On the occasion of the state commemoration of the NATO bombing anniversary

On the occasion of the state commemoration of the NATO bombing anniversary

Sapostenje-Nato23-enOn Friday, March 24, eight year in a row (not including 2020, when there was no commemoration due to the Covid-19 pandemic and state of emergency), the central state commemoration of the anniversary of commencement of the NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) was held. Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) draws attention to the established facts on the Kosovo war and bombing campaign of the FRY, warning against the threat of history revisionism undertaken by the state.

Let us recall that the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, used to make references to thousands of casualties of NATO’s air raids until 2022, most often mentioning 2,500 victims. At the 2018 commemoration, he stated that the Republic of Serbia had “more than 2,000 recorded, well remembered names”. However, as of 19 October 2021, when the Serbian Parliament rejected the proposal to set up the previously announced national commission which would be tasked with making a list of the bombing casualties, the President ceased to mention the number of victims. Speculating with the figures was resumed by the public broadcaster RTS, which this year highlighted that during the NATO bombing, “1,100 members of the Army and police were killed“ and “around 2,500 civilians, although the accurate list of victims has not been established yet ”.

Although the Republic of Serbia has never made a list of NATO bombing, Humanitarian Law Centre (HLC) and Humanitarian Law Center Kosovo (HLC Kosovo) published a list of all victims’ names in 2014, within the RECOM project. According to this register, during the NATO attacks, 756 persons were killed, amongst whom 452 civilians and 304 members of armed forces. Of the killed civilians, 206 were Serbs or Montenegrin by ethnic background, 218 were Albanians, 14 Roma, and 14 civilians of other ethnicity. In the bombing, 275 members of the Yugoslav Army (VJ) and Ministry of the Interior (MoI) were killed, whereas the number of the killed Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was 29. A total of 261 persons were killed on the territory of Serbia, 10 in Montenegro, and 485in Kosovo. This is the only and most complete list of victims of NATO’s bombing of FRY so far.

The Serbian President this year at the central commemoration also denied war crimes against Kosovar Albanians committed by Serbian forced before 24 March 1999, documented in the HLC reports as well as in those of international organisations. He stated that Serbia was found guilty for wanting to be “on its own” and proceeded with cynical discussion on the term “humanitarian disaster” which was used to describe the situation in Kosovo before the NATO bombing.

Just like in the previous years, the President did not address the events in Kosovo during the NATO bombing. According to the data collected by HLC and HLC Kosovo, Serbian forces killed 6,872 Albanian civilians during the bombing. In the same period, KLA members killed 328 Serb civilians and 136 Roma and members of other ethnic groups. In the conflicts between Serb forces and KLA, 1,204 members of KLA and 559 members of the VJ and Serbian MoI were killed.

Humanitarian Law Center reminds the public broadcaster and institutions of the Republic of Serbia that by augmenting the number of the NATO bombing casualties, they are suggesting that the actual victims are not sufficiently important and thus offend their dignity. We call upon them to pay tribute to all killed citizens by accepting the list with individual names. Also, HLC urges on all national institutions to abandon historical revisionism of the Kosovo war. Recognising the accountability of the Republic of Serbia for the crimes committed against Kosovo’s Albanians is the only possible way towards overcoming the war past and building the common future for Serbs and Albanians.