CHRISTMAS IN KOSOVO
Helsinki Human Rights Group / Special to Antiwar.com
the nuns and monks of the Serbian Patriarchate at Pec in Kosovo
Christmas 1999 will be a sombre affair. Huddled in their monastery
together with a few refugees, only the protection of Italian KFOR troops
stands between them and an angry Albanian rabble outside. The beauty
the place contrasts all too sharply with the ugliness and chaos that
all around them.
than 25,000 Serbs (a quarter of the town's population) lived in Pec
before NATO's war to liberate Kosovo. None now remain. The town was
always a rather confused muddle of small shops, narrow streets and
rickety vehicles, but it was lively and bustling. The confusion and
are still there but Pec is now the thing of nightmares. There is only
sporadic supply of power in Kosovo and by 6 o'clock in the evening with
no lighting and heating the town empties. An eery silence falls which
Kfor soldiers fear to penetrate alone. Crime is rampant.
Kosovo along the border with Albania suffered the greatest
damage during the NATO campaign. KLA fighters reinforced by
equipment and weapons from across the border were at their strongest
here. In anticipation of a NATO invasion the Yugoslav army cleared
settlements to avoid retaliation from snipers and other hostile elements
that might be lurking in the area.
war has caused widespread destruction, both from the bombing as
well as the burning and looting of property - although some kind of
discrimination seems to have operated. A house that is a burnt-out shell
stands next to one totally unscathed. It is said that the destruction
somehow bypassed the property of big, local mafia types, both Serb and
Albanian. However, unlike the Warsaw ghetto, for example, the place
was not totally flattened for its 'insubordination'.
hygiene is nonexistent and piles of garbage lie everywhere:
discarded clothes and household equipment compete with rotting animal
carcasses for a place by the side of the road. Although the squalor
blamed on the vacuum left in the public services by the departing Serbs,
surely one of the many international organizations in the town could
arranged for some kind of garbage collection? But these bodies seem
do nothing more than ride around in four-wheel drive vehicles creating
traffic jams that would rival a New York rush hour.
whole world is here: the Irish, Danes, Japanese and Saudis as well
as strange NGOs with names like "the Village Development Project".
to which, there are the KFOR military vehicles - the APCs, jeeps
and, occasionally, the odd tank as well as the ubiquitous UN, OSCE and
EU contingents. This massive international presence hogs the
thoroughfares all over the province fighting for space on an antiquated
road system with the many local cars, often without number plates, that
career around loaded with people and produce.
if the birth of Christ is a sad time for the few inhabitants of Kosovo's
monasteries, it is Christmas every day of the week for the average
Kosovan. Despite complaints from some local human rights groups that
they are now 'forgotten' aid is still pouring in, clogging up the main
thoroughfares leading into the province. Everything is free: building
materials, household equipment, clothes. A lot of it never even reaches
destination, being re-exported and resold, particularly via neighbouring
Albania. Some more honest aid workers will admit that the profusion
goodies has corrupted many ordinary Kosovans and is, anyway,
unnecessary being totally out of proportion to the need .
of this largesse has reached the inhabitants of the Patriarchate. The
mostly elderly nuns grow and cook their own food. Priests come in rotas
from nearby Montenegro and stay for a 'tour of duty'. Father Jovan Culibrk
expressed gratitude to the Italians for their protection. But the monastery
lies in an exposed place surrounded by wooded hills where snipers can
hide and with an adjoining road leading down the mountains from a
nearby Albanian village. Two grenades were thrown into the monastery
compound in September and the Italians themselves have been targeted.
the end of the war some 80 churches and monasteries in Kosovo
have been desecrated or destroyed. All those still standing have 24-hour
KFOR protection, even when the congregations have fled. At Djurakovac
groups of men in black leather jackets hovered menacingly around the
large parish church guarded by Spanish soldiers. Father Jovan said that
many soldiers who had seen the destroyed churches were upset and wept
at the sight. In fact, KFOR soldiers and officers often visit the
Patriarchate. Their names and thoughts are inscribed in the monastery's
large visiting book. The Germans inscribe the most fullsome comments
usually meandering on about Frieden (peace) and VersÃ¶hnung
(reconciliation). But the Father is grateful for their visits and says
everyone is welcome although he dreaded the arrival of General Wesley
Clarke. Luckily for him, the proposed visit never materialized.
church of St. Dmitri, one of the three churches that make up the
monastery, now contains the furniture, icons and other paraphernalia
rescued from the destroyed churches. Nothing there is of any particular
value but these things meant something once upon a time to some people.
The sight of these forlorn objects and their fate is reminiscent of
Bolshevik attacks on churches and monasteries in Russia after the
miles away at the monastery of Decani the same sad scenario is
played out. Decani is one of the most beautiful churches in the Balkans
with an unusual combination of Venetian exterior and Byzantine frescoes
within. It lies at the end of a wooded lane outside the town of Decan
(where few Serbs once lived ) and is easier to protect than Pec. But
came close to disaster during the war when cluster bombs fell nearby.
Refugees fled here during the June 'hiatus' including Albanians fearful
the wrath of the KLA but now they have all gone.
few refugees in Pec told their stories. Three men from local villages
had returned to help with odd-jobs in the monastery. Their houses, land
and cattle had been confiscated or destroyed but they all said they
like to return home. They would be happy to live again with "their
Albanians" but they echoed many people when they claimed that strangers
had come into the area since the war ended and they were fearful of
Anyway, there can be no question of these men and their families going
home whatever General Rheinhardt might say. Unless there is a radical
change in the status quo their days in Kosovo are over.
really happened when NATO started its bombing campaign in
March? The experiences of Albanian refugees was beamed to the world
from the refugee camps in Albania itself and Macedonia. But what about
those who stayed behind, both Serb and Albanian?
(it is better not to give names) is a refugee from Pec now living in
Belgrade. He returns to the monastery to interpret for the monks but,
although he and his family lived in Pec for over 40 years, he can no
longer go into the town itself without an Italian KFOR escort.
is highly educated, a teacher who speaks English, French and Italian
fluently. He is also remarkably objective. He knows that the Albanians
Kosovo have long sought independence but, on the other hand, he always
lived on a harmonious basis with his neighbours. In fact, for the first
days of the bombing when NATO flew continuous sorties (sometimes ten
times a day) both communities sheltered in the same basements and
cellars. Things changed on 27th March when large numbers of Albanians
started to leave.
says that three aggressive-looking men in uniform appeared on the 27th.
He cannot say what or who they were but he assumed they were Serbs.
They were going round the houses in his district of Pec ordering
Albanians to leave. After this the town gradually emptied of its Albanian
population although L thinks between 1000 and 2000 stayed. During the
war ordinary life somehow continued and people even went to work.
There were the bombs, of course, and burning and looting of houses some
of which, according to L, might have been done by children.
nightmare for him and the other Serbs in the town began on 12th June.
It took three days between the departure of the Serb army and police
the arrival of KFOR. In the vacuum, an orgy of retribution against the
local Serbs, inevitably, followed. Many people took to their cars and
with the army for cover. Others, like L, were loathe to leave their
However, when he saw buildings around him burning he changed his
mind and went.
refugees and the priest seemed to have a far better grasp of what was
going on in Kosovo than most starry-eyed Westerners. L knew that both
ordinary Albanians and Serbs were the victims of a policy brought about
by foreign powers which had nothing whatsoever to do with their
well-being. He had worked with the ill-fated OSCE monitoring mission
in March which was, he claimed, disbanded at just about the time it
beginning to show results. However, he knew that some of the monitors
were there to prepare for what was to come and not to work for peace.
