European Court of Human Rights Declares Application Against NATO Member States Inadmissible

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Monday, April 1, 2002
Bruce Zagaris
On December 19, 2001, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights declared the application in the case of Bankovic and others against Belgium and 16 other NATO Member States inadmissible. The decision was taken unanimously. The application was brought by six Yugoslav nations and concerned the bombing by NATO of the Radio Televiziji Srbije (Radio-Television Serbia-RTS) headquarters in Belgade during the air strike campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo conflict in 1999. On April 23, 1999, a missile launched from NATO aircraft destroyed part of the building killing 16 people-including family members of the applicants and injuring another 16 people-including the last applicant. The applicants contended that the bombing of the RTS building violated articles 2, 10, and 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights (herinafter: ECHR). The principal question that had to be addressed by the Court was whether the applicants and their deceased family members fell within the scope of jurisdiction of the respondent states as meant by article 1 of the ECHR, which obliges state-parties to ensure to everyone within their jurisdiction the rights and freedoms defined in the treaty. The court came to the final conclusion that the application of the obligation under article 1 ECHR as proposed by the applicant would result in an undesirable cause and effect interpretation of jurisdiction according to which anyone adversely effected by an act imputable to a state-party wherever in the world it may have been committed or its consequence may be felt, would be brought within the jurisdiction of that state. The interpretation would furthermore result in the conclusion that the rights and freedoms defined by the ECHR could be divided and tailored to fit the particular circumstance of the act in question, thus the question whether an individual falls within the jurisdiction of a state would be equated with the distinct and consequent questions whether that individual can be considered a victim of a violation of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the ECHR.