World Court technically rejects but worries on NATO genocide

HAGUE June 2 (South News) - The World Court Wednesday rejected on a technicality a Yugoslav request to halt NATO air strikes on its territory, but expressed concern about the legal basis for the bombing.

Judges at the International Court of Justice declined to impose an interim ruling to halt air strikes by 10 NATO states, They also raised doubts that Yugoslavia's complaints against eight of the countries fell within the Genocide Convention.

Presiding Judge Christopher Weeramantry said the court was troubled about the legal foundation for NATO's action.

``The court is profoundly concerned about the use of force in Yugoslavia. Under the present circumstances such use raises very serious issues of international law,'' he said.

Yugoslavia had argued the NATO air strikes that began on March 24 were illegal and tantamount to genocide. It based its case, filed at the end of April, on the U.N. charter, the Geneva Conventions and the Genocide Convention.

But the 16 judges dismissed Yugoslavia's argument in each of 10 individual petitions taken against each of the Nato nations involved in the campaign.

The judges voted 12 to four that the court was not competent to judge Belgrade's application against Nato countries. The Court then points out that it "does not automatically have jurisdiction over legal disputes between States" and that "one of the fundamental principles of its Statute is that it cannot decide a dispute between States without the consent of those States to its jurisdiction".

12 month rule technicality

Under the terms of the acceptance of the Court's compulsory jurisdiction on behalf of any other Party to the dispute was deposited or ratified less than 12 months prior to the filing of the application bringing the dispute before the Court.

"The Court notes that Yugoslavia deposited its declaration of acceptance of the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court with the United Nations Secretary-General on 26 April 1999 and that it brought the dispute to the Court on 29 April 1999. It states that there can be no doubt that the conditions for the exclusion of the Court's jurisdiction provided for in the declaration of the United Kingdom are satisfied. The Court concludes that the declarations made by the Parties manifestly cannot constitute a basis of jurisdiction in the case, even prima facie."

The court completely threw out the complaints against the other two NATO members, the United States and Spain, on a legal technicality, because the two countries had opted out of a clause in the Genocide Convention that states disputes are to be submitted to the World Court.

Hearings before the World Court last month confronted NATO countries with an aspect of their campaign they had tried to keep quiet -- the shaky legal grounds for military action.

``Arguably there is no international legal justification for the bombing,'' said Olivier Ribbelink of the Asser Institute for International Law, noting that no single U.N. Security Council resolution legitimized the air campaign.

He said the court's 15 permanent judges and five ad hoc judges had chosen ``the safe way'' in their majority ruling.

The judges decried the human effect of the conflict, which has stemmed from Western allegations of ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia's southern province of Kosovo.

``The court is deeply concerned with the human suffering and loss of life in Kosovo that forms the background of this dispute and with the continued loss of life and human suffering in all parts of Yugoslavia,'' Weeramantry said. He urged the states to find a peaceful solution.

Yugoslavia was suing 10 NATO states, including Britain, France, Italy and Germany. It was asking for interim rulings, known as ``provisional measures,'' to stop the bombing while the court considered Yugoslavia's complaint.

Although the court refused to issue emergency measures in the remaining eight cases, deliberations will continue with a final ruling likely to take years.