QUESTIONS OF THE VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS IN ANY PART OF THE WORLD
III. FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF YUGOSLAVIA
Since submitting his last report to the Commission on Human Rights in early 1999, the Special Rapporteur has conducted four additional missions, together with OHCHR staff, to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia: (a) 26-30 April 1999 to Montenegro; (b) 8-12 June 1999 to Vojvodina and central Serbia; (c) 7-12 July 1999 throughout Kosovo; and (d) 1-9 October 1999 to Belgrade, Nis, Kraljevo, Novi Pazar, Rozaje, Kosovska Mitrovica, Gnjilane, and Pristina. In April 1999, the Special Rapporteur conducted a special mission, drawing on the work of the OHCHR Kosovo Emergency Operation, to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to inquire into the situation of Kosovo refugees. The findings of all five missions were reported to the General Assembly in November 1999. The present report, prepared in early December, focuses on the situation of human rights in the last few months of 1999.
The tragedy of the Kosovo crisis has dominated news and human rights reporting from the region throughout 1999. Indicative of the gravity and massive number of human rights violations in that locale alone, OSCE in December 1999 released two reports, totalling 900 pages, on the situation of human rights in Kosovo since October 1998. Within the more limited constraints established by the General Assembly and the Commission on Human Rights, most of the pages allotted to the Special Rapporteur on developments throughout FRY have been necessarily devoted to Kosovo. At this writing, only a few weeks have elapsed since presentation to the General Assembly of the Special Rapporteur's report and addendum, which dealt almost exclusively with the Kosovo crisis. The Special Rapporteur therefore takes the opportunity of the present report to focus on issues not immediately or exclusively related to the Kosovo crisis, but nonetheless crucial to his mandate and the situation of human rights in the region. Given the pace of developments throughout FRY, particularly in relations between and among its republics, provinces and regions, it is possible that elements of this report will have been superseded by events before the document is published. Simultaneous with the presentation of this report at the spring 2000 session of the Commission, the Special Rapporteur will once again update the Commission on developments within FRY, focusing on new information from Kosovo and including results of any additional missions.
B. Humanitarian and economic crisis
International efforts to avert the looming humanitarian crisis caused by the destruction of the FRY's civilian infrastructure, including energy sources for heating, have been for the most part limited and politicized. After days of delay at the FRY border, the first fuel trucks in the European Union's "Energy for Democracy" programme headed on 7 December 1999 for the opposition-controlled cities of Nis and Pirot. Fuel shortages continued throughout FRY, disrupting food and water supplies and preventing the operation of essential equipment in institutions. Humanitarian agencies feared increased morbidity and mortality of the most vulnerable, particularly refugees, IDPs, the disabled, children, the chronically ill, urban elderly and social cases.
The FRY population has also faced increasing economic hardship, generated in part by the country's long-term economic decline and lack of reform, and worsened as a result of sanctions imposed for its role in regional conflicts and the extensive damage to infrastructure and industry caused by the NATO air campaign. Unemployment is officially near 40 per cent, but hidden unemployment brings the figure much higher. Inflation in late 1999 dramatically increased: the value of the dinar decreased by more than half from 1 October to the end of November, although the official rate of exchange remained unchanged for many months. Workers from one division of Kragujevac's damaged Zastava factory demonstrated every day for weeks: in 1989 their average monthly salary was DM 1,400 and today it is DM 60. Pensions and salary payments have been in arrears for months, although the Republic of Montenegro has fared better than the Republic of Serbia in issuing more timely and larger pension payments. A system for paying pensions and other social entitlements to persons in Kosovo has not been established. Calling for stabilization measures, the Government of Montenegro introduced the Deutsche mark as legal tender and pegged dinar prices against the real value of the mark. The move stabilized salaries, but the cost of consumer staples subsidized against the official dinar rate rose significantly. In Belgrade, the Government of Serbia reacted by cutting off nearly all financial transactions with Montenegro and imposing an intermittent "customs" ban on goods entering Montenegro from Serbia. In Kosovo, UNMIK declared the mark as the Kosovo currency in late summer.
FRY's external sanctions and internal financial difficulties pose a special challenge to international humanitarian and reconstruction operations within the country. The sanctions regime has been eased against the Republic of Montenegro, although officials there told OHCHR that most of the international community's pledges of increased trade and investment have yet to be realized. Sanctions have been lifted against Kosovo, but other factors in that region have complicated and impeded the progress of social and economic rights. Implementation of internationally financed reconstruction pledges, particularly of infrastructure, have not kept pace with private initiatives financed by the Kosovo Albanians themselves. At the same time, international business interests vie for concessions and elements of the kosovo.netmercial and reconstruction market. While military vehicles of the international security force (KFOR) grind down what was left of Kosovo's roads, UNMIK's European Union "pillar" must raise funds for community road repair projects. (Where bridge traffic is concerned, KFOR engineers have created short-term solutions and, in some cases, fully repaired structures.) Much of Kosovo remains without utilities, communications, or social or physical infrastructure, and many Kosovo Albanians, especially in villages, have used family funds to repair homes and small businesses.