OSCE is now charged with the task of building democracy in
postwar Kosovo. It also supervises the (over 400) NGOs whose
presence, paradoxically, seems to make the province even less
democratic and more ungovernable. Yet OSCE literature seeks to
encourage MORE non-governmental organizations to set up shop.
the weekend of 10th December the OSCE was cosponsoring a
Symposium "The Balkans and human rights on the threshold of the
century - reality and perspectives" at the Grand Hotel Pristina
local Council for the Defence of Human Rights and Freedoms. In the
hotel's conference room only the sinister glint from co-chairman, Adam
Demaci's, glasses penetrated the gloom as delegates droned on about
genocide and mass destruction making the extraordinary claim that
"affection towards the Kosovars has started to vanish and a lack
interest in sending aid to Kosovo can be noticed" [their English].
debated this shocking allegation, aid lorries still struggled bumper
bumper as they crossed the Balkans to enter the province.
the presence of the hard-liner Demaci and the content of some of the
material presented to the conference contradict any pretence the OSCE
might have towards promoting multiethnic societies, tolerance or human
rights - let alone to upholding the provisions contained in UN declaration
1244. Attacks were even made on Veton Surroi the ex-editor of the
newspaper Koha Ditore and the West's favourite Kosovar.
was talk about the situation of Albanians in 'Eastern Kosovo'
referring to alleged repression by the Serb authorities of Albanian
villages in Serbia itself. It might come as a surprise to some people
discover that there is still another piece of Kosovo to be liberated.
this latest piece of irredentism - the need to protect the
population in Eastern Kosovo could be a useful tool for KFOR.
is widely accepted in Serbia proper that the opposition's strategy of
bringing down the Milosevic government by popular protests has failed.
Too many people know that Zoran Djindjic, for one, was playing tennis
by the sea in Montenegro at Herzognovi while they were being bombed.
Djindjic himself is in something of a quandary as he has promised to
resign his post as leader of the Democratic Party if Milosevic is still
power by the end of the year.
options within Serbia itself are limited. However, there are still a
lot of troops and equipment in Kosovo. KFOR no longer needs to patrol
the countryside but its heavy armour might come in useful. There are
several dozen German Leopard tanks, the most sophisticated in the
European armoury, parked in a compound in the British zone. Waiting
KFOR troops report regular incursions from Serbia and there are
suggestions that Milosevic himself is behind the killing of Serbs. One
speaker at the Human Rights Symposium stated that these killings were
perpetrated by Milosevic's secret police. Coupled with allegations of
human rights abuses in Eastern Kosovo [sic] it is not unthinkable that
NATO will itself stage an 'incursion' into Serbia proper.
than fight their way to Belgrade they could set up a small
'occupied zone' from which to launch their campaign to finally topple
regime in Belgrade.
although people are disillusioned with politics in Serbia
proper and there is little enthusiasm for those in power, NATO cannot
guaranteed a very warm welcome. For, life in Serbia with all the terrible
deprivations caused by war and sanctions is not as bad as presented
Western media. There is food (albeit locally produced rather than
imported) in the shops. A BBC report (14th December) stating that food
shortages in Serbia "are comparable to those in North Korea"
be further from the truth. Last Sunday night small food shops were open
the suburbs of NiÅ¡ while street markets were selling fruit,
honey and fresh
vegetables. Occasionally, a small queue appears outside a store for
something imported like sugar but these are few and far between. Petrol
stations are operating albeit fuel is rationed but there is plenty of
the black market. Lighting and heating work. Some bomb damage -
particularly on bridges and roads has been repaired.
was predicted that the bombing of the heating plant in Novi Belgrade
would cause people to freeze to death from cold this winter. But a few
inventive electrical engineers twiddled the cables and made the system
work. Meanwhile, in Kosovo no one has yet repaired the (bombed)
power plant in PriÅ¡tina. This is because the EU is in charge
province's reconstruction and the plant must be restored to 'EU standards'.
Despite Western rhetoric, there has been no shortage of power in Serbia's
second city, NiÅ¡, according to local residents. Why, then,
should the EU
make such a production about sending tankers loaded with fuel to the
lessons to be learned are that vast quantities of aid, humanitarian
assistance and foreign interference can quickly turn the recipients
zombie-like dependents. Left to their own devices, people are more
resourceful. The mosque in Belgrade which helps Muslim refugees from
all over the former Yugoslavia is under-resourced. Since the Kosovo
crisis began it has only received one delivery of aid from the Red
Crescent and nothing (no doubt due to American pressure) from large
Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Nevertheless, a steady
stream of people receive some kind of aid and the premises are being
expanded to include a restaurant and school.
is not to say that Serbia and its hundreds of thousands of refugees
not need help. But that looks less likely to happen than ever. The latest
of Yugoslav citizens who have been forbidden to travel abroad contains
the name of Rada Svetkovic, head of the Yugoslav Red Cross. A
Christmas present from the West donated with its usual boot to the face.
Svetlost [Independent Light] is an opposition weekly
published in Kragujevac in central Serbia
Farewell to Pristina
by Olivija Ilic
Nezavisna Svetlost, Kragujevac, FR Yugoslavia, September 18, 1999
Although he has thought many times about living Pristina, Stojan
Gligorijevic stayed in Pristina out of stubbornness. Ten days ago,
he finally changed his mind and, with a lot of misgivings, left the
city of his birth
Stojan Gligorijevic, a civic engineer in retirement from Pristina,
was born and raised in Divanjdol, one of the oldest districts of the
capital of Kosovo, in the same street where once upon a time there
was the first Serbian consulate and where Milan Rakic and Branislav
Nusic [well-known Serbian writers and consuls in Kosmet in the
nineteenth century] lived on. He could have moved to an apartment in
a newer part of city, but he did not want to do that. His roots were
in Divanjdol. His stubbornness kept him in Pristina until recently,
and reality brought him from there, Stojan begins his story. He has
been in Kragujevac for ten days. In 1947, he tried to enroll in the
Kragujavac mechanical engineering school and his daughter lives here
with her family.
Stojan's first memory of life with ethnic Albanians dates from
1944, immediately after the liberation of Pristina. He was aged 13 at
the time and remembers hearing that something was going on in Drenica
where Albanian leader Poluza formed a front to fight against our state.
They sent them home from school and told them that school would be
closed for a while. Machine gun nests were set up on all tall buildings
in order to protect the city from an attack by Poluza's army. Since
then, all the way until September 6 1999, Stojan lived with ethnic
Albanians both normally and sharing risks, but it never occurred to
him to leave. Now, he could not think of a different solution, except
for his wife and himself being murdered like last Mohicans in their
"I knew of it all. I was a reserve captain of the first class of
State Security Service and I expected that one day our Albanians would
annex Albania to Kosovo. I am not a hero, nor a coward, but I was
afraid of finding my wife mutilated in our apartment," says Stojan.
During the last 15 years, he was a technical director of the
hydro-electric system "Ibar-Lepenica".
"Normal situations in our lives were few and far between. We became
used to our surroundings and events around us. Everything was a mirage.
We lived and worked with Albanians, even made friends with them. He
your friend, a bosom buddy, but if he was supposed to do something for
his nation he was prepared to forget everything you had in common and
everything you shared. Their besa, word of honor which they used to
keep at the cost of their lives, was lost," relates Stojan slowly,
a man still waking from a nightmare.
Not Even a Word in Serb Language
His generation, people born in 1931, had a decent life for a while,
but Stojan's and other children never had it easy. Parents used to take
them to and from school, they had no freedom of movement, opportunity
to play in peace. They were second class citizens. Everything that
applied in Serbia did not apply in Kosovo. The so-called ethnic key
system was introduced and Albanians always dominated. Because of that,
in 1981, during the Albanian demonstrations, Stojan decided with a
friend that his daughter and son-in-law should move to Kragujevac.
"Albanians had already done everything to get their own state and
everything was subservient to that goal. At times they even
established friendships with us only because of that. Today they are
too scared to even talk to us in the Serb language. If we do not know
how to ask for service in the Albanian language, since they are now
in control of everything, they do not dare serve us, even if we have
been friends for many years. KLA members are stationed in every store,
control both us and them and if anyone speaks in the Serb language,
everyone gets in trouble. A punishment by beating to death follows.
