by Manse Jacobi

from Censored Alert, Summer 1999, Project Censored


Twenty members of the Council of State (Greece's supreme administrative court) have issued a statement, citing legal arguments deploring the international crimes against Yugoslavia, which inaugurate a "period of lawlessness" and bring us back to the "eras of the Holy Alliance and the Axis."

NATO was found guilty of an unprecedented and barbaric attack against Yugoslavia in a statement signed by 20 high-ranking judges of the Greek Council of State, headed by its most senior vice-president Michalis Dekleris. In this important statement, the judges condemn the NATO bombardments, denounce the international crimes being committed by the NATO countries through this armed attack, and warn that any law passed deciding to involve Greece in this war will constitute a gross violation of the Constitution.

Greek judges have taken a stand, pointing out that "this attack is accompanied by the revival of deceptively staged propaganda that attempts to exploit the misfortunes of the refugees to draw public attention away from the violation of international law."

Following is the full text of the statement:

1. NATO's offensive against a sovereign European state, unprecedented in the post-war years, is an affront not only to the ethical principles of Greek and European civilization, but also to the fundamental precepts of international law. This latter is a legal issue and should not be overshadowed by the moral revulsion that is justly provoked by this cowardly and barbaric attack. On the contrary, this issue is of primary importance and must be clarified in particular by those who have a competent opinion about the Law, since their duty is to serve it.

2. This inexcusable attack is taking place in flagrant violation of articles 1 and 2 of the United Nations Charter, which expressly prohibits the use of violence in international relations, and designates the Security Council (article 41 ff.) exclusively competent in international crises. According to these provisions, but also to the generally recognized precepts of international law, there is no room for self-appointed crisis managers, nor is it permitted, on any pretext whatsoever, for third countries to intervene in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.

3. But this attack even violates the NATO Charter, the exclusive purpose of which is collective defense of the area defined therein that coincides with the boundaries of its member states, and which has committed itself in its international relations to refrain from the threat or use of violence in any way whatsoever that is incompatible with the principles and purposes of the UN (article 1). That is, by its own Charter, NATO has been placed under the rule of the UN Charter. And it could not have been otherwise, since no international organization or alliance can be placed above the United Nations.

4. In addition, both the United Nations Charter and all generally recognized precepts of international law safeguard the equality and sovereignty of all peoples, irrespective of their numbers and power, and do not recognize any jurisdiction on the part of powerful nations to intervene in the internal affairs of weaker nations or to dictate solutions to their own liking.

Consequently, however serious the crisis in Kosovo may be, it remains an internal Yugoslav affair and belongs to the exclusive jurisdiction of the sovereign Yugoslav state. Any humanitarian or other interest on the part of the UN, other international organizations or third countries may be manifested only in a peaceful way and by diplomatic means within the context of the UN Charter.

5. And, in this case, the United Nations, respecting these restrictions, remained within its jurisdiction, recommending to the lawful government of Yugoslavia that they fulfill their obligations (Security Council resolutions No 1160/31.3.1998 and 1199/ 23.9.1998). But behind the scenes, the NATO military alliance appeared in a self-appointed role, and without having - nor could it have had - any competence to become involved in this matter, having first dictated an insolent ultimatum disputing the very sovereignty of Yugoslavia, then launched an aggressive war against this state, demanding that it conform to NATO demands. This attack is accompanied by the revival of dark propaganda that attempts to exploit the misery of the refugees to draw public attention away from the violation of international law.

6. The legal significance of these actions should not be concealed nor underestimated. By their armed attack, the NATO countries are committing the following international crimes, in accordance with the charter being drafted for the International Criminal Court, which refers to the Geneva Conventions dated 12 August 1949 (UN Doc. A/CONF/183/9) and in particular:

a) the crime of waging an offensive war, with the violent destruction of human life, cultural monuments and entire settlements; b) the crime of genocide by the deliberate destruction of the infrastructure of the Serbian community and the creation in it of conditions that lead to its physical annihilation; and

c) the crime of ecological destruction by the use of military technology that causes damage to people's health and to the natural environment, a crime also committed against third countries to which deadly pollution is carried.

7. During the recent Washington summit, the leadership of the attacking NATO countries tried to amend the provisions of its Charter to make it autonomous in continuing the attack on Yugoslavia, and also with regard to its plans for the future in carrying out so-called peace-making and humanitarian interventions under the pretext of "crisis management"! It tried in vain. The only valid crisis management, according to international law, remains as ever the UN. And no other organization that is by definition inferior to it can remove or usurp this role. NATO cannot abolish international law nor can it produce new, generally recognized precepts of international legality. Its new Charter affects only the governments that signed it. And even if it is ratified by the national Parliaments of its member states, it will declare the intentions of just 19 out of a total of 158 states on the planet.

The remaining states will not tolerate the falsification or mockery of international law. They reject the theory that might is right, whether overt or disguised. And small states like Greece will be in danger if they relinquish rights which have been undisputed for centuries. The truth is that NATO's attack on Yugoslavia inaugurates a period of lawlessness in international relations. We are returning to the era of the Holy Alliance and the Axis, against which humanity, and the Greeks in particular, fought with such great sacrifices.

8. Having become involved in this crisis, Greece has no option other than to do what its culture and Constitution dictate, namely to follow the generally recognized precepts of international law, to seek the consolidation of peace, and to use its armed forces only for defensive purposes (article 2 para 2 and article 4 para 6 of the Constitution). In the light of these provisions of the Constitution of the Hellenic State and the provisions of the United Nations Charter, it is possible to interpret the provisions of articles 27 para 2 and 28 para 3 of the Constitution, which after a special law is passed, make it possible for foreign troops to sojourn in or travel across the Hellenic State or for national sovereignty to be restricted. These provisions could, however, be implemented only with respect to the participation of Greece in a declaration of war, and not to facilitate an attack against a third state. Consequently, the involvement of Greece in this on-going war against Yugoslavia cannot be decided upon even by law because such a law would be totally unconstitutional.

In addition to Mr. Dekleris, this statement was signed by the following Council of State members: St. Sarivalasis, Ioanna Mari, Dim. Kostopoulos, Evdoxia Galanou, Sot. Rizos, Pan. Pikrammenos, Nik. Sakellariou, Th. Papaevangellou, Nik. Rozos, Dion. Marinakis, St. Haralambos and associate judges Maria Karamanov, Ekaterini Christoforidou, I. Kapelousos, Dim. Alexandris, Eleni Anagnostopoulou, Euth. Antonopoulos, Varvara Kapitsi, Theo. Aravanis.


International War Crimes