OF BISHOP ARTEMIJE
FEBRUARY 28, 2000
Chairman, respected members of Congress, ladies and gentlemen.
is my distinct pleasure and privilege to be here with you today and
speak about the latest developments in Kosovo. The last time I spoke
here was in February 1998, just before the war in Kosovo began and on
that occasion I strongly condemned both Milosevic's regime and Albanian
extremists for leading the country into the war. Unfortunately the war
came and so many innocent Albanians and Serbs suffered in it. Many times
we have strongly condemned the crimes of Milosevic's regime in Kosovo
while our Church in Kosovo supported suffering Albanian civilians and
saved some of them from the hands of Milosevic's paramilitaries.
After the end of Kosovo war and return of Albanian refugees the repression
of Milosevic's undemocratic regime was supplanted by the repression
of extremist Kosovo Albanians against Serbs and other non-Albanian communities
in full view of international troops. Freedom in Kosovo has not come
for all equally. Therefore Kosovo remains a troubled region even after
8 months of international peace.
Kosovo Serbs and other non-Albanian groups in Kosovo live in ghettoes,
without security; deprived of basic human rights - the rights of life,
free movement and work. Their private property is being usurped; their
homes burned and looted even 8 months after the deployment of KFOR.
Although Kosovo remained more or less multiethnic during the ten years
of Milosevic's repressive rule, today there is hardly any multiethnicity
at all - in fact the reverse is true. Ethnic segregation is greater
now than almost at any other time in Kosovo's turbulent history. Not
only are Serbs being driven out from the Province but also the Romas,
Slav Moslems, Croats, Serb speaking Jews and Turks. More than 80 Orthodox
churches have been either completely destroyed or severely damaged since
the end of the war. The ancient churches, many of which had survived
500 years of Ottoman Moslem rule, could not survive 8 months of the
internationally guaranteed peace. Regretfully, all this happens in the
presence of KFOR and UN. Kosovo more and more becomes ethnically clean
while organized crime and discrimination against the non-Albanians is
Two thirds of the pre-war Serb population (200.000 people) fled the
Province under Albanian pressure. In addition more than 50.000 Romas,
Slav Moslems, Croat Catholics and others have also been cleansed from
Kosovo. More than 400 Serbs have been killed and nearly 600 abducted
by Albanian extremists during this same period of peace. Tragically,
this suffering of Serbs and other non-Albanians proportionally (with
respect to population) represents more extensive suffering in peacetime
than the Albanian suffering during the war. This is a tragic record
for any post war peace mission, especially for this mission in which
the Western Governments and NATO have invested so much of their credibility
Despite the sympathy for all of the suffering of Kosovo Albanians during
the war, retaliation against innocent civilians cannot be justified
in any way. It is becoming more and more a well-orchestrated nationalist
ideology directed towards achieving the complete ethnic cleansing of
the Province. The extremists believe that without Serbs and their holy
sites in Kosovo independence would then become a fait accompli. The
present repression against non-Albanians is carried out with the full
knowledge of the Albanian leaders. Sometimes these leaders formally
condemn repressive actions but in reality have not done anything to
stop the ongoing ethnic violence and discrimination. Even more, some
of them are instigating rage against Serbs developing the idea of collective
Serb guilt and branding all remaining Serb civilians as criminals. There
is much evidence that the KLA leaders bear direct responsibility for
the most of the post-war crimes and acts of violence committed in Kosovo.
As soon as KFOR entered the Province KLA gunmen took over the power
in majority of cities and towns and immediately organized illegal detention
centers for Serbs, Romas and Albanian "collaborators". They
began killing people listed as alleged criminals and seized a large
amount of property previously owned by Serbs and other non-Albanians.
