Skip to comments.Cultural Genocide in Kosovo
Posted on 08/26/2004 9:17:58 AM PDT by Jane_N
Arson and vandalism after 17th March, 2004
Introduction and a precedent for violence
On 17th March, 2004, rioting spread across the UN-administered province of Kosovo. At least nineteen people, mainly Serbs trapped in village ghettoes since June, 1999, were murdered. Many Serb houses were damaged or destroyed by fire. A number of important historical monuments also came under attack. BHHRG has sent observers to Kosovo on numerous occasions since the end of the NATO air war in June, 1999. In March 2003, the Group had warned that the steady withdrawal of KFOR troops from Serb enclaves left both the ghettoised population and their cultural monuments at risk if the Albanian majority turned on them. At that time, a Swedish KFOR contingent had pulled its tanks away from the world famous orthodox monastery at Graèanica outside Pritina.
Ostensibly, the violence broke out when local Albanians were enraged by reports that three teenage boys had been chased to their deaths in the River Ibar by a gang of Serbs accompanied by savage dogs. According to the initial reports, these events took place near the ethnically-divided town of Kosovska Mitrovica in the north of the province which had been a flashpoint for violence in the past. The truth of the claims about the three Albanian boys was disputed and no universally accepted version of the events sparking the rioting has emerged since. It has even been alleged that the entire story was untrue and that no such incident took place. In other words, black propaganda may have been spread to provoke the violence and vandalism which followed the broadcasting of the news of the three boys deaths by Kosova television and radio stations. For instance by mid-July, a BBC radio documentary described the claims that Serbs had drowned the boys as now widely discredited.
Coincidence or Cause?
It may be that the violence was a spontaneous outburst of inter-ethnic hatred. Perhaps
Albanians in Kosovo only needed to hear media reports or rumours of a Serb atrocity to embark on their own violent spree. However, some observers on the ground questioned the idea that mobs of Albanians had spontaneously gathered across the province at the drop of a hat and simultaneously set about attacking Serb ghettoes across Kosovo. For instance, it was reported that A senior international United Nations police official said: "The situation is not under control. This is planned, co-ordinated, one-way violence from the Albanians against the Serbs. It is spreading and has been brewing for the past week. Apparently he added, "Nothing in Kosovo happens spontaneously." This official, UN police spokesman, Derek Chappell, was transferred from his post days later without any reason being given.
Although the Western media, egged on by the OSCE communications desk in Pristina emphasised the alleged incident with the three boys and the dogs as the cause of the rioting, simultaneously a highly-sensitive extradition was underway from Kosovo to Macedonia. On the same day as the disorders broke out, it was reported that a local Macedonian-born Kosovo Liberation Army commandant, Xhemail Iseni , was to be deported to Macedonia where he had been convicted in December, 2003, of a variety of offences including sabotage of the Skopje-Belgrade railway line. Mr Iseni used the notorious nom de guerre, Jamie Shea in honour of the NATO spokesman who became briefly famous in 1999 for his frequently inaccurate briefings during the 78-day air war. Iseni was an infamous figure in the guerrilla wars waged by the KLA against the Serbs in 1998-99 and later by the NLA against the Macedonians in 2001.
Iseni and others had been convicted by a court in Kumanovo for planting a bomb on the railway line near Vaksince in Macedonia. By an ironic coincidence, the crime took place on 17th March, 2003, exactly one year to the day before the rioting in Kosovo. On 2nd December, 2003, he was sentenced to seven years imprisonment.  However, Iseni managed to escape from the jurisdiction of the authorities in Macedonia and flee to Kosovo where he handed himself in to the US military, with whom he had cooperated in the past. He was held at the US base Camp Bondsteel. On Friday, 12th March 2004, the authorities in Kosovo announced that Mr. Iseni would be extradited to Macedonia. The rioting broke out 5 days later. After the situation calmed down , on 30th April, after requests for his extradition from the authorities in Macedonia, Jamie Shea and an accomplice were ferried by US helicopter to Skopje. Maybe Mr Isenis deportation was just a coincidence and had nothing to do with the outbreak of disorder but in the past a similar case had been conflated with another child murder.
Previous attempts to return ethnic Albanians accused of mafia crimes in Macedonia to stand trial or complete their sentences there had caused trouble in Kosovo. Most notoriously, four years earlier another child murder case had been politicised by Albanian supporters of the ostensibly defunct KLA to pressure the US military to reverse the decision to extradite a senior KLA commandant wanted for mafia-style crimes in Macedonia.
A Precedent: The Hasani Case in 2000
On 13th January, 2000, Frank Ronghi, a staff sergeant in the 82nd Airborne division in Kosovo apparently raped and murdered an eleven year old girl, Merita Shabiu, in Vitina. Ronghis unit had already earned a reputation for its heavy-handed methods while interrogating Albanians suspected of violence against Serbs or black market activities. Lieutenant- General Riccardo Sanchez, the US commander in Kosovo, had reproved Ronghis commanding officer:
Youre a seasoned commander and you could have and should known what was going on in your unit and tried to prevent it.
