Amnesty International today (11 August) raised fears for the safety of over 40 people facing eviction on 12 August from a French peacekeepers base in Kosovo, where they have been sheltering since Albanian demonstrators drove them from their homes in March this year. The members of the Ashkali ethnic minority, including elderly people and children, had their houses burned in the March violence in which 19 died and over 4,000 were made homeless across Kosovo.
The Ashkali have been offered temporary accommodation at the Motel Vicianum on the outskirts of their town Vucitrn/Vushtrri, from which they can see their burned-out homes. They are unwilling to go there as they still fear attack: none of those thought to be responsible for the March attacks in the town has been brought to justice, and the Ashkali received no protection from KFOR, UNMIK police, nor the Kosovo Police Service during the attacks.
Pressure has reportedly been exerted on the Ashkali to leave. A young woman who took her elderly mother to hospital was not allowed back into the camp, separating her from her own baby. Eventually the child was sent from the camp to join her mother and grandmother. Others who have required hospital treatment have not been allowed to return to the camp.
Had international peacekeepers not failed to protect the Ashkali from attacks in March, they might still have homes of their own. To turn these people away now, when their attackers are still at large, is to put their lives at risk again.
We implore the French authorities to offer protection to the Ashkalis until a safe alternative is found, or until a third country offers them protection as refugees.
A report from Amnesty International in July 2004 was highly critical of UNMIK and KFOR during the violence that swept the country in March. The Nato-led forces failed to provide security and safety to the persons and property of the Serb and Ashkali commuities and their units acted without coordination and with different interpretations of their mandates. The Kosovan Police Service (KPS) was also heavily criticised, with allegations of complicity and failure to prevent arson attacks on the Ashkali minority.
KFOR troops under German and French command failed to prevent attacks on the property of minorities during the March violence. Eye-witness accounts indicate that a mob marched straight past French KFOR base Belvedere to set fire to the Serbian village of Svinjare/Frashër on 18 March. Other reports state that German KFOR troops failed to intervene as demonstrators burned houses, a church and a monastery in Prizren on 17 and 18 March.
Amnesty International members are writing to the French authorities urging them to stop pressurising the Ashkali to leave the safety of the KFOR base. They are also calling on EU countries to provide refugee protection to the Ashkalis.
"what ARE they there for?" I'd like to know what the hell WE are doing...read, weep & write your Senators.
Joseph K. Grieboski
Founder and President
Institute on Religion and Public Policy
Hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
U.S. Policy toward Southeastern Europe:
Unfinished business in the Balkans
(Wednesday, July 14, 2004)
Thank you, Mister Chairman, for allowing me to give testimony on the Balkans.
We are faced today with renewed ethnic and religious violence in the Balkans, escalated to a level where even the international security forces are fired upon by those they were sent to protect. Ethnic cleansing has not stopped; the crime has merely taken on a new face. The formerly persecuted have become the persecutors. There is rampant destruction of religious and cultural sites, sites under the protection of the security forces who have abandoned their task. Citizens are still denied education and health care, and many are confined to ghettos.
1999 marked the first time NATO forces bombed a sovereign European nation. Wallowing in the grey areas surrounding Article II (4) of the United Nations Charter, NATO forces intervened to enforce negotiations of Kosovo Albanian autonomy over the region in Serbia-Montenegro after an overzealous military action by the Serbian government.
Following the bombing campaigns, the United Nations, through Security Council Resolution 1244, mandated the international police force, KFOR, and the administrative organization, UNMIK. Their duties, outlined under the resolution, were to establish stability in Kosovo, protect all of the Kosovo residents and deter renewed hostilities, to see for the return of all former Kosovo inhabitants displaced by the initial conflict, and the protection of infrastructure and all religious property, including that of the ethnic Serbs. Mr. Chairman, the KFOR and UNMIK forces have been far from successful on all accounts.
This past March, two United Nations policemen were shot dead while traveling in a clearly marked Police car. This was the first time since NATO intervention that troops sent to keep the peace were specifically targeted in the province of Kosovo. This shooting came after the emergency deployment of extra police officers to handle the largest amount of ethnic violence since 1999: 28 murders in one month.
