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 be convicted.

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 other civilians].

* "Wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity" [speaks for itself].

* 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

International War Crimes