Banković v. Belgium et al.
European Court of Human Rights
App. No. 52207/99 (2001)
In January 1999, during the conflict in Kosovo, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) announced a decision to conduct air strikes if certain demands from the international community were not met. Delegations from the Serbian and Kosovar Albanian sides of the conflict attempted to negotiate an end to the conflict in February and March 1999, resulting in a peace agreement signed by the Kosovar delegation but not the Serbian delegation. Following the failed negotiations, NATO’s secretary general announced the beginning of air strikes against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). On April 23, 1999, NATO air forces bombed Belgrade’s Radio Televizije Srbije (RTS) building, which housed three television channels and four radio stations. Sixteen people were killed and another 16 were seriously injured in the bombing. An injured individual and some relatives of the deceased individuals, including Vlastimir and Borka Banković (collectively, the applicants) (plaintiffs), filed an application against Belgium and other NATO European member states involved in the air strikes (collectively, the governments) (defendants) in the European Court of Human Rights (the court), asserting that the bombing of the RTS building violated the European Convention on Human Rights (the convention). Among other things, the applicants asserted that the bombing violated Article 2 of the convention’s protections of the right to life. The governments argued that the application was not admissible to the court because the applicants were not within the governments’ jurisdiction at the relevant time, as required by Article 1 of the convention. The governments urged the court to define jurisdiction for Article 1 purposes as the exercise of legal authority over a person controlled by or owing allegiance to the government based on a long-standing structured relationship. The governments asserted that because they had not exercised legal authority over the individuals in the FRY, jurisdiction did not exist. The applicants argued that even though the governments’ bombing of the RTS building was an extraterritorial act, NATO had control over the affected area during the bombing, and the governments thus had an obligation to ensure that convention rights were protected in that area.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)
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