C. Freedom of the media and access to information
Incidents of violations of freedom of expression have increased throughout FRY, particularly in the Republic of Serbia. In Belgrade and in Pristina, selected media have embarked on crusades against independent journalists, "traitors" and "enemies". Consumer access to a range of information is severely restricted in several additional ways, increasingly through technical obstruction (i.e. jamming).
The Special Rapporteur notes in particular the case of Nebojse Ristic, the editor of Sokobanja's local "TV Soko", sentenced this spring to one year in prison for the criminal charge of "spreading false news". The charges against Mr. Ristic were based on his having fixed two posters inside his office, one the symbol of the student "Resistance" movement, another proclaiming "Free media". In convicting Mr. Ristic, the district court cited among its reasons that he had "undermined public confidence in State institutions", a provision of the Criminal Code invalidated by the Constitutional Court of Serbia in 1991. The charge of "spreading false news" was originally modelled in Yugoslav law after article 58 of the Soviet Criminal Code, which provided for imprisonment for "lesser hostile propaganda". Excised from Yugoslav federal law in 1990, the provision remained within republic law but was not applied until recent months, and now is being applied in a growing number of criminal prosecutions in Serbia.
The Serbian Law on Public Information remains in force, and proceedings continue against journalists, editors and others in independent media and NGOs. The Special Rapporteur commends the media watchdog efforts of the independent ANEM network and its partners in Serbia. So many violations of freedom of expression and obstructions to free media have occurred throughout Serbia in the past two months that this report is insufficient to list them. The printing house which publishes the independent daily Glas javnosti, weeklies Vreme and NIN, and occasionally the bulletins and leaflets of the Alliance for Change has been the object of attack. Fined millions of dinars, ABC Grafika has been subjected to nearly 70 separate charges brought by government officials and others; its owner/manager has been repeatedly detained and questioned, and his car was set on fire by unknown persons outside his publishing house. Glas javnosti has been fined 4.3 million dinars since the passage of the Law on Public Information. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj sued the Danas newspaper in October for reporting a statement of Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister Novak Kilibarda. It did not affect the court's verdict that Mr. Kilibarda confirmed in writing that his statement was reported accurately: Danas was fined 280,000 dinars. Other independent newspapers were fined in the fall: Vojvodina's Kikindske novine, for reporting on the proceedings directed against it; Niske novine, for reporting the salaries of local tobacco factory management, all of whom are members of Serbia's ruling coalition parties; Belgrade's Nedeljni telegraf, for reporting on a scandal in Serbia's biggest shipping company. In November, a journalist from a Sandzak magazine received a decision of the Supreme Court of Serbia, dated 12 December 1998, confirming a 1992 decision ordering a three-month jail sentence for slandering Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.
Selective jamming or signal interference in Serbia has been directed at news programming. During the Special Rapporteur's October 1999 visit, he was able to observe regular obstructions, during prime-time news hours, of the broadcasts of the Belgrade station "Studio B", a local television channel controlled by an opposition party. Radio B-92 and Radio Index are also selectively jammed. OHCHR has observed that the satellite programme of the Republic of Montenegro is jammed in Belgrade a few moments after that programme starts its news broadcast. After September's arbitrary seizure at the border of one issue of the Banja Luka independent Reporter, authorities revoked the magazine's Serbian distribution permit in mid-October.
In addition to existing KFOR news services, UNMIK recently began its own Kosovo-produced radio programming in the Albanian and Serbian languages. Access to local television remains an unresolved issue. Kosovo's independent "Radio Kontakt", which was banned by Serbian authorities in July 1998, reopened in November; the station has already had to appeal to international authorities for protection of its multiethnic Albanian, Serb and Turkish staff from harassment and threats from Kosovo Albanian extremists. Although some Albanian-language dailies and weeklies have resumed (or started) publication in Kosovo, the number of publications available in Kosovo, the range of information and opinion available, and the penetration of information outside Kosovo's larger cities, including options for personal communications, have all decreased from their levels of one year ago. Inter-city telephone connections have not yet been fully re-established, further fractionalizing communications and access to information within the region.
Citing the lack of republic-level permits, Montenegrin authorities in late October shut down the broadcasts of "Radio Fri Montenegro" and radio "D", stations often critical of the policies of Montenegrin president Milo Djukanovic. Closing of the stations coincided with the hottest period of public debate over negotiations between Belgrade and Podgorica on a Montenegrin proposal to alter the nature of federal relations. One has reopened: "Radio Fri Montenegro", which had been remiss in filing technical documents, was reopened on a different frequency after approximately one month and given 30 days by republic authorities to complete documentation that would legalize its operations under Montenegrin law. Radio "D", identified with support for the policies of federal President Slobodan Milosevic, has received from Belgrade authorities all permits required for operation under federal law but has not fulfilled requirements at the level of the Montenegrin republic. In response to an OHCHR inquiry, the Montenegrin Secretariat for Information indicated that Radio "D" could reopen as soon as the station submitted an official request for frequency allocation to republic authorities.
