Almagor: Investigate NATO Crimes

An Israeli terror victims group will try NATO nations over the bombing of Serbia. They hope Spain will respond by dropping its case against Israel.

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz, | updated: 13:00

NATO bombing damage in Belgrade, Serbia
NATO bombing damage in Belgrade, Serbia
Israel News Photo: (file)

The Israel terror victim's association, Almagor, is preparing to petition for a war crimes trial of NATO leaders and nations over the bombing of Serbia in the 1990s. As with a similar initiative by MK Aryeh Eldad earlier this year, the Almagor suit is meant as a counterweight to a Spanish court's investigation targeting Israel.

On Monday, a Spanish judge decided to proceed with the investigation of Israel over the 2002 assassination of
The suit would force the court to look into wartime actions by several former and current Spanish leaders.
leading Hamas terrorist Saleh Shehadeh. Sixteen other people were also killed in the IDF airstrike.

Earlier this year, the same court had agreed to hear the case for prosecution of former Israeli Air Force Commander Dan Halutz, former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, and five other senior Israeli officials for war crimes over their decision to assassinate the Hamas leader while he was in a building in Gaza City. Spanish law gives their domestic courts universal jurisdiction for serious crimes, regardless of the location and identity of the alleged victims.

"This case against Israel is based on an ancient hatred of the Jewish people - 'the lamb among 70 wolves'," Almagor Chairman Meir Indor told Israel National News on Tuesday.

In response to the Spanish case, Almagor is currently preparing a petition to the Spanish court system demanding that it also investigate NATO countries and leaders for war crimes during the air campaign against Serbia in the late 1990s. Over 2,000 civilians were killed in the attacks. Almagor is specifically looking into a NATO bombing that destroyed a passenger train on a bridge, killing over 100 people, and airstrikes on Serbian hospitals and two Serbian TV stations.

The suit would force the court to look into wartime actions by several former and current Spanish leaders, as well as those of other NATO member states. Chief among the potential targets of the Almagor suit is European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who was NATO's Secretary-General during the Serbia bombing campaign.

The suit is a way to open what Indor called a "Pandora's Box", which he hoped would pressure the Spanish court to close both cases. Such a scenario took place in 2001, when Almagor filed suit against Yasser Arafat after a similar case was opened against Ariel Sharon in Belgium. The cases were ultimately dropped by the court.

A Cautionary Tale
Indor told a cautionary tale his investigators heard of a Serbian pilot who bombed a NATO unit during the war against Milosevic's Yugoslavia. The pilot was just recently arrested when he crossed the border for medical treatment abroad. Interpol had a warrant out for him as a result of his wartime military service in the Yugoslav army.

The same situation could easily develop for Israeli pilots and soldiers traveling abroad, the Almagor chairman warned. If any European court, even the most obscure, decides to prosecute Israelis for their IDF service, according to Indor, a trip abroad may end in a year-long imprisonment in a EU holding cell as the courts hash out the case.

While there is a clear Israeli interest in pursuing the Serbian case in Spain, Indor insisted, "we are a human rights group for all intents and purposes, through which Serbian victims can sue NATO." Indor assured Israel National News that Almagor will not drop the case against NATO of its own initiative.

Asked if his organization will pursue the Serbian issue in other courts, Indor replied, "Perhaps in Israel."

Eldad: Bring Spanish Leaders to Justice
The idea of a suit designed to expose Spanish hypocrisy in that government's decision to investigate Israel over the Shehadeh assassination was first floated in February of this year, when Knesset Member Aryeh Eldad (Ichud Leumi/National Union) called for Israel to put former Spanish officials on trial for their role in the NATO bombings. Eldad petitioned Israel's Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to charge the former Spanish Prime Minister, Defense Minister and Army Chief of Staff in Israeli courts for war crimes against the people of Belgrade and other Serbian areas.

"In those bombings," Eldad's petition said, "hundreds, perhaps thousands, of innocent civilians were killed
A trip abroad may end in a year-long imprisonment in a EU holding cell.
because NATO pilots dropped their bombs from extremely high altitudes in order not to endanger themselves. They thus caused mass civilian casualties. It is fitting that the State of Israel try the Spanish political and military leaders for war crimes if Spain does not immediately revoke the charges against the Israeli Defense Minister and Chief of Staff."

MK Eldad wrote to the Attorney General that "in the event that Israeli law does not allow charging and trying someone for war crimes not committed within the national jurisdiction, I would appreciate it if you would instruct the State Prosecutor to turn to the International Court in The Hague so that the Spanish leaders will be tried for war crimes by the international court."

Failing to see the hypocrisy inherent in the charges against Israel for its actions while NATO carried out the same, or worse, actions against Serbia, Eldad concluded, "is testimony to hatred for Israel - Israel the people and Israel the state equally - and the State of Israel must fight back against this wave of anti-Semitism."





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