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Balkan Report: December 7, 1999

7 December 1999, Volume 3, Number 52

The Pattern And Legacy Of Kosova Violence. Hundreds of atrocities, against both ethnic Albanians and ethnic Serbs, have been recorded by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The group released details of the human rights abuses today in a two-volume book titled "Kosovo--As Seen, As Told."

Human rights tragedies such as the situation in Kosova shock the world when they happen--and then the details are often forgotten. But now, the OSCE has compiled a permanent record of many of the atrocities that took place in Kosova before, during, and after the fighting.

In 760 pages, the report describes individual and mass killings, the rape of women and girls, the killing of children, and the looting and burning of homes and shops. Unlike many such reports that give a general overview of a situation, this one is very specific--scores of towns and villages are named along with details of incidents that took place there.

However, none of the victims or perpetrators are identified by name. The OSCE says it did not wish to expose the victims to retaliation for having spoken out, while it wanted to protect the privacy of rape victims. The names of the alleged perpetrators were not revealed for legal reasons, but they have been passed on to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

The reports are almost all from victims or eyewitnesses. The sheer number of allegations made it impossible for the OSCE to investigate them all thoroughly, but the group did try to obtain supporting evidence from other sources, including medical authorities.

An OSCE human rights officer, Ian Gorvin, says the organization tried to be balanced in its reporting. He says the report describes both human rights abuses committed by Serbian forces before and during the NATO bombing campaign and also the revenge now being taken by ethnic Albanians on the few Serbs remaining. He noted that "there is data concerning violation of the rights of Kosovar Albanians by Serbian and Yugoslav forces, but equally there is data about violations of the rights of Serbs and also of Albanians by the Kosova Liberation Army" (UCK). The study adds, however, that "the sheer scale and the involvement of the [Serbian] state make the [violence carried out by Serbian forces] of a structurally different order" than that committed by Albanians.

The OSCE report is in two volumes. Volume One details human rights violations in Kosova between December 1998 and March 1999, when the NATO bombing began. It also contains many reports of crimes said to have been carried out by Serbian military and paramilitary forces during the 78-day NATO bombing campaign that ended in June. The convoys carrying ethnic Albanians to Macedonia and Albania were often raided by Serbian forces, who survivors said committed murder and rape and looted the refugees' few possessions.

Volume One also contains a breakdown of events in each of Kosova's 29 municipalities, mostly during the bombing campaign. The report gives eyewitness accounts of Serbian activity in nearly 300 towns, villages, and communities. One recurring theme is the pressure applied to many ethnic Albanians to pay large sums of money in German marks to secure their own release or for the release of a son. In several cases, the individual was killed even after ransom money was paid.

Volume Two deals with the period after NATO troops moved into Kosova following the bombing campaign. Much of it deals with the revenge taken by ethnic Albanians on Serbs and Roma, and the political role of the now-disbanded UCK.

The OSCE says it documented 750 cases of human rights violations in the period from June 14 to October 31 and investigations are continuing into hundreds more.

The report says the hatred of the ethnic Albanians and their desire for revenge created the climate in which the vast majority of human rights violations are now taking place. One human rights investigator says the province is completely polarized: "The bitterness in the ethnic Albanian population about their past treatment has led to a situation where the entire remaining Kosovo Serb population is now seen as a target for Kosovo Albanians."

The report contains pages of descriptions of the abduction of Serbian men and boys, the burning of property, and discrimination against ethnic Serbs, including the elderly and children. The story is told in separate sections on the situation in each of the five regional areas of Kosova.

Volume Two also examines the emergence of rival political factions in Kosova--particularly the UCK--and the tensions this has provoked in the ethnic-Albanian community.

In the report's words: "The rights of Kosovo Albanians to freedom of association, expression, thought, and religion have all been challenged by other Kosovo Albanians."

