any of the grave breaches of the present Convention defined in the following Article.
Each High Contracting Party shall be under the obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches, and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts. It may also, if it prefers, and in accordance with the provisions of its own legislation, hand such persons over for trial to another
High Contracting Party concerned, provided such High Contracting Party has made out a prima facie case.
Each High Contracting Party shall take measures necessary for the suppression of all acts contrary to the provisions of the present Convention other than the grave breaches defined in the following Article.
In all circumstances, the accused persons shall benefit by safeguards of proper trial and defence, which shall not be less favourable than those provided by Article 105 and those following of the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War of August 12, 1949.
UK Legal Position as per duty to investigate, arrest and prosecute.
The UK's obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention have been given effect in domestic law via the Geneva Conventions Act 1957, which applies to: "Any person, whatever his nationality, who, whether in or outside the United Kingdom, commits, or aids, abets or procures the commission by any other person of, a grave breach of any of the scheduled conventions or the first protocol…"" [Article 1.-(1)].
Facts of the Complaint ;
The ostensible justification for NATO attacking the TV station was to prevent attacks by the Serbian state against the Kosovans and threats against NATO forces that were supposedly being directed by the Serbian TV station.
In relation to the specific event that can be classified as a war crime is the attack by NATO forces on the Serbian TV channel headquarters on April 23rd 1999 that was staffed solely with civilians. The attack on the TV station is defined under Article 147 of the Geneva Convention as " "Wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including... wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, e xtensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly."
War crimes are defined in the statute that established the International Criminal Court, which includes grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, such as:
" Unlawful wanton destruction or appropriation of property and directing attacks upon civilians as part of an international conflict ".
In the early morning of 23 April 1999 NATO aircraft bombed the headquarters and studios of Serbian state television and radio (Radio Televisija Srbije - RTS) in central Belgrade. There was no doubt that NATO had hit its intended target as it had blamed the TV station for directing ' Serbian state forces ' involved in the attacks on the Kosovans. There were estimated to be at least 120 civilians working in the building at the time of the attack. At least 16 civilians were killed and a further 16 were wounded.
The UK government justification for the attack on the TV station was that the Serbian TV station was part of a " key regime command-and-control asset " under the control of the Serbian state that was involved in directing the attacks by Serbian state forces on the Kosovans.
At a heated press briefing at the Ministry of Defence, Clare Short, the international development secretary, said: 'This is a war, this is a serious conflict, untold horrors are being done. The propaganda machine is prolonging the war and it's a legitimate target.'
Admiral Sir Ian Garnett, chief of joint operations at the ministry of defence, said Mr Milosevic's 'propaganda machine consists of transmitters but also the studios from which the information is transmitted. That makes it part of the overall military structure. Both elements have to be attacked.'
Nato's military spokesman, Air Commodore David Wilby, described RTS, the Serbian state broadcasting station, as a 'legitimate target which filled the airways with hate and with lies over the years'. The admissions by Clare Short, Admiral Sir Ian Garnett and Air Commodore David Wilby all confirm that part of the UK governments motive for the attack on the TV station included an attack upon Serbian propaganda.
This means that if the motive for the attack, if even in a small way, related to the function of the Serbian TV station as a vehicle for propaganda, then this means that the attack was a war crime.
The ONLY justification for the attack in international law in order to ensure legality was ;
1) that the attack was based SOLELY on the TV station being used or having a primary role as being part of the military command and control structure of the Serbian forces that directly threatened NATO forces at the time of the attack.
2) At the same time as this active and direct threat to NATO forces existed it must also be proved that attacking the TV station at that time also offered NATO a military advantage required by the urgent on the ground military threat linked to those NATO forces.
3) It must also be proved that those NATO forces were also under threat from an attack by Serbian forces that were being directly commanded via military transmissions direct from the TV station.
No such situation ever existed to justify the attack on the TV station under international law and the Geneva Convention.
In fact no such threat to NATO forces ever existed to justify the attack on the TV station and no such connection to the TV station as a transmission facility was ever proved.
No evidence has ever been provided that this was in fact true that the TV station was part of the Serbian control structure of the Serbian military and no such evidence was before either Tony Blair or Geoff Hoon when they ordered the attack on the TV station. Therefore this means the attack was an illegal attack.