In the street they provoke by asking for time in Albanian. If you want
to survive you must reply in Albanian. I would take my watch off every
time I went out of my apartment. The same situation is repeated in
stores: a pantomime between me and the storekeeper. I serve myself and
he shows me how much money to pay and both of us survive.
"The sate requested from us Serbs to stay and wait for some normal
times... To wait while I leave my wife alone in the apartment in order
to pick up a few dinars [Yugoslav currency] of my pension in the Kosovo
Polje oasis and to have to think, although I left early so that they
didn't notice that she is alone, whether the immigrants from Albania
who had moved into all the apartments in our building, would brake
into our apartment as well... To wait for a 'normal' time while after
midnight they come to try to kick in our door and scream in Albanian
that we have to be in Belgrade by 10 o'clock the following morning
and that I have to show them a ticket the next day... To hope that all
of my three locks and pieces of furniture I pile up against the door
would hold up and keep outside the people who warn me that I must leave
and never come back. I feel like getting a gun when I see them. But
then I stop and think: my wife and son would also get killed and I give
up...," says Stojan. He was thrown out of a bus, although he had
for a ticket in Albanian. The conductor, driver and all passengers
turned their heads away and kept quiet.
The Worst Moment
KFOR troops, made up of mostly young people to whom this is the
first engagement, did not bring either peace or order. They, testifies
Stojan, came to arm Albanians and to help them to expel Serbs. There
are no heroes in Kosovo among KFOR troops and Albanians. The only
heroes in Kosovo, bitterly concludes this citizen of Pristina, "are
"I was at a market when KLA occupied the Pristina City Hall. Three
young men, KLA members approached me. They surrounded me, put barrels
of their hand guns on my kidneys and asked me whether I had a gun.
I replied, in Albanian of course, that only savages these days bore
weapons and raised my arms. They searched me, laughed, apologized and
ran away. I headed home, then turned around. I could see them peering
from around the corner, checking what I was going to do, and laughing,"
says Stojan. He adds that at least ten days before his departure he
lived protected because KFOR moved into a neighboring building after
an incident. However, that failed to convince him to stay.
"I told Svetlana, while we were packing, 'Imagine if we do not
to pack everything in time and they come to get us, or if we finish
packing, but do not bring along our precious books, or if we do not
leave at all'. That was the most difficult moment. Both of us are ill.
I have diabetes and she suffers from angina pectoris. We lost 15-16
kilograms although we have been eating regularly. We had food, I did
not take humanitarian assistance, only when we headed for Kragujevac,
I picked up a package and opened it when we arrived," relates Stojan,
almost in tears.
The fate has finally, temporarily or forever, he does not know,
brought him back to Kragujevac, the city which left a little scar on
his heart by refusing to accept him as a student.
Los Angeles Times
Saturday, November 27, 1999
Battles Resurgence of Organized Crime
By DAVID HOLLEY, Times Staff Writer
brown Mercedes without license plates slowed
on a downtown street, and the driver called out to a teenage girl.
at me and said, 'You, come closer,' " recalled the
13-year-old ethnic Albanian. "I didn't go near but said, 'What
do you want?'
He said, 'Don't be a bad girl.' I said, 'What?' Then he rolled up the
The incident here
in Kosovo's capital lasted only a moment. But it was
one that could strike fear into any parent's heart.
even for myself, not to speak of my daughter," said Mevlyde,
the girl's mother, who asked that only her first name be published.
greatest crime worry, Mevlyde said, is the kidnapping of children who
then sexually abused or sold into prostitution. "I think the ones
this are mostly Albanians from Albania," she added.
The spillover into
Kosovo of well-organized criminal gangs from
neighboring Albania is a growing concern here for international authorities
and ordinary people alike. Meanwhile, prominent local criminals have
reemerged after largely disappearing from the scene during the North
Treaty Organization's 78-day bombing campaign this spring and the initial
deployment of international peacekeepers this summer.
have focused their efforts on reining in ethnic
violence, more traditional forms of organized crime increasingly worry
residents here. Many fear that Kosovo may resume its old role as a major
transit point in the heroin-smuggling route from Afghanistan and Turkey
Western Europe and the United States. Car theft is rampant, and smugglers
dominate much of the trade in cigarettes and gasoline.
Former leaders of
the recently disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army say
their unofficial "provisional government"--if only unleashed
action--could crack down on much of this crime. But some foreign officials
here say that people linked to the former guerrilla force--ranging from
prominent figures to ordinary soldiers, plus toughs who are falsely
KLA connections--are part of the problem.
"This is a
region that has a history of a lot of smuggling and organized
crime," said Larry Rossin, chief of the U.S. government office
"It's reasonable to see a resurgence and expansion of that. What's
is to repress it to the extent possible at its early stages so it doesn't
result in a criminalization of Kosovo's political culture and of Kosovo's
society, which I would not say is criminalized at this stage."
need for tougher action, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi
Annan last month urged the Security Council to authorize 4,718 U.N.
officers to serve in Kosovo, up from a current deployment of about 2,000
an authorized level of 3,155. These officers are gradually assuming
enforcement duties from peacekeeping troops and in the months ahead
receive growing assistance from a local police force currently in training
that eventually will number 3,500 officers.
The local officers
are expected to play a critical role. Given the
barriers of language and custom, some foreigners say that without the
officers' assistance, U.N. police will never be able to make a major
The U.N. police
"don't know the Kosovo scene," a Western diplomat said.
"The only people who are going to be able to catch and deal with
crime here are Kosovars."
people--foreigners as well as locals--are aware of
the basic outlines of organized crime and even know who some of the
are. Doing anything decisive about it, however, is difficult, dangerous--and
generally not yet a top priority.
"I know a lot
of people's names and a lot of what's going on, but that
doesn't mean I can stop it," said a foreign official who requested
"I'd be lying face down in a gutter faster than I want to think
In the five months
since international peacekeepers entered
Kosovo--which is under United Nations administration but technically
a part of Serbia, Yugoslavia's dominant republic--soldiers and U.N.
have struggled primarily to suppress crimes tinged with ethnic hate:
killings and kidnappings, and the looting or burning of homes.
Since early summer,
there has been a dramatic drop in the rate of crimes
in those four major categories, which international peacekeepers say
represent the main threats to physical safety in Kosovo.
for the peacekeepers, known as Kosovo Force or KFOR,
say further improvements are essential, they also cite official statistics
showing that murders have dropped from an annualized rate of 164 per
people in late June to a rate of about 30 per 100,000 by the end of
summer, and a rate of 24 per 100,000 in the first three weeks of November.
The most recent figure is about half the murder rate in Washington,
From mid-June to
the end of October, 360 people were reported murdered
in Kosovo, 38% of them ethnic Albanians, 35% Serbs and 27% of other
unknown ethnicity. Serbs are estimated to number slightly less than
5% of the
Anger against Serbs
runs high among Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanians,
about 1 million of whom were driven from their homes in spring by Yugoslav
forces and returned only under the protection of peacekeepers.
"We are mostly
soldiers, not policemen," said KFOR spokesman Ole Irgens.
"We will start to deal with the drug smuggling, with the organized
those are tasks that require more skilled policemen."
Another issue of
growing concern is criminal acts linked to former KLA
members, a politically sensitive subject here.
Schrepping, head of U.N. police investigations in
Pristina, said that, of 750 arrests made by soldiers and police in the
since peacekeeping forces entered Kosovo, only 16 detainees were carrying
"We can only
verify these guys are UCK [the Albanian acronym for KLA]
when they are carrying membership cards," Schrepping added. "I'm
sure a high
percentage of the guys we have arrested are UCK. Most of these UCK are
involved in weapons violations, house occupations, intimidation and
official who requested anonymity said a fairly prominent
former KLA figure "is linked to some of the worst--kidnapping,
prostitution and other nasty stuff that he and others are alleged to
involved in. . . . He's an extremely dangerous guy. You don't want to
asking questions about him on the street. You'll get yourself killed."