General Sanchez had no doubts where command responsibility lay when he was in charge of US forces in Kosovo four years ago. According to the Washington Posts defence reporter, Dana Priest, in her book, The Mission, extolling the American militarys role in the post-Cold War world, Sanchez was responding to a litany of charges of brutality culminating in the rape and murder of the eleven year old Kosovan girl in January, 2000. Much of the routine beating of detainees to get information and the occasional minor sexual assaults reported to Sanchez then sound like a preview of the Abu Ghraib charges today. Yet, apart from the murder charge, they got little or no publicity outside Kosovo.
Although Dana Priests book incidentally records routine brutality towards suspects in Kosovo during General Sanchezs command, what is of immediate significance here is the fact that immediately before the rape and murder of Merita Shabiu, Ronghi's unit had arrested a leading former member of the KLA and alleged local mafia boss, Xhavit Hasani. What followed Hasani's arrest on racketeering related charges revealed a lot about the nature of the relations between liberator-occupiers in Kosovo and the local Albanian politico-military elite.
Priest claims that: Hasanis arrest created a significant crisis for the United States and UNMIK. Both feared that Hasanis detention would provoke a violent retaliation by Albanian rebels against KFOR troops throughout the province. It is striking how it was assumed that Hasanis arrest would trigger Kosovo-wide trouble. Could such universal trouble be spontaneous? Priest reports that back in 2000 After several weeks, Brigadier General Sanchez wanted to release Hasani.because of mass protests among the local Albanians ostensibly about the murdered girl.
Another KLA commandant, Skender Habibi, came to General Sanchez and told him, We can make this all go away if you release our compatriot, Mr Xhavit Hasani! He added, The family will not blame KFOR. In other words, the girls murder could be written off if the US army released a KLA man involved in organised crime. Despite General Sanchezs reported desire to deal with the former KLA over the Hasani case, the UN refused to cave in. Priest reports, In March, 2000, the UN finally handed Xhavit Hasani over to authorities in Skopje, Macedonia. His imprisonment there shook the Macedonian government. Albanians in Kosovo threw up a series of roadblocks. KLA gunmen in Macedonia kidnapped 4 Macedonian soldiers and as Priest reports in a secret deal with the Macedonian authorities, the masked men exchanged the soldiers for Hassani who returned in triumph to Kosovo.
The importance of this episode is that it reveals - as only a privileged US insider-reporter could - the behind-the-scenes wheeler-dealing between para-military mafiosi, KFOR and UN authorities (UNMiK). Maybe in four years time, another enterprising journalist will publish an expose of the Jamie Shea case and any links it had to the politicisation of alleged child murder.
 Kosovo:The International Communitys Success-Story www.oscewatch.org 28th August, 2003
 See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/crossing_continents/3894531.stm
 See Matt Robinson & Christian Jennings, Kosovo clashes were planned, says UN official The Scotsman, http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=312192004 18th March, 2004
 UN transfers popular Kosovo police spokesman, Derek Chappell
 In fact, the OSCE produced a report in April 2004 criticising the Kosovo Albanian media for hyping up the atmosphere on 16th/17th March. While generally exculpating the print media, the reports account of the role played by local TV (including a station funded by the OSCE itself !) reveals the kinds of standards observed by the well-funded media outlets in the UN administered province. See, The Role of the Media in the March 2004 Events in Kosovo. http://www.osce.org/documents/rfm/2004/04/2695_en.pdf
 See the NATO website http://www.afsouth.nato.int/organization/ NHQSKOPJE/ PRESS%20REVIEW/2003/December/Diem_02Dec03.htm which fails to comment on Mr Isenis appropriation of Jamie Sheas identity even though it mentions it.
 See Lobi (9th February, 2003) quoted at http://www.balkans.eu.org/article4108.html
 See NATOs press reports http://www.afsouth.nato.int/organization/ NHQSKOPJE/ PRESS%20REVIEW/_2004/april/diem_30April2004.htm
 See Dana Priest, The Mission. Waging War and Keeping Peace with Americas Military W.W. Norton: New York, 2003, pages 351-52
 See Priest, The Mission, 352.
 See Priest, The Mission, 351
 See Priest, The Mission, 361
>>>At least nineteen people, mainly Serbs trapped in village ghettoes since June, 1999, were murdered.
A correction: 11 Albanians and 8 Serbs lost their lives.