D. Detention and missing persons
Throughout FRY, criminal proceedings are in progress on a number of charges with serious implications for human rights. OHCHR directly monitors these trials, with the presence of monitors in courtrooms and visits to places of detention facilitated by the ministries of justice of Serbia and Montenegro. The number of proceedings is so great that a network of non-governmental organizations, legal practitioners, diplomatic observers, concerned individuals and media has coalesced to monitor trials and support the rule of law. The Special Rapporteur has grave reservations about the conduct of many proceedings which his interlocutors have monitored in Serbia. He nevertheless welcomes growing civic involvement in monitoring judicial administration, cooperation of civilian authorities with monitors, and the precedent of non-governmental representatives visiting detainees.
Criminal proceedings against Kosovo Albanians transferred from detention centres in Kosovo in mid-June continue throughout Serbia. ICRC continues to visit centres to register detainees in the custody of the Ministry of Justice. At this writing, neither the "parallel administration" in Kosovo nor former commanders of the Kosovo Liberation Army have facilitated access by ICRC or OHCHR, family members, or advocates to persons, primarily of Serb ethnicity, deprived of liberty on the territory of Kosovo by armed Kosovo Albanians, nor have they provided information that could suggest the whereabouts of such persons. The Yugoslav army has so far not permitted ICRC to register those persons detained in Kosovo by military authorities. Unless an individual originally detained by the military has passed into the custody of civilian authorities (and there have been many such cases), federal and Serbian government officials have produced no indications of the existence of such persons, with the exception of individuals publicly reported to have been detained by the Yugoslav army before March 1999. Thus, the overall number of detainees remains unknown and is based on the tracing requests of family members and statements of witnesses to detention. Non-governmental organizations have indicated that several thousand missing persons remain unaccounted for, among them Serbian-speaking Muslims/Bosniaks, who increasingly lack advocates in Kosovo. At the same time, UNMIK has initiated a procedure to identify the nearly 2,000 as-yet-unidentified individuals exhumed in the course of investigations conducted by ICTY and other unidentified bodies discovered in Kosovo. Complementing the work of the community-based Commission on Prisoners and Detainees, established in September 1999 and chaired by OHCHR, UNMIK is establishing a community-based Victim Recovery and Identification Commission.
E. Rule of law: right to a fair trial
Of those Kosovo Albanian detainees in the custody of civilian authorities, many have been held for months without being brought before an investigating judge. Most are tried on federal charges of alleged terrorism, or aiding and abetting terrorism, but OHCHR has noted the reappearance of lesser, republic-level charges of illegal weapons possession for the first time since early 1998. Most notably, in the court of Prokuplje, attorney-monitors have observed serious and repeated violations of procedure in the proceedings, the absence of evidence or witnesses, and refusal of judges to consider objections or queries of defence counsel. Judges have ignored defendants' allegations of ill-treatment or statements made under duress. Most of those tried so far have been sentenced, but a recent trial in the Leskovac court resulted in the release of 14 persons.
On 2 December, the Serbian Ministry of Justice provided OHCHR with a list of persons of Albanian ethnicity released from detention centres in Serbia since 25 June 1998. Of the 312 persons listed, 73 were described as released in November on the basis of court decisions ending pre-trial or investigative detention; 166 were released to ICRC in June; 54 were released to ICRC in October; and 19 were juveniles in various stages of court proceedings released as a gesture of good-will. Of those on the list, one 47-year-old died within a few days of release, after leaving a testimony describing ill-treatment, torture and starvation during his detention in Andrijevica, a military prison, and during his transfers to Leskovac and Zajecar. The victim noted in his testimony that conditions in Zajecar prison improved in September. His story conforms with statements made by released prisoners to OHCHR.
KFOR has detained 14 persons (11 Serbs and 3 Roma) from Orahovac on domestic charges of "war crimes". Other Serbs have been detained by order of the court in Kosovska Mitrovica on suspicion of having committed crimes against humanity, among them a 16-year-old boy. All are pending investigation before UNMIK's newly constituted Kosovo judiciary. While persons suspected of crimes against humanity should be brought to justice, the Special Rapporteur is concerned whether a fair trial is possible in the highly charged and volatile atmosphere.
