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Western Press Review: Outrage Grows Over Atrocities In Kosovo

By Ron Synovitz and Anthony Georgieff

Prague, 21 June 1999 (RFE/RL) - Western press commentary today focuses on the growing evidence of atrocities discovered in Kosovo now that Serb forces have left the province.


The Norwegian newspaper "Aftenposten" today runs an editorial that says: "The fact that terrible crimes were committed in Kosovo, the world had known all along. But with the gruesome television pictures now arriving [in the West] daily, we are learning of their nightmarish proportions. To understand what really happened in Kosovo it is important not only to the International War Crimes Tribunal, but also for the Serb people [to decide on] the legitimacy of [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic's regime. The latest criticism [of Milosevic] by the Orthodox Church has been muted, but it leads to an important conclusion for Serbs: that their country would be better served by someone else."

The editorial asks: "How large can the support for Milosevic be in Serbia? He has now lost his third war in a row, his country is being swamped by refugees, and revelations of terrible war crimes in Kosovo are flowing in every day. Many Serbs have refused to acknowledge the fact that most of the crimes [in Kosovo] have been committed by their compatriots. Serbs must understand that Milosevic is in no position to secure respect for Yugoslavia in today's Europe."


Fred Hiatt writes an opinion column in today's Washington Post that says the Serb people "first need to acknowledge the ugly truth [about] atrocities committed by [their] army and police, local Serb civilians and paramilitary thugs such as those led by the war criminal Arkan." Hiatt writes: "Every village, it seems, has its mass grave, its bloodstained cellars, its scraps of clothing and bones poking above hurriedly shoveled earth. One British official guesses that ten thousand [ethnic Albanians have been killed] but the estimate will probably rise."

Hiatt says: "It is important first to note [that these killings] were planned and deliberate. Slobodan Milosevic's campaign to force most ethnic Albanians to leave Kosovo was carefully organized, highly complex and astonishingly efficient. It relied on terror -- on 'demonstration killings' -- as a motivating force. But if Milosevic had a plan, that does not explain how he found so many people willing to carry it out. It starts, as always, with a dictatorship using a closed and manipulated press to dehumanize its intended victims."

Hiatt concludes: "A few brave and honest Serbs have spoken out, but Serbia's institutions work against such voices. The media are controlled. The Serbian Orthodox Church, even as it called for Milosevic's resignation last week, could summon indignation only about the Serbian exodus from Kosovo, not about the attrocities committed against the Muslim Kosovars. In the long run, it may take Serbian society a long time to recover since even the first step, acknowledgement of its crimes, seems so distant."


An editorial in the Washington Post says a "key to stemming vegeance [against Serbs] will be a legitimate investigation of war crimes. Slobodan Milosevic and his top lieutenants have been indicted already by the UN-sponsored war crimes tribunal in The Hague, but the list of their alleged offenses will lengthen now that investigators have access to the scene of the crime. The list of indictees should lengthen, too. From Serbian doctors who allowed critically ill patients to be carted out of hospitals in wheelbarrows, to policemen who tortured civilians, to higher-ranking officers who condoned executions, those who committed crimes against humanity should be named and held accountable."


From Pristina, Emma Daly writes a news analysis piece for Britain's "The Independent" newspaper today that is titled simply "War Crimes." Daly writes: "The torturers and the killers have fled back into Serbia, melting into the rank and file retreat. Once back in Serbia, the pariah state, they are beyond the grasp of the UN War Crimes Tribunal -- at least until Mr. Milosevic is ousted. Then his successor would have to choose to hand him and other accused criminals over the The Hague. Both propositions look highly unlikely, even in the medium term."

Daly concludes: "Tribunal staff are already overwhelmed by the speed at which reports of new atrocities are flooding in. They do not want to raise unrealistic hopes, knowing that among the universal misery, murder and injustice they will soon have to focus on those atrocities with the best chance of conviction. That can hardly be done without firing a sense of intense injustice. There is, thankfully, no time limit to an indictment. And the indicted will be safe only in a few rogue states which choose not to recognise the court in The Hague. Mr. Milosevic, of course, is unlikely to take any wild chances with overseas travel."


Today's Wall Street Journal Europe includes an opinion piece by Mirand Vickers on the future of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK). Vickers is an Albanian analyst for the International Crisis Group. He writes: "With the end of the war, the deep divisions within the Kosovar Albanian leadership that had been suppressed at Rambouillet are erupting again. Kosovar Albanians now have not one but two "governments" -- the Provisional Government of Kosovo, dominated by the UCK, based in Kosovo and led by Premier Hasim Thaci; and the Republic of Kosovo, dominated by the moderate Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), based in Germany and led by Premier Bujar Bukoshi and President Ibrahim Rugova."

Vickers continues: "The conflict between the LDK and UCK is more personal than ideological. UCK is clearly winning the political fight... But although [provisional] government positions have been reserved for LDK representatives, they have so far refused to accept the appointments. So while the Thaci government commands the respect and backing of the vast majority of Kosovar Albanians, die-hard LDK supporters continue to resist."

Vickers concludes that: "It is time for Kosovo's Albanians to demonstrate their political maturity by putting aside personal and ideological differences in order to create a unified political entity. Mr. Bukoshi should dissolve his government-in-exile, and the LDK's leaders should take up the positions set aside for them in the provisional government led by Mr Thaci."


An editorial in today's Financial Times of London focuses on the weekend summit in Cologne, Germany of G-7 leaders and Russia. The editorial says the summit was "useful" and that its tone was helped by the earlier breakthrough deal between Moscow and NATO on a peacekeeping role for Russian troops in Kosovo. The editorial says: "an agreement on Russian involvement in Kosovo peacekeeping meant that the summit in Colgne was N-O-T as frosty as it might have been. The thawing of top-level relations with Russia is clearly a gain for international stability."


Tony Judt, director of the Remarque Institute at New York University, examines the long-term impact of the Kosovo crisis on European Union policies. In an opinion piece for today's New York Times, Judt says: "The urgent lesson of Kosovo is the need to replace the protectionist, inward-looking economic union of prosperous Western Europe with a genuine all-European political project. During the last 10 years, the EU has been devoted to a self-serving obsession with furthering institutional integration. What is needed, now more than ever, is rapid expansion of the basic institutions of the EU into Eastern and Southeastern Europe. A democratic Serbia will not happen without the prospect of EU membership. Macedonia, Romania and the Baltics would be more stable inside Europe than outside it. Such a strategy of rapid European inclusion would mean transferring eastward some of the money that the EU now pays out to its own prosperous citizens. But that beats spending the same money on better weapons systems."