26 January 2004
AMSTERDAM — As the Netherlands faces a possible civil suit, a former Dutch foreign minister told a court in The Hague on Monday that Nato gave clear warnings of attacks on Belgrade in March 1999.
The relatives of 15 people who were killed during the 22 and 23 April 1999 bombings of a television studio in Belgrade and the city of Nis during the Kosovo war have brought their case to the Dutch courts, Radio Netherlands reported.
The relatives claim the Nato attacks breached international law and are considering launching a civil suit against the Netherlands because Dutch fighter jets were among those involved in the air strikes.
Former foreign minister and current Liberal VVD parliamentary leader Jozias van Aartsen said that the Nato spokesman warned three to four times in a March 1999 press conference that communication centres and therefore TV studios could be targeted in attacks.
He also said the military alliance warned Amnesty International by letter. But Van Aartsen said he was unaware whether pamphlets had been distributed to warn the Serbian public, newspaper De Volkskrant reported.
Former Dutch prime minister Wim Kok and former defence minister Frank de Grave were also scheduled to give testimony to the court on Monday.
The Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia — consisting of Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia — was proclaimed in 1945, BBC reported.
Ethnic tension remained under control during the rule of authoritarian communist leader Josip Broz Tito. The federation lasted for more than 10 years after his death in 1980, but under Serbian nationalist leader Slobodan Milosevic it fell apart in bloodshed through the 1990s.
Violence broke out in the autonomous province of Kosovo in Serbia in 1998 as the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) openly rebelled against Serbian rule. Amid escalating bloodshed, international pressure grew on President Milosevic to halt action in Kosovo. Nato launched air strikes against Yugoslavia in March 1999.
Milosevic was eventually toppled in October 2000 and is currently on trial in the UN Yugoslavian Tribunal in The Hague for war crimes.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news