On http://www.transnational.org from October 3, 1999
r e s s I n f o # 7 7
UN Report on Kosovo
who wrote the Report of the UN Secretary-General on the UN Mission in
Kosovo (UNMIK) must have had other aims than accurate reporting. The
report is biased, embellished, slanted. It omits important aspects which
point toward the fact that this mission ignores Security Council Resolution
1244 on which it is based and is a failure in-the-making on its own
criteria," says TFF director Jan Oberg upon his return from TFF's
37th mission to the region and his visit to Pristina, Skopje and Belgrade.
report (S/1999/987 of September 16) covers the period in which at least
150.000 legitimate non-Albanian (Serbs, Roma,etc) citizens were driven
out of the province. Normally this would be called ethnic cleansing.
It has happened under the very eyes of 45.000 NATO soldiers, 1.100 UN
civilian police and thousands of other internationals, including the
OSCE and EU. The report does NOT state that this is a fatal blow to
both NATO and the UN. Res. 1244 states that the mission is to 'ensure
conditions for a peaceful and normal life for all inhabitants of Kosovo'
as well as, among many other things, maintain law and order, protect
and promote human rights
and ensure public safety. The report states that 'KFOR deserves great
credit for its efforts...'
do not think it does," says Oberg. "The international community
condemned Yugoslavia for having, at the height of the war and bombing,
about 40.000 soldiers and police in the province to maintain law and
order and - as they saw it - to protect the Serb and other minorities.
the total international presence is almost twice as big and IT has not
been able to fulfil the centre-piece of the UN mandate: to preserve
a multiethnic Kosovo in safety for everybody.
all practical purposes, Kosovo has been ethnically cleansed by the KLA
and other Albanians AFTER the international community arrived. This
is neither regretted nor condemned in the report. Rather, the report
states that 'senior Kosovo Albanian personalities, including the leadership
of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), have voiced increasingly forthright
positions on tolerance and security for minorities. Senior KLA figures
have denied KLA involvement in attacks and called for non-Albanians
to remain in Kosovo and repeatedly affirmed their commitment to human
rights, tolerance and diversity.'
report, issued in the name of the UN Secretary-General, does NOT mention
that KLA set up a self-appointed government, installed local leaders
in virtually all municipalities and, thus, see themselves as the legitimate
authority of Kosovo. In short, the report omits any mention of who is
or must be made responsible for the recent ethnic cleansing of Kosovo.
Could the reason be that the KLA and the political Kosovo Albanian leadership
was NATO's ally during the war and the international community's partner
now? That its prime minister, Hacim Thaci, is the favoured leader -
for the time being at least - by the United States and other leading
actors? In short,
that the West's partner is doing what we accused Milosevic of doing?
Yugoslav government was always pointed out as the culprit of ethnic
cleansing of Albanians. Fantastic stories circulated without evidence
about Serb plans to drive out all Albanians from the region during NATO's
bombing campaign. With perhaps 90% of all non-Albanians now driven out,
the Kosovo-Albanian leadership is responsible for the proportionately
largest ethnic cleansing in the Balkans since the wars started in 1991.
those who wrote the text of this report - presumably UNMIK staff and
the office of UNMIK head, Dr. Bernhard Kouchner in Pristina - see no
reason to condemn this! The formulation of the report is: 'In the period
since mid-June 1999, non-Albanians, primarily Serbs and Roma, have been
the target for harassment, intimidation and attacks. As a result, many
have left Kosovo.' And then it mentions that the Yugoslav Red Cross
estimates that 150,000 have gone to Serbia and Montenegro.
have been the target - by whom? If Belgrade or Serb paramilitaries had
ethnically cleansed 150,000 Albanians or more from their province, you
may wonder how the international community the UN, U.S. State
Department, the media - would have formulated it. At no point does the
report state who should be made responsible for this latest ethnic cleansing
campaign, there is not a word about Albanian atrocities, war criminals
or any hesitation on the part of the West to co-operate with individuals,
groups and institutions who is likely to have caused this exodus. Neither
does it regret that Albanians are intimidated by KLA and forced out
of their temporary houses upon return, or punished for not wanting to
bias is put in perspective when the report immediately after states
that: 'Hardening Serb attitudes towards Kosovo Albanians, driven in
part by outside extremists, are helping to radicalise Albanians in Mitrovica.'
The authors of the report has evidently never noticed any outside extremists
on the Albanian side, now or earlier. Neither have they observed hardening
Albanian attitudes. The formulation also makes the few remaining Serbs
the causal factor and the Albanians innocent, non-guilty of their own
the basic character of Western policy and its UNMIK/KFOR mission had
been genuinely humanitarian, this would have been dealt with in different
terms. Human rights violations play a conspicuously modest role in this
the report argues that demobilised KLA soldiers can be a source of instability
in the future which may be true," says Jan Oberg. "However,
the report enigmatically argues that there is not enough civil employment
opportunities for these 10.000 fighters. One would otherwise believe
there was enough to do in a war-torn society such as Kosovo! So KFOR
and the UN Special Representative, Dr. Bernhard Kouchner, are thus 'developing
a concept for demobilisation of the KLA, offering individual members
an opportunity to participate in a disciplined, professional, multi-ethnic
civilian emergency corps' of which KFOR will provide day-to-day direction.
what a few days later was established formally as the Kosovo Protection
report conveniently omits reference to the fact that such a force is
not even mentioned in SC Resolution 1244 which talks only about demilitarisation.
We see here why the Rambouillet document stipulated neither a time table
nor the modalities of demilitarisation of the Albanian
side as it did for the Yugoslav side: 1244 says that KLA and other armed
Kosovo Albanian groups shall 'comply with the requirements for demilitarisation
as laid down' by the heads of KFOR and UNMIK. The fact that KPF is hardly
distinguishable from, but indeed looks like the embryo of, a new Kosovo
Army shall be dealt with in a forthcoming TFF PressInfo.
r e s s I n f o # 7 8
I S L E A D I N G U N R E P O R T O N K O S O V O (Part B)
UN and NATO missions in Kosovo violate Security Council Resolution 1244
which clearly guarantees the sovereignty and the territorial integrity
of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). The Security Council has
just reaffirmed that Kosovo is a part of FRY. 1244 also demands the
full cooperation of FRY in implementing the missions tasks. All this
is pure pretence, as any visitor to Kosovo will learn - and mission
members will tell you privately.
Report of the Secretary-General (S/1999/987 of September 16) does not
even bother to mention whether KFOR/UNMIK cooperates with Belgrade!
It seems pretty clear, rather, that the international community has
fooled Belgrade and considers it so weak that it doesn't even have to
be polite or give the world the impression that it respects the country's
coincides with credible press analyses that U.S. decision makers think
Kosovo must become independent.
international presence of UNMIK and NATO in Kosovo base itself on the
bombing campaign the legality of which remains highly disputable. In
its day-to-day operations, this presence amounts to a de facto occupation
force that co-operates with Albania military and civilian leaders who
have perpetrated gross human rights violations," says Jan Oberg
upon his return from Pristina, Skopje and Belgrade, TFF's 37 mission
to the region. Here follow some facts:
missions have set up border points to Serbia but until recently not
to Macedonia and Albania. Public and state property is 'taken over'
by the UN and KFOR, no legal regulations done or rent or compensation
paid to the Yugoslav state. Visa is not needed to enter Kosovo. The
German Mark is introduced and the Yugoslav dinar disappearing. Tax and
customs are now collected to the benefit of Kosovo, with no proportion
going to Serbia or Yugoslavia. A new army-like "Kosovo Protection/Defence
Force" is established and has the old KLA commander at its head.
