THE AUTUMN 2000
ELECTORAL VICTORY OF THE DEMOCRATIC OPPOSITION OF SERBIA (DOS) OPENED THE
DOOR FOR CHANGE IN SERBIAN AND YUGOSLAV SOCIETY AND A PEACEFUL RESOLUTION
TO LONG-STANDING CONFLICTS IN THE REGION. BUT LASTING STABILITY IN KOSOVO,
SERBIA, AND THE REGION WILL NOT BE ACHIEVED WITHOUT ACCOUNTABILITY FOR
PAST CRIMES COMMITTED BY ALL SIDES.
In 1989, when
the Serbian government revoked Kosovo's status as an autonomous province
within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, political analysts
and activists in that country and abroad anticipated deterioration. "A
lit fuse," "a powder keg," and other clichés were used to describe
the prospect of armed conflict in the province and the country.
The danger became more apparent with each passing
year, even though the wars that engulfed the other parts of the former
Yugoslavia did not spill over into Kosovo. Serbian government oppression
against Kosovar Albanians intensified and, seeing no potential for improvement,
the ethnic Albanians gradually lost faith in the nonviolent politics that
they had pursued since 1990. By late 1996, a previously unknown guerrilla
group called the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) began coordinating attacks
against the Serbian police. The government responded with indiscriminate
force and the downward cycle of violence had begun.
Despite the repeated warning signs during the decade,
the international community failed to stop a predictable conflict. Short-term
and piecemeal political tactics took precedence over long-term strategic
policy. Divisions and competition between governments and international
bodies made unified action weak and directionless-characteristics that
the Milosevic government craftily exploited.
Serious and unified international engagement came
only after the conflict had deteriorated into full-scale war. Faced with
limited options at that point, the West chose military action by NATO-the
so-called "humanitarian intervention" in 1999.
Taking advantage of the NATO bombing, Serbian and
Yugoslav forces "ethnically cleansed" more than 850,000 Kosovar Albanians,
and killed thousands more. The NATO bombing eventually forced government
troops out of the province, but not before serious war crimes had been
committed-atrocities which continue to poison Kosovo's post-war environment.
The pages of graphic human rights testimony in this
report are one result of the West's failures in dealing with this foreseeable
crisis. The large-scale expulsions and killings of Serbs and Albanians,
even after the entry of NATO into Kosovo, provide a crucial lesson: left
unattended, government oppression and human rights abuses, especially against
minority populations, can easily produce violent confrontations that result
in more serious abuse. Put another way, genuine and lasting stability in
the Balkans is impossible without democratic governments respectful of
There have been many debates over what the international
community could have done to stop Kosovo's violence. One fact is clear:
the international community could have implemented creative economic and
political measures designed to halt the Yugoslav government's abusive behavior
against civilians. The cost of such measures would surely have been less
than that of NATO's intervention and the subsequent U.N. mission in Kosovo.
What follows is a chronology of Kosovo's downward
spiral and the international community's missed opportunities.
Brief History of the Kosovo Conflict
One must go
back centuries to address fully the relationship between Albanians and
Serbs and their struggles in Kosovo. Both consider the province central
to their cultures and political well-being, and have proven willing to
fight for control of the region. Keeping Kosovo and its historic sites
a part of Serbia has become a centerpiece of Serbian nationalist policy.
Violent confrontations have marked the area's history, although Albanians
and Serbs have also fought as allies on occasion. Mutual accusations of
atrocities in the Balkan Wars, World War I, and World War II, as well as
battles long before, cloud the region's history.
While this background is central to understanding
the conflict, and the region's history plays an important role in contemporary
affairs, historical debates are secondary to the more recent developments
that influenced the Kosovo war. Selective versions of history and past
grievances provided fertile ground for opportunistic politicians in the
1980s and 1990s to exploit the fears and frustrations of Albanians and
Serbs. History was abused by aggressive nationalist politicians who benefited
by promoting hatred, xenophobia, militarization and, ultimately, war.
Kosovo in the Socialist Federal _Republic
War II, the federal constitution defined ethnic Albanians in Yugoslavia
as a "nationality" rather than a constituent
"nation," despite being the third largest ethnic
group in the country. This was a status distinct from that of the other
major ethnic groups in the country-Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, Slovenes, and
Macedonians. Still, Yugoslavia provided a semblance of minority rights
to all ethnic groups in the name of socialist "brotherhood and unity."
Kosovo was the poorest region in Yugoslavia. With
the exception of the bountiful Trepca mines, most of the province is agricultural.
Poverty and underdevelopment among all ethnic groups in Kosovo exacerbated
tensions. Some improvements came after student demonstrations in the late
sixties, such as increased public investment, the opening of a university
in Pristina, and the recruitment of Kosovar Albanians into the local administration.
Endeavoring to strike a better balance among the
country's competing ethnic groups-and to check the power of Serbia within
the federation-Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito orchestrated a new constitution
in 1974 to provide two regions in Serbia with more autonomy: Kosovo and
Vojvodina (with a large ethnic Hungarian population). Although they did
not achieve the status of federal republics like Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia,
Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia, the two provinces were declared "autonomous
regions," which gave them representation in the federal presidency alongside
Yugoslavia's republics, as well as their own central banks, separate police,
regional parliaments and governments. Ethnic Albanians were brought into
some of the ruling elite's inner circles.
