Civilian casualties during Operation Allied Force

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Many human rights groups criticised civilian casualties resulting from military actions of NATO forces in Operation Allied Force. Both Serbs and Albanians were killed in 90 Human Rights Watch-confirmed incidents in which civilians died as a result of NATO bombing. It reported that as few as 489 and as many as 528 Yugoslav civilians were killed in the NATO airstrikes.[1][2][3] NATO spokesman responded to claims Jamie Shea said, "There is always a cost to defeat an evil," he said. "It never comes free, unfortunately. But the cost of failure to defeat a great evil is far higher." He insisted NATO planes had bombed only "legitimate designated military targets" and if more civilians had died it was because NATO had been forced into military action.[4]

Statistically speaking, civilian casualties were lighter than any other conflict involving modern mass airpower.[5] From the beginning of Operation Allied Force, NATO pledged to minimise civilian casualties. Consideration of civilian casualties was incorporated into NATO's planning and targeting process. Targets were "looked at in terms of their military significance in relation to the collateral damage or the unintended consequence that might be there," General Shelton said on April 14: "Then every precaution is made...so that collateral damage is avoided." According to Lt. Gen. Michael Short, "collateral damage drove us to an extraordinary degree. General Clark committed hours of his day dealing with the allies on issues of collateral damage." [6]

Incidents[edit]

5 April 1999: Bombing of Aleksinac[edit]

Damage in Aleksinac
Damage in Novi Sad

The 13th night of air strikes included the first major NATO mistake when an attack on a barracks on the southern mining town of Aleksinac resulted in missiles striking a residential area. Serb TV reported at least five dead and at least another 30 injured when the three missiles fell 600 m short of their target. The missiles struck apartments, an "emergency centre" and a medical dispensary, TV reports said. Commenting on the incident, Air Commodore David Wilby of NATO said "It is possible that one of our weapons fell short of the target.[7]

12 April 1999: Grdelica train bombing[edit]

NATO's attack on a railway bridge hit a passenger train, killing 14 and leaving 16 injured. The Belgrade-Thessaloniki train had been crossing the bridge near Leskovac, southern Serbia as the air-launched missile released several miles away reached its target.

14 April 1999: Bombing of a refugee column[edit]

On April 14, during daylight hours, NATO aircraft repeatedly bombed Albanian refugee movements over a twelve-mile (19 km) stretch of road between Gjakova and Dečani in western Kosovo, killing seventy-three civilians and injuring thirty-six others Human rights could document. The attack began at 1:29 p.m. and persisted for about two hours, causing civilian deaths in numerous locations on the convoy route near the villages of Bistrazin, Gradis, Madanaj, and Meja.

23 April 1999: Serb Radio and Television headquarters bombing[edit]

One of the largest incidents of civilian deaths, and certainly the largest in Belgrade, was the bombing of state TV headquarters in Belgrade on April 23. As a consequence, sixteen RTS civilian technicians and workers were killed and sixteen were wounded. Dragoljub Milanovic was the director general of Serbian Radio and Television and belonged to former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia. He was found guilty and jailed for 10 years for intentional withholding information from his employees about the eventual bombing, which had a direct effect on the number of dead.[8]

27 April 1999: First Bombing of Surdulica[edit]

At least 16 civilians were killed after two NATO missiles hit a residential area in the southern town of Surdulica. [1]

7 May 1999: Cluster bombing of Niš[edit]

NATO confirmed that a cluster bomb aimed at an airfield in the Yugoslav city of Niš hit a hospital and a market, killing 14 civilians and 60 injured.

7 May 1999: Chinese embassy bombing[edit]

A salvo of US JDAM GPS-guided bombs struck the embassy of the People's Republic of China in Belgrade, killing three Chinese diplomats and injuring 20 others. CIA director George Tenet later admitted in congressional testimony that the CIA had organised the strike and that it was the only strike of the campaign organised by his agency, though he still claimed it was accidental. China has never accepted the US explanation for the incident.

