Was the NATO bombing of Kosovo legal?

A viewer asked this question on 5/15/2000:

Can anybody tell me, more than one year after NATO bombed Yugoslavia, was it legal or not? I think that NATO escaped UN Security Council.

morrisonhimself gave this response on 5/21/2000:

One would think the wholesale killing of women and children and the wanton destruction of their infrastructure
* would* be illegal.
NATO was supposedly a defensive organization, set up to defend against Soviet or Warsaw Pact aggression.
Since neither Serbia nor Albania nor the long-time Serbian province of Kosovo were members of NATO, I, for one, cannot see any legality at all.
However, one must also bear in mind that "legal" and "moral" or "just" or "rational" do not necessarily equate.
What courts and politicians and bureaucrats -- and generals -- consider "legal" is not necessarily what other people do.
Also bear in mind that the numbers of deaths attributed to Serbs, some 100,000, the alleged justification for NATO bombing, suddenly dropped to about 2,000 after the NATO killings stopped and people on the ground actually started counting graves.
NATO has become another quasi-governmental body that seeks to justify its existence and, hence, its ability and "right" to suck money from the working people.
Thank you for your question. It shows a proper concern.
Michael Morrison

JesseGordon gave this response on 5/16/2000:

The issues what have been questioned as to their legality are:

1) The bombing may have violated the sovereignty of Serbia by bombing them for an internal matter; i.e. we intervened illegally in a civil war. The justification was that there was a crime against humanity occurring. Hence there are two different principles of international law in conflict; the only way to decide if it was legal is to have an international court rule on it.

2) President Clinton, some say, acted without proper authorization by Congress. Some say that the NATO bombing required a declaration of war to be legal under the US Constitution. That of course would not affect the other countries that participated in the bombing.

3) Some might say that NATO breached its own treaty (a document of international law) because it was an OFFENSIVE action and the treaty was for DEFENSIVE purposes.

But the bottom line is, it's only illegal if a court finds it to be illegal. NATO and Congress certainly are not going to try this case -- they won. The only venue possible is that the Serbian government brings charges in the International Court of Justice, and that seems extremely unlikely.

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