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Yugoslavia: Amnesty Says Kosovo Agreement Should Address Human Rights

  • Ben Partridge

London, 15 October 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Amnesty International says the announcement of a possible resolution of the Kosovo crisis must be backed up with an agenda which spells out firm commitments to the protection of human rights.

Amnesty issued a statement late yesterday which says: "Human rights protection and promotion must drive all current efforts towards a settlement of the critical situation" in the southern Serb province.

The statement follows the announcement that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic had agreed to international surveillance of Kosovo as part of a deal to avoid NATO air strikes. The strikes had been threatened by western nations in an effort to end attacks by Serb security forces on ethnic-Albanian civilians.

The Amnesty statement said the agreement addresses only the security and political aspects of the Kosovo crisis.

It says plans to send 2,000 monitors to Kosovo from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) cannot on their own ensure the safety of the thousands of ethnic-Albanian refugees displaced by the conflict. Nor, it says, will the agreement ensure the safety of others at risk, such as detainees.

Amnesty says human rights monitors with a clear mandate independent of any political process must be deployed alongside the OSCE monitors. It says they are needed "to monitor the situation of displaced persons and ensure that any returns take place in safety and dignity."

Amnesty also said there is a need to provide information about, and access to, detainees from Kosovo who are at risk of torture and ill-treatment, and information about those reported "disappeared" or "missing".

It emphasized the need for Belgrade authorities to allow the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia full and unimpeded access to Kosovo. It also stressed the need to protect the safety of journalists and human rights activists and to guarantee that non-governmental organizations and the independent media are able to function without interference.

Amnesty also stressed the long-term need to retrain and restructure Serbian police. Finally, it stressed the need for civilians who have had their houses or property deliberately destroyed during the conflict to be able to seek reparation, including compensation for reconstruction.