Ethnic Albanians, who made up approximately 74 percent
of the Kosovo population in 1971, took most key positions of power in Kosovo
and controlled the education system, judiciary, and police, albeit under
control of Tito and the Communist Party, which was the dominant political
force in the country. The Albanian-language university in Pristina, opened
in 1970, was promoted by the authorities.
Kosovo's autonomy was never embraced by a wide sector
of the Serbian ruling elite, which viewed it as a threat to Serbia's interests
and sovereignty. Autonomy for Kosovo and Vojvodina, some argued, had diluted
Serbia's power in Yugoslavia. Criticism was muted during the seventies,
but began to mount after Tito's death in 1980. The following year, ethnic
Albanians, led by university students initially discontented with bad food
and poor dormitory conditions, took to the streets to demand higher wages,
greater freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and
republic status for Kosovo within Yugoslavia. Their demonstrations were
dispersed forcibly by the Yugoslav Army and federal police, resulting in
a number of ethnic Albanian deaths and numerous arrests over the ensuing
months. Some political prisoners from that time, together with young men
who fled Kosovo to avoid arrest, later formed the radical emigre groups
in Western Europe that evolved fifteen years later into the KLA.1 A new
ethnic Albanian communist leadership was installed by Belgrade. From 1981
on, pressure grew in Serbian political circles to rein in what was viewed
as a growing "Albanian secessionism."
Treatment of Non-ethnic Albanians
Throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, Kosovo's Serbs
complained of harassment and discrimination by the ethnic Albanian population
and leadership, with the intention, Serbs claimed, of driving them from
the province. According to a report submitted to the influential Serbian
Academy of Sciences and Arts in 1988, more than 20,000 ethnic Serbs moved
out of Kosovo in the years 1981-1987.2 Albanians claim that Serbs left
for economic reasons because Kosovo remained Yugoslavia's poorest province.
Ethnic Serbs and other minorities, such as Turks
and Roma, were subjected to harassment, intimidation, and sometimes violence
by extremist members of the ethnic Albanian majority. The government in
Kosovo, run by ethnic Albanians, did not take adequate steps to investigate
these abuses or to protect Kosovo's minorities against them.3
At the same time, the ethnic Albanian population
was consistently growing with Kosovar Albanians having the highest birthrate
in Europe, resulting in what the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts called,
"heavy pressure not only on available resources, but also on other ethnic
The Rise of Serbian Nationalism
The mid- and late-eighties were marked by a distinct
rise in Serbian nationalism, especially among Serbs living outside of Serbia
proper, who felt increasingly isolated and threatened by the nationalism
that was rising around them in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. The most vocal
were Serbs in Kosovo who complained about their mistreatment at the hands
of ethnic Albanians.
In September 1986, a document from the Serbian Academy
of Sciences and Arts was published that addressed "the Serbian question"
in Yugoslavia. Known as the Memorandum,
the document attacked Serbian politicians for doing nothing in the face
of threats, attacks, and even "genocide" against the Serbs of Kosovo. Among
other inflammatory claims, the Memorandum
The physical, political, legal, and cultural genocide
of the Serbian population of Kosovo and Metohija is a worse historical
defeat than any experienced in the liberation wars waged by Serbia from
the First Serbian Uprising in 1804 to the uprising of 1941.5
Criticized by then-Serbian President Ivan Stambolic,
reflected a common, albeit unspoken, sentiment among the Serb populace.
With communism failing as an ideology, Serb politicians began to harness
this discontent for their own political means.
No politician understood this better than Slobodan
Milosevic, by that time communist party chief of Serbia. A communist apparachik
and Stambolic protegé, Milosevic grasped the potency of fear and
nationalism to fuel his own rise to power.
On April 24, 1987, Milosevic was sent to address
a crowd of Kosovo Serbs in Kosovo Polje who were protesting maltreatment
by Albanians. He rallied the demonstrators with the exhortation that: "No
one should dare to beat you!" The phrase was repeated frequently on the
Serbian state television that was under Milosevic's control and became
a rallying cry for Serbian nationalists. Making the conversion from communist
to nationalist, Milosevic continued:
You should stay here. This is your land. These are
your houses. Your meadows and gardens. Your memories. You shouldn't abandon
your land just because it's difficult to live, because you are pressured
by injustice and degradation. It was never part of the Serbian and Montenegrin
character to give up in the face of obstacles, to demobilize when it's
time to fight . . . You should stay here for the sake of your ancestors
and descendants. Otherwise your ancestors would be defiled and descendants
disappointed. But I don't suggest that you stay, endure, and tolerate a
situation you're not satisfied with. On the contrary, you should change
it with the rest of the progressive people here, in Serbia and in Yugoslavia.6
With determined precision, Milosevic used his new
found nationalist populism to eliminate political opponents, including
Stambolic.7 The state media, especially the Serbian Radio and Television
(RTS), purposefully spread misinformation on abuses against Serbs in Kosovo,
including the rape of Serbian women, and campaigned to promote negative
images of Albanians. Over the next two years, massive gatherings were held
in Yugoslavia called the "Rallies of Truth" in which Milosevic invoked
Serb glory and demanded constitutional changes to revoke Kosovo's autonomy.