Should we be surprised if the mineral resources and the Trpca mining
industry complex in
Mitrovica is soon 'taken over' by foreign capital? Dr. Kouchner serves
at the moment as a one-man legislature: he can overrule any federal
law and he promulgates legally binding "regulations" by the
1244 stipulates that 'after the withdrawal an agreed number of Yugoslav
and Serb military and police personnel will be permitted to return to
Kosovo to perform functions' such as liaising with the international
civil and military missions, marking and clearing mine fields, maintaining
a presence at Serb patrimonial sites and maintain a presence at key
border crossings (specified in Annex 2). Reference to all this is conveniently
omitted in the UN Report - that serves to evaluate the UN mission and
is written, we must assume, by the UN staff in Pristina itself.
much for the United Nations manifest, gross violation of FRY's sovereignty
and territorial integrity. One understands why all this goes unmentioned
in the Report. I am not a lawyer, but it looks to me as a new sort of
international lawlessness and might-makes-right," says Jan Oberg.
are many other quite strange aspects of this Report. For instance, it
conveniently avoids telling its readers that there are four government
structures in Kosovo. KLA rapidly set up a government and local administration
as well as other institutions before NATO got in. Naturally,
it runs the place and it is not willing to hand over to the UN, as it
believes it has legitimacy because of the military struggle to liberate
Kosova. All personalities are appointed, nobody elected and there is,
thus, no element of democracy. The earlier, elected, government and
parallel society of the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo under the
leadership of its elected
president Dr. Ibrahim Rugova, constitutes another government structure
but it has been systematically undermined and marginalized by leading
actors of the international community as well as by KLA.
third government structure - had it not been driven out by the UN, KFOR
and KLA - was that of Yugoslavia. Had the KFOR and the UN not been so
keen on getting rid of them all, there would have been more competent
administrators, doctors, nurses, public utility technicians, teachers
etc available today. And finally, according to resolution 1244, the
UN administration of Kosovo is to become the FOURTH government with
all executive powers in this tiny territory - but with little chance
of implementing its authority, because:
present situation is a farce. The total international presence encompass
NATO/KFOR, the UN (UNMIK and all UN family organisation), OSCE, the
European Union, over 300 NGOs, some media - perhaps as many as 70.000
foreigners! They all need interpreters, assistants, drivers, technicians
and practical fixers. So, any local with some command of foreign languages
and an administrative talent now seeks employment with international
(better paying) organisations rather than with the local administration.
The UN desperately needs experienced internationals and thousands of
local staff to take over the executive power and complete administration
of Kosovo as is its mandate - but a) they are not available and b) if
they were available, they are likely to have to fight their way into
the town halls or be polite assistants to those sitting there already
appointed by KLA! UN officials catapulted into the towns as local government
officials have no experience from Kosovo - one, I heard, did not know
who Dr. Rugova is!
such minor problems is not mentioned in the UN Report. Absent is also
any assessment of the wider stability of the region post KFOR/UNMIK.
There is not a word about helping Serb refugees (about 1 million) in
Serbia or the increasing destabilisation of Serbia that NATO bombings
and KFOR's mode of operation have contributed greatly to." Oberg
summarises: "This extremely coloured report can do nothing but
disservice to the international community's decision makers. It tells
us that UNMIK and KFOR make significant progress. This may be true on
small issues but in vital areas for the future, the mission is already
beyond repair. If the international community gets no better evaluations
of the strong and the weak sides of its
missions, one wonders whether it would not be wiser to have some impartial
- non-NATO and non-UN - expert group to evaluate its missions. The real
situation is obviously filtered and censored up to the point when the
honest and visionary Secretary-General - who has to rely in the information
he gets from missions - puts his signature on what is basically a falsifying
is also the moment when the media ought to keep an eye on the situation.
But most left when there were no more dead bodies to film and we were
told that 'peace' would come! Without more honest reporting and evaluation
of progress, UNMIK and KFOR will rapidly disintegrate beyond repair.
mind you, I am not saying that I think everything could or should have
been done differently from some more or less idealistic peace perspective.
I am saying that the mission threatens to be a disaster as judged on
ITS OWN criteria, mandate and mode of operation. KFOR and UNMIK spell
further disaster in the region.
of the missions who are skeptical and deeply concerned - should be encouraged
to voice that concern publicly and be rewarded, not punished, for doing
so. The UNMIK and OSCE, not KFOR - Europe, not the United States - will
be blamed when this goes as wrong as I fear. That must be avoided now.
The missions must be fundamentally reshaped and become both lawful,
orally principled and accountable which they are not today," ends
ARE KOSOVO'S KILLING FIELDS?
its four-month war against Yugoslavia, NATO argued that Kosovo
was a land wracked by mass murder; official estimates indicated that
some 10,000 ethnic Albanians were killed in a Serb rampage of ethnic
cleansing. Yet four months into an international investigation bodies
numbering only in the hundreds have been exhumed. The FBI has found
fewer than 200. Piecing together the evidence, it appears that the
number of civilian ethnic Albanians killed is far less than was claimed.
While new findings could invalidate this view, evidence of mass murder
has not yet materialized on the scale used to justify the war. This
could have serious foreign policy and political implications for NATO
and alliance governments.
Justification for War
Oct. 11, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Republic
of Yugoslavia (ICTY) reported that the Trepca mines in Kosovo, where
murdered ethnic Albanians were reportedly hidden, in fact contained
bodies whatsoever. Three days later, the U.S. Defense Department
released its review of the Kosovo conflict, saying that NATOs
war was a
reaction to the ethnic cleansing campaign by Yugoslav President Slobodan
Milosevic. His campaign was "a brutal means to end the crisis on
terms by expelling and killing ethnic Albanians, overtaxing bordering
nations' infrastructures, and fracturing the NATO alliance."
finding by The Hagues investigators and the assertion by the
Pentagon raise an important question. Four months after the war and
introduction of forensic teams from many countries, precisely how many
bodies of murdered ethnic Albanians have been found? This is not an
exercise in the macabre, but a reasonable question, given the explicit
aims of NATO in the war, and the claims the alliance made on the
magnitude of Serbian war crimes. Indeed, the central justification for
war was that only intervention would prevent the slaughter of Kosovos
ethnic Albanian population.
March 22, British Prime Minister Tony Blair told the House of
Commons, "We must act to save thousands of innocent men, women
children from humanitarian catastrophe, from death, barbarism and ethnic
cleansing by a brutal dictatorship." The next day, as the air war
President Clinton stated: "What we are trying to do is to limit
(Milosevics) ability to win a military victory and engage in ethnic
cleansing and slaughter innocent people and to do everything we can
induce him to take this peace agreement."