The police forces were completely unprepared for the unrest, facing automatic weapons and explosives with rubber bullets and crowd control gear. On March 18th, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan noted how fragile the situation remains, five years after United Nations intervention and administration began.
At least 60,000 Albanians participated in the March violence which took place in each of the administrative zones in Kosovo simultaneously, which points to careful planning by the Kosovo Albanian leadership. This hardly reflects fair and unbiased institutions capable of governance. This operation of violence was conducted to cleanse the Serbs and non-Albanian minorities from their homes with minimum casualties but extreme psychological and material damage. They succeeded. While condemned as ethnic violence, no action has been taken. With such a blatant hand in organization and coordination, any submission to their demands sends a clear message to the world that the international community rewards violence and acts of terror.
Sadly, the March fighting was not the first violence since KFOR intervention. Between June 1999 and August 2003, 1,200 civilian casualties were reported by KFOR. And even these numbers does not take into account those wounded or abducted. Nor does it represent the ethnic disparity of those harmed. The major ethnicities in Kosovo are Serbs and Albanians; of which, reportedly 1000 of the deaths were ethnic Serbs. The Serbian Government reports for the same period that 2,370 people have been murdered and another 3,455 are missing and presumed dead. To date, 271 mass-graves containing non-Albanian bodies have been discovered.
The number of Kosovo refugees resettled is also misleading. Despite UNMIKs touted success at rebuilding infrastructure in Kosovo, the ethnic breakdown is not reported, and for good reason. Of the nearly one million Kosovo Albanians displaced by Serb forces, most have been resettled by the international community. The internationally mandated resettlement of Kosovo Albanians has reached a point where the border with Albania has become so porous, that many "re-entrants" are not returning refugees at all, but first time settlers from Albania. Of the Kosovo Serbs displaced by the violence and international forces and the new ethnic violence the number of refugees has reached over 250,000 and is climbing. This is a clear double standard that looks as if the international community is punishing the ethnic Serbs for the crimes of an extremist leader.
In the rare cases where Kosovo Serb refugees do succeed in returning, they most likely find squatters in their homes and lands. It has become commonplace that after proof of ownership by the ethnic Serb that the home is burned down by the squatters moving out.
Ethnic Serbs that remain in Kosovo are denied treatment from hospitals, denied construction of schools, and are inflicted with increasingly rigid travel restrictions, effectively confining them to Serbian ghettos. This practice is promoted by the United Nations peacekeeping force, because the policy of separation and isolation does indeed lend to a lack of violence. But a peace by forced oppression is no peace at all.
The destruction of churches is one of the more appalling aspects of the destruction, since the churches in question are not new facilities, but monasteries and chapels reaching over 800 years of age. These are some of the oldest Orthodox churches in the world some of their most sacred sites destroyed due to their being culturally Christian. Gravestones are toppled and cracked, icons are defaced and stolen, and in several cases, churches have had the unfortunate luck to "step on a land mine," as quoted from an Albanian witness to the destruction of one church. While Muslim religious facilities have been rebuilt for the Kosovo Albanians and many new mosques have been built by so-called Islamic humanitarian agencies, it stands as a fact that no Christian churches have been rebuilt since 1999.
In addition to the destruction, ethnic Serbs are unable to travel to mass if it is beyond the safe areas of their ghettos due to the limitation of movement. The Bishop of Kosovo-Metohija is forced to travel under UN troop protection in order to visit the churches in his diocese out of fear for his safety. It has become common practice for Ethnic Albanians to buy territory along the roads between the ethnic Serbian villages in order to facilitate the concentration of the Kosovo Serbs and to limit their freedom of movement.
In a meeting with the Albanian government in Tirane on November 6, 2003, US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman made a statement that left the wide perception that we were pursuing a referendum on self-determination in Kosovo. Two weeks ago, the Kosovo Parliament without the presence of any Serb members adopted constitutional changes allowing them the right to call for such a referendum, which directly conflicts with both their own constitution and Resolution 1244, both of which require any constitutional changes be made solely by the United Nations.
