German court to hear compensation claims for 1999 NATO bombing of Serbian bridge.

A court said Thursday it will hear next week compensation claims against the German government from the families of civilians killed or injured in a NATO air raid in Serbia during the 1999 Kosovo war.

Several citizens of Serbia-Montenegro are seeking a total of [euro]3.5 million (US$4.1 million) in compensation in the case, which will begin on Wednesday, said Daniel Radke, a spokesman for the Bonn state court.

Ten people were killed and more than 30 injured, 17 of them seriously, when NATO jets attacked a bridge in the town of Varvarin on May 30, 1999, as the alliance pressed Slobodan Milosevic to accept its demands on Kosovo.

NATO officials insisted at the time that the bridge was a legitimate military target and denied targeting civilians.

Lawyers for relatives of the victims filed their suit last December, claiming that the attack was deliberately directed against civilians and thus violated the Geneva Conventions.

They say that Germany carries responsibility for the casualties as a member of NATO, even though its planes weren't involved in the raid.

They filed their complaint in Bonn, where the German Defense Ministry is headquartered.

The ministry has said that the NATO campaign complied with the Geneva Conventions, and that international law doesn't allow for individual victims or their relatives to claim compensation from warring parties.

[Source: Associated Press Worldstream, Berlin, 09Oct03]

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