June 12, 2003

ERP KIM Newsletter 12-06-03b




Thousands of Serb homes burned by so called Kosovo Liberation Army and other extremists still remain in ruins since 1999 (photo ERP KIM)

Toronto, Canada


Humanitarian Bombing vs. Iraqi FreedomA

Analysis, June 2003

Qui habet aures audiendi audiat

This June marks the 4th year anniversary of
NATO_s presence in the Serbian province of Kosovo. Given that the Kosovo Mission may be perceived by some as a success story, offering precedence in the approach of the international community's strategy for dealing with post-war Iraq, it would be both timely and wise to, recap the "successes" of NATO's Mission in Kosovo. Such a reflection may prove to be a telling and honest warning to those embarking on similar, future projects in Iraq.

Almost four years after the United Nations established its mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), inter-ethnic hostility is
still widespread and the few Serbs remaining in the province, are afraid to travel freely.

"Maintain civil law and order; promote human rights; and assure the safe and unimpeded return of all refugees and displaced persons to their homes in Kosovo" - UNMIK Mandate

Although the number of
ethnically motivated attacks can be interpreted in many different ways, tensions between the ethnic Albanian majority and the Serbian minority remain high. Surrounded and outnumbered by the ethnic Albanian majority (many of whom see no room for Serbs in Kosovo) the Serbs are realistically pessimistic about their future.

The ethnic make up of the population of Pristina reflects the validity of this fear. Since 1999, the population of Pristina has grown to over 500,000 people - less than 200 of which are Serbs.

Since the NATO's entry into Kosovo in June of 1999, the indigent population of this region
has suffered at the hands of Albanian extremists and organized terrorists. The NATO troops, operating under the organization of KFOR (Kosovo Force), have done little to protect minority groups and have stood by and watched as over 350,000 people were ethnically cleansed from the region (primarily the Serbs and Roma) and over 2,500 Serbs were abducted or killed.More than 200,000 Kosovo Serbs have left their homes as a result of extremist violence or fearing bloody reprisals from Albanians. The 80,000 to 120,000 Serbs who remain live in isolated enclaves, sometimes as small as a single apartment block, "protected" by NATO troops.

The continual
depletion of the number of NATO soldiers committed to Kosovo is a strong indication that little will be done to help these victims or prevent the further persecution of minorities in Kosovo.

As a result of this absence of multi-ethnic tolerance, the non-Albanian population of Kosovo is forced to live in ethnic ghettos. For those living in ghettos, it is not safe to travel freely. Consequently, they can only travel if KFOR provides an armed escort. The people are left to the mercy of the schedules and goodwill of the KFOR unit assigned to this escort task. Should the particular KFOR unit "not feel like" providing this service, trips to the hospital, the market, school, church or polling booths are not possible.

While Kosovo's Serbian National Council has demanded that the
UN Security Council and NATO urgently develop a plan for the protection of the Serbian communities within the province, the reality is that the KFOR check-points, guaranteeing some level of security to the remaining Serbian enclaves, have all but disappeared.

The decision to remove the checkpoints was ordered by the UNMIK (United Nations Mission in Kosovo) administrator Michael Steiner, who believed that the security situation had improved significantly.

Mr. Steiner's position was contradicted by the province's UN Ombudsman, Marek Anton Novicki, who
stated that: "The situation is not in the least bit optimistic for the Serbs who have been expelled to return to urban regions, and at the moment there are no basic conditions for their return."

At the same time, the
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) claim that Kosovo's minorities lack access to education, healthcare services and equitable employment.

The report issued by these organizations states that one concern is primarily the minority Serb and Roma populations, which find it harder to move around freely and therefore to live normal lives in Kosovo where ethnic Albanians are an overwhelming majority.

The question is then, on the foundation of what information does the UN Administrator base his position? The inconsistency in the two positions indicates an inherent lack of communication between the two UN agencies, the UNMIK and the UNHCR.

As a warning to the unfounded and bias position of the UNMIK, the incident rate of murder, terrorist activities and hate crimes in the region is, despite the presence of the international community, increasing.

NATO created
the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC), a local constabulary allegedly comprised of terrorists from the supposedly disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). From the time of its establishment, this organization has presented only roadblocks in the path of those trying to establish stability in the region. The KPC is openly engaged in organized crime. They run the regions largest drug trafficking operations and fund themselves through protection rackets across Kosovo - shopkeepers, businessmen and contractors across the province (including Pristina, Suva Reka, Dragash, Istok and Prizren) - are required to pay the KPC "protection". Instead of focusing on building and establishing the civic foundations for the future of Kosovo, the international community has been forced to commit its time and resources to investigating and persecuting the criminal and terrorist cells that exist within the KPC, and that operate not only within the province of Kosovo but have infiltrated Macedonia and other regions within Serbia as well.