The Special Rapporteur believes that an important step towards rebuilding confidence in Sandzak would be for the Serbian and Yugoslav authorities to investigate the atrocities that took place in the region in the war years 1992-1994. For three years, the Republic of Montenegro has conducted criminal proceedings against Mr. Nebojse Ranisavljevic for alleged crimes against humanity in connection with the abductions and killings in Strpci. It has been over one year since the last court hearing in the case, itself postponed so that the court in Bijelo Polje could establish whether a mechanism existed for cooperation with the authorities in the Republika Srpska in carrying out an on-site reconstruction. At that hearing, Mr. Ranisavljevic testified that his original statement while in police detention had been made under torture. Mr. Ranisavljevic has now been in investigative detention in Montenegro for nearly three years and no further hearing is scheduled. At the same time, the abductions of mainly Muslim civilians in Strpci, Mioce, Bukovica, Sjeverin and other places in 1992-1993 have not been properly investigated by any international or judicial body, nor have the families of the victims received any compensation for the suffering and losses they endured.
F. Rule of law: freedom of association
Other prosecutions in Serbia deserve special note, as criminal proceedings have been brought against persons who organized or participated in demonstrations held throughout Serbia. After a series of misdemeanour proceedings, for which he already served a prison sentence, Leskovac TV technician Ivan Novkovic is now on trial for the criminal offence of "misusing an official post". A taped message by Mr. Novkovic inserted in TV coverage of a basketball game in summer 1999 brought 20,000 people onto the streets of Leskovac, spontaneously expressing general frustration, and more onto the streets on successive occasions to protest his prosecution. Bogoljub Arsenijevic Maki, artist, writer, and leader of Valjevo's "Civic Resistance", was sentenced to three years' imprisonment for allegedly preventing police officers from carrying out their duties during the "against authority and against the opposition" protests in Valjevo in June 1999. Mr. Arsenijevic was badly beaten by police while being taken into custody. In Smederevo in late November, activists in the student movement "Resistance" were arrested, then ill-treated in police custody, after having built a "bridge" out of posters of President Slobodan Milosevic during a demonstration of the Alliance for Change. The students were released, pending trial, as were the Alliance for Change demonstrators who were detained by police when they went to protest the arrest of the students.
G. Refugees and IDPs
Since the violent outbreak of the Kosovo crisis in February 1998, international political attention has been diverted from the return of refugees to Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. At the same time, the international community has not reacted with sufficient humanitarian assistance to support refugees and IDPs in FRY. Returns to Croatia, in particular, have been exceedingly slow. Individual returns have been more successful than organized returns. The situation of IDPs from Kosovo remains volatile, as aid is scarce, political attention to their needs is minimal, and there are strong indications of anger and frustration among the IDP community. In several cities, Kosovo IDPs have taken over vacation or unfinished flats.
H. Citizenship and amnesty in Montenegro
After protracted debate, the assembly of the Republic of Montenegro adopted a law on Montenegrin citizenship. The law gives primacy to internal republic citizenship over federal Yugoslav citizenship. By requiring 10 years' continuous residence in Montenegro, the law effectively prevents refugees and displaced persons from obtaining Montenegrin citizenship and divides the population of Montenegro into two groups: those who have Montenegrin citizenship and those who do not, even though all have the citizenship of FRY. Thus, it creates conditions for discriminating against those persons who, although permanent residents of Montenegro and Yugoslav citizens, do not have republican citizenship; potential areas of discrimination are tax obligations, right to work in public enterprises and political rights, such as the right to vote for local political bodies.
The assembly of the Republic of Montenegro passed an amnesty law affecting military deserters during the NATO air campaign. Under the Constitution, passage of an amnesty law falls within the jurisdiction of the federal assembly. However, since the Government of Montenegro holds that the current composition of the federal assembly is itself unconstitutional, the assembly took unto itself the constitutional right to issue an amnesty. By doing so, Montenegro became a potential place of asylum for many thousands of persons who refused military service.
I. Concluding observations
With grave concern, the Special Rapporteur offers early warning of growing threats in FRY.
In Kosovo, the ethnic cleansing of Serbs and "undesirable" non-Albanians is being followed by threats, intimidation and episodic acts of violence directed against Albanians who do not share the views of the "parallel administration" controlled by the KLA. In recent weeks, OHCHR has also noted new abductions of Montenegrin citizens from parts of Montenegro that border Kosovo; the body of one of the kidnapped was found in Kosovo.
At the close of the Special Rapporteur's October mission, four members of the entourage and family of Serbian opposition leader Vuk Draskovic were killed on an isolated highway by a mysterious truck which barely missed Mr. Draskovic himself.
On the afternoon of 3 December 1999, after conducting a regular visit to clients detained in Sremska Mitrovica, attorney Teki Bokshi and two colleagues were stopped on the highway to Belgrade by three plainclothes officers travelling in an official Ministry of Interior vehicle. When the officers demanded Mr. Bokshi's identity documents, he explained that he had left them in the Belgrade hotel where he was registered and showed them his attorney's credentials. The officers took Mr. Bokshi with them, indicating that they would accompany him to the hotel to pick up his identity documents, and ordered the two other attorneys to wait in their vehicle, the keys to which the officers retained. One day later, Mr. Bokshi called an attorney from custody, but could not explain his whereabouts or the reason for his detention. At this writing, Mr. Bokshi has been in arbitrary detention for six days.
