CBC Interview with Michael Mandell

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) spoke Jan. 4 with Michael Mandell, professor of law at York University in Toronto, the lawyer leading the suit to have NATO charged with war crimes.

CBC: Mr. Mandell, where does your law suit stand?

Mandell: NATO is not under formal investigation but the Tribunal hasn't ruled one out. There is overwhelming evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity and breaches of the Geneva Conventions committed by NATO leaders involving willful killing, murder, injury of thousands of civilians.

CBC: Now the bombs were targeted not at people, but at structures and buildings. You don't believe that?

Mandell: No. NATO claims that. The fact that NATO targeted civilians is something that's been admitted by the Generals throughout the war and after the war. President Clinton and [Canadian Prime Minister Jean] Chretien said it's inevitable that deaths will be caused in these kinds of things.

CBC: That's not the same as targeting civilians.

Mandell: Well, they admitted they were targeting civilians. The Prime Minister of Australia wrote in the International Herald Tribune [Jan. 3] that anybody who was there knows that NATO targeted civilians. The biographer of [U.S. Secretary of State] Madeleine Albright, Michael Daubbs, in the Washington Post said, "[Everybody] knows that this strategy was a civilian strategy." There is a lot of evidence: hitting convoys, hitting bridges in broad daylight on market days, hitting trains...

In Greece, a NATO country, a recent poll found 69% thought President Clinton should be charged with war crimes; 37% thought [British Prime Minister Tony] Blaire; only 15% thought Milosevic. The evidence is absolutely clear.

CBC: What do you think, if [the prosecutors] don't go ahead [with a prosecution]? Is there too much pressure coming from NATO countries?

Mandell: It would be a mortal blow to the credibility of the Tribunal. There have been questions raised about the impartiality of the Tribunal.

The decision during the war to indict [President Slobodan] Milosevic actually allowed the Tribunal to be used as a propaganda device by the NATO countries.

CBC: The Tribunal's position was exactly the opposite, of course. It said we make no deals with NATO or any other leaders.

Mandell: [Then prosecutor] Louise Arbour met with [U.S. Secretary of State] Madeleine Albright... Albright promised millions [of dollars] more to the Tribunal. Then [Arbour] announced an indictment, in the middle of the bombing campaign, on secret evidence. What kind of investigation could have taken place? Where did she get the evidence?

This [indictment] was the justification for everything that followed: the intensification of the war, the continuation of sanctions.

There's been an attempt to use the Tribunal to legitimize this flagrant violation of international law, and this terrible destruction, by saying that this Tribunal somehow trumps international law.

The Tribunal has a heavy responsibility not to become a propaganda arm of NATO.

And I think the indictment of Milosevic on secret evidence in the middle of the war, two months after these crimes were alleged to have been committed, puts a heavy onus on the Tribunal to demonstrate to people why it shouldn't apply the same law to the powerful countries it applies to weak countries.

-John LaForge