Belgrade, 18 Feb. (AKI) – An Italian non-governmental organisation is investigating consequences of NATO’s 1999 bombings of Serbia and the effects of the use of depleted uranium on the civilian population.
The ‘Un ponte per…’ NGO investigators Alessandro di Meo and Samantha Mengarelli arrived in Belgrade on Wednesday for talks with Serbian officials, eyewitnesses and victims of the NATO airstrikes.
They will tour several Serbian cities that were hardest hit during the bombings before submitting a report to the Rome-based NGO.
NATO has admitted the use of depleted uranium in the bombing campaign and Italian media has reported that 45 Italian soldiers who served in the international forces in Kosovo (KFOR) died after the bombing and 515 became ill with cancer.
Di Meo told Adnkronos International (AKI) that the international community was turning a deaf ear to the problem, because the use of depleted uranium is prohibited by international conventions.
“But ten years after the bombing, the world has the right to know what really happened and what the consequences are,” he said.
Menngarelli said the truth about military casualties was slowly sinking in in Italy after a surprising increase in deaths and cancers amongst soldiers who served in KFOR.
“But the civilian victims have been completely ignored and we want to shed light on this problem,“ she said.
A Serbian NGO, ironically called ‘Merciful angel’ the name of NATO’s 1999 airstrikes, recently reported that cancer ailments have jumped about 200 percent in some parts of Kosovo and areas of Serbia that were most heavily bombed.
Serbia had decontaminated five areas the most affected by depleted uranium, but there remained 113 such locations in Kosovo, former Serbian minister for ecology, Miodrag Nikcevic, told Di Meo and Mengarelli.
Kosovo majority ethnic Albanians declared independence last year and Serbian authorities have no access to the area.
Nikcevic said even the decontaminated areas weren’t absolutely safe, “because you can’t find every bomb and the bullet”.
NATO’s airstrikes in 1999 drove out Serbian troops from Kosovo amid ethnic fighting and gross human rights abuses during a two-year war with guerrillas. Kosovo was placed under United Nations control the same year and in 2008 declared independence with the support of western powers.
“Ethnic Albanians did get independence, but they may suffer the consequences of the bombing health-wise for years to come,” Di Meo said.