Well I guess it's a matter of who you prefer to believe/rely on, GeraldP, but before you go quoting the ICG maybe you should look at some of the people behind the organisation. It's simply time that the media look into the background of organisations that, sailing under the flag of convenience of prestigious independent NGO, actually play a semi-governmental, Western/US-biased role. Go to ICG's website and you will see who is behind it. Among the ICG board members we find:
Abramowitz helped Zbigniew Brzezinski open intelligence co-operation with China, helped deliver Stinger missiles to the Afghan mujahedin, became president of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace and helped formulate the new world order with the US as its only superpower and was the eminence grise for Madeleine Albright and acted as adviser to the Kosovo Albanians in Rambouillet.
Various about him here:
Well-known security policy hawk, affiliated with the Project for a New American Century, PNAC, and believed that huge stores of WMD would be found in Iraq. More about him here:
Formerly associated with Nixon and Reagan; a Hoover fellow since 1983, he is currently a member of the U.S. Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee. More:
Former chief prosecutor of ICTY, she indicted Milosevic, by no political coincidence, while the bombing of Yugoslavia happened; newly appointed head of the UNHCHR.
Here is how he explains on his website that he saved 1,5 million Kosovo-Albanians: "From 1997 through May of 2000, General Clark was NATO Supreme Allied Commander and Commander in Chief of the United States European Command. In this position, General Clark commanded Operation Allied Force, NATO's first major combat action, which saved 1,5 million Albanians from ethnic cleansing in Kosovo." Tried to become the next president of the United States
Writer and broadcaster, wrote "In all, some 200,000 people died in the Balkans on Europe's watch. It was America that stopped that. In 2001, it was only America that could have liberated Afghanistan from the Taliban. The results in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan are not perfect. But all those areas are better off than they were, and only the U.S. could have made those changes. Tony Blair understands that; many other European leaders do not." More here:
Former U.S. congressman, hard-line views on how to solve the Balkan problems and isolate Serbia further; like Adelman affiliated with PNAC. More about him here:
Among other security hard-liners on the ICG board could be mentioned Zbigniew Brzezinski and George Soros.
And in all fairness there are also non-hawks such as Oscar Arias Sanchez, Emma Bonino, Marika Fahlen, Mohamed Sahnoun, Salim A. Salim, Thorvald Stoltenberg, Shirley Williams as well as Martti Ahtisaari (chairman) and Gareth Evans, (President and CEO).
But they don't seem to have any balancing influence on the reports of the ICG.
Finally, go here http://www.crisisweb.org/home/index.cfm?id=1151&l=1 and see how ICG is funded - and draw your own conclusions about its independence given that 19 Western governments and their allies and some ten major US foundations plus mainly US citizens fund its work.
First the death toll I gave above is a fact, not the subject of any controversy.
As far as the report... Hey, I calls it like I sees it. If CNN has a better analysis than FNC (not usually the case), then I'm not going to be a demagogue about it. However, I am puzzled as to where your last post is going, since your main complaints seem to be that:
1) They are not pro-Serb enough
2) They are hawkish
3) They have close ties to current and former US policymakers/advisors
In an apparent attempt to discredit him, you posted this about William Shawcross:
>>>Writer and broadcaster, wrote "In all, some 200,000 people died in the Balkans on Europe's watch. It was America that stopped that. In 2001, it was only America that could have liberated Afghanistan from the Taliban. The results in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan are not perfect. But all those areas are better off than they were, and only the U.S. could have made those changes. Tony Blair understands that; many other European leaders do not." <<<
Now to me that is just beautiful, as was the title of one of his editorials in April "We're not Bush's poodles: we're fighting on the right side of history". This leads me inevitably to ask you a direct question:
Jane, seriously what are you doing here? From what I percieve of your geopolitical views, you are in full disagreement with everything modern conservative foreign policy stands for.
GeraldP, you are probably correct on this, but was it publicly ever reported how they died? Since the March events constituted a coordinated attack against UNMIK-protected Serb life, property & cultural heritage (this is not the subject of any controversy), one can plausibly assume that most of the Serb dead were murdered by the attackers, whereas most of the Albanian dead were killed by the defending UNMIK.
>>>one can plausibly assume that most of the Serb dead were murdered by the attackers, whereas most of the Albanian dead were killed by the defending UNMIK.
I agree with this assessment. The protests which really and truly had their roots in the discontent with UN administration, and the failure to make any sort of movement toward final status, were usurped by extremists and took a turn toward violence directed at the Serb minority. For the sake of Kosovo's own welfare, I hope this never occurs again. Personally I do not see it occurring again, however the status quo needs to improve for both concerned nationalities.
Kind of laying your cards on the table, aren't you?
what was the total dead Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Albanians from the year and half out til the NATO bombing? You have those numbers? Where do you get those numbers?
"Jane, seriously what are you doing here? From what I percieve of your geopolitical views, you are in full disagreement with everything modern conservative foreign policy stands for."