In one such rally, Milosevic said:
We shall win the battle for Kosovo regardless of
the obstacles facing us inside and outside the country. We shall win despite
the fact that Serbia's enemies outside the country are plotting against
it, along with those in the country. We tell them that we enter every battle_._._._with
the aim of winning it.8
Ethnic Albanians organized their own strikes and
public protests against the growing restrictions and repression in the
province. Unlike the rallies in Serbia proper, the Albanian demonstrations
were often broken up by force, and many ethnic Albanians were arrested.
On November 17, 1988, the Kosovo communist party leadership was dismissed.
A few days later, Kosovar Albanian miners went on strike at the Trepca
mines near the town of Kosovska Mitrovica. On November 25, the Federal
Parliament passed constitutional amendments that paved the way for changes
to the Serbian _constitution. Azem Vllasi, the communist party chief of
Kosovo and then the leading ethnic Albanian politician at the Yugoslav
federal level, was dismissed.
On February 20, 1989, the Trepca miners struck again,
demanding the reinstatement of the Kosovo party leaders. The government
deployed the army and imposed "special measures" on the region, which amounted
to a form of martial law. An atmosphere of fear prevailed in the province,
especially among ethnic Albanian political leaders and intellectuals. The
other Yugoslav republics, especially Slovenia, began to protest Serbia's
After a massive pro-Milosevic rally in Belgrade,
Vllasi was arrested on March 2.9 Three weeks later, a new Serbian constitution
was announced. The Kosovo assembly-mostly ethnic Albanians but under direct
pressure from Belgrade-accepted the proposed changes to the Serbian constitution
which returned authority to Belgrade.
While Belgrade celebrated, Kosovar Albanians vehemently
protested the changes. On March 28, 1989, riot police opened fire on a
protesting crowd, killing at least twenty-four persons. Although government
forces may have come under attack, the state's response was indiscriminate
and excessive. A joint report by Helsinki Watch and the International Helsinki
Federation for Human Rights at the time found that there was "no justification
for firing with automatic weapons on the assembled crowds."10
Riding an ever stronger wave of nationalism, Slobodan
Milosevic was elected president of Serbia on May 8, 1989, a post he held
for the next eight years, until he was elected president of Yugoslavia
on July 23, 1997-the position he held until October 2000.
In July 1989, the Serbian parliament passed the
Law on the Restriction of Property Transactions, the first in a series
of laws that severely discriminated against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
The law forbade Albanians to sell real estate without the approval of a
special state commission run by the Serbian Ministry of Finance. On March
30, 1990, the Serbian government adopted a new program that laid the ideological
foundation for the government's policy in Kosovo. Ironically called, "The
Program for the Realization of Peace, Freedom, Equality, Democracy, and
Prosperity of the Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo," the program
The autonomy of Kosovo may not serve as an excuse
or reason for the malfunctioning of the legal state and possible repetition
of nationalistic and separatist unrest and persistent inter-ethnic tension.
It may not be misused in pursuit of unacceptable and unfeasible goals:
prevention of the return of Serbs and Montenegrins, displaced under pressure,
and all the others who wish to come and live in Kosovo, and especially
for any further emigration of Serbs and Montenegrins and secession of a
part of the territory of the Republic-the state of Serbia so as to constitute
a new state within or without Yugoslavia.11
Kosovo in the 1990s
The Revocation of Kosovo's Autonomy
On July 2, 1990, ethnic Albanian members of Kosovo's
politically gutted assembly declared Kosovo's independence. Two months
later, on September 7, members of the parliament, which had been dissolved
on July 5, met secretly and adopted a new constitution of the Republic
of Kosova. A clandestine government and legislature were elected. Three
weeks later, on September 28, the Serb Assembly promulgated the new Serbian
constitution that formally revoked the autonomous status of both Kosovo
The new Serbian constitution was important because,
by formally revoking the autonomy of Kosovo and Vojvodina, Serbia assumed
two additional seats in the eight-member Yugoslav presidency. In coalition
with its partner Montenegro, the "Serbian Block" controlled half of the
In September 1991, Kosovar Albanians held an unofficial
referendum on independence. Ethnic Albanians voted overwhelmingly for independence
from Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav government refused to recognize the results.
Only the government in Albania, at that time still ruled by the communist
party, recognized Kosovo's independence.12
Human Rights Abuses in the 1990s
Kosovo became a police state run by Belgrade. A
strong Serb military presence, justified by the need to fight "Albanian
secessionists," committed ongoing human rights abuses. Police violence,
arbitrary detentions, and torture were common. Ethnic Albanians were arrested,
detained, prosecuted, and imprisoned solely on the basis of their ethnicity,
political beliefs, or membership in organizations or institutions that
were banned or looked upon with disfavor by the Serbian government.13
Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians were fired
from government institutions and state-run enterprises under a series of
discriminatory laws. Already in August 1990, the Serbian parliament had
abolished the independence of the Kosovo educational system and instituted
a new curriculum to be administered centrally from Belgrade. Albanian teachers
were forced to sign a loyalty oath; those who refused were dismissed. Throughout
1990, the government closed most of the Albanian-language schools and,
in January 1991, it stopped paying most Albanian high school teachers.