Even some police
officers fear assassination by former KLA members.
worries me is they're everywhere," said a U.N. officer who
requested anonymity. "They have their infiltrators. There's somebody
U.N. [mission in Pristina] working with them and giving them all the
information on us. They know where we live. When they threaten you,
got to take it seriously. Although no attacks have occurred on us yet,
think it's just a matter of time."
The U.N. administration's
first big step to address organized crime
issues is the planned launch of a vehicle registration program.
Many cars in Kosovo
do not have license plates. That is partly because
Yugoslav forces took the plates off many cars when ethnic Albanian refugees
fled in spring, and the U.N. mission has not yet issued replacement
But some unlicensed cars on the streets clearly are stolen.
process will allow police to check vehicle engine
numbers against Europe-wide lists of stolen cars. Many stolen vehicles
believed to have been brought to Kosovo by organized theft rings aided
Rexhep Selimi, minister
of public order in the provisional government
formed mainly by ex-KLA leaders, said his personnel could better help
crime if they were granted authority to act. Ethnic Albanians here say
nonuniformed provisional government police conduct patrols and often
trouble or break up fights. The officers are not empowered by the U.N.
mission to do even this, much less to make arrests.
But key figures
in the international effort in Kosovo are determined not
to grant policing authority to Selimi's self-appointed forces. Some
provisional government's unauthorized policing and revenue-raising efforts
bordering on organized crime, since under Security Council resolutions
such policing and administrative powers are granted to KFOR and the
According to ethnic
Albanians, foreigners and reports in Kosovo's
Albanian-language media, the provisional government collects money by
imposing taxes on gasoline and informal customs duties on trucks that
crossed into Kosovo and passed the U.N.-administered customs, and demanding
flat monthly fees or percentages of profits from bar and restaurant
Selimi denied any
links between organized crime and the provisional
government. He said that anyone with evidence of, for example, drug
by former KLA members would do his government a favor by sharing that
in Kosovo has information that KLA members were or are
involved in drugs, we won't hesitate to denounce them publicly,"
"But we haven't had that kind of case."
Lt. Col. Rick Swengros,
the commander of U.S. military police in Kosovo,
said that it is clear some former KLA members are involved in criminal
activities but that he has seen no proof that the former KLA as an
organization or its former leaders are involved in crimes.
a lot of allegations that the [former] KLA are doing stuff .
. . [but] I haven't arrested folks because I don't have the evidence
support it," Swengros said. "I have nothing at this point
that says I have to
arrest some KLA bigwig because of links to organized crime. Show me
evidence, and I'll go arrest them."
AN ALBANIAN TRAGEDY - A STRANGER IN BELGRADE
encourages everyone to
reproduce the following in full including this note.]
with Agim K., (last name withheld)
by Tanya Djurovic
of Albanian refugees marched across the world's
TV screens for months. They were all going to Albania. All the world
could see them.... What the world couldn't, or wouldn't see, are the
Albanians going to Serbia......
K. (27), an engineer, born in Pristina, is an Albanian
by nationality. He and his family, flying from the terror of their
compatriots, found refuge in Belgrade... I met him in the offices of
Serbian Red Cross, where he was applying for help, and asked him
to tell me his story. He agreed, under the condition his last name and
present address not be published for security reasons.
Why and when did you and your family leave Kosovo?
We left Pristina on Friday, 8th of October. We left because we
were forced to. It was no more a matter of wanting or not wanting-it
was a question of survival.
Who was forcing you?
No matter how unbelievable it sounds, the Albanians did... You
see, my father was always a loyal citizen of this country. He was
born here, and respected the laws and authorities of Serbia, not of
Albania; and certainly not of a terrorist organization such as UCK.
When the bombing started, UCK was mobilizing Albanian people,
young and old, to fight against the Yugoslav Army. UCK soldiers
were making constant threats: they wanted men to go to war, and
their families to go to Albania or Macedonia, as refugees... They
went from door to door; a lot of the men joined of their own free will,
but there were even more of those who joined out of fear. People
were scared of retaliation on their families, more than they were
scared for their own lives...
Did UCK come to your door, too?
Yes, of course they did. More than once... My father and me, we
refused to join them. The soldiers said they'll shoot us as traitors,
burn our house... My father answered that they can kill us all, if
that's what they want, but he and his family won't be the butchers
and scavengers... Finally they left us alone, saying that they won't
have to kill us and that Yugoslav Army will finish the job for them...
What did you do during the bombing? Did you stay in Pristina?
We stayed, and spent almost three months in the cellar of our
Serbian friends; they had the biggest and safest cellar in the
neighborhood, so all of us neighbors were hiding there with them -
about 15 to 20 people. No one paid any attention to nationality, we
were all humans, helping each other to survive...
And after the bombing?
That's when the real trouble started. After the war ended, and
KFOR entered Pristina, UCK came back. But they were not alone -
the borders were no longer guarded, you see, anyone could come in.
All the worst scum from Albania invaded Kosovo... UCK was fully
armed and no one cared to stop them; they could do whatever they
wanted. And they did - this time REAL ethnic cleansing was at work.
Serbs were killed on daily bases in the city; abductions, rapings,
burnings, treats; a circle of violence with no ending... What can I
say? You could all see that. All the world could see, if only they
wanted to. Me and my family tried to help our Serbian friends, the
way they helped us during the war. But we couldn't even help
ourselves... To UCK WE were worse then them - we were the
traitors! And since we wouldn't join the mass expulsion of Serbs,
UCK decided to make us leave Kosovo, or kill us....
When did the threats start again? And how exactly?
The threats started again in July, I think. First only by telephone;
later they began to come to our house, at night - four or five people
usually, sometimes more, in UCK uniforms. They had guns, knives...
First they wanted me to work for them, I am an engineer and they
needed qualified people. They wanted me to make diversions on
power stations and phone lines. I refused...Then they started to
break in our house several times a week, to beat us up, me, my
father; my mother and younger sisters had to watch them do it, at
gun point.... We had no more sleep at night; this was thousand times
worse than anything Serbs did, or didn't, or could have done: our own
people was torturing us because we wouldn't be the cut-throats...
Still, the thought of leaving didn't cross my mind yet.
Didn't you try to ask some protection of KFOR?
Yes, we did. KFOR said that there's nothing they can do, unless
we call them while the assault is still going on... No, we couldn't
for any protection from their part. Then later, in August and
September, the situation became even worse. One night, I
remember, three men broke in. They didn't even bother to put on the
masks - we could all see their faces. One of them put a knife on my
sister's throat. He said: "Next time I come, if I find you all
rape her in front of you and then cut her throat wide open....!"
my sister is just 13 years old.... It was then when my father said,
the first time out loud: "I think we'll have to leave, sooner or
later..." Even I, who was up to that point strongly against it,
agree with him... You see, all the time I kept thinking that the
situation will get better, kept hoping there'll be some law and order
finally; but as time went by I saw no improvement - just more
killings, more blood... I don't care so much for myself - but my
family, my sisters, that's something else.....
So you finally decided to leave? But why come to Belgrade, of all
Where else could we go? Besides, we have old family friends
here: I lived in their house for five years while I was studying in
Belgrade. We knew that we can count on their support. So when we
finally decided to leave Pristina, Belgrade was the only logical
choice. I knew, of course, that some people here will look at us with
mistrust and disapproval, but that was to be expected wherever we
go. And anything was better than Kosovo. There was no place there
for us anymore... Still, I shall never forget the day we left - it was
worst day of my life. It's hard, you know, when you have to pack all
your life in one car, leave behind all you have ever known as your
own, lock the house and throw away the key...
Where do you live now?
We live in our friends' house - they are wonderful people indeed,
the best I have ever met. There is simply no way for my family and
me to show them how much we appreciate all their help and their
support. We'll stay forever in their debt.
Do you see, anywhere in future, the possibility for you and your
family to go back to Kosovo?
