Program – March 22–24, 2019, Belgrade
The First International Symposium 'Consequences of the bombing of the FR of Yugoslavia with depleted uranium in 1999', Nis/Serbia, June 17-19, 2018
The symposium gathered experts from Serbia, Russia, Germany, Switzerland, Cyprus and Italy to discuss possible humanitarian actions to help victims of depleted uranium (DU) bombings and the option of legal proceedings.
11 July 2018 - ICBUW
The event was very successful and was covered by Russian, Serbian and even Chinese journalists, receiving wide media coverage in Serbia. For three days, domestic and international participants had the chance to connect with each other as well as to present and discuss their work. ICBUW was represented by Professor Manfred Mohr, whose expertise was highly appreciated by Serbian colleagues. As ICBUW has been concerned with the use of DU in the Balkans throughout the years, the conference offered an opportunity to share insights into the often neglected topic.
During the war in the former FR Yugoslavia, uranium ammunition was used in 1999 during the NATO operation “Allied Forces”, in particular by US A-10 combat aircrafts. According to research and data published by the NATO, 10-15 tons of toxic and radioactive material was shot at various targets in today's Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The mostly industrial targets were often located in populated areas and bombings therefore contaminated the habitat of many people.
Even though decontamination projects were introduced to reduce the risk to civilians and the environment, according to Serbian doctors, the population is still struggling with long-term health effects. While complete decontamination is almost impossible, worryingly, the information about the bombarded targets was published too late and partly incorrect. UNEP (United Nations Development Program) published three reports after the conflict, including concrete recommendations for decontamination. However, as part of an on-site investigation in 2011, ICBUW found that the recommendations had not been implemented in full and observed severe shortcomings regarding long-term monitoring (ICBUW, "A Question of Responsibility").
Many people in the affected regions of former Yugoslavia therefore came in contact with the toxic substance, probably continue to carry it in their bodies and may even pass on the burden to the next generation as a higher rate of birth defects has been observed. Contaminated land or groundwater could still contaminate people with depleted uranium residues.
In Serbia, significantly fewer places were contaminated with DU than, for example, in Kosovo and more extensive decontamination work has been executed. Nevertheless, even today, almost 20 years later, physicians still attribute increased cancer rates and other diseases to DU. There is still little information about the situation of civilians in Kosovo, where many people have fled from contaminated regions while in particular the poorest families have to stay. ICBUW and former member of the European Parliament Els de Groen proposed a project to collect data on the health effects in Kosovo communities in 2017, the project proposal still being under discussion.
Reactions and Italian cases
Different reactions to the NATO operation early on were somewhat disappointing. After the bombing in 1999 the media took on the topic of DU and the NATO reacted by installing an Ad Hoc Committee on DU, which concluded that “there is no scientific link established between DU and health complaints”. Also, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia did not commence further investigation into the use of DU, in line with the Final Report to the Prosecutor. Furthermore, Yugoslavia filed a first application to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) instituting proceeding against ten involved NATO members on the legality of use of force, but the Court rejected the case.
The picture changed with judgements of Italian courts in various cases on the causality of DU and different types of cancer. During the limited clearance activities in Kosovo Italian recruits were involved and a great number of them suffered from illnesses later that could be traced back to DU. Many of them have gone to court and so far twenty cases have been awarded compensation. It is not only the population therefore but also deployed soldiers who suffer from the use of DU (described as Balkan, or Gulf-war syndromes).
The aim of the conference
Prof. Dr. Srdan Aleksic, the main organizer of the symposium, built up a reputation as a lawyer in Serbia, mainly dealing with social rights cases. He sees the DU bombings as clear violation of international conventions because civilians and the environment suffered long term harm and for that reason he is dedicated to helping the victims, many of whom he knows personally, and fight for their medical care – as a last resort by legal means. While newspapers already reported that Serbia would sue NATO after nearly 20 years to claim compensation for the affected civilians and polluted environment, this undertaking is rather complicated.
As Dr. Aleksic and his colleagues are aware that this project is not quite that simple, they are not primarily concerned with a lawsuit, but with providing assistance for civilian victims and the stigmatisation of uranium weapons per se. Together with the present international colleagues and experts, possible steps were discussed during the conference – legal possibilities on the one hand and the necessary humanitarian action on the other hand.
During a full day of lectures given by the Serbian and international experts at the University of Nis, work on the consequences of the bombing from different fields has been presented by soldiers, lawyers, physicians and activists. This was accompanied by detailed, and often depressing descriptions of the damage occurred, including statistical data and voices of victims. Within the scope of this wide-ranging examination, first proposals for steps and proceedings found their way into the discussion, also extending to the political field (like a special DU committee and linked centres to be set up in Serbia).