NATOs first intervention in a sovereign nation, the war in Kosovo
required considerable justification. Throughout the year, NATO officials
built their case, first calling the situation in Kosovo "ethnic
cleansing," and then "genocide." In March, State Department
James Rubin told reporters that NATO did not need to prove that the
Serbs were carrying out a policy of genocide because it was clear that
crimes against humanity were being committed. But just after the war
June, President Bill Clinton again invoked the term, saying, "NATO
stopped deliberate, systematic efforts at ethnic cleansing and
as the months progressed, the estimates of those killed by a
concerted Serb campaign, dubbed Operation Horseshoe, have swollen. Early
on, experts systematically generated what appeared to be sober and
conservative estimates of the dead. For example, prior to the outbreak
of war, independent experts reported that approximately 2,500 Kosovar
Albanians had been killed in the Serbian ethnic cleansing campaign.
number grew during and after the war. Early in the campaign, huge
claims arose about the number of ethnic Albanian men feared missing
presumed dead. The fog and passion of war can explain this. But by June
17, just before the end of the war, British Foreign Office Minister
Geoff Hoon reportedly said: "According to the reports we have gathered,
mostly from the refugees, it appears that around 10,000 people have
killed in more than 100 massacres." He further clarified that these
10,000 were ethnic Albanians killed by Serbs.
Aug. 2, the number jumped up by another 1,000 when Bernard Kouchner,
the United Nations chief administrator in Kosovo, said that about
11,000 bodies had already been found in common graves throughout Kosovo.
He said his source for this information was the ICTY. But the ICTY said
that it had not provided this information. To this day, the source of
Kouchners estimates remains unclear. However, that number of about
10,000 ethnic Albanians dead at the hands of the Serbs remains the
basic, accepted number, or at least the last official word on the scope
of the atrocities.
of the precise genesis of the numbers, there is no question
that NATO leaders argued that the war was not merely justified, but
morally obligatory. If the Serbs were not committing genocide in the
technical sense, they were certainly guilty of mass murder on an order
of magnitude not seen in Europe since Nazi Germany. The Yugoslav
government consistently denied that mass murder was taking place,
arguing that the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was fabricating claims
mass murder in order to justify NATO intervention and the secession
Kosovo from Serbia. NATO rejected Belgrades argument out of hand.
the question of the truth or falsehood of the claims of mass
murder is much more than a matter of merely historical interest. It
to the heart of the war and NATOs current peacekeeping
Kosovo. Certainly, there was a massive movement of Albanian refugees,
but that alone was not the alliances justification for war. The
justification was that the Yugoslav army and paramilitaries were
carrying out Operation Horseshoe, and that the war would cut short this
the aftermath of the war has brought precious little evidence,
despite the entry of Western forensics teams searching for evidence
war crimes. Mass murder is difficult to hide. One need only think of
entry of outsiders into Nazi Germany, Cambodia or Rwanda to understand
that the death of thousands of people leaves massive and undeniable
evidence. Given that many NATO leaders were under attack at home
particularly in Europe for having waged the war, the alliance
have seized upon continual and graphic evidence of the killing fields
Kosovo to demonstrate the necessity of the war and undercut critics.
Indeed, such evidence would help the alliance undermine Yugoslav
President Slobodan Milosevic, by helping to destroy his domestic support
and energize his opponents.
important, no one appears to really be trying to recover all of the
Kosovo wars reported victims. Of the eight human rights organizations
most prominent in Kosovo, none is specifically tasked with recovering
victims and determining the cause of death. These groups instead are
interviewing refugees and survivors to obtain testimony on human rights
violations, sanitizing wells and providing mental health services to
survivors. All of this is important work. But it is not the recovery
counting of bodies.
is important to note that a sizable number of people who resided in
Kosovo before the war are now said to be unaccounted for 17,000,
according to U.S. officials. However, the methodology for arriving at
this number is unclear. According to NATO, many records were destroyed
by the Serbs. Certainly, no census has been conducted in Kosovo since
the end of the war. Thus, it is completely unclear where the specific
number of 17,000 comes from. There are undoubtedly many missing, but
is unclear whether these people are dead, in Serbian prisons
estimates vary widely or whether they have taken refuge in other
dead, however, have not turned up in the way that the West
anticipated, at least not yet. The massive Trepca mines have so far
yielded nothing. Most of the dead have turned up in small numbers in
most rural parts of Kosovo, often in wells. News reports say that the
largest grave sites have contained a few dozen victims; some officials
say the largest site contained far more, approximately 100 bodies. But
the bodies are generally being found in very small numbers far
than encountered after the Bosnian war.
one effort now underway may shed light on just how many ethnic
Albanian civilians were or werent killed by Serb
forces. The ICTY
is coordinating efforts to investigate war crimes in Kosovo. Like human
rights organizations, the tribunals primary aim is not to find
reported dead. Instead, its investigators are gathering evidence to
prosecute war criminals for four offenses: grave breaches of the Geneva
Convention, violations of the laws of war, and genocide and crimes
against humanity. The tribunal believes that it will, however, be able
to produce an accurate death count in the future, although it will not
say when. A progress report may be released in late October, according
to tribunal spokesman Paul Risley.
the tribunals guidance, police and medical forensic teams from
most NATO countries and some neutral nations are assigned to investigate
certain sites. The teams have come from 15 nations: Austria, Belgium,
Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Luxembourg,
Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the
United States. The United States has sent the largest team, with 62
members. Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom have each sent teams
approximately 20. Most countries dispatched teams of fewer than 10
far, investigators are a little more than one quarter of the way
through their field work, having examined about 150 of 400 suspected
sites. The investigative process is as follows: ICTY investigators
follow up on reports from refugees or KFOR troops to confirm the
existence of sites. Then the tribunal deploys each team to a certain
region and indicates the sites to be investigated. Sites are either
graves which according to the tribunal means more than one body
the grave or crime scenes, which contain other evidence. The
exhume the bodies, count them, and perform autopsies to determine age,
gender, cause of death and time of death all for the purpose of
compiling evidence for future war crimes trials. The by-product of this
work, then, is the actual number of bodies recovered. The investigations
will continue next year when the weather allows further exhumations.
the absence of an official tally of bodies found by the teams, we are
forced to piece together anecdotal evidence to get a picture of what
actually happened in Kosovo. From this evidence, it is clear that the
teams are not finding large numbers of dead, nothing to substantiate
claims of "genocide."
FBIs work is a good example. With the biggest effort, the bureau
has conducted two separate investigations, one in June and one in
August, and will probably be called back again. In its most recent
visit, the FBI found 124 bodies in the British sector of Kosovo,
according to FBI spokesman Dave Miller. Almost all the victims were
killed by a gunshot wound to the head or blunt force trauma to the head.
The victims ages were between 4 and 94. Most of the victims appeared
have been killed in March and April. In its two trips to Kosovo since
the wars end, the FBI has found a total of 30 sites containing
Spanish team was told to prepare for the worst, as it was going into
Kosovos real killing fields. It was told to prepare for over 2000
autopsies. But the teams findings fell far short of those expectations.
It found no mass graves and only 187 bodies, all buried in individual
graves. The Spanish teams chief inspector compared Kosovo to Rwanda.