On 7 December, human rights activist Dobroslav Nesic was summoned to the State Security Service in Leskovac, where he was detained for 2½ hours for an "informative talk". During the talk State Security officials informed Mr. Nesic that if he continued with his activities, he would be killed. Mr. Nesic, imprisoned earlier this year under the Serbian Law on Public Information, is President of the Citizens Assembly of Serbia. The day before his conversation with State Security officials, all the tyres on his car were slashed.
On thoroughfares throughout central Serbia, inside cities, even in residential neighbourhoods Serbian police have set up checkpoints on the model of the checkpoints that characterized Kosovo and Metohija during the past 10 years. OHCHR now receives several reports per week of harassment, searches, and even confiscation of goods and personal funds at police checkpoints in Serbia.
The Special Rapporteur reiterates the recommendations made in previous reports, most recently in his report and addendum thereto to the General Assembly. To those, he adds the following.
The Government of FRY, including the republic authorities of Serbia and Montenegro, should permit access by OHCHR and ICRC to all places of detention, including to all persons detained by military forces. Similarly, all court proceedings, including those held in military courts, should be accessible to monitors. In the territory under UNMIK administration, access should also be granted to detainees and proceedings held in the jurisdiction of KFOR or UNMIK, and to all persons who may be detained by parties or entities.
All persons detained in connection with the crisis in Kosovo, with the exception of persons suspected of serious violations of international humanitarian law, should be released.
The Government of FRY, including the republic authorities of Serbia and Montenegro, should improve its performance in the area of the administration of justice in accordance with international standards of due process and fair trial. The same recommendation applies also to judicial bodies appointed by UNMIK.
The Government of FRY, including the republic authorities of Serbia and Montenegro, should end torture and ill-treatment of those in prisons and other detention facilities and bring perpetrators to justice. Wherever persons are detained on the territory of FRY, their rights should be respected according to international standards.
The Government of FRY, including the republic authorities of Serbia and Montenegro, should expand, not restrict, the competence of local government bodies to permit local decision-making on issues of concern to the local population, particularly including national minorities.
The Government of FRY, including the republic authorities of Serbia and Montenegro, should ensure that, particularly in areas with significant minority populations, national minorities are fairly represented in all government departments, including in positions of authority, and particularly in the police, judiciary, medical and social services, and education. The same recommendation applies also to territory under the administration of UNMIK.
The Government of FRY, including the republic authorities of Serbia and Montenegro, should pay particular attention to the social and economic rights of the most vulnerable sections of society, such as the elderly, the disabled and children. The same recommendation applies also to territory under the administration of UNMIK.
The Government of FRY should agree to the formal establishment of OHCHR suboffices in Pristina and Podgorica. The Government of the Republic of Serbia should repeal the Law on Public Information and the Law on Universities. UNMIK should adopt a "rules of the road" protocol with ICTY regarding domestic war-crimes prosecutions.
UNMIK and KFOR should investigate reports of trafficking of women and children from Kosovo.
The international community should cease isolating the people of FRY. In the vacuum of multilateral politics, bilateral civil society connections should multiply. Non-governmental organizations in countries outside FRY should locate and establish links with counterparts inside FRY. Municipalities should establish "twin city" programmes. Universities and academic institutes outside FRY should promote grants, teaching fellowships and visiting lectureships for Serbian professors forced into unemployment by the Law on Universities.
distributed during the 56th session of the Commission
to the Report (E/CN.4/2000/39) of Mr. Jiri Dienstbier,
Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights
Human Rights in FRY (special focus on Kosovo)
III. Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
29. Since submitting the text of his report to the Commission on Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur conducted an additional mission to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) from 11-20 March 2000. The mission, on which he was accompanied by staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), included visits to Presevo, Vranje, Leskovac, Nis, Pristina, Prizren, Dragash, Kosovska Mitrovica, Berane, Ulcinj, Podgorica, and Belgrade. The Special Rapporteur also visited detainees under the jurisdiction of the Serbian Ministry of Justice in two facilities in Pozarevac and those held by the United States contingent of the international security force in Kosovo (KFOR) at its Bondsteel base outside Urosevac/Ferizaj. In his text submitted in December, the Special Rapporteur noted that he would use the opportunity of this update to look more closely at developments affecting relations within the FRY and, in particular, the consequences of the Kosovo crisis.
30. One year after the start of the NATO air campaign, controlling authorities in Belgrade, Podgorica and Pristina have little or no contact with each other. Having for many months conducted discrete foreign policies, the three effective component parts of the FRY are developing internally discrete systems of law and regulation as well as individualized financial systems. Within the FRY, financial, trade and information barriers resemble internal sanctions. Despite vast differences in their political leadership, Belgrade, Podgorica and Pristina have much in common: economic difficulties, restless opposition parties, pervasive police and army presences, and centralized authority. Only in the Republic of Montenegro, where centralized executive authority is tempered by an independent judiciary and a strong legislature, has the combination not recently erupted in large-scale and grave violations of human rights.
