Chapter 4. Damage to Civilian Infrastructure in Yugoslavia

By Lois Singer (New York)

During the 77 day bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, U.S./NATO specifically targeted, schools, hospitals, farms, bridges, roads, railways, water lines, communications facilities, factories, industries and other objects necessary for the basic functioning of a modern day society. The outright, deliberate, and extensive destruction of Yugoslavia's infrastructure is a gross violation of international law including the Protocol 1 Additional To The Geneva Conventions --1977.

Part IV of Protocol 1 Additional addresses the protection of the civilian population during times of war. Articles 52 and 54 specifically prohibit the targeting civilian objects and infrastructure:

Article 52. General Protection of Civilian Objects.

    1. Civilian objects shall not be the objects of attack or of reprisals. Civilian objects are all objects which are not military objectives as defined in paragraph 2.
    2. Attacks shall be limited strictly to military objectives. In so far as objects are concerned, military objectives are limited to those objects which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage.
    3. In case of doubt whether an object which is normally dedicated to civilian purposes, such as a place of worship, a house or other dwelling or a school, is being used to make an effective contribution to military action, it shall be presumed not to be so used.


Article 54. Protection of Objects Indispensable to the Survival of the Civilian Population.

    1. Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited.
    2. It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove, or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, agriculture areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies, and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive.

The following evidence proves that the U.S. and NATO intentionally targeted and systematically destroyed the structural objects and facilities necessary for the maintenance and survival of the civilian population.



A partial list of media accounts of the destruction to Yugoslavia's Infrastructure:

"The destruction of the bridge in the city of Novi Sad was the first target that could disrupt the lives of ordinary Serbs, not just the armed forces." ("Allies Hit Troops and Bridge; Serbs May Try 3 Captured G.I.'s," New York Times 4/2/99. Steven Lee Myers and Elizabeth Becker).

"…Venturoni, NATO's most senior military figure, hinted Wednesday that the bombardment of Belgrade and devastation of infrastructure in Serbia might have been crucial in determining the outcome of the air campaign. By inference, at least, the relentless bombardment of Serbian forces in Kosovo was less successful." ("Admiral admits Kosovo air war pushed NATO nearly to its limits," San Francisco Examiner 7/1/99. Stephen Castle.)

"NATO warplanes destroyed the last remaining bridge in Yugoslavia's second-largest city early today…." ("NATO Strikes Take Out Key Bridge in Yugoslavia," San Francisco Chronicle 4/26/99. Associated Press.)

"NATO carried out a daytime attack in the capital area, severely damaging a railway bridge over the Sava River a few miles west of Belgrade. ….Other strong explosions hit the Yugoslav capital hours later. Serbian media reported NATO jets also attacked the central town of Valijevo, hitting a factory and damaging nearby civilian homes." ("Ground War Planning Heats Up," San Francisco Chronicle 4/22/99. Norman Kempster and Richard C. Paddock.)

"At least half of Kosovo's livestock and domestic animals died in the recent conflict there, one of the world's largest animal charities said yesterday." ("Kosovo's War Also Killed Half Of Its Animals," The San Francisco Chronicle 6/16/99. Reuters.)

"Less than two hours after the Russian special envoy left Belgrade after peace talks with President Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia, NATO bombed a hospital this morning. Four people were killed and dozens wounded, including medical staff and two women struck by broken glass while giving birth. At least 70 other pregnant women were moved to another hospital." ("Staff at the Hospital asks Why 4 had to Die," New York Times 5/21/99. Steven Erlanger.)

"After two months of bombing, which began March 24, a NATO bent on crippling Serbia's war effort is going after the country's electricity in a serious way, and water supplies dependent of electrical pumps are a major casualty. The high-explosives bombs are doing permanent damage to both systems." ("Reduced to a 'Caveman' Life, Serbs Don't Blame Milosevic," New York Times 5/25/99. Steven Erlanger.)

