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Daily press briefing of the Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija
Gracanica, August 24, 2000
Picture of clothing of one of the victims found at Dragodan cemetery (from material which the SNC received from the Victim Recovery and Identification Commission). File size 1.5MB http://www.egroups.com/files/snv-kim/dragodan1%2Ejpg
The exhumation of the bodies in the area of Dragodan was carried out during the period from May to the end of July of this year by a team of British pathologists who during that time period found a total of 176 bodies. The bodies were not found in a MASS GRAVE but in INDIVIDUAL GRAVES without any markings. After autopsies were performed by the pathologists of the Hague tribunal 44 (forty four) of the 176 bodies were identified. These are bodies of Kosovo Albanians who were buried there at different times prior to March 24, 1999, during the bombing and after the end of the war and the arrival of KFOR. Intensive work is being done on the process of identifying the remaining bodies and according to the words of the representative of the Victim Recovery and Identification Commission at this time SERIOUS INDICATIONS EXIST that AT LEAST five of the discovered bodies are those of persons of Serb nationality, most likely of Kosovo Serbs. International Red Cross has already contacted the family of one of the discovered Serbs in order to complete the identification process. The identification process is very complex as the Victim Recovery and Identification Commission is carrying out identification on the basis of found personal items and documents, testimony by the families, IRC information on missing persons and the documentation of the Pristina coroner's office. Priority is given to those cases in which there are several pieces of material evidence while the identification of those bodies found without anything whatsoever next to them will have to be carried out by DNA analysis or blood remnants, requiring a longer time period. The gathered clothing and personal effects were on display at the beginning of August in Kosovo Polje so that members of families with missing persons could inspect the evidence and possibly identify the clothing of their relatives. The SNC had lodged a sharp protest in the task group for the missing because visits were not arranged for Serb representatives and families to inspect the discovered clothing. The VRIC promised to prepare a photo album with photographs of the objects for that purpose. During the course of the talks, Ms. Kennedy gave Bishop Artemije a photo album with photographs of the clothing articles found in the graves in Dragodan.
Therefore, on the basis of the testimony of Brenda Kennedy, the head of the Victim Recovery and Identification Commission, AT LEAST FIVE OF THE RECOVERED BODIES IN DRAGODAN are bodies of Serbs and at this time it is impossible to assess how many Serbs are buried in the Dragodan cemetery and under what circumstances. Ms. Kennedy confirmed the existence of only one, not two, locations and also said that there is no MASS grave in Dragodan but only individual graves at the city cemetery. Some of the bodies buried in Dragodan were obviously brought here from the Pristina mortuary after the local teams there failed to identify the bodies and no one from the families came to claim the bodies. Currently the mortuary documents are being analyzed in order to determine which bodies were brought from the hospital and which ones were buried there under other circumstances.
According to the testimony of the head of the Victim Recovery and Identification Commission in the last year (1999) a total of approximately 2,800 bodies were found in Kosovo of which 70% have been identified and the majority of which are those of Kosovo Albanians killed during the war. In this year, through last week, 964 bodies were recovered, most of which were buried in individual graves and of which 164 remain unidentified. The Commission could not confirm how many of these discovered bodies belong to killed Serbs even though it is known that 28 bodies were found in the cemetery in Pec (no information was provided at which cemetery).
Metropolitan Amfilohije Radovic, who was in Pec during the period from June to August of 1999, confirmed during the course of this discussion that he, with a group of his monks and priests, gathered approximately 30 bodies of murdered Serbs who are found in various locations in that area and buried them. With an Italian KFOR escort, Bishop Amfilohije followed leads from news about crimes which during that period were being committed against the remaining Serbs of the Pec region on a daily basis. Some of the bodies found were charred, some were buried in mud. The Diocese of Montenegro and Primorje with prepare the evidence regarding these cases in a systematic manner in the very near future and submit it via the SNC to the investigators of the Hague tribunal and the Victim Recovery and Identification Commission.
(Some of the photographs of the discovered victims in the Pec area can be found at http://www.decani.yunet.com/suffering.html)
The SNC will also in the very near future name its permanent representative in the Victim Recovery and Identification Commission. "It is absolutely unacceptable and shocking that to date not one single Serb took part in the work of this commission which includes, in addition to international representatives, Albanians, Bosniacs and others even though it is well-known how many Serbs have been killed by the Albanians before the very eyes of the international community, especially after the war," said Bishop Artemije before the representatives of UNMIK who attended the meeting.