Jamie Shea, NATO spokesman claimed repeatedly during the bombing campaign: 'I only, as NATO spokesman, give out information when it is totally accurate and confirmed'. This was the same Jamie Shea who wrote to Aiden White, general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, on 12 April 1999, in response to concern about targeting of media outlets, that NATO had no policy to 'strike television and radio transmitters' and that 'Allied air missions are planned to avoid civilian casualties, including of course journalists, and have been frequently abandoned when it has proven impossible to distinguish between military and civilian targets'. Less than a fortnight later Jamie Shea was defending NATO's bombing of the television station, killing 15 media workers, in Belgrade on 23 April as an operation against a 'legitimate' target.
This is proof that the targeting of the Serbian TV station was ;
1) A deliberate attack and not an accident
2) planned and authorised prior to the attack happening by Geoff Hoon MP and Tony Blair PM
3) undertaken as part of the war against Serbia
4) and that the MOD, Geoff Hoon and Tony Blair were aware that the attack was in breach of the Geneva Convention prior to authorising that attack.
Doubts about the lawfulness of attacking an object on propaganda grounds have been expressed, with specific reference to the RTS headquarters, by George Aldrich, who has said, "If the television studios ... were targeted merely because they were spreading propaganda to the civilian population, even including blatant lies about the armed conflict, it would be open to question whether such use could legitimately be considered an effective contribution to military action." See "Yugoslavia Television Studios as Military Objectives", in International Law FORUM du droit international, Volume I, No.3, September 1999, p.150.
The attack on the TV station violated the rule of proportionality, which is a grave breach of Protocol I of the Geneva Convention and therefore a war crime. This is the
Protocol relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I).
Two fundamental tenets of international humanitarian law are those of "civilian immunity" and the principle of "distinction." (Articles 48, 51.2 52.2 Additional Protocol 1)
They impose a duty, at all times during the conflict, to distinguish between combatants and civilians, and to target only the former. This duty means that it is forbidden in any circumstance to carry out direct attacks against civilians; to do so intentionally is a war crime. The parties to a conflict must also refrain from threats or acts of violence the primary purpose of which is to terrorize the civilian population. ( Article 51.2 Additional Protocol 1 ).
This includes the bombing of a TV station done with the intention of ending propaganda.
Also prohibited are "attacks against the civilian population or civilians by way of reprisals." (Article 51.6 Additional Protocol 1). This includes attacking the TV station for broadcasting propaganda that supported the Serbian state.
Apart from the prohibition on direct attacks against civilians and civilian objects, international humanitarian law prohibits indiscriminate attacks on such targets as the TV station as a matter of both treaty and customary law ( Article 51.4 Additional Protocol 1).
Indiscriminate attacks are those that are not directed against a military objective, those that employ a method or means of combat that cannot be directed at a specific military objective, or those that employ a method or means of combat the effects of which cannot be limited as required by international humanitarian law. In each such case, these attacks are of a nature to strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction. (Article 51.4.a Additional Protocol 1 ). The inability of NATO to make a distinction between civilian TV workers and the alleged military technological infrastructure by using bombs dropped onto the TV station from jets means the attack was illegal from its inception. NATO had the possibility of targeting other technological facilities with the possibility of no civilian casualties but did not so, for example targeting TV pylons and transmission facilities.
A corollary of the principle of distinction is the prohibition of area bombardment. Any attack, whether by aerial bombardment or other means, that treats as a single military objective a number of clearly separated and distinct military objectives located in a single building, city, town, village or other area containing a similar concentration of civilians and civilian objects, is regarded as an indiscriminate attack and prohibited (Article 51.5.a Additional Protocol 1).
Similarly, if a combatant launches an attack without attempting to aim properly at a specific military target such as a transmitter facility in the vicinity of the TV station, or in such a way as to hit civilians without regard to the likely extent of death or injury, it would also amount to an indiscriminate attack.
A deliberately indiscriminate attack that causes incidental death or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects that is clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated from the attack is a war crime (Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Article 8 (2) (b) (iv) War crime of excessive incidental death, injury, or damage ).
International humanitarian law requires that the parties to a conflict take constant care during military operations to spare the civilian population and to take all feasible precautions to avoid or minimize the incidental loss of civilian life, as well as injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects (Article 57 Additional Protocol 1). This was not done as regards the attack on the TV station, as the knowledge that any attack on the station would result in large numbers of innocent civilian casualties should have meant the attack was not allowed to commence.
The fact not one of the Serbian casualties in the attack on the TV station were in any way or form active members of the military means the attack was an attack solely upon innocent civilians.