By October 1991, all Albanian teachers had been fired; only fifteen Albanian
professors remained at the university in Pristina, and they all taught
The deliberate economic and social marginalization
of ethnic Albanians forced the emigration of an estimated 350,000 Albanians
from the province over the next seven years. While Albanians were being
forced to leave, Milosevic's government provided incentives and encouraged
the settlement of Serbs in the region. In 1996, 16,000 Serb refugees from
Bosnia and Croatia were settled in Kosovo, sometimes against their will.14
The Yugoslav government maintained that the military
presence and legal measures were necessary for two reasons: to protect
Kosovo's minority populations-principally Serbs and Montenegrins-and to
contain the Albanian successionist movement. Such a movement, the government
argued, would seek Kosovo's independence from Yugoslavia, and possible
unification with neighboring Albania. The government's actions with regard
to both concerns were extreme and produced violations of human rights.
Albanian Non-Violence and the Parallel
Kosovar Albanians responded to the revocation of
autonomy by creating their own parallel state which was, based on the September
1991 referendum, declared independent from Yugoslavia. Albanian deputies
of the dissolved parliament established "underground" institutions of government,
and Kosovar Albanians refused to recognize the Serbian state.
A parallel system of private schools was set up
with donated funds and taxes. For eight years, Albanian school children
and university students attended classes in private homes, empty businesses,
and abandoned school buildings. Teachers, students, and administrators
in the private schools were routinely harassed, detained, and beaten by
the police and security forces. Funds collected for educational purposes
were sometimes confiscated by the police.
Underground parliamentary elections on May 24, 1992,
established the three-year-old Democratic League of Kosova (Lidhja Demokratike
te Kosoves, or LDK) as the strongest ethnic Albanian party and a previously
little-known literary figure, Ibrahim Rugova, was named president. The
LDK expanded the parallel system and established structures to collect
taxes from Albanians in Kosovo and from the ever-growing diaspora community.15
Rugova and a prime minister, Bujar Bukoshi, represented the "Kosova Republic"
The revocation of Kosovo's autonomy and the subsequent
abuses garnered little response from the international community, which
was increasingly preoccupied with the growing conflict in Slovenia, Croatia,
and then Bosnia. In the summer of 1992, the Conference for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (now the Organization for Security and Cooperation
in Europe (OSCE)) sent missions to Kosovo, Vojvodina, and Sandzak, but
the missions were forced to leave in July 1993 when the Yugoslav government
refused to renew the mandate.
In December 1992, after Serbian special police forces
had enforced rule in Kosovo, U.S. President George Bush issued what became
known as the "Christmas Warning." Bush reportedly wrote, in a letter to
President Milosevic, that the U.S. would be "prepared to employ military
force" in the event of conflict in Kosovo caused by Serbian action-a warning
that was repeated by President Clinton when he came to office a few months
later.16 Kosovar Albanians interpreted the warnings as a message that the
U.S. would come to their defense.
Largely out of a realistic assessment of ethnic
Albanians' military capabilities, the LDK declined offers from the Croatian
and Bosnian leadership to open another military front against Serbia.17
While calling for Kosovo's independence, the LDK preached nonconfrontation
and urged Albanians to support the parallel structures.
The exception was an attempt in 1992 and 1993 to
set up a Kosovar Ministry of Defense, with its own forces made up mostly
of former policemen. The Serbian police crushed the nascent group through
large-scale arrests in 1993, and no armed movement was discernible again
until the emergence of the KLA in 1996.
The United States and West European governments
strongly encouraged ethnic Albanians to pursue a moderate approach, fearing
that a conflict in Kosovo would spin out of control and engulf the region.
The primary goal was to avoid a conflagration in Kosovo, and non-confrontation,
the West believed, was the best way to achieve this.
Rugova was identified as the prime advocate of this
moderate line and received the unconditional support of Western governments,
especially the United States. He was frequently invited for high level
meetings in Washington and West European capitals which greatly boosted
his popularity among the strongly pro-Western Kosovar Albanian public.
At the same time, however, Western governments never expressed support
for Kosovo's independence, although most Kosovar Albanians believed the
West did so.18
In some respects, Rugova and Milosevic derived benefits
from each other. Milosevic tolerated Rugova because Rugova allowed the
Kosovar Albanians an outlet for their frustrations and a public expression
of their political will, while his nonconfrontational policies excluded
a challenge to Serbian rule over the province. Albanians also continued
paying taxes to the Serbian government. At the same time, Milosevic's repressive
policies helped justify the Albanians' drive for independence.19 The West
was comfortable with this arrangement because it helped guarantee the status-quo.
Human rights abuses continued, but Kosovo stayed off the front pages while
the West was dealing with the fighting in Croatia and Bosnia.
At the same time, West European governments and
the U.S. were providing strong financial and political support to the government
of Sali Berisha in Albania, partly because Berisha supported Rugova and
promised not to meddle in the affairs of Kosovo or Macedonia. Unqualified
support for Berisha, despite his clear pattern of human rights violations
against Albanian citizens, greatly contributed to the eventual destabilization
of Albania which, in turn, negatively affected Kosovo.20
Meanwhile, thousands of Kosovar Albanian men were
leaving Kosovo for the United States and Western Europe due to ongoing
persecution or fear of being drafted into the Yugoslav Army. Many of these
disenfranchised young men abroad and in Kosovo, without education or steady
employment, later joined the insurgency.