31. The Special Rapporteur observed widespread restrictions on freedom of movement. Starting approximately in early December, the Serbian Ministry of Interior set up checkpoints on all highways, many roads and in residential areas in cities. OHCHR observed that police on Serbia's interior highways were stopping and entering even regular international passenger buses, long after the vehicles had cleared the Yugoslav border and customs. Passengers travelling on internal flights from Montenegro to Belgrade are regularly subject to document checks by Serbian police before they are permitted to leave the gate area. The number of police checkpoints in Montenegro has increased with the worsening state of Belgrade-Podgorica relations and, recently, on movements of the Yugoslav Army within Montenegro.
32. During the Special Rapporteur's mission, Belgrade had effectively blocked the transport of commercial goods from Serbia to Montenegro. Montenegrin officials told the Special Rapporteur that discussions would start soon between Podgorica and UNMIK over UNMIK's recently-instituted system of "customs" duty collection between Kosovo and Montenegro. The Special Rapporteur notes that these "triple sanctions" imposed by Serbia, UNMIK, and the remaining effects of international sanctions undermine Montenegro's efforts to preserve stability and build democratic social relations. They also fuel the sensitive and yet unresolved matter of relations between Montenegro and Serbia, introducting conflict into what had started to progress as a negotiated process.
33. Freedom of movement for all residents of Kosovo is especially restricted. For members of minority communities, freedom of movement within Kosovo is practically non-existent. Nearly ten months after the arrival of KFOR/UNMIK, the fundamental question of documenting, or redocumenting, the residents of Kosovo -- thousands of whom were stripped of documents or have no documents at all -- in a manner that protects their right to citizenship is still unresolved. UNMIK has issued limited travel documents and is engaged in discussions with the European Union over their recognition. In addition to its Montenegrin administrative border duty collection, UNMIK maintains a customs service at the FYR Macedonia (FYROM) border, but the FYROM does not recognize UNMIK-issued travel documents. As a result, travel from the FYROM into Kosovo is easier than travel from Kosovo into the FYROM. KFOR controls Kosovo's northern and eastern administrative borders, where neither the Special Rapporteur nor OHCHR has observed UNMIK duty collection posts. At those points, KFOR subjects passengers and vehicles to document controls and searches, increasingly restricting the entry of persons who do not carry approved identity documents issued inside Kosovo or by international organizations. The Special Rapporteur was informed by KFOR that it controls the major roads, but not all roads, on the Albanian border. The Special Rapporteur has no information as to the existence of UNMIK customs on the border with Albania. Until the fundamental political and human rights concerns of documentation are resolved, only individuals with valid FRY or foreign passports can travel abroad. FRY officials are issuing some passports in Kosovo, but many persons have no access to supporting documents that are needed to apply. OHCHR has received reports that Kosovo Albanians who apply for FRY passports are subject to harassment.
34. In the Presevo and Bujanovac regions, which adjoin the Kosovo's borders, the Special Rapporteur met with the mayors of those cities as well as Serbian officials, elected Albanian officials and community leaders. Since December 1999, eight murders (seven Albanians, one Serb police officer), one abduction, and twelve explosions have occurred in the area, none of which has been resolved. Albanian residents of Medvedja municipality, in particular, have told OHCHR that they had to flee the administrative border with Kosovo because of harassment by Serbian police and security officials relocated from Pec. (Serb residents of Leskovac, which is in the same district as Medvedja, also told the Special Rapporter that police and state security officials relocated from Pec were responsible for violence, threats and harassment of human rights activists and persons associated with opposition political parties.) In early March, two UN officials were wounded when members of the "Liberation Army of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja" opened fire on their vehicle travelling near the village of Dobrosin. During the Special Rapporteur's mission, KFOR conducted a raid on what was described as a "Liberation Army" training camp, confiscating weapons and arresting nine persons. The Special Rapporteur commends KFOR's effort, but notes that Serbian authorities in the region should take steps to stop harassment of residents at police checkpoints and ill-treatment of persons in police custody. He notes that criminal proceedings persist against the mayor of Presevo for charges based on a peaceful protest and against a Bujanovac journalist for a satirical poem, and that there is no Albanian-language newspaper, magazine or radio station to serve the region's population.
35. The Special Rapporteur raised with federal, Serbian and local authorities his grave concerns over intensifying attacks on freedom of media and freedom of expression. The period from December 1999 through March 2000 has seen the most concentrated assault on freedom of expression in Serbia since this Special Rapporteur began his mandate. It would require much more space than that available in this update to provide even brief descriptions of the broadcast facilities closed, the individual cases brought and fined under the Law on Public Information, criminal charges brought under the revived charge of "verbal delict," visas denied or not issued to journalists, and public statements by federal and republic officials condemning and even threatening the security of persons involved in independent and opposition party media.