Macedonia remains volatile after a 2001 conflict between ethnic
Albanian insurgents and Macedonian government troops. A renegade ethnic Albanian group, known as the "Albanian National Army", who operates from Kosovo, plans, organizes and executes occasional terrorist attacks in Macedonia. This group advocates the unification of ethnic Albanian-dominated areas in several Balkan countries.

It is clear that the UNMIK Mission in Kosovo has turned a blind eye to the corruption that has infiltrated this operation. It is impossible to imagine that the KPC, and those
groups similar to them, can operate their international-scale drug rings (to the extent that they have been tagged as the "heroin bridge" linking the orient and Europe), without the intentional ignorance of the UNMIK. The watchful leaders of the UNMIK appeared to have turned a ignore organized crime in Kosovo, and are seemingly unmotivated to take any action in combating the drug trafficking, prostitution rings, organized crime and threat of potential terrorism that exists in the province. Even the Albanian population in Kosovo has come to see that the UNMIK is clearly incapable of instituting positive and proactive change in the province.

Not one of the 110 Serbian Orthodox churches destroyed or damaged by Albanian extremists has been reconstructed since 1999 - ruins of the church of St. Uros
near Urosevac, Southern Kosovo (photo ERP KIM)

Multi-ethnic tolerance in Kosovo
has not been established. The murder and persecution of ethnic minorities in the province not only continue to happen, but these incidents are not even reported by the provinces_ media outlets, which are of course, owned and operated by the Albanians. Moreover, anything and everything that bears any resemblance to a culture other than Albanian, is destroyed.

This politically corrupt and culturally intolerant climate continues to strengthen its hold on the province. And in spite of the efforts of renowned
international human rights agencies (such as Amnesty International), who have voiced their concerns over Kosovo's oppressed minorities, nothing has been done to instigate change. Amnesty International has conclusively stated that: "Unless such rights can be guaranteed, minority refugees and internally displaced people in other parts of Serbia and Montenegro will be unable to return to their homes."

When assessing the shortcomings of progress in Kosovo, the ineffectiveness of the Government in Belgrade to take a proactive role cannot go unmentioned. As the primary stakeholder, Belgrade has failed to propose a constructive or detailed plan for their vision of the future of Kosovo. More importantly, the Serbian Government has been unable to create enough presence in order to hold the international force responsible and accountable in governing this province according to resolution 1244 and as an integral part of their sovereign state.

Iraqi Freedom four years from now

And hence the question of Kosovo's fate remains unresolved. In today's Kosovo, no one side can offer acceptable objectives, while the Albanians push forth with an unrealistic and
menacing agenda of independence. Such a precedent would most certainly lead to new Balkan divisions (in particular Bosnia and Macedonia) and consequently new conflicts in the unstable region. The UN is frivolously allowing what little credibility they may still maintain (especially after their failed diplomatic role in Iraq) to be destroyed by passive and corrupt representatives, who in Kosovo have done little to uphold the UN's mandate and ideals. Belgrade, from its side, must abandon its naïve hope for a quick and easy solution and instead approach the problems of Kosovo constructively.

Thus, what lessons can we learn, more than four years after NATOs intervention in Yugoslavia?

Before Canada can confidently engage in international reconstruction efforts, such as the opportunity we have in shaping the rebuilding of Iraq, we must be aware of the consequences of our role. More importantly, to ensure that Canada's contribution can be measured, and that the impact of our contribution has a long-standing and positive effect, we must first outline the concrete and viable steps needed to achieve our goals. In the unfortunate case of Kosovo, NATO's Forces either totally disregarded, or were not in a position to implement the very goals they themselves set - a multicultural and multiethnic society, the protection of human rights, and the safe return of refugees. Their failure to deliver on these promises has jeopardized or
shattered the lives of most non-Albanians in Kosovo.

As a similar mission in Iraq unfolds today, we as Canadians must offer credence to the example of Kosovo in determining the role we play in reconstructing this fragile nation.


A Kosovo Serb woman Jagoda Stolic, right, is comforted by a neighbourgh as she weeps following the murder of her parents and brother in the town of Obilic on Wednesday, June 4, 2003. Three Kosovo Serbs were killed and their house was set ablaze Wednesday, in an attack condemned by U.N. and local officials. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

Increase in attacks against Serbs could hit plans to return Kosovo refugees.


Institute for War and Peace Reporting IWPR

By Tanja Matic in Pristina (BCR No 436, 10-Jun-03)

The brutal murder of three Serbs in Obilic, central Kosovo, last week has put security concerns high on the international community's agenda again.