"In the former Yugoslavia crimes were committed, some no doubt
but they derived from the war," Juan Lopez Palafox was quoted as
in the newspaper El Pais. "In Rwanda we saw 450 corpses [at one
women and children, one on top of another, all with their heads broken
are simply not where they were reported to be. For example, in
July a mass grave believed to contain some 350 bodies in Ljubenic, near
Pec an area of concerted fighting reportedly contained
bodies after the exhumation was complete. There have been similar cases
on a smaller scale, with initial claims of 10 to 50 buried bodies proven
have frequently gone to reported killing sites, only to
find no bodies. In Djacovica, town officials claimed that 100 ethnic
Albanians had been murdered but reportedly alleged that Serbs had
returned in the middle of the night, dug up the bodies, and carried
away. In Pusto Selo, villagers reported that 106 men were captured and
killed by Serbs at the end of March. NATO even released satellite
imagery of what appeared to be numerous graves, but again no bodies
found at the site. Villagers claimed that Serbian forces came back and
removed the bodies. In Izbica, refugees reported that 150 ethnic
Albanians were killed in March. Again, their bodies are nowhere to be
found. Ninety-six men from Klina vanished in April; their bodies have
yet to be located. Eighty-two men were reportedly killed in Kraljan,
investigators have yet to find one of their bodies.
and brutality certainly took place, and it is possible that
massive new findings will someday be uncovered. Without being privy
the details of each investigation on the ground in Kosovo, it is
possible only to voice suspicion and not conclusive proof. However,
own research and survey of officials indicates that the numbers of dead
so far are in the hundreds, not the thousands. It is possible that huge,
new graves await to be discovered. But ethnic Albanians in Kosovo are
presumably quick to reveal the biggest sites in the hope of recovering
family members or at least finding out what happened. In addition, large
sites would have the most witnesses, evidence and visibility for
inspection teams. Given progress to date, it seems difficult to believe
that the 10,000 claimed at the end of the war will be found. The killing
of ethnic Albanian civilians appears to be orders of magnitude below
claims of NATO, alliance governments and early media reports.
could this have occurred? It appears that both governments and
outside observers relied on sources controlled by the KLA, both before
and during the war. During the war this reliance was heightened;
governments relied heavily on the accounts of refugees arriving in
Albania and Macedonia, where the KLA was an important conduit of
information. The sophisticated public relations machine of the KLA and
the fog of war may have generated a perception that is now proving
is clear is that no one is systematically collecting the numbers of
the dead in Kosovo, even though such work could possibly topple
Milosevic and would only help NATO in its efforts to remain in Kosovo.
What can be learned of the investigations to date indicates deaths far
below expectations. Finally, all of this suspicion can be easily
dispelled by a comprehensive report by NATO, the United Nations, or
United States and other responsible governments detailing the findings
of the forensic teams, and giving timeframes for completion and results.
It is unclear that, even if the ICTY releases a report soon, it will
address all these issues. The lack of an interim report indicating the
discovery of thousands of Albanian victims strikes us as decidedly odd.
One would think that Clinton, Blair and the other leaders would be eager
to demonstrate that the war was not only justified, but morally
really does matter how many were killed in Kosovo. The foreign policy
and political implications are substantial. There is a line between
oppression and mass murder. It is not a bright, shining one, but the
distinction between hundreds of dead and tens of thousands is clear.
blurring of that line has serious implications not merely for NATOs
integrity, but for the notion of sovereignty. If a handful or
dozen people are killed in labor unrest, does the international
community have the right to intervene by force? By the very rules that
NATO has set up, the magnitude of slaughter is critical.
the alliance depended heavily on the United States for
information about the war. If the United States and NATO were mistaken,
then alliance governments that withstood heavy criticism, such as the
Italian and German governments, may be in trouble. Confidence in both
U.S. intelligence and leadership could decline sharply. Stung by scandal
and questions about its foreign policy, the Clinton administration is
already having difficulty influencing world events. That influence could
fall further. There are many consequences if it turns out that NATOs
claims about Serb atrocities were substantially false.
THE CLAIMS BEHIND THE WAR
must act to save thousands of innocent men, women and children from
humanitarian catastrophe, from death, barbarism and ethnic cleansing
a brutal dictatorship."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, March 22.
have no other choice but to deploy the means that we have prepared.
We will do that, and we will do it as long as it takes for the Yugoslav
president to return to the basis of humane conduct and international
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, March 22.
the time the snows fall next winter, there will be genocide
documented on a large scale in Kosovo."
U.S. Senator Joseph Biden, D-Del., March 22, on Fox television.
time for action, time to make a decision. And I hope it's done
very quickly. Otherwise, [Milosevic's] going to amass more troops and
you're going to have another massacre. What we have in Kosovo and what
[we] had in Bosnia was genocide, and that's why I think we should
retired U.S. Senator Bob Dole, March 22, on NBCs Meet the
what we are trying to do is to limit his ability to win a military
victory and engage in ethnic cleansing and slaughter innocent people
to do everything we can to induce him to take this peace agreement,
which is the only way in the wide world over the long run he's going
be able to keep Kosovo as an independent part of his country
autonomous part of his country." U.S. President Bill Clinton,
objective is to prevent more human suffering, more repression, more
violence against the civilian population of Kosovo
. We must stop
authoritarian regime from repressing its people in Europe at the end
the 20th century. We have a moral duty to do so. The responsibility
on our shoulders and we will fulfill it." then-NATO Secretary-General
Javier Solana, March 23.
learned that over the 20th century that instability in
Europe, and fighting and ethnic conflict has, in fact, brought the
Americans in American soldiers in twice at great cost,
and that we
have an opportunity to do something now, to stop massacre and fighting
before it spreads and beyond the national boundaries."
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, March 23, on CNN.
suggests that an ethnic cleansing operation is underway
register indications that dark things are happening, even if we are
able to quantify it.'' NATO spokesman Jamie Shea, March 27.
LATimes, Tuesday, October 26, 1999
Disputes Turn Kosovo Into No Man's Land
Law: U.N. faces daunting task of creating an effective tribunal to resolve
ownership claims in wake of war.
PAUL WATSON, Times Staff Writer
Yugoslavia--A stark warning scratched into the black paint of a broken
security door awaits anyone who tries to evict Bekim Arifi and his family
Their own home, a two-room farmhouse on a Kosovo hilltop several miles
from here, was burned by Serbian gunmen last spring, so the Arifis became
squatters in a middle-class Serbian family's apartment in this provincial
The terse notice on the metal door is written in Albanian, starting
with the letters UCK, the Albanian-language initials of the former Kosovo
Liberation Army. In case that message isn't clear enough, it adds: "Do
Those words appeared sometime after Bina Djukic locked the door and
hurried down the stairs four months ago, in the panic that struck Serbs
as their security forces retreated from Kosovo.
She is among an estimated 170,000 people, mostly Serbs, who fled the
southern province of Serbia--Yugoslavia's main republic--after NATO-led
peacekeeping troops arrived in June and ethnic Albanians began attacking
Serbs, Gypsies and ethnic Albanian "collaborators."
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization intervened in Kosovo's civil
war on the side of multiethnic democracy, and now a poorly equipped
and understaffed U.N. civilian administration is trying to build such
a system atop Kosovo's ruins.