The Downward Cycle of Violence
A crucial shift
came after the Dayton conference in December 1995 that stopped the fighting
in Bosnia. Kosovar Albanians were not invited to the conference, and Kosovo
was kept off of the agenda. This left many Kosovar Albanians with the impression
that the West had forgotten the Kosovo issue and that their peaceful approach
was not working. Furthermore, with international recognition for the new
borders of the Republika Srpska, Albanians understood that the international
community responded to the facts on the ground rather than high-minded
principles of nonviolence-not the force of argument but the argument of
In early 1996, the first organized violence took
place against Serbian civilians and police. Although individual attacks
had occurred before then, the first coordinated attack occurred on February
11, when grenades were thrown at the gates of Serbian refugee camps in
Pristina, Mitrovica, Pec, Suva Reka, and Vucitrn. No one was injured.
On April 21, 1996, an ethnic Albanian student, Armend
Daci, was shot and killed in Pristina by a local Serb who reportedly thought
Daci was breaking into his car. The next day, four assassinations of Serbs
took place within one hour.22 That same night, in the village of Stimlje
(Shtimje), policeman Miljenko Bucic was killed, and a police car was attacked
by machine gun on the road between Mitrovica and Pec, killing a Serbian
woman who was in custody. Revenge for the Daci killing was generally considered
the motive for these attacks, but post-war interviews with KLA leaders
revealed that the April 22 actions had been planned in advance.23
In this climate of increasing violence, Milosevic
allowed the U.S. government to open a U.S. Information Agency office in
Pristina, which was welcomed warmly by Kosovar Albanians as a sign of increased
American involvement. The office, considered wrongly by some Albanians
as an embassy, was announced in early February and opened in July 1996.
Violent attacks on Serbian police continued throughout
the summer and fall of 1996, resulting in four deaths and two injuries.24
Kosovar Albanian leaders and Serbian officials both denied any involvement
in the violence and accused the other side of provoking conflict. Rugova,
unconvincingly, claimed that the attacks were committed by the Serbian
secret police in order to provoke retaliation against Albanians.
Meanwhile, a previously unknown organization called
the Kosovo Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the attacks. In letters
faxed to the media, the group criticized the "passive" approach of the
ethnic Albanian leadership and promised to continue their attacks until
Kosovo was free from Serbian rule.
By mid-1996, there was a clear pattern of arbitrary
and indiscriminate retaliation by the Serbian police and special security
forces against ethnic Albanians who lived in the areas where KLA attacks
were taking place. Police broke into private homes without warrants and
detained ethnic Albanians, often abusing them physically. Many individuals
traveling through the areas of suspected KLA activity were stopped, interrogated
and beaten. In October, the police arrested forty-five ethnic Albanians
who, they claimed, were involved in the attacks.25
In the West, Milosevic continued to be viewed as
a necessary partner for regional stability because of the Dayton Accords.
The concern in Washington and West European capitals was that Milosevic
should not be challenged on Kosovo because he was needed to implement the
accords. Fear of attacks on Western soldiers deployed in Bosnia to monitor
and enforce the agreement reinforced the West's reluctance to alter the
in Kosovo. Human rights abuses were deemed acceptable in the name of regional
At the same time, the Western military presence
in Bosnia was unwilling to arrest the leading individuals indicted for
war crimes by the U.N.'s war crimes tribunal, notably Bosnian Serb leader
Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic. Their arrest might have sent
a message that the West would not tolerate further violent and abusive
behavior in the Balkans, deterring Serbian forces from atrocities in Kosovo.
The next important political development came on
September 1, 1996, when Rugova and Milosevic signed a much-heralded education
agreement that envisaged unconditional return to Albanian-language schools
for ethnic Albanian pupils, students, and teachers.26 The details were
to be worked out by a joint commission of three Serbs and three Albanians.
Despite the international fanfare, the agreement was never implemented,
and ethnic Albanian pupils remained locked out of most school buildings.
The harassment, beatings, and arrests of ethnic Albanian teachers and school
The failure of the education agreement to bring
any concrete improvements in the daily lives of Kosovar Albanians was a
serious blow to Rugova's peaceful politics. Ethnic Albanians were losing
faith in his increasingly empty promises that the West would help. The
inability or unwillingness of the West to reward Albanians' patience and
nonviolence with concrete improvements, such as in education, helped push
the community closer to the military option.
On September 31, 1996, the U.N. lifted sanctions
on Yugoslavia that had been in place since May 1992, and many European
states upgraded diplomatic relations with Yugoslavia. European Union countries
began to reestablish diplomatic relations with Belgrade-broken during the
war in Bosnia. France, Italy, and Greece restored a high level of economic
The main exception was the U.S. insistence on maintaining
the so-called "outer wall" of sanctions, which, most importantly, kept
Yugoslavia out of international financial institutions such as the International
Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The sanctions were to stay in place,
the U.S. government said, until, among other things, the Kosovo issue was
Human rights abuses in the province intensified
toward the end of 1996 as the government attempted to weed out the growing
insurgency. Police acted with near total impunity as they maltreated, and
occasionally killed, ethnic Albanians. Police abuse generally took three
basic forms: random beatings on the streets and other public places, targeted
attacks against politically active ethnic Albanians, or arbitrary retaliation
for KLA attacks on Serbian policemen.28
Publicly, the Serbian government continued to deny
that human rights violations existed and officials defended the need to
protect the sovereignty of the state. In July 1996, Serbian Deputy Minister
of Information Rade Drobac told Human Rights Watch: "The situation of human
rights is excellent in Kosovo. Albanians have more rights than anywhere
in the world."29 At the same time, ethnic Albanians did not drop their
demand for full independence, and the KLA continued its attacks.