Following the March campaign of violence, the government of Serbia proposed a plan which promotes the decentralization of public life, as Kosovos Albanian population is clearly unwilling to establish a multiethnic society or governmental structure. The Belgrade Plan promotes the non-Albanian minorities through a dual protection apparatus where the Serbs are given both territorial and cultural autonomy, with religious sites under special protection. As of today, not a single Serbian item has made it onto the Kosovo Assemblys agenda since its inception.
Aside from legality, no referendum in Kosovos current situation would reflect the will of the inhabitants of Kosovo. As I mentioned above, there remains a large Kosovo Serb refugee diaspora. Taking into account the current oppression of the Kosovo Serbs that remain in Kosovo, I hardly believe their full participation in the political process would be easy, or even possible.
It is frightening to note the lack of effort to build a multi-ethnic, pluralist society where ethnicity or religion is not important and where peace has more meaning than the absence of a state of war. We have seen far more ethnic cleansing take place under the monitoring of NATO and UNMIK than what we entered to stop in the first place. But, by the fact alone that this round of ethnic cleansing has been under the watchful eyes of the United Nations and NATO, this is an appalling application of force, a shattering blow to international law, and completely devoid of any conception of justice. .
It is with this in mind that I make the following recommendations:
1. End immediately the double standard applied to Kosovo Serbs;
2. Condemn immediately the Kosovo Authoritys changing of the Constitution in order to allow for a referendum on independence;
3. Increase UN troops in the Kosovo region, armed with more than rubber bullets and stun grenades;
4. Rebuild Christian Religious sites;
5. Resettle Kosovos displaced refugee population (Serbs, Jews, Roma, Bosniaks, Ashkalis, Turks, and Montenegrins);
6. Pursue and prosecute all those who have committed acts of violence and destruction of property in Kosovo.
Neither the international community nor we gathered here today can address the prospect of the future of Kosovo until the ethnic cleansing of Kosovos Serbs and minority populations is stopped. To even think of discussing a final status, issues of religious liberty and ethnic cohabitation must be resolved. We fought a war in order to enforce the values of plurality, cooperation, and human rights. To tolerate what is happening in Kosovo today betrays our morals, our national identity, and our international legitimacy. The first step to be taken in this process, of supreme importance, is to send a loud and clear message that violence can not and will not be rewarded politically. Thank you
*****U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee*****
Responsible for the foreign policy activities of the U.S. Senate; evaluate all treaties with foreign governments; approve all diplomatic nominations; and write legislation pertaining to U.S. foreign policy, the State Department, Foreign Assistance programs, and many associated topics.
Chairman, Richard G. Lugar (R)
Ranking Member, Joseph R. Biden (D)
Chuck Hagel, Nebraska
Lincoln Chafee, Rhode Island
George Allen, Virginia
Sam Brownback, Kansas (God bless you, Sam)
Michael Enzi, Wyoming
George V. Voinovich, Ohio
Lamar Alexander, Tennessee
Norm Coleman, Minnesota
John E. Sununu, New Hampshire
Paul S. Sarbanes, Maryland
Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut
JOHN F. KERRY, Massachusetts (ALBANIAN TERRORIST SUPPORTER)
Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin
Barbara Boxer, California
Bill Nelson, Florida
John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia
Jon S. Corzine, New Jersey
68 pages report - Failure to Protect: Anti-Minority Violence in Kosovo March 2004"
Human Rights Watch July 2004 Vol. 16 No. 6 (D)http://hrw.org/reports/2004/kosovo0704/
- html version at HRW Web Site
UNMIK Police Commissioner on Kosovo
"During my 28 years of police work, I have never seen events such as those that occurred in Kosovo on 17 March," stated UNMIK Police Commissioner Stefan Feller. Answering to questions on police mistakes during the March violence, he told the press conference in Pristina that the Police had done everything it could under the circumstances. Feller has confirmed that he is leaving Kosovo as his term has finished.