Besides moral suasion, and the power of decree, the best weapon that
chief U.N. civilian administrator Bernard Kouchner is likely to have
is the justice system that his officials are still working to set up.
Leopold von Carlowitz, an aristocratic German lawyer, is working to
create a tribunal that will try to resolve the thousands of property
disputes born of the war in Kosovo.
He has no illusions about the many and complex problems involved--or
about how dangerous Kosovo will be if disputes over who owns various
pieces of it are left to fester.
"We all know that only with a sound solution of the property situation
in this country will we have lasting peace here," Von Carlowitz
said in an interview. "There is no question about that."
One of Djukic's neighbors, Dragica Grubanovic, also fled Kosovo and
knows the ethnic Albanian man who took over her apartment only by his
voice. She has called him several times, hoping he would agree to buy
it, but he has refused.
He has since stopped answering the phone.
Grubanovic, the former director of legal affairs for Serbia's state-run
radio station in Pristina, would be happy to forget Kosovo and stay
in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia and Yugoslavia.
She has found an ethnic Albanian man in Belgrade interested in buying
her three-bedroom apartment. But like other potential buyers, he wants
the current occupants evicted first. And after what the Serbs did in
Kosovo, ethnic Albanians are in no hurry to give up their new homes.
"They think that the apartments were given to them by 'their state'
and that we Serbs have nothing to ask for, since they won [the war],"
It was after ethnic Albanian thugs began pounding on Serbs' doors and
threatening trouble if they didn't leave that Djukic took her family
to her father's home in the Pristina suburb of Kosovo Polje, hoping
things would improve.
A few days later, Djukic's father visited the British troops' command
post across from his house, and an officer assigned two soldiers to
escort him back to his daughter's home, in Pristina's Sunny Hill district.
They found the security door pried open and the inside door's lock and
handle smashed off. About a dozen ethnic Albanians had taken over the
"The Brits gave my father 30 minutes to take out our personal possessions,"
Djukic said in Belgrade, where she is now a refugee in her own country.
"The Albanian men told them my father had nothing to do with the
place and that the apartment had been given to them by 'the army.' "
New occupant Arifi, 22, denies--despite the initials on the door--that
he served in the guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army, which fought a separatist
war against the Serbs. Among those sharing the apartment is Arifi's
brother Agim, 20, who says he wasn't a KLA member either.
Bedrie, Arifi's wife, and his younger sisters, Naile, 11, and Elhame,
17, also moved into the Djukic apartment after returning from Albania,
where they were refugees after Serbs expelled them from Kosovo during
NATO air attacks.
Arifi claims that Djukic's father said to keep the place when he came
with the two British soldiers to collect the family's belongings--everything
except a beautiful cabinet with glass doors that stands empty in the
"We insisted on keeping that," Arifi said through a translator.
U.N. staff have drafted a regulation that would create an independent
Housing and Property Claims Tribunal to settle disputes over such strictly
private, noncommercial property.
The tribunal would have two foreign members and one local member. These
three individuals would have the power to make legally binding decisions,
but U.N. staff also would work to get disputes settled out of court--for
instance, by finding people new homes.
Kouchner, Kosovo's top administrator, needs approval from U.N. headquarters
in New York before he can sign the regulation to create the tribunal,
and U.N. experts are only beginning to sort through "incredibly
complicated," sometimes conflicting regulations and traditions
to decide which ones the tribunal would respect.
"This is very dangerous territory on which we're moving,"
Von Carlowitz cautioned.
Djukic knows the risks all too well. She was the deputy public prosecutor
in Pristina's Serb-run courts, and she has watched the endless cycle
of revenge claim members of her own family.
One was her uncle, Srbislav Djukic, 75, a resident of the northern Kosovo
city of Podujevo, which was surrounded by KLA hard-liners until NATO
began bombing March 24.
Serbian forces cut through the region like a scythe, burning, looting
and killing as they went. And when the Serbian forces retreated, ethnic
Albanian extremists exacted revenge on the few Serbs left.
Djukic's uncle was patriarch of the last Serbian family in the village
of Sekiraca, where he had helped protect ethnic Albanian neighbors by
persuading Serbian attackers to pass the village by, Djukic said.
"That was the only village in the area that was spared by the Yugoslav
army and police during the bombing, because my uncle told them the village
had always been peaceful," Djukic said. "After the war ended,
ethnic Albanian neighbors guaranteed my uncle's safety.
"He was killed on his first visit to Podujevo [in July]. His house
was burned and rolled over by a bulldozer," she said. "Ten
days later, they killed my cousin [Grujica Gajic, 38] in the village
of Lebane, near Pristina.
"Ten days after that, they killed my nephew [Dejan Nicic, 25].
He was massacred. At the morgue, his head was connected to his body
only by the skin. He was chased up onto a roof and murdered with sticks
Djukic and her husband, a bank economist, had fled Kosovo weeks earlier
after packing what little they could into a Yugo already crammed with
their three children, ages 9, 16 and 18.
The Djukics made sure that they took the title to their apartment and
the receipts for all the payments they had made before officially acquiring
it from her husband's bank Jan. 29, 1993.
Djukic has called Arifi several times and tried to persuade him to buy
the apartment, which is now worth about $45,000. But Arifi insists that
he is penniless, yet he has refused to move out and allow Djukic to
sell her home
to someone else.
In late September, Djukic joined a convoy of Serbs in two buses and
15 cars, which was escorted into Kosovo by Belgian troops. Most of the
Serbs wanted to file property complaints with the U.N. police in Pristina,
The convoy stopped at Kosovo Polje, a mainly Serbian enclave, and Djukic
said she couldn't convince an ethnic Albanian friend to risk driving
her into Pristina.
She waited in the suburb for eight days, during which three Serbs died
in a grenade attack and another was killed at a school. Finally, she
gave up and caught a Belgrade-bound train, which an ethnic Albanian
mob stoned as it left.
"My father is 67 years old and has three children. We all grew
up in that Kosovo Polje house," Djukic said. "Now he is trapped
there, all alone with a dog and parrot. If he leaves, he knows the house
will be looted right away."
About 12 miles south, beside a chestnut tree on a hilltop in the village
of Labljane, the Arifis' small house is a burned-out ruin, and everything
they owned is gone.
That is why the Arifis hope the Serbs who left Kosovo--a land Serbs
have fought for centuries to defend as the cradle of their Orthodox
"We wouldn't like to lay our eyes on them again--ever," said
Bedrie, Arifi's wife. "They killed kids in their mothers' laps."
Then her brother-in-law Agim jumped in: "If they come back, there
will be trouble."
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.
"In-Depth Specials 2000"
January 26, 2000
continued terror even as they fight to survive
By Steve Nettleton
CNN Interactive Correspondent
(CNN) -- Almost
as soon as NATO's 11-week bombing campaign ended in June 1999, hundreds
of thousands of Kosovar refugees were pouring over the reopened borders
to their homeland. For most, even as they began to measure the horror
that had befallen them, it was a moment of relief and triumph: For the
first time in 10 years, they were no longer in the grip of Slobodan
But as Kosovo struggles
through its first winter under international
protection, relief is giving way to lawlessness, as Serb civilians,
Roma (Gypsies), Bosnian Muslims and even fellow ethnic Albanians are
shot dead on the streets.