The OSCE report notes the political ambitions of the UCK, which has imposed itself as a provisional government in many communities. It also notes that in many cases those who repress the Serbian population claim to be members of the UCK or associated with it. The report acknowledges that the highest levels of the former UCK leadership have publicly distanced themselves from any connection of their members to violent disturbances. The UCK leadership says criminal elements who were never part of the UCK are now exploiting the UCK name for their own purposes.

The two volumes that make up this massive report on human rights violations will be sent to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia to assist in the prosecution of those responsible for atrocities. The OSCE will provide the court with its list of those believed to be responsible for murders, rapes, beatings, and abductions.

The former chief prosecutor of the tribunal, Justice Louise Arbour, sums up the OSCE's hopes for the report in a foreword. Describing the report as a reliable data base, she says it will assist those trying to establish peace and justice in Kosova. (Roland Eggleston)

Balkan Foreign Ministers Meet In Bucharest. The foreign ministers of the Southeastern Europe Cooperation Group, meeting in Bucharest on 2 December, called for the rapid restoration of democracy and human and minority rights in Yugoslavia and expressed concern over continuing acts of intolerance in Kosova, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Absent from that meeting was Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic, who had not received an invitation to attend because a consensus could not have been reached in his presence, according to Romanian Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu.

The chief diplomats of Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania, and Turkey, along with a Greek deputy foreign minister, adopted a joint declaration calling for rapid implementation of the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe and for a charter on good neighborly relations to be signed at a summit in Bucharest in February. The meeting was also attended by representatives of 22 other countries. (Michael Shafir)

Holiday Shopping Tip. Looking for a present for someone special? Perhaps for that Balkan expert on your list? AP reports that you need look no further than beautiful downtown Tirana. There the enterprising merchants are selling wristwatches with a portrait of former communist dictator Enver Hoxha, complete with a red star. This novel gift will set you back a mere 130 lek, or $1.50.

And where are these clever timepieces made? Might they come from a China anxious to kindle nostalgia for their sometime ally as a counterweight to Taiwan's checkbook diplomacy? No--a China whose leaders sing karaoke in public has certainly gone too far from the early 1970s for that. The watches come from another country that, like China, does not hesitate to employ political violence against its citizens, and which is politically more orthodox than the "red capitalists" of Peking.

That country is none other than Belarus. Besides tractors it is also a traditional producer of watches. Now the factory in Minsk is apparently looking for imaginative new marketing concepts. As they say in German, "Ideen muss man haben." (Patrick Moore)

Quotations Of The Week. "It is being said that the Kosovo Liberation Army has been disarmed and that the Flag Day celebration was magnificent, although on that day all possible weapons and arms were shot off. Is it a magnificent celebration when Albanians in the streets kill a Serb and beat up two helpless women in the presence of 40,000 NATO soldiers?" -- Serbian Orthodox Bishop Artemije, quoted by AP on 2 December.

We "cannot say today that the international presence in Kosovo is successful.... NATO carried out an aggression against Yugoslavia and usurped the right to establish a new world order." -- Head of the Russian Defense Ministry's International Cooperation Department, Leonid Ivashov, at an Interfax press conference on 3 December.

"I asked for funds. All we have to date are pledges, but not a single dollar." -- KFOR commander General Klaus Reinhardt, in Brussels on 2 December.

"The [14 November Macedonian presidential] elections were correct but [the Social Democrats] wanted to ruin them. We'll come and vote every week if necessary." -- Alban Shaini, a 22-year-old customs service employee, after casting his vote in the mainly Albanian city of Tetovo. Quoted by Reuters on 5 December.

"It is going to be a dirty campaign." -- Croatian Social Democratic deputy chairman Zdravko Tomac, referring to the 3 January parliamentary elections. Quoted by Reuters on 5 December.

"We are all sick and tired of local politicians and officials who sign up to declaration after declaration and then fail actually to live up to the obligations." -- Simon Haselock, spokesman for Wolfgang Petritsch, in Sarajevo on 2 December. Haselock added that Petritsch has the power to sack local officials who block implementation of the Dayton peace agreement.