Slobodan and Radmila Stolic, both 80, and their 50-year-old son Ljubinko were found dead in the early hours of June 4 amidst the burnt-out remains of their home in Obilic, 10 kilometres from Kosovo's administrative centre, Pristina, after the local fire brigade were called to the scene. An investigation is underway.

The three are thought to have been axed to death before their home was set ablaze. So far there are no indications who was responsible for the attack.

The murders prompted a reported 23 families to leave the town and go to Serbia, saying they planned to stay there until they felt safe enough to return. But after meeting Serbian deputy prime minister Nebojsa Covic on June 9, they agreed not to move out of Obilic. Covic, who is in charge of Serbia's Kosovo Coordination Centre, promised to visit the province more often.

He said that if Serb families fled from the town, they would be playing into the hands of Albanian extremists. What they needed was community action, not political campaigning, he said.

The murders rapidly moved up the international agenda. Late on June 6, UN Security Council chairman Russian ambassador Sergey Lavrov said in New York that the killers_ aim was to thwart attempts to build a multi-ethnic society where everyone would enjoy equal security and where refugees and internally displaced persons could return safely.

UNMIK head Michael Steiner was prevented from visiting the site of the murders last week by an angry crowd of Serbs protesting at what they see as a lack of protection for them in Kosovo. He announced a 50,000 euro reward for anyone providing information leading to the arrest of those involved in the killings.

The incident also figured heavily when Steiner met EU representative for foreign policy and security Javier Solana in Pristina on June 5 ahead of next month's EU-Balkans summit in Thessalonica. Solana opened a joint press conference by condemning the murders.

The attacks come at a time when the situation was thought to have been stabilising. 2003 was supposed to be the international community's declared "year of return" for minorities forced out of Kosovo during the war.

But the recent upturn in violence has left many feeling it is still unsafe to come back. Of the 12,000 Serbs thought to have lived in Obilic when Belgrade was last in control, it is estimated that 3,000 have fled.

Along with the Stolic murders, an investigation is ongoing into the discovery in May of the body of Kosovo Serb Zoran Mirkovic, a 41-year-old-teacher, found in a field near Vitina, eastern Kosovo. In April, the clandestine Albanian National Army said it was responsible for blowing up a bridge in the north of the protectorate, on the only railway linking it with Belgrade.

In response to the increasing violence, Kosovo Serb politicians have called for boycott of all local institutions. In a letter to Michael Steiner last week, Goran Bogdanovic, the only Serb minister in the provincial government, announced he might resign if steps were not taken to improve security.

Members of the Povratak coalition in the Kosovo assembly joined in the protests, walking out of a June 5 session saying that few cases of attacks against Serbs have been solved.

Povratak leader Dragisa Krstovic said the Kosovo government must take some of the responsibility for the recent killings, "After all these things, it would be normal for someone from government to hand in their resignation."

Nenad Radosavljevic, advisor on minority returns in the office of the Special Representative for the UN Secretary General in Kosovo, told IWPR last week that the Stolic murders are part of a "planned action directed against the return" - but he believes that this will not succeed.

"I_m sure that after this case the wish to return will decrease, but I hope not to a great extent, and only for a short time. Unfortunately, many displaced persons are still living in terrible conditions in Serbia, but Obilic aside, there are some other places in Kosovo where security has seriously improved," he said.

An internal report from one international organisation, seen by IWPR, says that there are 20 displaced families from Obilic who have expressed willingness to come back, but the triple murder "could adversely affect their will to do so".

One of the possible returnees, a 55-year-old woman from Obilic currently living in Belgrade, told IWPR that recent events have damaged her confidence that UNMIK and the Kosovo police can protect the Serbs.

"All my property is in Obilic and I still want to return, but only if Serbian forces are back," she said.

Since the summer of 1999, when the UN established its protectorate in Kosovo, non-Albanians, especially Serbs, have been subjected to constant threats and violence. The situation improved after the beginning of 2000, as the number of attacks slowly decreased with increased security measures.

Reports from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the UN High Commission for Refugees agreed that 2002 saw a continued fall in ethnically motivated crime. Since May last year, KFOR has begun scaling down its presence in minority areas.

It is hard to say whether the latest attacks are part of a bigger trend, but they have made Serbs in the protectorate feel more cautious and rethink their behaviour.

"Recently, I really have been speaking Serbian at more and more places in the town, and I've also heard much more Serbian on the streets than before," said a 27-year-old woman from Pristina.

"But after this murder, I have realised that I may have been too relaxed. I_m sure I won_t be behaving like that for the time being."

Tanja Matic is IWPR's coordinating editor in Pristina

Struggle for peace amidst continued Kosovo Albanian ethnic terror
and deaf ears of the UN Mission in Kosovo - a Serb girl from Kosovo with a candle


ERP KIM Info-Service is the official Information Service of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren and works with the blessing of His Grace Bishop Artemije.
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