I am sorry I have to say it, but no, I see no possibility for that,
even in the distant future. The situation on Kosovo will remain
unstable and unsafe in the years to come. There's no life there for
us... Even if things DO get better someday, we'll always be traitors
for our compatriots. They want to live in some imaginary state, some
Great Albania, and they don't even know this state will never exist...
Me, I want to live in Yugoslavia...
NEW YORK TIMES
November 22, 1999
and Intolerance Now Reign in Kosovo Despite U.N.'s Efforts
By STEVEN ERLANGER
-- Five months after NATO forces moved
in to take absolute control of Kosovo, there is little electricity
and an inconstant water supply, the streets are full of garbage,
traffic is in chaos without working stoplights or police direction,
cars have license plates, and no one has new identity papers.
Hundreds of thousands
of Albanians driven out by the Serbs have
returned from refugee camps, and the Serbian and Gypsy
minorities continue to be harassed and attacked. The United
Nations government here, starved of funds by the countries that
fought and won the war, is unable to pay salaries even to the
public employees it is supposed to control.
Justice is rare
and court trials nearly nonexistent, so few are
punished; robberies, apartment thefts, extortion and even murders
take place with near impunity, some of it a function of organized
crime. There are only 1,700 international police officers so far
to provide daily security, and the patrols of the NATO-led
peacekeeping force are generally static and unaggressive.
The burning of Serbs'
homes takes place almost daily in an organized
fashion, increasing the pressure on the Serbian minority to flee the
province or ghettoize itself in enclaves, surrounded by hostile
Albanians who remember their own years of repression.
who will arrive in Kosovo for a few hours on
Tuesday to thank American troops and wish them a happy
Thanksgiving at their huge and heavily secured base, Camp
Bondsteel, will see little of today's Kosovo.
The reality of revenge
intolerance is eroding the United Nations' goal of multiethnicity, and
the only multiethnic organization actually functioning in any way is
the nascent police force, where a few of the 170 or so cadets
graduated thus far are Serbs or members other minorities. It
would be wonderful enough, officials say, if the people here would
simply stop killing one other or turning away as others kill, and
manage at least to live side by side. But no one expects that
happy prospect any time soon.
The United Nations'
special representative on human rights in the
former Yugoslavia, Jiri Dienstbier, a former Czech dissident and
foreign minister, reported this month that "the spring ethnic
cleansing of ethnic Albanians accompanied by murders, torture,
looting and burning of houses has been replaced by the fall ethnic
cleansing of Serbs, Romas, Bosniaks and other non-Albanians
accompanied by the same atrocities."
he continued, "is that now this is happening in the
presence of Unmik, KFOR and the O.S.C.E." The organizations
behind those missions here -- the United Nations, NATO and the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe -- represent
nations that for years criticized President Slobodan Milosevic of
Yugoslavia for his harsh repression of Kosovo's Albanians.
There are vivid
signs of rebuilding, of the reconstruction of houses
and the rapid development of small businesses, especially in the
major towns, where foreign workers now based in Kosovo are flush
with cash. Those foreign aid workers are giving vital food and help
in countless ways -- providing emergency shelter and 900,000
meals a day, for instance, in a province believed to contain about
1.4 million people now. But despite the presence of as many as
55,000 foreigners -- 42,000 of them peacekeeping troops -- the
energy one sees comes from the Albanians themselves, with
access to money of their own or of relatives abroad, and not from
Criticism of the
situation here comes from Albanians, Serbs and
many international agencies, and the mood among the staff of the
United Nations Mission in Kosovo, the transitional government run
by Bernard Kouchner, is beleaguered and somber.
Baton Haxhiu, the
editor in chief of the Albanian newspaper Koha
Ditore, said bluntly: "I'm depressed that after 10 years of
sanctions, Serbia is building bridges, and apartments have
electricity and water, and we have 42,000 Western soldiers and
police and 335 aid agencies, and we don't have the basics of a
state -- no justice, no security, no electricity, no water and no
identity documents. It's alarming."
Linda Gusia, a young
Albanian who works as a translator, said:
"You sit in your apartment with little electricity or water and
out the window at the traffic, and it's a chaos. The United Nations
has not spent all the glory of NATO's victory yet -- people still view
them as saviors. But if they don't produce soon, they will spend all
the glory. People want civic structures here and a normal life.
People don't understand simple things, like why the police don't
get out and direct traffic when there's no electricity."
Kouchner and his
aides say that work is going ahead to fix the
dilapidated and badly maintained generators in Kosovo, which they
took over from the peacekeeping force a month ago, and to
secure more power from abroad. They promise that power and
water supplies will be close to regular by mid-December, if not
before. A second mobile telephone system will be set up.
They are waiting
for governments to provide more police officers,
as promised; Kouchner wants 6,000. The registration of citizens,
which must happen before Kouchner can even contemplate any
kind of elections, is planned, but not yet financed.
of cars will start soon. They are trying to get more
Albanian and Serbian judges to work, and will bring in some
international jurists to help.
Their main problem,
they say, is less their own inefficiency --
which they admit is real, but insist is diminishing -- than the simple
lack of financial support from the same Western alliance that won
are always tired of giving money," Kouchner said,
especially for unglamorous ends like paying salaries. "But this
the first time that we are in charge of a country, and we have to
rebuild the whole administration from nothing, and we need a
minimum budget to pay for public services and salaries."
It is ridiculous,
Kouchner says, that he is able to pay doctors,
lawyers and teachers a stipend in lieu of salary of only about $170,
and that not even every month as promised, but every other
month -- far from enough to feed a family.
There have been
long and bitter discussions between Pristina and
European and American officials about how to get the $25 million
needed to cover this year's shortfall, and the estimated $150
million gap in next year's budget for the United Nations mission in
price of half a day's bombing," a senior United Nations
official said with real rancor in his voice. "The West has got
invest in the peace or this place will fail. And no one wants it to
more than Slobodan Milosevic."
[A donor's conference
of Western governments on Kosovo on
Nov. 17 produced a pledge of $1 billion in aid for reconstruction for
next year -- but only $88 million to cover the budget for the United
Nations mission, just half of what is needed. And officials said any
funds would arrive too late to make a real impact this year, when
moods, and public services, are at a nadir.]
Besides money, Kouchner
said, his biggest concern is security for
the minority population, especially the Serbs, who are believed now
to number 60,000 to 70,000 in Kosovo, senior officials say, down
from perhaps 200,000 to 250,000 two years ago.
Since not every
Serb can be protected, Albanian efforts to drive
them out of cities like Pristina, Pec and Prizren have largely
succeeded, with perhaps 600 Serbs left in Pristina and fewer in the
other two towns. In Podujevo, officials say, two or three elderly
Serbs remain, their apartments guarded around the clock.
with the NATO force acknowledge problems, but
one said bluntly, "Our major problem is to wait for the civilian
to catch up."
The officer said
the force, known as KFOR, "can't build a judicial
system, and it can't issue identity documents," adding: "We
detain people and bring them to a local magistrate and get them
held for six months, but they have to have a trial, and they don't
exist. There has to be a process through a system."
The officer decried
apparent Western governmental delay and
fatigue, saying, "Kosovo has not become the quiet and happy
place the world community expected."
In an echo of feuds
between foreign military and civilian officials
overseeing Bosnia, senior KFOR officers blame the United Nations
for being slow to punish crimes, while United Nations officials here
say the NATO force could also patrol more aggressively, especially
in the Italian and German sectors in western Kosovo.
all its intelligence resources, must have better
information on those responsible for ethnic violence," an official
said, but the force will not share it with civilian authorities.
United Nations officials
and moderate Albanians note that the
Serbian atrocities of the last decade in Kosovo were a function of
a modern state and represented a form of state terrorism. The
Albanian atrocities, they say, show signs of at least local
organization from those who want all minorities out of Kosovo. But
there is little evidence of any order to that effect from former
Kosovo Liberation Army leaders like Hashim Thaci or Gen. Agim
Ceku, who have both spoken publicly, when asked to, in favor of
But there is also
little resistance to abuses against Serbs, a senior
United Nations official said. Among the Albanians, he said, "the
voices of moderation and tolerance are few and not
representative, and they themselves are under threat." He added,
"Just watch the kids spitting on Serbs or stoning them, and no
says a word."
