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Yugoslavia: Human Rights Deteriorate

Washington, 26 February 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. State Department says the human-rights record of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia worsened significantly in 1998, with serious problems in many areas.

In its annual report on human-rights practices around the world, made public today, the State Department says the Federal and Serbian governments' record of cooperation with international human-rights and monitoring organizations was poor.

The report says the Federal government remained uncooperative with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and failed to meet its obligations under numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions. It adds that the government also failed to issue visas to allow investigators into Kosovo and did not transfer or facilitate the surrender to the tribunal of persons on Serbian territory indicted for war crimes or other crimes against humanity.

The report also says Serbian police committed numerous abuses, including extra-judicial killings, disappearances, torture, brutal beatings and arbitrary arrests and detentions. It adds that the judicial system is not independent of the government, does not ensure fair trials and suffers from corruption.

According to the report, the Yugoslav government severely restricts freedom of speech and the press and used "overbearing police intimidation" and economic pressure to tightly control the independent press and media. Freedom of worship is restricted, as is freedom of movement, the report says. The government also limits freedom of assembly and association.

The report also finds that discrimination and violence against women, ethnic Albanians, Muslims, Roma and other religious and ethnic minorities worsened during the year.

The report criticizes the Kosovo Liberation Army, saying they were also responsible for disappearances, abductions and even killings of Serb police, as well as Serb and Albanian civilians.

The report also included a section on Montenegro, calling it the only bright spot in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. But it warns that Montenegro's progress is in jeopardy due to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's attempts to undermine the republic's efforts at democratization.