World Court says it has no jurisdiction in Serbia and Montenegro case against NATO members

15 December 2004

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled today that it has no jurisdiction in lawsuits filed by Serbia and Montenegro, then the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, against 10 NATO members for their bombing of Kosovo in 1999 during the province's inter-ethnic conflict.

The dispute included complaints that the countries violated their international obligations banning the use of force against another state, violation of the sovereignty of another state, "the physical destruction of a national group," the use of prohibited weapons, as well as their obligation in wartime to protect the civilian population, the environment and human rights.

After the case was filed in April 1999, the ICJ - the United Nations' top legal body - removed Spain and the United States "for manifest lack of jurisdiction" in June of that year. The remaining countries were Belgium, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and the United Kingdom.

The question of whether the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was a State party to the Court as a successor in the United Nations to the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY), was key, the ruling said. The court concluded that FRY joined the world body in November 2000 and Serbia and Montenegro, as successor to FRY, not SFRY, also became a member at that time - only after the lawsuits were filed.

"The court unanimously finds that it has no jurisdiction to entertain the claims filed by Serbia and Montenegro on 29 April 1999."

The court recalled that irrespective of whether it has jurisdiction over a dispute, the parties "remain in all cases responsible for acts attributable to them that violate the rights of other States."


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