Some Albanian newspapers,
especially Bota Sot, are full of hate
speech directed at Serbs, Gypsies and even moderate Albanians,
with even some incitement to violence.
This month, in the
American zone near Gnjilane, workers of the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe discovered a
leaflet issued by the Kosovo Protection Corps, the new
organization formed from the supposedly disbanded Kosovo
Liberation Army and intended to be purely civilian, calling on all
Albanians not to buy any Serbian property. Concerned United
Nations officials provided a translation.
the appeal says, "we must exchange other
things, not buy our properties from them." Those who do buy Serb
property, the leaflet says, are "completely irresponsible and
anti-nation Albanian speakers who are not freedom-loving people."
It warns: "Whoever
does not respect our request will be put
before responsible authorities," adding that "it is known
the responsible authorities" -- clearly not KFOR or the United
Senior United Nations
and military officials also say that two
detention camps were discovered on the grounds of the Kosovo
Protection Corps, which is supposed to have no police functions,
and that the camps contained both Albanians and Serbs suspected
of war crimes, some of whom bore evidence of beatings.
And they note the
killings of at least two local leaders of the party
of Ibrahim Rugova, a political rival to Thaci -- as a sign of
increased political intimidation among Albanians, about which
foreigners here know very little.
The remaining Serbs,
caught between Milosevic and angry
Albanians, feel especially threatened.
Father Sava, an
aide to Bishop Artemije of the Serbian Orthodox
Church, has had to move from the Decani monastery near Pec, in
western Kosovo, to Gracanica, near Pristina, where there are more
Serbs and better NATO protection.
He says individual
KFOR companies and soldiers have been
excellent on a local level, but failed to prevent retaliation against
the Serbs, Gypsies and other minorities. "They simply want to
avoid military confrontation with the Kosovo Liberation Army, and
don't want them becoming a terrorist organization that shoots
them as they did Milosevic's soldiers and police," he said.
More than 70 Serbian
Orthodox churches, monasteries and holy
places have been damaged or destroyed since NATO forces
arrived in June, he said, including a dozen from the 14th and 15th
centuries. The Church of the Virgin Mary near Suva Reka, dating
from 1315, has been leveled.
Father Sava acknowledges
that the Serbs damaged or destroyed
many mosques during the war, and has forcefully repeated his and
the church's regrets for Serbian crimes against Albanians in
On Nov. 8, he told
the United Nations radio here that he again
wished "to express my greatest regret for everything that was
done by the members of the Serbian people and special forces
against Albanian civilians, which is a very serious crime, but I also
sincerely expect that reasonable and honest Albanians would also
raise their voice against the violence we now witness in many cities
of Kosovo, which are almost cleansed of their non-Albanian
Father Sava also
noted: "Now we can see that many Albanians
would like to stop the violence against Serbs, but they cannot,
they are intimidated, they are scared, as many Serbs felt before."
He, like Haxhiu
and most Albanians, says the main problem of
Kosovo is criminal impunity. "If you behave like a criminal you
should be brought to court," Father Sava said. "But courts
working, there's no legal system, and this is a paradise for crime."
In an interview,
Kouchner, an emotional man, spoke sadly about
the intolerance of a society traumatized by war and brutality.
He said he had approval
from Secretary General Kofi Annan to try
to share government duties with local leaders, with himself
retaining ultimate power. But even local elections seem far off --
maybe fall or winter of next year.
It is difficult
to get either the leaders or the people in both the
Albanian and Serbian populations to cooperate, Kouchner
acknowledged. "People from both communities are mostly unable
to think about the suffering of others, only about their own
suffering." It is more understandable from the Albanians, he said,
who do not always refuse cooperation, but are suspicious.
"It is hard
to come to help and find that you are perceived
sometimes as an enemy, and not just by the Serbs but also by
the Albanians who we came to defend," he said. "Every failure,
every assassination, every murder here is a victory for Milosevic."
November 20, 1999
by Gary Dempsey
Gary Dempsey, a
foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute, just
returned from the Balkans where he was filming a documentary on the
aftermath of NATO's air war against Yugoslavia.
As President Clinton
prepares to visit to Kosovo, it is common to
see and hear things here that don't fit with
the tidy fictions proffered by NATO and White
House officials. For instance, when NATO's
former top commander in Kosovo, Gen.
Michael Jackson, turned over his post recently,
he pronounced: "We have seen a return to
normality" in Kosovo.
As two of the principal
achievements of his
brief tenure, Gen. Jackson cited "the successful
demilitarization" of the Kosovo Liberation Army
(KLA) and "the establishment of law and
order." Sadly, none of what the general said is
true. Today, Kosovo is in a state of near
anarchy, and that's exactly the way the KLA
thing is a very bad joke," explains
a candid intelligence officer with the UN
Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). Over our second beer
at a café lighted by a gasoline-powered generator,
he adds that the KLA has not demilitarized, let alone been
abolished, as NATO officials and the Clinton
administration claim. The KLA has an
underground network and "more than enough weapons
to start another war." For five
months now, the KLA has been deliberately
trying to undermine, obstruct and defy the
work of NATO and the UNMIK police. Although
NATO and UNMIK have been careful
to avoid any public insinuation that the KLA
may be prevaricating and holding back a
significant stockpile of weapons, a spokesman
for NATO estimates that peacekeepers
confiscate about 100 illegal weapons, explosives
and magazines of ammunition each day.
In clear violation of their agreement with NATO,
KLA personnel continue to carry
weapons and wear their uniforms in public, most
recently at a gathering in Gornje Obrinje.
The KLA is also committing random acts of violence
and engaging in the insidiously clever
practice of freely distributing large firecrackers
to idle Albanian youths in order to keep the
UNMIK police offbalance.
Indeed, with a sporadic
mix of gunfire and
firecrackers echoing throughout the city day and
night, UNMIK police never know when and where to
respond, or when they might
become targets themselves. Scores of stolen
Mercedes without license plates speed up
and down the streets of the city, flouting
both traffic laws and the UNMIK police. By
actively perpetuating this unpredictable and
lawless atmosphere, the KLA is able to carry
out, relatively unhindered, its campaign of
ethnic cleansing, political retribution and
who thinks that the violence will
end once the last Serb has been driven out of
Kosovo is living an illusion," recently warned
Veton Surroi, publisher of the main
Albanian-language newspaper in Kosovo, Koha
Ditore. "The violence will simply be
redirected against other Albanians." Already,
the senior officials of the KLA, who signed
the disarmament agreement with NATO, have
carried out assassinations, arrests and
purges within their own ranks and of potential
rivals. One campaign, in which as many as
six KLA commanders were murdered, was reportedly
directed by the KLA's top man,
Hashim Thaci, and two of his lieutenants, Azem
Syla and Xhavit Haliti.
So the KLA has not
disappeared into the pages
of the history books. It still lurks
everywhere in Kosovo. Ethnic Albanians complain
that KLA henchmen regularly demand
that shopkeepers pay "liberation taxes" to
finance the KLA's continued, and often illicit,
activities. Even more worrisome, according
to a soon-to-be-released report by the
International Crisis Group, there are as many
killings right now in Kosovo as there were
before NATO intervened, when Yugoslav authorities
were trying to smash the KLA.
