2002 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 6 Nov 2002 15:06:02 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] New Study Raises Legal, Environmental Concerns Over "Precision Bombin

For further information:
Sriram Gopal    (301) 270-5500
Nicole Deller   (212) 818-1861
Arjun Makhijani (301) 270-5500

      United States should not consider bombing civilian facilities
   containing dangerous materials until it agrees to abide by relevant
                      international legal standards

Takoma Park, MD, November 5, 2002: The destruction of chemical plants in
Pancevo and Kragujevac, Yugoslavia during the 1999 ?Operation Allied
Force? bombing campaign may have caused long-term damage to the
environment and public health in areas surrounding those facilities,
according to a new report released today. Precision Bombing, Widespread
Harm by the Institute of Energy and Environmental Research (IEER), warns
that bombing civilian industrial facilities can lead to contamination
that is very difficult to clean up and may violate international
humanitarian law.

Among the findings of Precision Bombing, Widespread Harm:

           §       The NATO bombings released significant amounts of
           toxic substances into the environment;
           §       Civilians living near the targets may have been
           exposed to greater health risks from contamination in air,
           water and food products;
           §       Due to long delays in its inception, the post-war
           cleanup process in Yugoslavia has been more costly, and
           risks to the public may have been increased.

?There is no doubt that the bombings released large quantities of
contaminants such as mercury but it is impossible to precisely
determine their effects because of lack of data about pre-conflict
pollution levels,? explained Sriram Gopal, IEER Staff Scientist and
principal author of the report.  IEER?s investigation was also hampered
by rejection by the U.S. Department of Defense of an IEER
Freedom of Information Act request and classification of an assessment
by the General Accounting Office of the 1999 bombing campaign.

?This report does show that there is need for a sharp redefinition of
how target sets and collateral damage are evaluated,? Mr. Gopal added.
?Currently collateral damage is measured in terms such as the number of
civilian casualties or the cost of replacing property.  Long-term
environmental harms can be much more difficult to quantify and evaluate,
despite their very significant costs.?

Precision Bombing, Widespread Harm also calls into question the legal
rationale used by NATO and the United States to justify the bombings.
Nicole Deller, a lawyer and co-author of the study, said, ?Precision
targeting may be intended to minimize civilian damage, but the choice of
targets may still violate the international laws of war, including the
Geneva Conventions.? Under the laws of war, weapons that will cause
excessive injury to civilians and damage to property are prohibited.
?The deliberate targeting of industrial facilities that hold little
military value yet can cause severe health and environmental damage
appear to violate these laws,? Ms. Deller concluded.

The report offers six major recommendations:

           §       The strategy of bombing civilian facilities to
           accomplish military objectives needs to be openly and
           thoroughly debated;
           §       Environmental clean-up after military conflicts
           needs to be expedited, perhaps by establishing an emergency
           fund in an international body such as the United National
           Environmental Program;
           §       Information regarding past bombings of civilian
           industrial facilities should be available to the public for
           legal review;
           §       The United States should not bomb civilian
           industrial facilities until it agrees to abide by the legal
           prohibitions on environmental damage during wartime;
           §       Extensive monitoring programs should be established
           in Pancevo and Kragujevac; and
           §       The clean-up process should be more transparent in
           order to allow for independent assessments.

IEER?s research raises significant questions relevant to future
conflicts, including a possible war on Iraq.  ?When civilians, the
environment, or future generations are harmed by bombing, the countries
carrying it out have the responsibility to abide by
international law and to subject themselves to its strictures,? said Dr.
Arjun Makhijani, president of IEER.  ?Sadly, the United States,
which is the progenitor of the idea of the rule of law, refuses to do
so.  As a result, it is becoming the police, prosecutor, judge, jury,
and executioner, in international affairs, all at the same time.  This
ought to be unacceptable to the international community, no matter how
powerful the country espousing such policies may be.  The matter is
especially urgent in the context of the debate of a possible war led by
the United States on Iraq.?

The report recommends that the United States, as well as other countries
that have not yet done so, ratify the framework of
international law that would enable international jurisdiction over
their military actions.  This framework includes the Additional
Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute of the
International Criminal Court, both of which have not been fully
adopted by the United States (the Bush administration has rejected the
concept of possible jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court
over U.S. citizens under any circumstances).  Countries that do not
accept international legal norms as binding should not even consider
bombings that could cause long-term harm to health and the environment
in the absence of these minimal safeguards, the report recommended.

                                -- 30 --

Copies of Precision Bombing, Widespread Harm are available on request or
can be downloaded via

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