NATO Could be Sued for Use of Depleted Uranium in Yugoslavia
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization could potentially face a lawsuit for the damage to human health and wellbeing caused by the use of depleted uranium munitions during the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia.
The Serbian lawyer heading the team alleges that NATO forces used somewhere between 10 and 15 tons of depleted uranium in the region, which led to a “major environmental disaster” that has effected the health of tens of thousands of people in the region according to RT.
The lawsuit will request that the 19 countries who were members of NATO at the time of the bombing would need to pay compensation for the “financial and non-financial damages,” and also provide funds for the medical treatment of those who are suffering from cancer.
“The question is whether the United States will respond to these charges or not. The other countries could likewise want to shirk responsibility for what they did. The biggest hurdle is that the 1999 bombings have not been recognized as an international aggression by any authoritative international body,” Mikhail Loffe, Vice President of the International Association of Russian-Speaking Lawyers said during an interview with Radio Sputnik.
The use of the weapons is a legal grey-zone. The U.S. has strict regulations for the substance’s handling domestically, but few restrictions on its use in civilian populated areas abroad.
Although the substance is technically legal under international law, the UN international Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has stated that the under the law of proportionality, which states that damage cannot exceed the military advantage of an attack, the massive environmental consequences of uranium’s use in Yugoslavia could be considered illegal.
The strikes were launched without the authorization of the UN Security Council.
A NATO report from 2000 discussing depleted uranium and its use, admits to using 10 metric tons of it in Yugoslavia, and a whopping 300 tons in Iraq during the Gulf War of the 1990’s. The organization also admitted its use before the United Nations that same year.
The same NATO report questions whether “terrifying statements and frightening pictures” of the well documented effects of depleted uranium are based on “journalistic exaggeration,” and “state propaganda.”
What’s more, the bombing of Yugoslavia was not the last time the toxic substance was used as a weapon by NATO.
The Guardian reported that during the initial phases of the Iraq war in 2003, U.S. forces fired around several hundred thousand rounds of depleted uranium. An independent Dutch peace group has estimated that there are over 300 radioactive contaminated sites in Iraq due to the offensive.
Speaking to Foreign Policy magazine, U.S. Central Command officials confirmed earlier this year that several thousand rounds of depleted uranium munitions were used during attacks in an Islamic State group controlled area of Syria in 2015.
Depleted uranium is used in both munitions and armor because it is extremely hard and can pierce substances that other materials can’t.