More than 400 murders
have been reported since June -- including 22 during one week in late
fall. There was a lull over the Christmas and New Year's holidays, but
the killings had resumed pace by mid-January, when
five people were murdered within one 24-hour period.
outgunned civilian police force can do little. The few suspects who
are arrested are often released within days or hours, thanks to a court
system that lacks the manpower or resources to process their cases.
To make matters
worse, Kosovo's aging infrastructure is collapsing at the time it is
needed most. A severe power shortage has left most of Kosovo dark, cold,
and with little running water.
Such a bleak portrait
scarcely resembles the vision of a democratic,
multi-ethnic Kosovo that NATO and the United Nations pledged to create.
hardly any multi-ethnicity -- in
fact the reverse," said Ivo Daalder, senior
fellow at the Washington-based Brookings
Institution. "Ethnic segregation is greater
now than almost at any other time in
Kosovo's history ... and economic activity
is rudimentary at best."
Terrified by the
rampage of murders,
kidnappings and arson attacks by
revenge-minded ethnic Albanians, an
estimated 200,000 non-Albanians fled
Kosovo in the months following NATO's
entry into the province, according to the
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees
As of mid-January,
however, the exodus had stopped and a small number of Serbs have even
returned. Many who stayed live in virtual fortresses under
round-the-clock protection of the NATO-led peacekeeping contingent,
Kosovo Force, or KFOR.
cycle of ethnically related violence must be broken," warned U.N.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan during a visit to Kosovo in October. "The
human and civil rights of all people in Kosovo must be respected."
But pleas for reconciliation
by Annan and other world leaders have failed to
stop the bloodshed. The daunting task of restoring order to the province
remains in the hands of KFOR's 45,000 troops and a small, U.N.-run international
Help late in coming
NATO says it is
doing all it can. "Every day, two out of three KFOR soldiers are
out conducting security operations. Not only have the troops cracked
down hard on crime and violence, making Kosovo a much safer place than
it was just a few months ago, but they are instructed to monitor people
where they are still in need, especially now during the cold winter
months," said KFOR's spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Philip Anido of the Canadian
navy, in a mid-January press report.
While KFOR is responsible
for maintaining security in Kosovo, it is up to the police to investigate
crimes. Armed only with handguns, the police are asked to take on gangs
equipped with automatic rifles and grenades.
police personnel have been late in coming, are often poorly prepared
and, not knowing much about the situation or even their way around,
are not really up to the job," the International Crisis Group,
a Brussels-based multinational organization whose goal is to help the
international community to understand and respond to impending crises,
reported in December 1999.
The United Nations
has asked the international community to contribute 4,700 officers to
the police force, but so far it has managed to recruit only 1,900.
The courts have
fared even worse. "They are simply not equipped well
enough," said Roland Bless, spokesman for the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) mission in Kosovo. "There
is a lack of paper, computers and even pencils, and there are not enough
judges and prosecutors in place."
only 48 judges and prosecutors were on the job -- all ethnic
Albanians (seven Serbs resigned soon after being named to their posts).
Although the head of the U.N. Mission in Kosovo, former French health
minister Bernard Kouchner, recently filled an additional 400 positions
on the judiciary, the court system has yet to operate smoothly.
still no functioning legal system in Kosovo, which means that ...
nobody fears accountability," said Fred Abrahams of Human Rights
"Individuals who are arrested by KFOR or the U.N. police very often
are released after a day or two in custody because the legal system
can't process them. So criminals who have committed lootings or even
killings are simply walking in and out of the detention facilities."
The justice system
is but one of many basic services in short supply.
Failing power stations and downed power lines have forced the province
to survive on only a fraction of the electricity it needs. With no power
to pump water, the central heating system in the capital, Pristina,
has frequently been shut down. All but emergency surgeries have been
is very, very outdated.
A lot of expertise was in the hands of the
Yugoslavs, the Serbs who left," said Peter
Kessler, spokesman for the UNHCR, in
Pristina. "They knew how to run things,
and now they aren't talking. They aren't
here, more importantly."
Kouchner, a physician
and a co-founder of
Doctors Without Borders, argues that the
world community should not expect such
an immediate transformation in Kosovo.
say we've been slow, but
slow to do what?" he asked while
assessing the mission's progress in
December. "Does anyone remember what
we found here six months ago? Empty
streets. Shuttered shops. No water. No work. Smoking ruins. No one in
improved in all areas, Kouchner said, but the process will
require a long-term commitment from the international community, both
in manpower and in financial aid. Though U.S.$1 billion has been pledged
to help rebuild Kosovo this year, with another $2.5 billion on the way,
many more billions will be needed to finish the job, U.N. officials
An autonomous Kosovo?
The most difficult
question has yet to be discussed: How can Kosovo ever be
returned to Belgrade's sovereignty? The policy of the United Nations
and the NATO-led peacekeepers is to develop an autonomous Kosovo within
Yugoslavia. Some observers doubt such a goal can be achieved.
people who want an independent state, who wanted an independent state
before the war, who were certainly strengthened in that belief because
of what the Serbs did to them. And to think that they want to have anything
to do with Serbia, with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia or with Serbs
is a pipe dream," said Daalder.
The OSCE says plans
are in the works to hold municipal and national elections in Kosovo
late this year, perhaps in September or October. Only once those seats
are filled can Kosovo's new government begin to tackle the cornerstone
issues of future authority.
be solved overnight," said Kessler. "Fifty years of [Marshal
Broz] Tito's Communism didn't solve it. I'm not suggesting it will take
50 years to end the tension and challenges here, but it will take a
lot of time."
DANAS - Belgrade independent daily
a member of the delegation of the Serb National Council
of Kosovo and Metohija at the conference in Sofia
SERBS DO NOT WANT TO LIVE IN GHETTOES
by Jelena Tasic
FR Yugoslavia, December 27 1999
Kosovo Serb Sofia
Lack of political
will to protect Serbs is one of the most shameful
consequences of everything that has been happening in the last ten
years. While the arrival of the international forces to Bosnia brought
the end of violence, in Kosovo the most violent wave of ethnic cleansing
started with the arrival of international troops and that is a paradox.
At a meeting held in Sofia on December 10, 11 and 12, a delegation of
Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija, together with representatives of the
Institute for Peace adopted a Declaration about its further political
activities. Historian Dusan Batakovic participated at the Sofia
conference as an advisor of the Serb side. He explains in an interview
The meeting in
Sofia was supposed to be analogous to the one held by
Albanians in the United States, when they adopted their declaration
about Kosovo with their demands for the American and international
administration. In contains many elements unacceptable to the Serbs,
including the demand for self-determination and the definition of Kosovo
as a single national unit. Because of that the Declaration from Sofia
attempts to inform the international community about the current
situation in the province. The international authorities are expected
take full control of the province instead of ignoring the fact that
rules Kosovo in the way which borders with the worst lawlessness from
the Ottoman era. On the other hand, the survival of Serbs in Kosovo
been brought into question.
We Shall Talk Only
to Moderate Albanians
What are the concrete demands from the Sofia Declaration?
