European Court: no jurisdiction

Mutulated dolls

Strasbourg, 19, December 2001 - The European Court of Human Rights has dismissed a claim against the governments of seventeen Nato countries for bombing a TV station in Belgrade. Following a hearing in October the court has declared it does not have jurisdiction [!] to deal with the case, in the face of strong opposition from the respondent countries. The states are members of Nato and signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights.

British solicitor Tony Fisher sued the countries on behalf of the families of four civilian Serbian media technicians who died and one who survived when the TV station was bombed in April 1999 during operation Allied Force. "The court has missed a major opportunity. The decision reverses previous cases where the Court has been prepared to accept such jurisdiction. It is a sad day for the families of those innocent media technicians and others who were killed in the television station."

The applicants claim that the respondent States violated their rights under the Convention by bombing a media target which they knew was occupied by civilians

The respondent States claim the TV station was a legitimate target because it was assisting the Serbian war effort by conveying propaganda. NATO spokesmen at the time of the attack claimed that it was part of the Milosovic 'command and control' structure, and integrated into the military apparatus, but no evidence has been produced of this. The facilities at the TV station were also in fact being used by the whole of the western press until days before the attack took place.