KLA groups and their leaders are directly linked with Albanian mafia
clans and have developed a very sophisticated network of organized crime,
drug smuggling, prostitution, white slavery, and weapons trading. According
to the international press Kosovo has become Columbia of Europe and
a main heroin gateway for Western Europe. The strategy behind the KLA
purge of Serbs was very simple - quarter by quarter of a city would
be cleansed of Serbs and their property would be either burned or sold
for a high price to Albanian refugees (including Albanians from Albania
and Macedonia who flowed into the province through unprotected borders
along with the hundreds of thousands of Kosovo refugees). The KLA, although
officially disbanded is still active and their secret police are continuing
their intimidation and executions. Now more and more of their victims
are disobedient Kosovo Albanians who refuse to pay their "taxes"
and "protection money" to extremists. The Albanization of
Kosovo is proceeding in a way many ordinary Albanians did not want.
The gangsters have stepped into the vacuum left by the slowness of the
West to adequately instill full control over the Province. Kosovo is
becoming more like Albania: corrupt, anarchic, and ruled by the gun
and the gang.
Serbs and many non-Albanians still do not have access to hospitals,
the University and public services, simply because they cannot even
freely walk in the street. They are unemployed and confined to life
in poverty of their rural enclaves out of which they can move only under
the KFOR military escort. The Serbian language is completely banished
from the public life. All Serb inscriptions, road signs and advertisements
have been systematically removed and the usage of Serbian language in
Albanian dominated areas is reason enough for anyone to be shot right
on the spot. Thousands of Serb books in public libraries have been systematically
burned while all unguarded Serb cultural monuments and statues have
been torn down and destroyed.
The Serbs who remain in major cities are in the worst situation of all.
Out of 40.000 pre-war Serb population in Pristina today there remain
only 300 elderly people who live in a kind of house arrest. They cannot
go into the street without military protection and only thanks to KFOR
soldiers and humanitarian organizations do they receive food and medicines,
which they are not allowed to buy in Albanian shops. Almost all Serb
shops are now in Albanian hands. In other areas Albanians are greatly
pressuring Serbs to sell their property under threats and extortion.
Those who refuse usually have their houses torched or are killed as
an example to other Serbs. Grenade attacks on Serb houses; on few remaining
Serb shops and restaurants force more and more Serbs to leave Kosovo.
If this repression and persecution is continued unabated it is likely
that soon most of the remaining Serbs will also be forced to flee Kosovo.
On one hand, KFOR's presence in Kosovo has given Albanian extremists
free hands to do what they want because one of KFOR priorities has been
so far to avoid direct confrontation with the extremists in order to
escape possible casualties. On the other hand we cannot but say that
if KFOR had not been in Kosovo during this rampage of hatred, not a
single Serb or Serb church would have survived. We sincerely appreciate
the efforts of many men and women from all over the world who are trying
to bring peace to Kosovo even within a rather narrow political framework
in which KFOR must act.
An especially volatile situation is in Kosovska Mitrovica the only major
city where a substantial number of Serbs remain. During the most intensive
wave of ethnic cleansing in June and July many Serb internally displaced
persons from the south found refuge in the north of the province in
the Mitrovica area. In order to survive they organized a kind of self-protection
network and prevented the KLA and mafia to enter the northern fifth
of the city together with civilian Albanian returnees. KFOR, aware that
the free access of Albanian extremist groups to Mitrovica would cause
a Serb exodus, blocked the bridge connecting the southern and northern
part of the city. Albanian extremists have since then made many attempts
to make their way into the northern part of Mitrovica saying that they
wanted undivided and free city. Serbs on the other hand state that they
are ready for a united city only if Serbs would be allowed to go back
to their homes in the south and elsewhere in Kosovo. Serbs also hold
that only Kosovo residents be allowed to return to their homes. A few
weeks ago, after two terrorist attacks against a UNHCR bus and a Serb
café, in which a number of Serbs were killed and injured, radicalized
Serbs began retaliatory actions against Albanians in the northern part
of the city causing the death of several Albanian innocent citizens
and served to broaden the crisis.