In its authoritative Commentary on Protocol I, the ICRC explains that the requirement to take all "feasible" precautions means, among other things, that the person launching an attack is required to take the steps needed to identify the target as a legitimate military objective "in good time to spare the population as far as possible." (ICRC, Commentary on the Additional Protocols, pp. 681-82). This requirement was also breached.
The parties to a conflict must always take precautions in identifying targets and planning or carrying out an attack. As part of the identification process, they must do everything feasible to verify that the chosen targets are military objectives; that is, that they are legitimately subject to attack (Article 52 Additional Protocol 1).
The fact that on April 9th just a fortnight before the attack the NATO spokesman Jamie Shea was stating in public that no attacks were planned on the TV station or other media facilities means that as the NATO forces had not suffered any major military setbacks after that date that could have warranted the targeting of the TV station, that the strategic threat had not changed enough to legitimise the attack on April 23 rd.
If there are doubts about whether a potential target is of a civilian or military character, the assessment must be particularly scrupulous so as to dispel, to the maximum extent possible, any doubts about the civilian character of the person or object. Military objects are those which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose partial or total destruction, capture or neutralization offers a "definite military advantage." The fact that NATO at all time had an overwhelming military tactical and strategic advantage over the Serbian forces meant that the attack on the TV station was never able to be justified on military grounds. At no time were either NATO forces or NATO troops at risk from Serbian military forces that could have justified an attack on the TV station.
The warring parties must do everything feasible to cancel or suspend an attack if it becomes apparent that the target is not a military objective. This was obvious to NATO on April the 9th but this situation must have changed in relation to a threat to NATO forces to change the status of the TV station on the 23 rd April. No such threat occurred or could have been said to be in action that could have changed the status of the TV station.
The same applies if the attack may be expected to cause excessive collateral damage (Article 57.2 Additonal Protocol 1).
Humanitarian law also determines that if the attacker has a choice between more than one military objective, each of which could yield similar military advantage, the objective selected must be the one that is expected to cause the least danger to civilians and civilian objects ( Article 57.3 Additional Protocol 1).
This could have been done by targeting transmission facilities and other targets associated with broadcasting networks on the ground. Such an attempt to disable the TV transmission facilities must have been ordered and attempted prior to the attack on the TV station, in order to assert a right to target the TV station. No such attempts to disable facilities relating to the transmission of Broadcasts were undertaken by NATO prior to the attack on the station on April 23 rd. Therefore the attack on the station was not justified either militarily or in relation to legality as regards previous attempts to disable the transmission facilities that did not involve targeting civilians.
In general it is prohibited to direct attacks against what are by their nature civilian objects, such as homes and apartments, places of worship, hospitals, schools or cultural monuments, unless they are being used for military purposes. This has not been proved in any way in regards to the TV station. No such threat existed prior to April the 9 th and therefore could not be said to exist on April 23 rd.
The mere fact that an object has civilian uses does not necessarily render it immune from attack. It can be targeted if it makes an "effective" contribution to the enemy's military activities, and if its destruction, capture or neutralization offers a "definite military advantage" to the attacking side in the circumstances prevailing at the time. The failure to attack on the ground facilities relating to the TV station broadcasts prior to the attack on April 23 rd means no such military advantage existed.
However, with regard to such "dual use" objects, combatants must choose a means of attack that will avoid or minimize harm to civilians and damage to civilian objects. In particular, the attacker should take all feasible measures to cancel or suspend an attack if it becomes apparent that the expected civilian casualties would outweigh the importance of the military objective. This principle of customary law is codified in article 57 of Protocol 1 (Article 57.2.b ("Precautions in attack") Additional Protocol 1 ). This was not done.
The ICRC Commentary on article 57 sets out a series of factors that must be taken into account in applying the principle of proportionality to the incidental effects of an attack on civilian persons and objects:
The danger incurred by the civilian population and civilian objects depends on various factors: their location (possibly within or in the vicinity of a military objective), the terrain (landslides, floods etc.), accuracy of the weapons used (greater or lesser dispersion, depending on the trajectory, the range, the ammunition used etc.), technical skill of the combatants (random dropping of bombs when unable to hit the intended target) ( ICRC, Commentary on the Additional Protocols, p. 684 ).