Actually GeraldP I find it rather amusing that you have come to that conclusion based on the only posts of mine that are of any interest to you, that is the ones concerning the Balkans and especially Kosovo. So what, I am against the action of the American government in the Balkans (which may I remind you was a DEMOCRAT government). Now how you come to your conclusion that I "disagree with everything modern conservative foreign policy stands for" just from my views on the Balkans quagmire is inconceivable to me.
Personally I think a person can be conservative without having to agree on everything that "modern conservatism" stands for. You see we (in Australian schools) were taught to be critical and analyze things and not just blindly accept things because it stands for something (as in not blindly accepting something because it is typically conservative). We prefer to see both sides of the story and before we decide which part to take we also consider who has the most to win with their version of the "truth".
Your logic in assessing my geopolitic views based on my opinion of American action in the Balkans (Kosovo) is to me rather hypocritical GeraldP. Going by your standards I can question your geopolitical views too going by your support for the bombing of Serbia during the Kosovo war (which was never officially declared a war by the way). I mean Clinton, Albright, Clarke, Holbrooke and so on were all representatives of the Democratic Party were they not?
Well Hoplite, what can I say, I AM and always will be against what has happened in Former Yugoslavia, especially in Kosovo. If I believe more in Bo Pellnäs (who has little to gain by criticising the Balkans interventions) and in the BHHRG than in the ICG (which is run by people with lots to gain by defending the Balkans) than that is totally up to me. It's called Freedom, you know.
>>>You see we (in Australian schools) were taught to be critical and analyze things and not just blindly accept things because it stands for something (as in not blindly accepting something because it is typically conservative).
Good for you. Maybe I'll send my kids to school in Australia, so they won't grow up to be dumb, mkay?
First of all note my characterization "modern conservative foreign policy". Your post above shows a disdain for US policy, and I am not just speaking about the Balkans here, though usually are. You throw sarcastic jibes at people who would defend the American fight against oppression in Iraq. Maybe to you that seems like a self-righteous evidence of "critical thinking", but to me it is only one more indication of a pacifist non-intervensionistic view of the world. Pacifist non-intervensionism or "sensitive" war-making is just not going to work, whether it be Saddam, Hutu death squads, or your buddy Milosevic.
Tell me Jane, who should give a flying rat's ass if some jack-ass restaurant owner in Timbuktu, is being convicted for selling drugs? People from Timbuktu might, but the rest of us are just not interested. And applying a bit of "critical thinking" one can see you're doing nothing more than trying to disseminate your Macedonian-inspired prejudice, so that you can somehow feel better and more justified in it.
Was the US justified in bombing Serbia? Damn right it was! It might have happened under Clinton's watch, but we were following up George H.W. Bush's threat to Serbia back in 1992 "You go into Kosov@, we go after you". Personally, I believe the stand should have been taken quite earlier. We should have stopped the Greater Serbia tank while it was still rolling through Bosnia. Had that happened, Kosov@ would never have happened. Does that agree with conservative foreign policy? No, it is only the right response of an American foreign policy. If Bush had been in power only one thing would have changed - Blair wouldn't have had to beg to put ground troops on the table, they would have already been there.
>>>We prefer to see both sides of the story and before we decide which part to take we also consider who has the most to win with their version of the "truth".
Good Lord! This along with your tagline "Truth like beauty is in the eyes of the beholder" is bound to be the most nonsensical post-modernistic bull I've ever come across. I object to this notion on both intellectual and moral grounds. There are few absolutes in this Universe and truth is one of them. Truth is absolutely nothing like beauty, it is not based on perceptions or tastes.
BTW, do you own a cat named Schrodinger?
And you are free to believe as much anti-American swill as you can stuff into your head - just as I am free to point out that that is exactly what you are doing.
BHHRG's only claim to fame is that they glommed onto the idea of associating themselves with the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, which explicitly dissociates itself from the BHHRG.
I suppose your confusion in regards to the Balkans is somewhat rooted in the way your chosen sources ignore the human rights abuses of the Milosevic regime in favor of nipping at America's heels for addressing those abuses.
According to information received by the IHF, the ethnic violence was fuelled by extremist organizations and criminal gangs in Kosovo, taking the still officially unclarified drowning of three Kosovo Albanian children (allegedly chased by Serbs into the river Ibar) as a pretext and trigger.
Inflammatory reporting about the drowning of the children in television and printed media is considered to have encouraged the violence as well. Intolerant speech towards minorities implying their second class status and creating an environment of national exclusivity for Kosovo Albanians, sometimes turning into instigating hate speech particularly against the Serbian minority, has been present to different but considerable degrees in most of the Kosovar media and public discourse since the end of the war in 1999."
Initial casualty estimates are virtually never correct, and more often than not higher than the final.
It's that both sides of the story thing that separates the real deal from pretenders like the BHHRG or Balkanpeace.org.