The Mitrovica crisis is not playing out in a void by itself and must
be approached only in the context of the overall Kosovo situation. The
fact remains that after the war extremists Albanians have not been fully
disarmed and have continued their repression and ethnic cleansing of
Serbs and other non-Albanians wherever and whenever they have had opportunity
to do so. Unfortunately, such a situation as we have now in Kosovo has
opened a door for the Belgrade regime, which is now trying to profit
from this situation and consolidate the division of Mitrovica for their
own reasons. Each Serb victim in Kosovo strengthens Milosevic's position
in Serbia. Albanian extremists on the other hand want to disrupt the
only remaining Serb stronghold in the city in order to drive the Serbs
completely out of Kosovo. Regretfully, the international community seems
not to be fully aware of the complexity of the Mitrovica problem and
has despite all Albanian crimes and terror in the last 8 months one-sidedly
condemned Serbs for this violence. This skewed view of the problem will
only serve to encourage Albanian extremism, confirm Milosevic's theory
of anti-Serb conspiracies that he uses to solidify his hold on power
and will eventually lead to final exodus of the Serb community in Kosovo.
Milosevic obviously remains at the core of the problem but he is not
the greatest cause of the current round of violence and purges - the
international community must find ways for controlling Albanian extremists.
We maintain our belief that the present tragedy in Kosovo is not what
Americans wanted when they supported the policy of the Administration
to intervene on behalf of suffering Albanians. In fact international
community now faces a serious failure in Kosovo because it has not managed
to marginalize extremist Albanians while at the same time Milosevic
has been politically strengthened by the bombing and sanctions (which
ordinary Serbs understand as being directed against innocent civilians).
Therefore we expect now from the international community and primarily
from United States to show more determination in protecting and supporting
Kosovo Serbs and other ethnic groups who suffer under ethnic Albanian
extremists. A way must be found to fully implement UNSC Resolution 1244
in its whole.
We have a few practical proposals for improving the situation in Kosovo:
1. KFOR should be more robust in suppressing violence, organized crime
and should more effectively protect the non-Albanian population from
extremists. This is required by the UNSC Resolution.
2. More International Police should be deployed in Kosovo. Borders with
Macedonia and Albania must be better secured, and UNMIK should establish
local administration with Serbs in areas where they live as compact
population. Judicial system must become operational as soon as possible.
International judges must be recruited at this stage when Kosovo judges
cannot act impartially due to political pressures.
3. International community must build a strategy to return displaced
Kosovo Serbs and others to their homes soon while providing better security
for them and their religious and cultural shrines. Post war ethnic cleansing
must not be legalized nor accepted - private and Church property has
to be restored to rightful owners. Law and order must be established
and fully enforced. Without at least an initial repatriation of Serbs,
Romas, Slav Moslems and others Kosovo elections would be unfair and
4. The International Community, especially US, should make clear to
Kosovo Albanian leaders that they cannot continue with the ethnic cleansing
under the protectorate of Western democratic governments. Investment
policy and political support must be conditioned to full compliance
by ethnic Albanian leaders with the UNSC Resolution 1244. KLA militants
must be fully disarmed. The ICTY should launch impartial investigations
on all criminal acts committed both by Serbs and Albanians.
5. The international community should also support moderate Serbs in
regaining their leading role in the Kosovo Serb community and thus provide
for the conditions for their participation in the Interim Administrative
Kosovo Structure. Since the cooperation of moderate Serb leaders with
KFOR and UNMIK has not brought visible improvement to the lives of Serbs
in their remaining enclaves, Milosevic's supporters are gaining more
confidence among besieged and frightened Serbs, which can seriously
obstruct the peace process. Moderate Serbs gathered around Serb National
Council need their own independent media; better communication between
enclaves and other forms of support to make their voice better heard
and understood within their own community. International humanitarian
aid distribution in Serb inhabited areas currently being distributed
more or less through Milosevic's people who have used this to impose
themselves as local leaders, has to be channeled through the Church
and the Serb National Council humanitarian network.
6. The last but not least, the issue of status must remain frozen until
there is genuine and stable progress in eliminating violence and introducing
democratization not only in Kosovo but also in Serbia proper and the
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It is our firm belief that the question
of the future status of Kosovo must not be discussed between Kosovo's
Albanians and Serbs only, but also with the participation of the international
community and the future democratic governments of Serbia and FRY and
in accordance with international law and the Helsinki Final Act.
We believe in God and in His providence but we hope that US Congress
and Administration will support our suffering people, which want to
remain where we have been living for centuries, in the land of our ancestors.