Casualties that are a consequence of accidents, as in situations in which civilians are within military installations, may be considered incidental to an attack on a military objective—so called "collateral damage"—but care must still have been shown to identify the presence of civilians and to avoid or minimize the risk to them. As expressed in the ICRC Commentary, "the golden rule to be followed" when making determinations about the proportionality of an attack is "the duty to spare civilians and civilian objects in the conduct of military operations." Even when a target is serving a military purpose, precautions must always be taken to protect civilians. Warring parties must also take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians and civilian objects and to refrain from attacks that would disproportionately harm the civilian population or fail to discriminate between combatants and civilians.
Violations of the norms established above, when serious, constitute war crimes.
Conduct considered to be a war crime under customary law has been enshrined in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. That codification includes the so-called "grave breaches" to the Geneva Conventions and other serious violations of international humanitarian law as well as serious violations of Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions.
Of particular concern in the present situation are the following acts that constitute war crimes:
Making the civilian population or individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities the object of attack.
Making civilian objects, that is, objects that are not military objectives, the object of attack.
Causing incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects which would be clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.
Nato must have clearly anticipated that civilians in the RTS building would have been killed. In addition, it appears that Nato realised that attacking the RTS building would only interrupt broadcasting for a brief period therefore this knowledge undermines the requirement that the attack constituted
an "effective" contribution to undermining the enemy's military activities, and its destruction, capture or neutralization offered a "definite military advantage" to the attacking side in the circumstances prevailing at the time .
General Wesley Clark has stated: "We knew when we struck that there would be alternate means of getting the Serb Television. There's no single switch to turn off everything but we thought it was a good move to strike it and the political leadership agreed with us" (Nato press conference, 8 April 1999. See also press conference of the (French) Minister of Defence and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, 8 April 1999: "We have decided to target radio transmitters, television relays, television transmitters, as these are propaganda tools for the regime of Mr Milosevic, helping in continuing the war." )
So Nato deliberately attacked a civilian object, killing 16 civilians, to disrupt Serbian television broadcasts in the middle of the night for approximately three hours. It is hard to see how this can be consistent with the rule of proportionality.
Nato also violated Protocol's I obligation to provide "effective advance warning ... unless circumstances do not permit". Although there was much public discussion about the possibility of an attack on the RTS headquarters, statements were contradictory. On 8 April Air Commodore Wilby and General Kelche suggested that RTS, or specifically transmitters or relay stations, were legitimate target because of their use as "an instrument of propaganda and repression" . But at a press conference the following day, Nato spokesman Jamie Shea said: "Whatever our feelings about Serb television, we are not going to target TV transmitters directly...in Yugoslavia military radio relay stations are often combined with TV transmitters but we attack the military target. If there is damage to the TV transmitters, it is a secondary effect but it is not the primary intention to do that."
This was the same Jamie Shea who wrote to Aiden White, general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, on 12 April 1999, in response to concern about targeting of media outlets, that NATO had no policy to 'strike television and radio transmitters' and that 'Allied air missions are planned to avoid civilian casualties, including of course journalists, and have been frequently abandoned when it has proven impossible to distinguish between military and civilian targets'.
This proves that no such warning to the civilians in the station were ever given.
This means NATO were in direct breach of the requirements stated in the
Commentary on Protocol I, where the ICRC explains that the requirement to take all "feasible" precautions means, among other things, that the person launching an attack is required to take the steps needed to identify the target as a legitimate military objective "in good time to spare the population as far as possible." ( ICRC, Commentary on the Additional Protocols, pp. 681-82) .
The fact that the day before the attack the NATO spokesman stated explicitly that no such attack on the TV station was forthcoming means the attack was in breach of the requirement to give warnings to civilians in the building. This means the attack was a war crime in breach of the Geneva Convention.
It is also on public record that in early April Eason Jordan, President of CNN International, received a telephone call from a Nato official who told him that an attack on RTS in Belgrade was under way and that he should tell CNN's people to get out of there. Jordan told the official that loss of life at RTS would be significant and, given the short notice, unavoidable. The official persuaded Nato to abort the mission. This shows that NATO were aware that loss of civilian life would be a result of any attack but went ahead anyway.
The statements against official Serbian media made in the days preceding the attack cannot be considered an effective warning to civilians. Western journalists have reported that they were warned by their employers to stay away from the television station before the attack, and it would also appear that some Yugoslav officials may have expected that the building was about to be attacked However, there was no warning from Nato that a specific attack on the RTS headquarters was imminent. Nato officials in Brussels told Amnesty International that they did not give a specific warning as it would have put the pilots at risk, but such a failure to give a warning to the civilians relating to the protection of attacking troops was not related in any way to the duty under the Geneva Convention to give a warning to civilians.