Security above all. The question of security is closely related to the
question of rule and self-rule, and there are also humanitarian issues
as well as the refugee problem. Our attitude is that while the problem
of the security and the return of refugees to a safe environment is
resolved, it makes no sense to conduct a census, and even less to
organize any kind of an election. Every decision imposed on Serbs will
represent a de facto legalization of ethnic cleansing. We emphasized
that Kosovo should remain a part of FR Yugoslavia, which should not
be a technical but also an actual fact, visible in the field. We
demanded that those parts of the province where Serbs are in majority
given self-rule in a fully decentralized political system. There is
sense in replacing the evil centralization of Milosevic's kind with
same type of centralized rule, led this time by Hashim Thaqi or another
one of Albanian extremists.
We said that we
are not against ethnic Albanians, but against Albanian
nationalism. We condemned every type of ethnically based violence. Of
course, in our demands and visions of the future of Kosovo we left space
for possible future talks with Albanians.
Is that related
to the most recent initiative of Kosovo Serbs to hold
talks with Ibrahim Rugova?
We expressed readiness
to talk with moderate Albanian representatives,
since we are convinced that we should not and must not talk to extremist
nationalists and terrorists. Thaqi has so far on numerous occasions
the opposite of what he had promised. We do not see any sense in talking
to him although everyone is suggesting that he has become an unavoidable
partner, since his men are in power in Kosovo. Because of that we ask
why UNMiK and KFOR are not in power, since that is supposed to be their
mandate. We clearly told the Americans that we cannot be hostages of
their policy which, out of fear of loosing 10 American soldiers in a
clash with Albanians, does not dare impose order in Kosovo, and is
prepared to sacrifice lives of 100,000 Serbs for that. In Kosovo I've
seen scenes of violence that are worse than anything seen in horror
movies. What is today happening to the Kosovo Gypsies is worse than
anything from the Third Reich.
But the worst of
all is the total avoidance of the representatives of
the international authorities. All of them have seen that the situation
in the field has nothing to do with the media propaganda from the last
few years for which both Milosevic and Kosovo Albanians share credits.
What are the ultimate
goals of your proposals?
With this declaration
we wanted to assist the International Community to
establish order in Kosovo based on the principles it has declared in
past. Its politicians daily invoke these principles when talking about
Kosovo. By pointing out that the problem of security cannot be resolved
unless it is related to the problem of government, we claim that Serbs
need local self-government. Moreover, not self-government defined in
Anglo-Saxon manner, including anything and nothing. We demand clearly
defined judicial, police, and administrative self-rule, in order to
preserve our language, heritage, sacred sites and avoid living in
ghettos similar to the Warsaw ghetto in WWII. On the other hand, Serbs
in Kosovo are now organized in a more efficient manner. They have
established the Serb National Council which includes representatives
all enclaves and is presided by his excellence bishop Artemije, who
been leading consistent policy for several years now and has condemned
any ethnically motivated violence.
There is a shared
conviction to stay in Kosovo and fight to the end.
That demonstrates that the logic that armies pass but as long as the
people stay nothing is lost has rekindled among our people. I am
impressed by the fact that the Serb participants of the meeting in Sofia
mostly have three children, some of them even four. We have forgotten
that Kosovo Serbs are the only Serbs whose birth rate exceeds their
death rate. They were the only source of our vitality.
has been Implemented in the Field
Are there any indications that the International Community will accept
No, apart from verbal assurances. On behalf of Kosovo Serbs I offered
revised version of the cantonization proposal in August 1999 and that
proposal was rejected. Now, everyone is aware that a spontaneous
cantonization has been implemented in the field. Serbs from Prizren
moved to Strpce, which together with Brezovica makes up a large canton.
Those Serbs from Pristina who did not escape to Serbia moved to
Gracanica, Laplje Selo, Caglavica. Serbs from Gnjilane are moving to
Vitina and Kamenica... to regions with Serb majority. North from
Mitrovica, there is a Serb canton. Now, it only remains to codify the
existing situation and help Serbs to survive. What deeply disappoints
and worries me is that after the rejection of the cantonization proposal
there have been no other proposals. I do not claim that my proposal
the best, only because it is mine, but that it is necessary because
is the minimum of the minimum.
If you reject a
plan that between life and death chooses life and fail
to offer anything to replace it - what does that mean? The lack of
political will to protect Serbs is one of the most ignominious
consequences of everything that has been happening in the last ten
years. Now we are at the very end of the spiral of ethnic fragmentation
and hatred. While in Bosnia violence ended after the arrival of the
International Forces, in Kosovo the worst wave of ethnic cleansing
started with the arrival of the International Forces. That is a paradox.
Would the negotiating
position of Kosovo Serbs be "stronger" if they
enjoyed support of a state?
That is an essential
condition. Because of that we stated that every
solution of the status of Kosovo while Milosevic is in power would be
against the Serb interest. Alpha and omega of every "calming of
situation" in this region is the change of the regime in Serbia.
Milosevic is in power, everything done in Kosovo can be justified as
done in order to reduce his influence in the province, whereby it
automatically gains legitimacy in the international circles. Since we
cannot get anything from Milosevic we are talking with those who are
facto in power in the province. That is the sad destiny of Kosovo Serbs.
Our people must learn one thing: the fact that someone is the president
of a state does not mean that he is prepared to defend its interests.
Quite frequently in history, rulers of various states did everything
their power to destroy and weaken those states, which is also the case
in our country.
There is a habit
in our country to believe that the state is something
above politics, as it were some sort of a perpetual mover that
rejuvenates itself, while politics is something bad and base. We must
learn that a state is based on stable institutions which can be built
only by a democratic political regime.
What is the role
of the Serbian opposition in all of that?
In the Serb National
Council there are representatives of the Democratic
Party of Serbia, the Serb Renewal Movement, the Democratic Party and
supporters of other smaller opposition parties. Kosovo Serbs want as
close as possible links with Serbia proper, but they do not want to
close links with the Milosevic regime. If we make a clear distinction
than perhaps we would be able to find some acceptable means of
coexistence, acceptable for the rest of the world as well. The biggest
problem in Kosovo is the problem of ethnic minorities, but it is first
necessary to clarify the confusion regarding the terminology in that
area. Four wars were waged in the Balkans because of the terms minority
and majority. If you are a minority that means that you live in somebody
else's state which is not yours in the ethnic sense. In the American
society minority groups are not ethnic groups but the term has a
completely different meaning. On the other hand, in this region the
minority does not signify a numerical qualifier but a descriptor for
status within a society. Because of that we insisted on the term ethnic
community so that no one ends up a minority in Kosovo.
In Kosovo that
is very important, because otherwise if [the ethnic
Albanians are successful] in reducing the number of Serbs below five
percent then Serbs will get minority rights, such as the right to have
their folk dancing societies and attend school in Serb language once
week, as in Sweden for example. That means that you live in somebody
else's state. Also, I have doubts that the Albanian society in Kosovo,
which is 90 percent rural, is capable of developing better and efficient
democratic institutions that would adequately protect numerically
inferior ethnic communities. If the international community has so far
in the Balkans in every instance regarding the Serb question applied
specific solutions, in violation of accepted international laws and
norms, why shouldn't it do the same in Kosovo where for the first time
it is in the position to protect Serbs? Most of Kosovo Serbs haven't
participated in any manner in the violence against Albanians.