The international community was trapped on the one
hand by its general desire to stop the Serbian government's violations
and a distaste for Kosovo's potential independence on the other. An independent
Kosovo, it was argued, would join Albania and, eventually, the Western
part of Macedonia, which is predominantly inhabited by ethnic Albanians.
In the very least, an independent Kosovo would disrupt the delicate balance
between ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians in Macedonia, considered
a young and fragile state.30 Most Western governments also feared the precedent
that Kosovo's independence would set for ethnic separatist movements in
other countries, such as those of the Basques and Corsicans.
To tread the middle line, the international community
called for increased minority rights in Kosovo and encouraged dialogue
between Serbs and Albanians through a variety of channels. A political
settlement on autonomy within Yugoslavia, the West hoped, was still attainable,
despite the escalating violence and abuse.
At the end of 1996, the political scene inside Serbia
changed. In municipal elections on November 17, opposition parties won
in fourteen of Serbia's nineteen largest cities. The government declared
"unspecified irregularities" in those areas where the ruling party had
lost, sparking eighty-eight days of peaceful demonstrations by opposition
party supporters and students, some of which were broken up forcibly by
the police.31 The government recognized the election results on February
22, 1997, but it did so without losing power on the national scene. Internal
bickering and power struggles quickly weakened the opposition's power and
Although most western governments criticized the
1996 electoral violations and the ensuing police abuse, many states continued
welcoming Yugoslavia back into the international community. In April 1997,
the European Union offered Yugoslavia preferential trade status-which grants
a country beneficial conditions when trading with E.U. states-despite the
ongoing abuses in Kosovo. On May 15, the European Commission approved an
aid package to Yugoslavia worth U.S. $112 million. Such concessions squandered
a prime source of leverage that the international community had to press
for improvements in Milosevic's human rights record, repression in Kosovo,
and the government's compliance with the Dayton Accords.
Growth of the Kosovo Liberation Army
The KLA continued its attacks against Serbian policemen
and civilians in early 1997, especially in the more rural areas, although
the group's size, structure, and leadership remained a mystery. The insurgency's
impact was limited by restricted access to arms.
This changed with the dramatic 1997 events in Albania.
By March, the so-called "pyramid schemes" (linked with money laundering
and other illegal activities) that the Albanian government had allowed
to flourish collapsed, creating mayhem throughout the country. In the ensuing
lawlessness, weapons depots were looted and, in some cases, opened by the
government. More than 100,000 small arms, mostly Kalashnikov automatic
rifles, as well as some heavier weapons, were readily available for prices
as low as fifty German Marks. Many of these arms found their way across
the northern border into Kosovo.
By late 1997, the central region of Drenica was
known among ethnic Albanians as "liberated territory" because of the strong
KLA presence. Serbian police only ventured into the area during the day.
The still-loosely organized guerrillas made their
first public appearance on November 28, 1997, at the funeral of a Kosovar
Albanian teacher, Halit Gecaj, who was killed by a stray bullet during
fighting with Serb police in the village of Lausa (Llaushe). In front of
an estimated 20,000 mourners, three masked and uniformed KLA fighters,
two of whom reportedly took off their masks, addressed the crowd.32
Around this time, Kosovar Albanian students began
organizing peaceful demonstrations in Kosovo's cities to demand the implementation
of the 1996 education agreement and the reopening of the Albanian-language
university. Some of the nonviolent protests were broken up forcibly by
the police. For many people, Albanians and Serbs, the peaceful student
movement was the last chance to avoid an outright armed conflict in the
The international community condemned the rising
state violence in Kosovo while stressing its respect for the territorial
integrity of Yugoslavia. At the same time, most West European governments,
as well as the U.S., condemned as "terrorist actions" the KLA attacks.
A February 1998 statement of the Contact Group on former Yugoslavia-comprised
of the U.S., Germany, France, Russia, Italy, and the U.K.-stated:
The Contact Group reaffirmed its commitment to uphold
human rights values, and their condemnation of both violent repression
of non-violent expressions of political views, including peaceful demonstrations,
as well as terrorist actions, including those of the so-called Kosovo Liberation
In late February, President Clinton's special representative,
Robert Gelbard, visited Yugoslavia to address, among other issues, the
brewing Kosovo crisis. During a press conference in Pristina on February
22, he declared that "the UCK [KLA] is a terrorist group by its actions.
I used to be responsible for counter-terrorist policy in the American government.