The leadership of the SNC once again appealed to the U.S. administration to increase economic aid to the Serb people who are living under extremely difficult circumstances without jobs and in the largest number of cases with the help of humanitarian aid which does not always arrive in the necessary quantities. To date enormous amounts of money have been invested to assist the Albanians, while the Serbs, who have been decimated after the war, have received almost nothing.
Ambassador Menzies did not comment on Thaci's visit to the U.S., stating that he was not familiar with the details of that visit and the statements that were made during it; however, he did note that he had visited the region of Gnjilane and the village of Silovo with Christopher Dell and Daniel Serwer where USAID and the U.S. Committee for Refugees are working on several projects to assist the Serb population, especially with regard to renovation of the cold storage plant there and the equipping of the local medical clinic. The U.S. representatives stated that the situation in the region of Gnjilane remained difficult but that it was improving and that there were several encouraging examples of cooperation between Albanians and Serbs. Mr. Dusan Ristic commented on this statement by saying that the information available of the SNC does not correspond with the impressions of the American diplomats and that apparently an attempt was made by the Albanian leaders in eastern Kosovo to present the situation as being better than it really was. In any case, Bishop Artemije welcomed the efforts of the U.S. administration and KFOR to assist the Serb people but emphasized that without better security conditions and the return of the expelled Serbs to the Province the Serb people cannot survive here.
A year after the end of the war in Kosovo and Metohija, the Province has everything except peace and freedom. Violence has become an everyday occurrence for both Serbs and Albanians to the great disappointment of many people who greeted the end of the war with hopes of the beginning of a peaceful resolution to the Kosovo crisis.
In the newest statement of Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosovo ("Koha
24), Hasim Thaci places the blame for the destabilization of Kosovo as usual on Belgrade which is allegedly continuing the cycle of violence in Kosovo through its secret services. Additionally, the political leader of the former KLA accuses some of the Albanian media of backing Milosevic's regime by trying to show that the KLA and Albanian leaders are responsible for the violence in Kosovo.
Such views on the part of Mr. Thaci and his political supporters are nothing new even though there are less and less Albanians in Kosovo who still believe the overused rhetorics of the former leaders of the KLA. The violence which during the past year has been chiefly aimed at the Serbs and other non-Albanians is now being increasingly directed at the Albanians themselves, that is, against those who do not share the political convictions of Hasim Thaci nor his rival from the KLA, the controversial and little-known to the public Ramus Haradinaj.
The stories about the phantom Belgrade secret services which, undetected, are penetrating the deepest recesses of Drenica, killing and "destroying churches" have become to many Albanians as unconvincing as the former explanations of Ibrahim Rugova, who claimed that the activities of the KLA during 1996 and 1997 were, in fact, the work of Milosevic's secret services. Nevertheless, the war among the Albanians through some sort of unspoken consensus continues to be hidden from the eyes of the general world public since it represents a direct danger to the realization of the Albanian dream of independence because it shows that currently Albanian society in Kosovo is ready for everything except for the construction of a democratic country. It is quite interesting that the international mission, which apparently still has not succeeded in identifying the perpetrators of political and ethnic violence, also remains silent regarding this war even though former and current members of the KLA, which appears never to have ceased to exist at all except in the official and pompous reports of the UN mission and KFOR, are being arrested and disarmed on a daily basis.
The conflict between Thaci and Rugova is also addressed in the newest report of the magazine "Jane's Defence Weekly" in which the commander of KFOR, General Ortuno, foresees an escalation in conflict among Albanians before the elections because, according to the assessment of international peacekeepers, a lot of weapons remain in the hands of the KLA which is now apparently again mobilizing as a paramilitary formation and organizing the newest attacks with the goal of achieving its political goals. The history of the conflict between Thaci and Rugova has existed for some time since a silent war was waged even during the war between the KLA and FARK (Armed Forces of the Republic of Kosovo) which was established by Rugova's prime minister in exile, Bujar Bukosi. The recent armed conflict between Ramus Haradinaj's men from the KLA and the Musaj clan, who were members of the FARK, near Decani brought to the surface that the expulsion of the Serbs from Metohija has not brought peace to this area. On the contrary, the murder of Saban Manaj, the president of board of the LDK (Rugova's party) in Klina two weeks ago, is the most blatant example demonstrating the newest development of the situation in Kosovo. Manaj was kidnapped by unknown attackers (obviously opponents of Rugova), murdered and set on fire. The message is clear: Thaci and his self-appointed KLA municipal heads who assumed power of their own accord after the war, and with it control over all gasoline stations, legitimate businesses and smuggling, will be hard put to give up their "veterans" privileges.