Is this an example,
as some claim, of double standards used by the West,
which earlier this year bombed FRY because of the humanitarian
catastrophe of Kosovo Albanians?
The NATO bombardment
and the action initiated by the USA in full
cooperation with Europe was a complete fiasco. All of them are now
feeling very bad because of that but do not intend to abandon their
concept. An American participant of the meeting in Sofia told me, I
quote: "The International Community will insist on the multiethnic
concept of Kosovo, on common institutions regardless of ethnicity of
their members, even if that means that all Serbs leave the province".
That is a nonsense, which points at a contradiction in terms. In America
all citizens accept a given framework, that all of them are Americans
regardless of their ethnic origin and separate identities, while in
Kosovo the idea of a single Kosovo identity only suits Kosovo Albanians.
That provides them with an acceptable tool for the forced assimilation
of non-Albanians and that is why that concept has so skillfully been
imposed on the International Community - the people of Kosovo shall
its own decisions. Which people of Kosovo?
The basic problem
in the Kosovo crisis is the concept of a single Kosovo
nation that has been erroneously interpreted exactly by the West. They
have copied the "melting-pot" principle from the United States
for example, where the term nationality signifies citizenship, while
this region it signifies ethnicity. On several occasions we explained
Kouchner that there is no Kosovo nation, that Kosovars are ethnic
Albanians from Kosovo and that when he says "Kosovar Serbs"
literally means Albanian Serbs. Serbs in Kosovo refer to themselves
Kosovci [pronounced Kosovtsy]. The term "Kosovo nation", although
skillfully and efficiently used by the Albanians in their propaganda,
does not exist. We demand that instead the term peoples of Kosovo be
used, since it refers to peoples who belong to different cultures, speak
different languages, have different traditions, have opposing
interpretations of history and visions of the future. In Kosovo, unlike
in Bosnia-Hercegovina, there are no mixed marriages.
are absolute and total. Coexistence in Kosovo always
existed under threat of force and one side has always felt discriminated
or was truly discriminated in one manner of another. On the other hand
the conflict in Kosovo has been structured as a conflict for the full
and undivided domination of one side over a certain territory and in
that sense the Albanian nationalism has turned out to be successful.
That is a diaspora type of nationalism, which legitimizes its claim
a certain territory by establishing an ethnic majority in it over time.
In the Balkans many ethnic groups share the proverb: "The mountain
belongs to those who own the sheep". The application of that model
Kosovo has given fantastic results.
does not pay his debts"
Dusan Batakovic (1957) works in the History Institute of the Serbian
Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the author of numerous articles
about the history of Serbs and the Balkans in which he mostly deals
the history of the southern Serbian province and its contemporary
consequences ("Contemporaries about Kosovo", "The Battle
"The Decani Question", "Kosovo and Metohija in Serb History",
and Metohija in Serb-Albanian relations"...). He is among the most
serious critics of the Tito's era. "As far as Tito is concerned
quote Churchill who, after their meeting in Bari said: 'He left as a
gambler who did not pay his debts'. A lot of what happened after 1980
with Yugoslavia has to do with Tito's debts. Because of the debts he
left behind, partly through the political system and partly through
enormous financial obligations, devil came to pick up its due.
Everything has been destroyed in the senseless wars during the last
TORONTO SUN, Sunday, January 30, 2000
Kosovo's Serbs live in fear
By MATTHEW FISHER
Sun's Columnist at Large
-- It was midnight, snowing like crazy and about -15C, when I emerged
from a house in a narrow side street perhaps 10 minutes by foot from
the centre of town.
As they had been
when I had arrived at the house a couple of hours earlier, three soldiers
from the Royal Green Jackets stood silent watch in a tiny log guardhouse
in the side street. Stopping to say hello, I asked the young lads from
England what they were doing in such a dark, obscure, frozen corner
of Kosovo's capital. Pointing toward a house across from the one I had
visiting, one of the Green Jackets said they and others in their regiment
were posted here 24 hours a day to prevent Albanians from killing an
elderly Serbian woman who lived there.
Pointing to the
house I had just come out of, I told the soldiers, to their evident
surprise, that there was an elderly Serbian woman cowering in fear there,
too, and that her husband had been shot dead by three Albanian teenagers
NATO guesses there
are about 2,000 Serbs trapped in Pristina. Most are elderly and were
born in Kosovo. With nowhere else to go, they live in seclusion in ones
and twos all over the city.
Serbia has made
it clear Kosovar Serbs are unwelcome there. Thanks to communism, four
wars and a grotesquely corrupt and inefficient economy, Serbia's resources
are stretched far too thin as it is. Anyway, to openly welcome Serbs
from Kosovo would undermine Serbia's increasingly shaky
claim on the renegade province and would be a reminder of its humiliating
surrender to NATO last June.
Although it doesn't
want them, as many as 200,000 Kosovar Serbs have moved to Serbia since
British, Canadian and German troops entered Kosovo from Macedonia and
Albania on the morning of June 12. There were still thousands of Serbian
policemen and soldiers in Pristina on that day. They weren't up to much
except looking nasty and doing some last-minute looting and burning
of Albanian shops, mosques and apartments.
Once there were
It was still easy
to meet Serbs living in Pristina in the first few days after NATO forces
arrived. A group of Serbian men running a cafe (which, I later learned,
had been stolen from Albanians when they were forced into exile in Macedonia)
told me they would never leave the cradle of Serbian civilization and
it would be Serbian forever. A middle-aged woman selling cheese sandwiches
with her daughter from a kiosk was equally defiant. Her family was staying
The next morning
the cafe was shuttered and the kiosk had vanished.
A young Serbian
man told me later that day he intended to stay in Kosovo, as it was
his home and he had done nothing wrong. His Albanian neighbours readily
confirmed he was a good guy who had helped everyone as much as he dared
during Milosevic's reign of terror. They promised to stick with him
When I returned
to the courtyard 24 hours later the Serb was frantically throwing his
furniture into an old van with the help of his neighbours. Whether he
had been threatened or just felt threatened, I don't know. He said he
was in too much of a hurry to talk.
To be Serbian in
Pristina today is to face a death sentence. Only a few weeks ago three
Serbs were hauled out of their car in the capital and killed on the
Afraid to speak
The Serbian woman
I visited was being helped by Albanian friends and ventured outside
a little from time to time when the weather was a little more agreeable.
But she never spoke in the streets because her Albanian was accented
and to speak Serbian would put her life in even greater danger. No longer
able to get Serbian television, she made do with Serbian radio when
the electricity worked. She had no idea whether any of her Serbian friends
were still in Pristina. She was too afraid to try and find out.
The problem for
those few Serbs still living in Pristina is that KFOR, as the still
largely NATO force in Kosovo is now called, cannot possibly continue
to guard every Serbian home around the clock. Yet every foreign soldier,
every UN official, every Albanian and every Serbian in town knows that
the moment KFOR lets its guards down some Albanian will seize the chance
to murder his Serbian neighbour.
What goes around
has always come around in the Balkans. A lot of what went around last
winter and spring in Pristina is coming around this winter. The old
Serbian woman I spoke with is contemplating immigrating to Canada, where
her daughter is married to an Albanian.