I know them when I see them."34
Gelbard reiterated his condemnation of the KLA in
a Belgrade press conference the next day, and also announced some concessions
to the Yugoslav government due to cooperation in Bosnia. Consistent with
the view that Milosevic was a necessary ally for the implementation of
the Dayton Accords, Gelbard said that the U.S. had been "particularly encouraged
by the support that we received from President Milosevic," although, Gelbard
added, "we still have a large number of areas where there are differences
in views." In order to encourage "further positive movement," Gelbard announced
that the U.S. was upgrading diplomatic relations with Yugoslavia, that
Yugoslavia could open a consulate in the U.S., that Yugoslavia had been
invited to join the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative, and that
Yugoslav airlines (JAT) had regained landing rights in the U.S. Regarding
Kosovo, Gelbard said:
The great majority of this violence we attribute
to the police, but we are tremendously disturbed and also condemn very
strongly the unacceptable violence done by terrorist groups in Kosovo and
particularly the UCK-the Kosovo Liberation Army. This is without any question
a terrorist group. I refuse to accept any kind of excuses. Having worked
for years on counterterrorist activity, I know very well that to look at
a terrorist group, to define it, you strip away the rhetoric and just look
at actions. And the actions of this group speak for themselves.35
Gelbard later retracted the allegation about the
KLA, and the group was never placed on the U.S. government's list of terrorist
organizations.36 At the time, however, some analysts interpreted the U.S.
statement as a green light for Milosevic to begin a counter-insurgency
The 1998 Armed Conflict
The Drenica Massacres
Five days after Gelbard's comments, the Serbian
government launched a major assault on the central Drenica valley, a stronghold
of the KLA. On February 28 and March 1, responding to KLA ambushes of the
police, special forces attacked two adjacent villages, Cirez (Qirez) and
Likosane (Likoshane). On March 5, special police attacked the nearby village
of Prekaz-home of Adem Jashari, a known KLA member. Jashari was killed
along with his entire family, save an eleven year-old-girl.37 In total,
eighty-three people lost their lives in the three attacks, including at
least twenty-four women and children.38
Although the KLA engaged in combat during these
attacks, Serbian special forces fired indiscriminately at women, children,
and other noncombatants. Helicopters and military vehicles sprayed village
rooftops with gunfire before police forces entered the village on foot,
firing into private homes. A pregnant woman, Rukia Nebihi, was shot in
the face, and four brothers from one family were killed, apparently while
in police custody. Ten members of the Ahmeti family were summarily executed
by the police.
The Serbian police denied any wrongdoing in the
attacks and claimed they were pursuing "terrorists" who had attacked the
police. A police spokesman denied the "lies and inventions" about indiscriminate
attacks and excessive force carried by some local and foreign media and
said "the police has never resorted to such methods and never will."39
These events in Drenica were a watershed in the
Kosovo crisis. If the government's aim was to crush the nascent insurgency,
it had the opposite effect: the brutal and indiscriminate attacks radicalized
the ethnic Albanian population and swelled the ranks of the KLA. Many ethnic
Albanians who had been committed to the nonviolent politics of Rugova or
the peaceful student movement decided to join the KLA, in part because
they viewed the armed insurgency as the only means of protection. The various
armed families and regional KLA groups active in Kosovo up to that point
began to merge as a more organized popular resistance took shape.
The Drenica massacres also marked the beginning
of the Kosovo conflict in the terms of the laws of war. It was only after
February 28, 1999, that the fighting clearly went beyond mere internal
disturbances to become an internal armed conflict, a threshold which once
passed obliges both government forces and armed insurgencies to respect
basic protections of international humanitarian law-the rules of war. In
particular, Article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, Protocol
II to those conventions, and the customary rules of war would henceforth
apply to the conduct of hostilities in Kosovo.
The significance of the Kosovo conflict being classified
an "armed conflict" went beyond a mere invocation of standards. Once open
conflict broke out, the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Tribunal
for the Former Yugoslavia over Kosovo began. Mandated to prosecute crimes
against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war in the territory
of the former Yugoslavia, the tribunal, on March 10, stated that its jurisdiction
"covers the recent violence in Kosovo," although tribunal investigators
did not visit the province until four months later.40
As the conflict grew, so too did the insurgency.
Money from the diaspora community that was previously given to the LDK
was increasingly diverted to the fund of the KLA, known as Homeland Calling.
Increasingly, Albanian men from Western Europe and later the U.S. joined
Role of the International Community
The killings in Drenica drew the attention of the
international community, despite Yugoslav government pleadings that the
conflict was an internal affair. The international community criticized
the state's excessive violence in Drenica but took minimal steps beyond
verbal condemnations. On March 2, State Department spokesman James Rubin
said that the U.S. was "appalled by the recent violent incidents" and threatened
that "the outer wall" of sanctions would stay in place until there was
improvement in Kosovo. He also called on Kosovar Albanian leaders to "condemn
terrorist action by the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army."41
Over the next seven months, notwithstanding continued
state violence, threats of sanctions and other punitive measures were weakly,
if ever, enforced. Concessions were granted after the slightest progress,
after which Serbian commanders, under the command of Milosevic, would often
order renewed violence.