Professor Manfred Mohr, spokesman of ICBUW, was able to present the framework as well as suggestions with his lecture on uranium weapons and the legal and political perspective on them. During the next day’s meeting, possible (legal) steps were discussed in detail.
If Serbian lawyers tried to open legal proceedings, it is questionable which court would take on the matter. National courts (in NATO countries) would most likely disclaim jurisdiction with the argument of the international, or inter-State, character of the case brought up by individual victims. As to the international scale, there is the idea of an ad-hoc tribunal while it seems not very realistic to go back to the ICJ again. Maybe one should look into the potential of human rights mechanisms (apart from judicial proceedings; e.g. in the setting of the UN Human Rights Council). Anyway, the conference allowed for a diverse discussion and elaborated on helpful advice. As the ground work is done, the Serbian project team now has to examine their options. ICBUW stands ready to further give input and to closely cooperate, i.a. by commonly drafting a “strategy paper”.
The trauma of the NATO bombing is still deep in Serbia and there has been almost no process of coming to terms with the past. Even today, many Serbs do not want to talk about the NATO bombing, reports Dr. Aleksic. This international conference constitutes an important step in these regards. The long-term effects of DU, even after decades, and the recent use of DU ammunition three years ago in Syria clearly show that there is need for further discussion and action regarding uranium weapons, especially in relation to coping with the consequences and helping the victims.
Im Jahr 1999 verwendete die NATO bei der Bombardierung von Ex-Jugoslawien Munition, die abgereichertes Uran enthielt. Laut serbischen Daten haben sie Tausende von getöteten und verletzten Zivilisten gebracht.
Der serbische Präsident Aleksandar hat während der Eröffnungszeremonie des neuen Onkologischen Instituts in Belgrad am vergangenen Sonntag die NATO-Bombenkampagne gegen das damalige Jugoslawien mit abgereichertem Uran in Munition beklagt. Seinen Worten zufolge haben serbische Ärzte festgestellt, dass solche Waffen die Gesundheit der jungen Bevölkerung des Landes stark beeinträchtigt haben.
“Heute habe ich im Onkologischen Institut erfahren, dass in unserem Land immer mehr Kinder mit Krebs diagnostiziert werden. Ich bin ehrlich, zuerst glaubte ich nicht an die Theorie des abgereicherten Urans, aber heute, nach Gesprächen mit Ärzten, erkannte ich, dass abgereichertes Uran zu vielen der Faktoren gehört, die schon in jungen Jahren Krebs verursachen”, sagte Vucic. Er stellte ausserdem fest, dass Jugendkrebs hauptsächlich bei Kindern diagnostiziert wird, deren Eltern um 1990 geboren wurden. Er erklärte, dass Serbien das Problem weiter untersuchen werde. “Dies ist ein beispielloses Verbrechen und wir als Land werden uns sehr ernsthaft damit befassen”, sagte der Präsident.
Zuvor erklärte die serbische Wissenschaftlerin Ljubisa Rakic, dass die Menge an abgereichertem Uran, das während NATO-Operationen auf die Balkanstaaten abgeworfen wurde, ausreichen würde, um damit 170 Hiroshima-Bomben zu bauen. Zu den am weitesten verbreiteten Folgen des Einsatzes solcher Waffen gehören Schilddrüsenerkrankungen, Krebs und Fötusmutationen.
1999 führten die NATO-Streitkräfte völkerrechtswidrige Kriegsverbrechen auf dem Gebiet des damaligen Jugoslawiens durch. Nach NATO-Angaben wurden rund 38.000 Flüge durchgeführt, von denen 10.000 für Luftangriffe genutzt wurden. Serbien sagt, dass von 3.500 bis 4.000 Menschen starben und 10.000 als Folge der NATO-Bombenanschläge verwundet wurden. Sie erklären, dass 2/3 von ihnen Zivilisten waren. Durch die Bombenangriffe der NATO wurden auch mehrere Ölraffinerien zerstört oder schwer beschädigt, was zur Umweltverschmutzung von Flüssen und Wassersystemen führte.
Abgereichertes Uran wurde von der NATO auch in Libyen eingesetzt und von dem Amerikanern im Irak. Dort waren es mehr als 2000 Tonnen. Aus frei zugänglichen Quellen ist bekannt, dass die Vereinigten Staaten ungefähr 944 000 Urangeschosse im Krieg gegen den Irak im Jahre 1991, 31 000 Urangeschosse im Kosovo im Jahre 1999 und 10 000 Urangeschosse in Bosnien in den Jahren 1994 – 1995 verschossen haben.
