Serbia to sue NATO for use of depleted uranium munitions in 1999 bombing

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Serbia has formed an international legal team to file a lawsuit against NATO over its alleged use of depleted uranium munitions during its three-month bombing of Yugoslavia 18 years ago.

Lawyers and doctors from the European Union, Russia, China, India, Britain, Turkey, and Serbia are preparing the lawsuit in an effort to charge 19 countries that were part of the alliance during the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia.

NATO launched a series of airstrikes against the then-Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in March 1999, during the Kosovo War. The airstrikes, which had no United Nations mandate, claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians.

The alliance launched the military campaign after the then-Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic refused to agree to a peace deal to end a crackdown on Kosovo Albanians seeking independence.

Eighteen years on, the bombings still continue to take civilian toll due to the disastrous consequences of the alleged use of uranium.

“The NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 used between 10 and 15 tons of depleted uranium, which caused a major environmental disaster,” said Srdjan Aleksic, a Serbian lawyer who leads the legal team. “In Serbia, 33,000 people fall sick because of this every year. That is one child every day.”
The lawyer said the then-NATO members, including the US, Britain, Turkey, France, and Germany, needed to pay compensation “for the financial and non-financial damages… to all the citizens who died or fell sick as a proven result of the NATO bombing.”

In addition to providing “treatment to our citizens who are suffering from cancer,” he said that the alliance “must also provide the necessary technology and equipment to remove all traces of the depleted uranium” from Serbia.

At least 50 people from the Serbian city of Nis, who have been suffering from cancer and have “seemingly relevant medical documentation,” have also asked the legal team of the lawyers and professors to represent them in the case against NATO.

NATO’s press office said it was aware of the claims by Serbia but refused to give further comments.

In a report on depleted uranium conducted back in 2000, the alliance admitted the use of the weapons both in Iraq and the Balkans. According to the report, American and British troops fired about 300 metric tons of depleted uranium ammunition in Iraq.

The report also said that NATO “confirmed the use of DU [depleted uranium] ammunition in Kosovo battlefields, where approximately 10 metric tons of DU were used.”

The UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has also admitted the use of depleted uranium projectiles by NATO aircraft during the bombing, but said there was “no specific treaty ban on the use of DU projectiles.”

The UN General Assembly last year passed a new resolution — the sixth to be adopted since 2007 — on depleted uranium weapons, which highlighted the concerns of affected countries. The US, UK, France, and Israel have been continuously opposing such resolutions.