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Yugoslavia: Amnesty International Says 'War Crimes' Committed In Kosovo

London, 30 June 1998 (RFE/RL) - The Secretary General of Amnesty International, Pierre Sane, says "war crimes" are being committed in Kosovo, where 300 people are reported to have died in violence involving Serbia forces and ethnic-Albanian separatists. He said the vast majority of victims in the southern Serbia province are ethnic Albanians, but Serb civilians are also suffering human rights abuses at the hands of armed ethnic Albanians.

Sane told a London news conference today that recent Serbian police and Yugoslav army operations, although ostensibly directed at the opposition Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), have led to hundreds of civilian deaths, many apparently as a result of deliberate attacks.

The London-based, Nobel Prize-winning rights-monitoring group estimates that the escalation of violence involving the Yugoslav army, Serbia police and the ethnic-Albanian UCK has resulted in about 45,000 people being displaced from their homes, while another 13,000 have fled to Montenego. A further 12,000 to 13,000 refugees are said to have fled to northern Albania.

Paul Miller, Amnesty's researcher on Yugoslavia, said there are similarities in Kosovo in recent months to the "ethnic cleansing" in Bosnia and Croatia in the early 90s.

Meanwhile, Serbian forces today continued for a second day their operation against ethnic-Albanian Kosovo separatists occupying a coal mine near Pristina. Associated Press and Reuters report Serbia police and armed civilians are blocking access to the besieged area around the Belacevac mine west of the provincial capital.

The agencies say small arms, heavy machine-gun fire and explosions could be heard from the vicinity of the mine from dawn through early afternoon, and that houses were burning in the nearby village of Hade.