"NATO insists it is not waging war against the civilian population of Yugoslavia, but NATO officials also have said they believe that putting pressure on the civilian population will undermine the regime. Knocking out electrical power for 70 percent of the country obviously has far more impact on civilians than it does on the Yugoslav military, which has its own generators. … At a news conference Tuesday, Health Minister Leposava Milicevic said that across Serbia, there were 9,500 patients in intensive care or semi-intensive care, 3,000 patients a day in need of dialysis and 300 infants in incubators, all at risk because of the power shortages." ("NATO bombs Serbs into survival mode," San Francisco Examiner 5/26/99. Tom Hundley.)

"The Sprawling OBOB electronics plant here, which employs 2,500 people, has been shut down completely since NATO's bombardment of Serbia cut off the market where 90 percent of the plant's air-conditioners, washing machines and refrigerators were sold." ("Air War Hurts Stability of a Yugoslav Republic," New York Times 5/9/99. Anthony DePalma.)

"'It will take months at the very least,' said a NATO military official. 'Yes, the oil refineries are destroyed and so are some oil storage depots, but the Serbs will continue to have the fuel they need for months and months." ("Experts Doubt NATO Raids Will Halt Flow of Fuel Soon," New York Times 4/21/99. Elizabeth Becker.)

"The crude oil reservoir of a central heating plant burned in Belgrade yesterday after NATO air attacks, which also struck an oil refinery and a police academy in the capital area. Below, the central span of the Freedom Bridge at Novi Sad lay ruined in the Danube after being hit late Saturday. At lower right, thousands of people attended a daily rally and rock concert in central Belgrade yesterday to protest the air strikes." (photograph caption, New York Times 4/4/99.)

"The destruction of Yugoslav train by a NATO missile was called "an uncanny accident" yesterday by NATO supreme commander General Wesley Clark [at least 10 killed and 16 injured]." (Attack on Train called 'An Uncanny Accident,' San Francisco Chronicle 4/14/99. Reuters.)

"NATO bombers scored several direct hits here in Kosovo's capital yesterday -- including a graveyard, a bus station, and a children's basketball court." ("NATO Bombs Hit Graveyard, Bus Station," San Francisco Chronicle 4/14/99. Paul Watson.)

"The U.N High Commissioner for Refugees has concluded its first comprehensive survey of the humanitarian situation in Kosovo province. Among its findings, released yesterday: *Forty percent of Kosovo's water supply is of poor quality -- 'polluted by a range of materials including human, as well as animal, corpses.' *Only 12 percent of the health facilities that existed before the NATO bombing still exist, and 60 percent of the schools have been damaged or destroyed. *Meat is reliably available in only 7percent of the villages, fruit in 18 percent and wheat in 35 percent. *Agriculture was also seriously damaged. The wheat harvest this year is expected to be half it normal size, and the corn crop just 10 percent of normal." ("Kosovo's Damage," San Francisco Chronicle 7/9/99.)

"After the attacks this morning, Radio Novosti reported that a chemical complex at Baric, 15 miles southwest of Belgrade, had been hit. Telephone calls around Serbia found witnesses who reported attacks at Obrenovac, the site of a power station; at Ostruzmica, and at Makis, a water-purifying station for Belgrade." ("Allied Jets Attack Belgrade Area Again," New York Times 5/20/99. Agence France-Presse.)

"'It took only five seconds to destroy the future of 5,000 people and their families. As of today this factory is dead, as well as the town of Cacak itself,' said Radomir Ljujic, managing director of the Sloboda household utilities plant." ("Serbs Lament Bombing of Factory," San Francisco Chronicle 4/1/99. Julijana Mojsilovic.)

"In the past few days of NATO's 2-month-old campaign of air attacks against Yugoslavia, allied bombing runs have deprived Belgrade and other major cities of much of their electricity and water supplies by knocking out power stations." ("NATO OKs Attack on Telecommunications," San Francisco Chronicle 5/27/99. William Drozdiak.)