Of course, in the public eye the Serbs again are to blame for everything even now when they are forced into ghettoes and "Indian reservations". The attacks on Serbs continue since the Serbs are the last vestiges of the state interests of Serbia which remains hopeful that Kosovo will be returned within the framework of the constitutional and legal system of the state while the Kosovo Albanians see them as the last obstruction to their dream of independence. Hence, accusations leveled at the Kosovo Serbs are beneficial to both sides while in the background an Albanian war is waged for the municipalities and control over monetary transactions in the millions. The attacks on children are aimed at expelling the great number of people possible since increasingly parents are making the decision to educate their children outside Kosovo, and the parents generally soon follow the children. The churches and cultural legacy of the Serbs remain for many Albanians an easy witness of the centuries and historical facts in Kosovo where more than 95% of cultural monuments are of Serb origin.
The international community remains more or less a passive observer of all this as there is not enough political resolution among the Western governments to confront the increase in Albanian violence and terrorism while at the same time accepting the possibility of incurring casualties. It is difficult to believe that the international mission in more than one year has not managed to unriddle who is killing whom in Kosovo and what is the main cause of the problem. Nevertheless, the difficulty remains that a confrontation with Albanian extremists is still being avoided by engaging those same extremists as political partners. The words of Senator Joseph Lieberman, the vice-presidential candidate of the Democratic Party, perhaps best explain the position of the U.S. administration of President Clinton toward the KLA: "The United States of America and the Kosovo Liberation Army stand for the same human values and principles... Fighting for the KLA is fighting for human rights and American values." (Washington Post, April 28, 1999). Consequently, it is not difficult to understand why Thaci and Limaj appeared at the Democratic Convention a few days ago on the very eve of the elections in Kosovo, and why there is an increasingly great wave of ethnic and political violence in which they obviously are far from innocent.
The international community with its mission in Kosovo and Metohija has found itself at a watershed: will it continue by in its silent tolerance of the extremists to give legitimacy to the formation of the controversial and essentially useless Kosovo Protection Corps or will it adopt a clear position by identifying Albanian extremism and terrorism as the main problem in Kosovo today and creating conditions for the strengthening of democratic and moderate forces among Albanians and Serbs alike. The strategy of the past, according to which the source of all problems was the Belgrade regime, has shown itself to be a naive self-deception or perhaps a conscious concealment of already known facts. In any case, Milosevic's regime, drenched in the blood of many innocent people, has been removed from Kosovo but peace has not come to Kosovo for more than a year now precisely because of a disregard for the other element of the crisis. This element is Albanian extremism which through some Western media has been successfully portrayed in recent years as the romantic battle of young and angry Albanians for freedom - even though from the very beginning it made use of terrorist operations with the aim of provoking the reactions of the regime against the Albanian civil population and thus securing support for a popular revolt. In all these developments, the worst losers are the Kosovo Serbs who were first deceived and then abandoned by their generals and corrupt politicians, and who are still paying in blood to settle the accounts of various Arkans and Frenkis.
In Europe, a significant sobering process is already in effect because the tentacles of the Albanian mafia which is acting with impunity in Kosovo are felt throughout the Balkans and in Italy, and also stretch as far as Western Europe. Drug dealing, prostitution, the white slavery market and similar activities are hemorrhaging from Kosovo and chronically unstable Albania in all directions. In this respect, of especial importance is the position of Washington and a possible change in the administration which might implement a new and effective strategy against the extremists.
What is certain, however, is that the reaction and position of Washington will be based primarily on events in Belgrade. The developments in the Yugoslav capitol remain key to the entire Balkan drama which after the September elections can go the way of a final, bloody resolution and disintegration of Yugoslavia and Serbia, or the way of a democratic reintegration of the entire region.
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