14 May 1999: Bombing of Koriša[edit]

Main article: Koriša bombing

NATO planes bombed ethnic Albanians who had been used by Yugoslav forces as human shields.[9][10] Yugoslav troops took TV crews to the scene shortly after the bombing.[11] The Yugoslav government insisted that NATO had targeted civilians.[12]

19 May 1999: Belgrade hospital strike[edit]

A NATO bombing attack led to the deaths of at least three patients in a Belgrade hospital. Parts of the Dragiša Mišović hospital, near a barracks in the Dedinje district, were reduced to rubble. NATO admitted a missile aimed at an army barracks in the Dedinje district, which is close to the hospital, went astray.[13]

30 May 1999: Bombing of Varvarin[edit]

11 civilians were reported killed and a further 40 injured when NATO bombers mounted a daylight raid on a bridge in Varvarin, south-central Serbia. NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said the alliance had bombed a "legitimate designated military target".[4] However, a first-hand account of what happened was published in the Irish Times. Yugoslav sources said local people were attending the town's market when the attack happened at 1pm local time. Witnesses said four cars fell into the Velika Morava river. Rescuers who went to aid of the injured were hit in the second attack.

30 May 1999: Second Bombing of Surdulica[edit]

NATO planes hit an old peoples' home at a sanatorium in south-eastern Serbia killing at least 11 people.[14]

31 May 1999: Bombing of Novi Pazar[edit]

At least ten people were killed and 20 injured in a NATO missile attack on an apartment building in Novi Pazar, southwest Serbia.[15]

Human Rights Watch analysis[edit]

A street in Belgrade destroyed by NATO bombs

Human Rights Watch documented and evaluated the impact and effects of the NATO military operation, and confirmed 90 incidents in which civilians died as a result of NATO bombing.These included attacks where cluster bombs were dropped.[16]

NATO strategy and claims[edit]

From the very beginning of Operation Allied Force, minimizing civilian casualties was a major declared NATO concern. According to NATO, consideration of civilian casualties was fully incorporated into the planning and targeting process. All targets were "looked at in terms of their military significance in relation to the collateral damage or the unintended consequence that might be there," General Shelton said on April 14: "Then every precaution is made...so that collateral damage is avoided." According to Lt. Gen. Michael Short, "collateral damage drove us to an extraordinary degree...[and] committed hours of [my] day dealing with the allies on issues of collateral damage." [17]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Civilian Deaths in the NATO Air Campaign - The Crisis in Kosovo
  2. ^ Krieger, Heike (2001). The Kosovo conflict and international law. Cambridge University Press. p. 323. ISBN 978-0-521-80071-6. Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  3. ^ Civilian Deaths in the NATO Air Campaign - The Crisis in Kosovo
  4. ^ a b "Civilian deaths 'necessary price'". BBC News. May 31, 1999. 
  5. ^ http://www.rawa.org/temp/runews/2008/10/06/the-imprecision-ofus-bombing-and-the-under-valuation-of-an-afghan-life.html
  6. ^ Civilian Deaths in the NATO Air Campaign - The Crisis in Kosovo
  7. ^ "NATO: 'Heaviest bombings yet'". BBC News. April 6, 1999. 
  8. ^ http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-87581976.html
  9. ^ Englund (20 June 1999). "Refugees call Korisa a setup". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 4 July 2012. 
  10. ^ Krieger (2001). The Kosovo Conflict and International Law: An Analytical Documentation 1974-1999. Cambridge University Press. p. 352. ISBN 9780521800716. 
  11. ^ "NATO says target was military post". Sunday Free Lance-Star. 16 May 1999. 
  12. ^ "Once Again, NATO Admits Accidental Bombing Of Civilians". Chicago Tribune. 16 May 1999. Retrieved 4 July 2012. 
  13. ^ "NATO bomb hits hospital". BBC News. May 20, 1999. 
  14. ^ "NATO 'hit old people's home'". BBC News. May 31, 1999. 
  15. ^ "NATO 'bombs apartment block'". BBC News. June 1, 1999. 
  16. ^ Civilian Deaths in the NATO Air Campaign - The Crisis in Kosovo
  17. ^ Civilian Deaths in the NATO Air Campaign - The Crisis in Kosovo

External links[edit]