36. During the Special Rapporteur's visit, authorities seized broadcast equipment of TV Kraljevo, prompting mass protests in that city. The station's original equipment had been destroyed in NATO bombing; the replacement equipment that was seized had been funded by citizens of the municipality. Within hours after theft of its transmitter and a violent attack on transmitter guards by persons in police uniform, Belgrade's Studio B was fined 450,000 dinars under the Law on Public Information and assessed an additional 11 million dinars in "frequency fees." From 1 January through 10 March 2000 alone, in addition to the Studio B fine, the following fines were levied against media: Nedeljne novine, Backa Palanka, 250,000 dinars; Danas, 270,000; Svetlost, Kragujevac, 100,000; Vranjske novine, 800,000; NIN, 150,000; Vecernje novosti, 370,000; Studio B, 220,000; Srpska rec, 450,000. The Special Rapporteur notes that Nebojse Ristic of TV Soko, sentenced in 1999 to one year of imprisonment on charges of displaying a "Free Media" poster in his office, was released for good behavior several weeks short of the end of his sentence.
37. The Special Rapporteur notes that officials of the Yugoslav Army have begun to initiate charges and criminal proceedings under the Law on Public Information. In Nis, the Special Rapporteur learned that the Yugoslav Army was withdrawing a long-term agreement it had issued several years ago for space used by local television. The new phenomenon of involvement of military personnel in such cases coincides with the naming of new commanders of units stationed in several Serbian cities.
38. The Special Rapporteur also notes with concern that four defense attorneys are the subject of prosecutions based on public expression; one defense attorney (Mr. T. Bokshi) was arbitrarily detained and then freed, after payment of ransom, by persons who used police equipment and included identified state security officials; another defense attorney (Mr. H. Bitic) and his wife were brutally beaten in their home by masked attackers using police-issue restraints and exhibiting the same methodology as those who attacked the Studio B transmitter.
39. The Special Rapporteur notes that in the period 1 January to 10 March 2000, at least 107 student activists from the organization "Otpor" (Resistance) have been taken in by police for "informative talks" or detained for several hours. Some students have been ill-treated in these detentions, usually precipitated by students putting up posters. He is particularly concerned over arrests in Belgrade on 6 March, when heavily armed police entered a high school and detained two activists.
40. When the Special Rapporteur appeared before the Commission in April 1999, his report on the preceding months, including on his March 1999 mission, was overshadowed by the war in progress. The gross violations of human rights committed between late March and mid-June 1999 -- including the forced expulsion of 800,000 Kosovo Albanians, crimes against humanity, targeting of thousands of civilians -- are described in the Special Rapporteur's report to the General Assembly (A/54/396-S/1999/1000). The Special Rapporteur has visited Kosovo several times since March 1999. Each time the situation of human rights has continued to deteriorate, as gross violations continue to be conducted with impunity in the presence of international military, governmental, multilateral, and nongovernmental structures. Despite the fact that targeted victims -- most frequently ethnic minorities -- have suffered the most grave violations, the violence and harassment inhibit freedom of movement and violate the right to security of all residents of Kosovo. To describe such violations as purely a matter of minority protection distorts the issue: it makes the existence of the target responsible for the existence of the crime.
41. Returning to Kosovo during his most recent mission in March 2000, the Special Rapporteur recalled the situation of human rights in mid-March 1999, immediately before the start of the NATO campaign. He offers below a comparison to the situation in March 1999, in the hope that it can contribute to an assessment of the goals and strategies of international and domestic actors in the face of systemic failures to protect human rights.
42. In March 1999, violence in Kosovo was characterized by execution-style killings, killings of civilians, destruction of means of livelihood and property, and arbitrary detention. Explosions destroyed shopping areas, cafes, and means of public transport. Violence and arbitrary treatment specifically targeted influential individuals. Perpetrators rarely claimed public responsibility for acts of violence, fueling polarization and fear. OHCHR reported that, during twelve months from February 1998 through mid-March 1999, roughly 1,818 violent deaths had occurred in Kosovo, including those acknowledged by Serbian police, Yugoslav Army or Kosovo Liberation Army. In March 2000, although the pattern of targeted violence in Kosovo remains consistent, there are no longer police operations against villages, attacks on police or military posts, or front lines of conflict. Destruction of means of livelihood and property continue. During the nine-month period from mid-June 1999-February 2000, FRY authorities report that 910 persons died violently.