Bei einem Treffen mit den Studenten der Universität Belgrad beantwortete er Fragen zu Bombenanschlägen und zur NATO-Kampagne gegen die Regierung des ehemaligen serbischen Präsidenten Slobodan Milošević.
Ich betonte, dass wir dies getan haben, um die Zivilbevölkerung zu schützen und das Milošević-Regime zu stoppen", sagte Stoltenberg, von lokalen Medien zitiert.
Er fügte hinzu, dass die Einheimischen schlechte Erinnerungen an die Ereignisse haben.
Die NATO will also, dass das Bündnis und Belgrad "in die Zukunft schauen". Stoltenberg lobte auch die "ausgezeichneten Beziehungen" zwischen der NATO und Serbien und fügte hinzu, dass der Militärblock die Entscheidung Belgrads, dem Bündnis nicht beizutreten, "respektiert". Dennoch behauptete er, dass die NATO der "Partner" Serbiens sein wolle.
Er äußerte auch, dass die NATO den "Dialog" zwischen Serbien und dessen abtrünnigen, selbsternannten Staat Kosovo unterstützt, nicht nur diplomatisch, sondern auch "in Form der KFOR" – der von der NATO geführten internationalen Friedenstruppe im Kosovo.
Er sagte dies etwa eine Woche nach einer kurzen Eskalation der Spannungen zwischen Belgrad und Pristina, die durch den Besuch des kosovarischen Präsidenten in einem nördlichen Teil der abtrünnigen Region ausgelöst wurden. Der Norden des Kosovo ist überwiegend von Serben bevölkert, die sich weigern, die Autorität von Pristina anzuerkennen.
Insgesamt kamen nach Einschätzungen der jugoslawischen Seite mehr als 2.500 Zivilisten ums Leben. Eine der schwerwiegendsten Folgen der NATO-Bombenangriffe war der Abwurf von zehn bis 15 Tonnen angereicherten Urans, was eine große Umweltkatastrophe und einen Anstieg der krebsbedingten Krankheiten in der gesamten Region verursachte. Dies veranlasste die serbische Seite zu einer Anklage gegen die NATO.
"In Serbien werden jedes Jahr 33.000 Menschen deswegen krank. Das ist jeden Tag ein Kind", sagte ein Mitglied des internationalen Rechtsteams, das die Klage vorbereitet hat, gegenüber RT im Jahr 2017. Bereits 2015 äußerte Stoltenberg selbst "Bedauern" über die zivilen Opfer der NATO-Bombardierungen von 1999. Bei seinem derzeitigen Besuch wurde Stoltenberg am vergangenen Samstag in Belgrad vom serbischen Verteidigungsminister Aleksandar Vulin empfangen. Er soll drei Tage in dem Balkanland verbringen. Während des Besuchs soll der NATO-Chef auch Staatschef Aleksandar Vučić und die Premierministerin Ana Brnabić treffen.
Ein möglicher Beitritt Serbiens steht dabei nicht auf der Tagesordnung. Eine Umfrage vom vergangenen März hatte ergeben, dass knapp 85 Prozent der Serben gegen eine NATO-Mitgliedschaft ihres Landes sind. Dabei sagten 62 Prozent der Befragten, sie würden eine Entschuldigung des Militärbündnisses für die Bombardements von 1999 nicht einmal annehmen.
Monday, 15 October 2018
To the Secretary General of NATO, Mr. Jens Stoltenberg, on the occasion of his statement on the 1999 NATO aggression in front of students of the University of Belgrade on 8.10.2018
Mr. Stoltenberg, that is an insult to the Serbian people and a mockery of their victims!
Open letter from Rudolf Hänsel
Actually, I do not want to turn to a NATO Secretary General, but today I have to do it. The occasion: According to "Sputnik Germany" (7.10.) and "RT Deutsch" (8. 10.), you should have said in a meeting with students of Belgrade University on 8.10.2018 on NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 as follows:
"We have done this for the protection of the civilian population and for preventing further actions of the regime of Milosevic.” (Quoted after "Izvestia")
Allow me, as a German citizen and scholar, who has seriously dealt with political events in the Balkans for almost two decades, to inform you of the following:
I strongly condemn US-NATO's war of aggression against ex-Yugoslavia (codename "Merciful Angel"), which is in violation of international law, and I know that highly toxic and radioactive uranium weapons ("dirty bombs") were used in tons in this war.