Present circumstances in Kosovo suggest two
possible outcomes for Washington: a policy
failure or a policy disaster. A policy failure
will result because Washington's goal of
creating a multi-ethnic society in Kosovo is
being undermined by the KLA in a multitude of
ways, especially with the ethnic cleansing of
not only Serbs but Gorans, Romas, Jews,
Croats and even Albanians who are not strenuous
enough in their intolerance of
A policy disaster,
on the other hand, will result
if Washington decides to vigorously
confront the KLA. "We are their tool," the
UNMIK intelligence officer told me, and "when
we stop being useful to them, they will turn
against us." If NATO and UNMIK personnel
were then to start dying at the hands of the
very people Washington says it's out to help,
the entire policy would collapse.
likely choose a policy failure
over a policy disaster. Unfortunately, the
KLA understands this and will continue to
carry out its intolerant and criminal activities
without fear of serious resistance from the
Clinton White House.
November 18, 1999
Are Now Victims of Ethnic Cleansing
by Jeffrey Fleishman
As Kosovo tumbles
into lawlessness, ethnic Albanians
have turned the tables on their former tormentors.
- Five months after NATO forces
swept into Kosovo, the province seethes with ethnic
reprisal. The passion that ignited ethnic Albanian
revenge against Serbs following NATO bombing in June
is maturing into systematic ethnic cleansing.
International officials say some former guerrillas of
the Kosovo Liberation Army appear to be behind a
campaign to rid Kosovo of its remaining 70,000 Serbs
and 8,000 Gypsies.
Not all crimes against
Serbs are calculated. But a
sinister pattern of violence and intimidation is
emerging. Serb houses are bombed and set ablaze.
Elderly Serb men and women are bludgeoned and
murdered. And in towns across the province, ethnic
Albanian youths ask people for the time, hoping to
draw out a Serbian accent that is quickly followed by
a stabbing or beating. Serbs spend their days huddled
in enclaves, seldom wandering beyond the gaze of NATO
One Serb, an elderly
man, recently described an attack
on him, as blood and tears streamed down his face.
"I was with
my friend," said Zivorad Simic, dabbing a
gash on his head with a handkerchief. "Two young
Albanians heard us speaking Serbian. They asked what
time it was and when we answered in Serbian, one of
them punched my friend and the other hit me with a
rock. They both ran away."
Josif Vasic threaded
the last of six stitches and
cleaned Simic's wound with iodine. The doctor pulled
off his rubber gloves, looking out the window to the
barbed wire and American soldiers guarding his Serb
is happening too much," Vasic said. "We
are being beaten and bombed, and I spend my days
officials said they were stunned
how brutally ethnic cleansing shifted with the balance
of power. Once the oppressors, the Serbs are now the
victims in a province where 45,000 NATO soldiers and a
burgeoning U.N. bureaucracy are unable to keep the
"I saw a young
Albanian man knock a Serb woman to the
ground, and the vision that stays in my mind is of him
kicking her as hard as he could," said Hubert de
Laporte, a member of the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe. "The crowd that gathered gave
him tacit approval and sided with him when police
came. These kinds of things are happening right under
the nose of the international community."
attacks and arson, Serbs in Kosovo
Polje are selling their homes. German troops are
protecting nearly 200 Serbs and other minorities at a
monastery in Prizren. In Mitrovica and Orahovac, about
8,000 Serbs are cordoned in tight enclaves. The Serb
population in the capital of Pristina has fallen from
5,000 in June to 500 today. Since NATO bombing began
in March, about 100,000 Serbs have left Kosovo.
"This is a
very systematic cleansing of minority
populations," said one U.N. official, who asked not to
be named. NATO and the United Nations are also
increasingly worried about scores of Muslim fighters
from Chechnya who recently left the war in Russia and
infiltrated Kosovo. The guerrillas have links to
former hard-line KLA rebels, and Western officials say
both factions may be planning attacks against Russian
peacekeeping forces and Serb civilians.
"We still don't
have definite evidence to prove a
policy of ethnic cleansing orchestrated by the top KLA
leadership," said Fred Abrahams, a researcher for
Human Rights Watch. "But there is definitely
coordinated activity against Serbs at regional levels
with KLA involvement. The KLA is not stopping it, and
clearly there is not enough pressure from the West to
make it stop."
Former KLA leaders
- many of whom now make up Kosovo's
provisional government - have publicly condemned
violence against Serbs. But U.N. officials are
troubled by the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC), a
Western-approved equivalent of a National Guard formed
by former KLA rebels. The protection corps has limited
powers in the province, which remains under the
control of U.N. and NATO forces. A U.N. report
obtained by The Inquirer shows KPC members and former
KLA guerrillas are intimidating and beating Serbs. In
some cases, suspects were wearing KPC uniforms and KLA
berets, and in a number of incidents, KPC members
attempted to impersonate U.N. police as they
threatened and looted. Such incidents, say officials,
are dimming prospects of a peaceful, multi-ethnic
Kosovo one of the goals of NATO intervention last
"The KPC is
looking the other way regarding these
crimes," said the U.N. official. "Former maverick KLA
members still seek revenge against Serbs. Remember,
the KLA was supposed to disarm after the war. They
turned in 10,000 weapons, but they were mostly junk.
There are still a lot of weapons out there."
In a recent meeting,
KPC commander Agim Ceku was told
by the United Nations that international funding for
the KPC was in jeopardy if ethnic violence and other
a former KLA leader and now a minister
in the provisional government, said: "The KPC and the
provisional government are distancing themselves from
these attacks and killings. But I'm not denying that
some members of the KLA are taking part in these
crimes. These are the consequences of what the
criminal Serbian regime did to Kosovo."
Serbs is the province's most insidious
crime. But Kosovo also is tumbling into a lawlessness
fueled by Albanian mafia clans, some of whom have
connections to former KLA rebels. Stolen cars and
kilos of heroin are trafficked through the same
mountain passes that once supplied the KLA in its war
against Yugoslavia. Thugs beat up customs agents after
a recent seizure of 100 AK-47s at the Albanian border.
The agents now receive hazardous-duty pay, and Western
powers have formed an organized-crime task force.
The United Nations'
1,800 police officers - 4,000
fewer than the organization is requesting from member
nations - cannot keep pace with mafia crimes and
ethnic bloodshed, such as the shooting earlier this
month of a 60-year-old Serb woman in her home.
its mission, the United Nations has not
been able to establish a rule of law," according to a
report by the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. The
committee found that most crimes against Serbs go
unresolved. Yugoslav laws - once the framework for
Kosovo's judicial system - have been abandoned by
ethnic Albanians. Since NATO's intervention, the
United Nations has been uncertain what legal structure
to establish, and the atmosphere is so confusing that
Kosovo even lacks a traffic code.
community has appointed 57
prosecutors and judges. They are each paid about $200
a month - one-third the salary of a U.N.-paid driver -
and are overwhelmed by caseloads, a lack of supplies,
and a shortage of U.N. legal advisers. With courts in
disarray and threats from former KLA members not to
prosecute crimes against Serbs, the judicial system is
little more than a revolving door for murder, arson
and kidnapping. In Pristina, only 29 of 490 people
arrested by U.N. police are in jail.
suspected for having committed crimes,
including serious ones, such as grenade attacks, are
released without being charged in a court of law. . .
. There does not seem to be a realistic prospect for
putting these suspects on trial," states a U.N.
document obtained by The Inquirer.
The result of the
troubled legal system, according to
the lawyers committee, is "more and more ethnically
mixed villages and towns are disappearing, as Serbs
move into enclaves, often under KFOR protection."
The 3,000 Serbs
in north Gnjilane stay sequestered in
a warren of narrow alleys. Most mill in the courtyard
of St. Nicholas' Church, where a tent has been pitched
to hold classes for 60 of the 1,700 Serb elementary
students left in the north end of the city. They are
protected from about 40,000 ethnic Albanians by U.S.
NATO troops, patrolling in humvees and peering from
"We can feel
the circle closing around us," said Vlada
Jovanovic, a teacher with a thick, black beard who
stood just beyond scarfed women selling carrots,
potatoes and red peppers. "Last night, two bombs were
thrown at houses. My future depends on how NATO acts.