43. In March 2000, an estimated 330,000 persons have been displaced, although precise figures are known only for Montenegro. Joint efforts by UNHCR and authorities to register IDPs are still in progress in Serbia, but many Kosovo IDPs have told OHCHR that they refuse to register. Most IDPs are Serbs, Montenegrins and Roma, but the IDP population also includes Bosniaks/Muslims, Kosovo Albanians, Turks and Goranci. With the exception of Mitrovica, whose northern portion is multiethnic, Kosovo's major cities are now almost entirely populated by one ethnic group. Serb and Montenegrin populations are concentrated in enclaves, mostly in villages. This second "ethnic cleansing" of Kosovo within a year has been silent; residents have fled one-by-one or in small groups. International reporting on violence in Kosovo has often cited a decrease in the number of crimes directed against non-Albanians without noting at the same time that there are fewer non-Albanians in the region. There has been an increase in crimes committed against Muslims/Bosniaks, including the January murder of four members of the Skenderi family in Prizren; however, after the Skenderi murders, human rights observers reported the arrival of hundreds of Kosovo Muslims/Bosniaks in Novi Pazar. In Prizren, the Special Rapporteur devoted particular attention to the case of a Muslim/Bosniak police officer in the newly-formed Kosovo police force whose family has been subjected to a campaign of terror, including the blowing-up his father's house. It is doubtful that he will be able to remain.
44. In March 1999, the Special Rapporteur had consistently reported ill-treatment and torture, violations of international detention standards, violations of criminal procedure, denial of the right to a fair trial and absence of rule of law in hundreds of proceedings against Kosovo Albanians charged with terrorism and anti-state activity. Approximately 1,900 such cases were pending, many in absentia.
45. In March 2000, hundreds of the same Kosovo Albanian prisoners who were in detention and subject to criminal prosecutions one year ago are still going to trial under the same procedural deficiencies. Releases in such proceedings occur, although approximately 1,500 detainees are still being held in Serbian prisons outside Kosovo. Reports at this time of ill-treatment and especially torture are less than they were in March 1999, but it should be noted that while still detained in Kosovo in 1999, prisoners suffered grave violations particularly during the period of NATO bombardment, including torture, beatings, denial of food and medical attention. Many, including released prisoners, are still coping with the physical and psychological consequences of that ordeal. The Special Rapporteur commends the cooperation between the Serbian Ministry of Justice, OHCHR and ICRC to improve conditions of detention under ministry jurisdiction. The Special Rapporteur encourages OHCHR to continue to raise individual cases on legal and humanitarian grounds for the Ministry's attention. Inside Kosovo, UNMIK has appointed judges but has still not established functioning independent courts or rule of law. Violations of criminal procedure, particularly concerning length of pre-trial detention, are the rule rather than the exception. Ethnicity of the accused and the ethnic composition of the court council directly affect the course of any procedure. Reports indicate that members of the majority ethnicity, particularly if they have ties to the former KLA or current Kosovo Protection Corps (TMK), are likely to be released even where evidence against them is strong and where they have been arrested for serious crimes against individuals or ethnic groups.
46. In March 1999, no new information was provided by controlling authorities in response to official requests on the whereabouts and fate of persons abducted or reported missing, while abductions and disappearances continued. The situation remains unchanged in March 2000. According to the ICRC, the fate and whereabouts of 2,987 persons over the course of the crisis from early 1998 through mid-March 2000 remain unknown. Of these, 1,875 were reportedly arrested by the Yugoslav Army, security forces or abducted by Serb civilians; 348 were reportedly abducted by the KLA or Kosovo Albanian civilians; information on whereabouts or detaining party of an additional 766 is lacking. In March 2000, approximately 2,100 bodies exhumed by the ICTY remained to be identified, and UNMIK's proposed Victim Recovery and Identification Commission had not yet begun to operate. In mid-December, the Commission on Prisoners and Detainees, chaired by OHCHR FRY, brought representatives of Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Albanians together for the first time with representatives of KFOR and UNMIK police to discuss the fate and whereabouts of persons deprived of liberty as a result of the Kosovo conflict.
47. The differences among the FRY's different de facto components make it difficult to issue general assessments of the state of human rights in the FRY. Despite Security Council resolution 1244, the nature if not the very existence of the federal state have been called into question by policies of some of the international actors toward the final status of Kosovo, as well as by the growing differences between Belgrade and Podgorica. The situation of human rights remains most favorable in Montenegro, although that republic has lately shown tendencies to exert centralized government control over aspects of distribution of public information, activities of international humanitarian organizations, and distribution of resources to NGOs. Serbia continues to undertake actions to suppress freedom of expression, undermine judicial independence, and permit acts of violence and terror, including assassinations, to be performed with impunity. Belgrade has imprisoned and brought criminal charges against prominent artists and cultural figures, such as artist Bogoljub Arsenijevic ("Maki") and Dr. Flora Brovina; and it has resorted to force in seizing public resources in opposition cities and arresting teenagers inside a high school. In Kosovo, under current conditions, no one enjoys freedom of movement, safety, security, or rule of law. At the fundamental level of interaction between government and the individual, i.e., where human rights protections are actually implemented of human rights, people in Belgrade, Podgorica and Pristina continue to await new developments, which likely will come with elections, and do not yet know how they will ultimately be governed.