CEAS Announcement - Finally a state list of fatal casualties during the NATO aggression

The Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies from Belgrade (CEAS) welcomes the initiative of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to soon establish, by a decision of the Serbian Government, a commission to determine the exact number of fatal casualties during the 1999 NATO aggression against Yugoslavia.

CEAS also welcomes the announcement that the Government of Serbia will be the one to provide funding for its work. The reported vertical structure of the commission, which should include, inter alia, local police stations, cemeteries, church parishes, and working groups at competent state institutions such as the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Defense, demonstrate that the intention truly is to obtain as accurate data as possible. CEAS suggests that the commission should also collect the information that civil society organizations have at their disposal in addressing this extremely difficult issue.

Since its establishment ten years ago, CEAS has expressed regret that there is no official state list of all fatal casualties of NATO bombings, which is the least the state can do for innocent civilians killed during the aggression, but also for members of the security system who honorably performed their duties, without interfering into the quality or substance of the political decisions that led to this tragedy. The fact that during the bombing, as well as before and after it during the Kosovo conflict, some of them committed crimes should not tarnish other members of the security system.

CEAS has also warned for years that the lack of a state list of fatal causalities can be misused, as indeed it was, by tendentious estimates that reduce or increase the number of deaths depending on the intended purpose of such manipulation.

We wish to remind that since its inception, as a rare actor in public life who advocates for Serbia's full membership in NATO, should the democratic majority ever articulate it, we have also been fighting the "suggestions" that often come from the political West to "forget the past and turn towards the future”.

CEAS considers the reasons not to comply with the “forget it and move on” approach, to be precisely the lack of a state list of fatal casualties, as well as the unfinished process of punishing all the perpetrators of crimes against civilians during the Kosovo conflict. There is a need to achieve a broader domestic and international consensus based on the facts about the circumstances that led to the NATO aggression and their consequences. There is much to be learned from it in order to never repeat such tragedies, but also to initiate a global debate on how to prevent humanitarian disasters in the future.

Rejecting the policy of forgetting the past and turning to the future is especially important now, considering that, since the October 5th changes, Serbia has faced many aspects of its responsibility and has almost completely finalized its share of obligations concerning cooperation with international courts, which is something that Kosovo is yet to do. We would like to remind that the fate of about 1,500 Serbs and other non-Albanians killed in the Kosovo conflict is still unknown, and that almost no one has ever been convicted of the crimes committed against them.

CEAS has been advocating for years to make a realistic assessments, to the extent possible, of damages incurred to the economy, infrastructure, environment and the health of citizens, as a result of bombing, and in partnership with the political West work on the reconstruction and remediation, as well as provide assistance to Serbia to address this and other consequences of pollution, which have nothing to do with the bombing, and with which Serbia will not be able to cope alone.

Determining the exact number of fatal casualties and the circumstances of their deaths, as well as assessing other damages, with full understanding of circumstances of 1998-99, are also prerequisites for a sustainable compromise solution that would formalize new relations between Belgrade and Pristina, as well as establishing of the grounds for sound and mutually beneficial cooperation between Serbia and NATO in the future.

 

Belgrade, 14 February 2020