Serbs don't control their destinies anymore."
down a crooked street, turned past
the last Serb bakery, and opened the door of a house
with scarred walls and broken windows. He stepped into
a room with no light. Vasic, the doctor, turned
around. A gynecologist, Vasic is the only Serb doctor
left in the neighborhood. He spends most of his time
these days setting broken bones and sewing up knife
wounds in a dirty makeshift hospital with no
painkillers or tetanus vaccines.
Cveja Dabic, 87,
sat on a cot in front of him.
The elderly man
had a bruised knee, a cracked
collarbone, and a gash across his forehead. He was
attacked in a cemetery by two ethnic Albanian men
while visiting his son's grave on All Souls Day.
"I only wanted
to light a candle," Dabic said. "The
Albanians destroyed all the Serb tombstones. It seems
they don't even want our dead among them."
Vasic taped Dabic's
new dressing. Dabic's son
Slavoljub helped his father out the door.
An hour later, another
elderly man with blood running
down his face stepped into Vasic's dim office. Zivorad
Simic, a retired gas-station attendant holding a
fading blue beret, had been hit in the head with a
rock for speaking Serbian.
Serb church leader "regrets" violence against ethnic Albanians
PRISTINA, Yugoslavia, Nov 9 (AFP) - A leading spokesman for the
Serbian Orthodox church in Kosovo expressed his regret for violence
perpetrated by Serbs against the province's ethnic Albanian
community in comments broadcast Tuesday.
But Father Sava also condemned the "merciless persecution"
non-Albanians in Kosovo in the aftermath of the March-June war to
drive Serbian forces from the province.
"I am taking this opportunity once again to express my greatest
regret for everything which was done by members of the Serbian
people and special forces against the Albanian civilians, which is a
very serious crime," he told UN radio here.
However, he called on "reasonable and honest Albanians" to
their opposition to the continued widespread violence, mostly
against Serbs in the province.
"Now we see that many Albanians would like to stop the violence
against Serbs, but they cannot, they are intimidated, they are
scared. Many Serbs felt the same way before," during the war waged
by NATO and ethnic Albanian guerrillas against Belgrade's troops, he
Father Sava also criticised the United Nations and peacekeeping
troops for not providing adequate protection for Kosovo's remaining
Serbs, calling the lack of security a "violation" of the UN
resolution governing Kosovo.
He said many Serbs, Slav Muslims and Roma had been "mercilessly
persecuted by Albanian extremists groups, which we think is not a
consequence only of revenge but of organised crime and ethnic
cleansing," he added.
NATO-led peacekeeping troops took control of the Serbian
province in June after Serbian forces withdrew, while the UN has set
up a civil administration here.
NEW YORK TIMES
November 5, 1999
and Others Said to Draw Kosovar Fury
By CARLOTTA GALL
-- Kosovo Albanians have become
increasingly aggressive in attacking not only Serbs in this
battered province, but also Gypsies and other ethnic minorities,
according to foreign officials in charge of restoring peaceful
administration in Kosovo.
A joint report issued
here on Wednesday by the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe and the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees described "a climate of violence and
Attacks by the Albanians
against the dwindling Serbian population
and the Gypsies are continuing unabated, officials of the European
organization said, and, in a new step, Muslim Slavs in the Prizren
area in southern Kosovo are suffering intense intimidation and
The officials said
there was growing evidence that the Kosovo
Albanian leadership was behind some of the harassment and was
encouraging the formation of an intolerant monoethnic state.
who have spoken out against the violence
have been subjected to threats. Minorities in Kosovo, confused
and frightened, are retreating behind a wall of silence, as they lose
faith in the international organizations that are on the scene to
Monitors from the
European organization, entrusted with the
democratization of Kosovo and preparations for elections next
year, have expressed especially strong alarm over the ugly
atmosphere that is spreading across the province.
The Prizren region
has become a source of particular concern, said
the head of the regional security group here, Benedicte Giaever.
A center of culture
and learning, ancient Prizren had always been
regarded as an example of tolerance and multiethnic harmony in
Kosovo. The slender minarets of its mosques mingle with the
solid proportions of the Orthodox churches and monasteries, and
Turkish is the common language, spoken alike by the Albanian,
Serb, Turkish and Gypsy communities. The townspeople largely
escaped the ethnic purges that ravaged the province this year. Yet
they have not avoided the purging of Serbs and other minority
groups since then.
A retired government
clerk, Vojislav Stankovic, 80, was one of the
few Serbs still living in his own house -- until the weekend. Youths
broke into the house and struck him in the face with a stone. The
next day they returned, tied him up and threatened him with a
knife. They told him that they wanted his house and that he
they would slaughter me," he recounted. "I asked
them, 'Why, what have I done?' And they said, 'If you do not
leave by 10 tomorrow, we will cut you into pieces and throw you
into the river.' "
He was sitting on
a bed in the Serbian Orthodox seminary in
Prizren, where he had sought refuge. His tone was deadpan, his
face and eye a bruised mess from the stone. Beside him was a
plastic bag of clothes, the only belongings that he had taken.
Some 160 Serbs and members of other minority groups, mostly
old people and children, are taking shelter in the seminary,
guarded by German troops.
The Serbian quarter,
a collection of old tiled town houses, climbs
the hill behind the seminary. The steep cobbled streets wind
through a scene of devastation of charred rafters and rubble. One
house was still smoking, set afire a few days ago.
An Albanian couple
in the area said a house was burned almost
nightly. They said they did not know who was responsible and
refused to give their names or be interviewed.
uncomfortable about the burnings. But few
publicly condemn the violence against the Serbian neighbors. "It
the same to me whether the Serbs stay here or go," the man
In the western part
of the town, 2,000 Gypsies are starting to
experience a similar fate. On Monday night Isa Viseli, 27, a street
cleaner, fled with his family when Albanians shouted a warning
that they had arrived to burn their house.
'Leave the house, go!' " Viseli said. "So we left.
When we had gone halfway, I looked back and saw the house was
He scrambled down
the hillside with his wife, three children, his
brother's family and his parents. They are living in a relative's
house, joining other refugees in the increasingly overcrowded
Gypsy community clustered around the city hospital. They had lost
everything, he said, and were worried that they would be thrown
out of their new refuge. His father, Bajram, sat silently, his dark
have changed since the war," he said. "But I never
expected them to burn our house."
Albanians have often
accused Gypsies of collaborating with the
Serbian forces in the conflict. Now they are turning to the 17,000
Goranis, or Muslim Slavs, who live in the mountainous southern tip
of Kosovo. In the last two weeks, European security officials in
Dragas, the administrative center of the Gorani district, have
reported seven grenade attacks on Gorani families.
Tossed into gardens,
courtyards or shops, the grenades are
intended to intimidate, to make the Goranis leave or to stop those
who had left from thinking of returning, said Maria Avello Martinez
of the European group.
The Goranis' misfortune
is that their language is close to Serbian
and that they were loyal to the Belgrade government. "We are not
being pushed out," Merfid Huseini, a young lawyer in Dragas, said.
"But these attacks are a warning to those who did collaborate."
Some people profit
from the general anarchy, too, Huseini said.
Lt. Col. Peter Michalski,
a spokesman for the German commander
of the NATO forces in the region, denied knowledge of the
grenade attacks in Dragas and questioned the veracity of many of
the accounts of violence in Prizren.
is very calm now and has been for several weeks,"
Colonel Michalski said.
But another German
officer, who insisted on anonymity, said the
NATO troops were eager to avoid clashes and were choosing not
to tackle the rampant crimes head on. "They want to go home
with a clean uniform," the second officer said.
A result is that
Albanians are being allowed to threaten and even
kill unprotected minority members with impunity, Ms. Giaever said,
"We have to
increase security. We have to find out who is doing
a senior commander of the Kosovo Liberation
Army and, now, of the Kosovo Protection Corps in Prizren, denied
that the violence was organized. He also said it was no longer his
responsibility, since the insurgents had been disarmed and
converted into a civilian organization.
"It is not
our task," Haradinaj said, "to keep law and order."