"The fertilizer factory was bombed, releasing huge amounts of ammonia into the air and into the Danube. The oil refinery was repeatedly bombed: 20,000 tons of crude oil were burnt up in one bombardment alone, and a cloud of black smoke hung in the air for 10 days. The petrochemicals factory was bombed: 1,400 tons of ethylene dichloride poured into the Danube, and high concentrations of vinyl chloride, the main constituent of polyvinyl chlorides, were released into the atmosphere at more than 10,000 times the permitted level." ("NATO's Yugoslavia bombing uncorked toxic chemicals," San Francisco Examiner 7/26/99. Steve Crawshaw.)


The following are excerpts from a Press Release, No. 14/04, dated April 22, 1999 from the Permanent Mission of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to the United Nations:

In addition to committing an attack on a sovereign and independent country, by its aggression of 24 March 1999 the north Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has threatened international peace and security, grossly violated the Charter of the United Nations and the international legal system and caused one of the biggest humanitarian catastrophes in the world since the establishment of the United Nations.

The outright destruction of numberless economic facilities has lastingly deprived hundreds of thousands of workers of their jobs, threatening their existence and the existence of about 2 million members of their families. Continued bombing hampers normal economic activities and public services almost in all fields of labor, especially in the field of industry, mining, transport and agriculture at the peak of spring planting season, in particular. Specifically, countless pharmaceutical plants and the most important health institutions in Belgrade and other cities and towns of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia have been raided and destroyed, whereby the health of the population of the entire country has been directly jeopardized. As an example, hospital, health centers or maternity wards in Belgrade, Pristina, Cuprija, Aleksinac, Nis, Novi Sad, Cacak, Ivanjica and in a number of other cities and towns have been either damaged or destroyed.

Use of exceptionally destructive ammunition, including the one banned by International Conventions In force, and the bombing of oil refineries and chemical industry raw material warehouses, as well as oil and ammonia storages and a number of other chemical plants have caused a vast ecological catastrophe with long-lasting consequences, both for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and for other countries of the region, including Europe and the Mediterranean.

Since, in the situation of the incessant aggression of NATO and round-the-clock aerial bombardment, it is not possible at this moment to ascertain the exact scope of material and other damage and the number of people who lost their lives and were buried under the debris until 18 April 1999, only the damage and consequences eye witnessed by the public, including numerous world media which reported the, are provided in the Aide Memoire.

Following these barbarian attacks, hundreds of thousands of citizens were exposed to gas poisoning, which may leave lasting consequences on the overall health of the population and on the environment, both in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and in the region, including the entire continent and the Mediterranean.

Following the destruction of the Petrovaradin Bridge, Novi Sad and Petrovaradin have been left without water (800,000 citizens) since the magistral and city water supply systems were built into the Bridge, while water supply systems catering to about one million people have been destroyed by bombing all over the country.

The total destruction of economic capacities all over Yugoslavia has deprived 500,000 workers of their jobs, whereby 2 million citizens have been left completely without any income whatsoever and the possibility to ensure minimum living condition s. The effects are already felt in the worsening of general living conditions, nutrition, housing and health protection of the enormous part of the population of the entire country.


Excerpts from an Article by Walter J. Rockler, former prosecutor of Nuremberg war crimes trials, entitled "U.S. Aggression" published in the Chicago Tribune, May 10, 1999.

As the bombs, smart and dumb, fall ceaselessly on Serbia, Montenegrins and sometimes Albanians, on bridges, waterworks, electric generation plants and factories, and on trains, trucks and homes, the remorseless crusade for "humanitarianism" presses forward to the applause of journalistic and academic shrills. To paraphrase the Roman historian Tacitus, we are busy creating a desert, which we can then call peace.

In a Report on the Humanitarian Situation by the Yugoslav Red Cross, the Yugoslav Red Cross quoted Lieutenant General Michael Short, NATO’s top air-war commander who told the New York Times (reported in The International Herald Tribune 5/14/99) of his desire to hit civilians:

"I think no power to your refrigerator, no gas to your stove, you can’t get to work because the bridge is down--the bridge on which you hold your rock concerts and you all stood with targets on your heads. That needs to disappear at three o’clock in the morning."



Commission of Inquiry
c/o International Action Center
39 West 14th Street, Room 206
New York, NY 10011
phone: 212 633-6646
fax: 212 633-2889


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Table of Contents: Selected Research Findings