With the use of uranium weapons was knowingly and willfully committed genocide ("crime of crimes").
That is why I am appalled by your ignorant and cynical statement, outraged and ashamed at the same time that an European intellectual demands this from the Serbian people.
Sir, with this statement you insult the Serbian people and mock their victims! In addition, you despise common sense because anyone who wants to know can be informed about the uranium contamination of parts of former Yugoslavia.
Almost exactly a year ago, the German Nobel Prize winner for literature, Ms. Herta Müller, on the occasion of a speech at the Belgrade Book Fair forum expressed herself similarly disgustingly and shamefully, as well as deriding the Serbian victims.
She said: "Serbia has inflicted evil and citizens must live with the truth that they themselves caused suffering." (See "NRhZ" v. 1.11.2017)
In Serbia, aggressive cancer among young and old has reached epidemic proportions as a result of the use of uranium weapons. The suffering of the people cries out to heaven. According to the Serbian Ministry of Health, about 33,000 people fall ill each year. That means: at least one child every day. The entire country is contaminated. Damage to the genetic material (DNA) will give birth to malformed children generation after generation. In two articles "The war that does not end" and ”Inertia of the heart" (in: "Neue Rheinische Zeitung (NRhZ)"; in Serbia in: "Pecat" and "Informer") I have collected essential facts about this state terrorist crime of humanity.
The bombing of Serbian homes and hospitals, schools and kindergartens, ministries, factories, power lines, radio and TV stations, refineries, Danube bridges, refugee trains, and so on lasted 78 days: 1,031 soldiers were killed, 5,173 soldiers and policemen wounded, 2,500 civilians killed - including 78 children - and over 6,000 civilians wounded. Serbia has not recovered to this day. It was "crime at war" and it is a "genocide in peace" (Jovanovic, V. et al.).
Sir, can you explain to me how these crimes contributed to "protecting the civilian population" of Serbia? I am worried when I think what civilian population the US-led NATO aggression group will bomb next to its own protection for "democracy, freedom, free markets, and the rule of law." And I'm glad to have read a survey from last March that found that close to 85 percent of Serbs oppose their country's NATO membership.
Dipl.-Psych. Dr. Rudolf Hänsel
Member of the Serbian national squad and Manchester United star Nemanja Matic appeared to be the only one playing in a Saturday match between Bournemouth and Manchester United with no poppy flower on his chest, which in the Premier league traditionally marks players’ tribute to Brits who fell in the First World War as well as British NATO soldiers.
To explain his move, Matic took Sunday to social media, saying that he "recognizes fully" the reasons why people wear poppies as remembrence symbols, and "I have total sympathy for anyone who has lost loved ones due to conflict," he wrote.
He went on to recall his hair-raising childhood memories of the 1999 Yugoslavia:
"For me it is only a reminder of an attack that I felt personally as a young, frightened 12-year old boy living in Vrelo, as my country was devastated by the bombing of Serbia in 1999."
He noted that although he had previously worn the flower symbol on his chest, "on reflection, I now don't feel it is right for me to wear the poppy on my shirt."
According to sources earlier cited by the Serbian media outlet Telegraf, after a poppy flower was pinned on to his shirt, the midfielder asked what it was, and having heard about it honoring fallen British and NATO soldiers, he ripped the flower off his chest and dropped it on the locker room floor, stating emotionally:
“You bombed my country, there is no way that I am going to wear that. If necessary, I am prepared to leave the club and England right away.”
According to the Football Federation rules, it is not compulsory for footballers to wear the remembrance symbol on their chest, and since the move is voluntary, a refusal to wear it is by no means punishable.
Manchester United snatched a 2-1 victory against Bournemouth at the latter’s home stadium Vitality on Saturday.
The UK was part of NATO's bombing campaign against the then Yugoslavia in 1999, when its ethnic Albanian-majority province of Kosovo, part of Serbian territory, fought the Yugoslavian army for independence.
NATO airstrikes spanned several months, from March 24 to June 10, killing vast numbers of people, with the exact death toll still unknown. According to Serbian authorities, about 2,500, including 89 children, were killed and about 12,500 people sustained injuries in the bombings, while the material damage is reported to amount to $30-100 billion.
The military operation was conducted without the approval of the UN Security Council, based on Western countries' allegations that Yugoslavian authorities had masterminded an ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and brought about a humanitarian catastrophe there.
Kosovo’s self-declared independence has been recognized by a number of countries, including Britain and the United States. However, Serbia itself, Russia, several EU states, with Spain among them, and China do not recognize Kosovo as an independent state.