On March 9, the Contact Group met in London and
gave the FRY government ten days to meet a series of requirements, including:
to withdraw the special police from Kosovo and cease actions against the
civilian population by the security forces; to allow access for the ICRC
and other humanitarian organizations as well as by representatives of the
Contact Group and other diplomatic representatives; and to begin a process
of dialogue with the Kosovar Albanian leadership.42 The Contact Group proclaimed
that, if President Milosevic took those steps, it would reconsider the
four punitive measures that it had adopted.43 If he failed to comply, the
group would move to further international measures, including an asset
freeze on FRY and Serbian government funds abroad.
In a parallel move, the U.S. State Department announced
on March 13 that it was providing $1.075 million to support the investigations
of the war crimes tribunal in Kosovo.44
Allowing ten days to slip to sixteen, the Contact
Group met again on March 25. In the days prior to the March 25 meeting,
the Milosevic government briefly reduced the police attacks in Kosovo and
agreed to implement the education agreement, a long-standing demand of
the international community and one of many needed confidence-building
measures cited in the March 9 Contact Group statement. Though not enough
to bring the Contact Group to lift its previously adopted measures, the
FRY gestures kept the group from imposing new measures and bought Milosevic
some time. The Contact Group agreed to meet again in four weeks to reassess
On March 31, the Security Council passed resolution
1160 which condemned violence on all sides, called for a negotiated settlement,
and imposed an arms embargo on Yugoslavia. In April 1998, Milosevic organized
a popular referendum on whether there should be international mediation
in the Kosovo conflict. The vote for no international involvement was overwhelming.
The Contact Group meeting of April 29 set in motion
a new round of maneuvering between the international community and the
FRY government. Finding that the conditions set on March 9 remained unfulfilled,
the Contact Group decided to take steps to impose the asset freeze. The
freeze, first threatened if Belgrade did not meet Contact Group conditions
by March 19, was finally endorsed by the Contact Group a month and a half
later. It was not implemented by the European Union until late June-plenty
of time for the Yugoslav authorities to shelter any funds that might otherwise
have been affected. The Contact Group also promised to pursue an investment
ban if Milosevic did not meet new conditions by May 9.46 These new conditions
were watered down from the March 9 ultimata, substituting a general call
for "cessation of repression" for the earlier "withdraw the special police
units," and dropping the demand for access for the ICRC and humanitarian
organizations altogether. As Milosevic raised the level of violence, the
international community lowered the bar he needed to clear to regain international
During the second quarter of 1998, the KLA, called
a "liberation movement" by most ethnic Albanians and a "terrorist organization"
by the Yugoslav government, took loose control of an estimated 40 percent
of Kosovo's territory, including the Drenica region and the area around
Malisevo. KLA spokesmen, increasingly in the public eye, spoke of "liberating
Pristina" and eventually Kosovo. Serb civilians in areas under KLA control
were harassed or terrorized into leaving, by assaults, kidnaping, and sporadic
In late April and early May, the KLA took control
of the villages northeast of the main road running between Decani (Decane)
and Djakovica, with a headquarters in Glodjane. Serbs were forced out of
these villages and fled to Decani town, where inter-ethnic tensions increased
sharply. The KLA appeared to be attempting to establish a corridor between
Albania and Drenica.
In retrospect, some analysts believe that the Serbian
police and Yugoslav army purposefully allowed the KLA to expand. Aware
that the lightly armed and poorly organized insurgency could not hold territory,
the security forces allowed the rebels to spread themselves too thin across
a large swath of territory. Government forces did not attack, but positioned
themselves, such as on the Suka Crmljanska hill near Lake Radonjic. Other
analysts, however, believe that the rapid growth of the KLA caught the
Serbian government by surprise.
After five days of intense shuttle diplomacy by
U.S. Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke, Milosevic and Rugova agreed to meet
on May 15 in Belgrade, together with four other Kosovar Albanian representatives.47
In a major concession to Milosevic, the meeting took place without the
presence of foreign mediators, a long-time condition set by both the international
community and the Kosovar Albanians. Milosevic agreed to continue negotiations
and named a team to be headed by Ratko Markovic, Deputy Prime Minister
of Serbia. After the meeting, Milosevic's office issued the following statement:
President Milosevic pointed out that it is only
by political means-through a direct dialogue on the basis of principle-that
peaceful, human, just and lasting solutions to the problems in Kosovo and
Metohija can be found. These solutions should be based on the equality
of all citizens and ethnic communities in Kosovo and Metohija.48
Considering this a "framework for dialogue and stabilization
package," as stipulated in the April 29 Contact Group statement, the Milosevic-Rugova
meeting caused the international community to ease the pressure. At the
May 25 meeting of the European Union General Affairs Council, the foreign
ministers of E.U. member states concluded that, in light of the Milosevic-Rugova
meeting in Belgrade, "the proposed measure to stop new investment in Serbia
would not be taken forward."49
That week Belgrade launched a major offensive along
its border with Albania that involved serious breaches of international
humanitarian law. Kosovo Albanians called off all negotiations in light
of the offensive.
In the first known joint action between the Serbian
special police and the Yugoslav Army, government forces attacked a string
of towns and villages along the border with the specific intent of depopulating
the region and ousting the KLA. Until then, the KLA had been receiving
arms and fresh recruits from Albania. The Serbian offensive so soon after
the meeting hurt Rugova's popularity among Albanians, but he was quickly
brought to Washington, along with Bujar Bukoshi and independent publisher
Veton Surroi, for a meeting with President Clinton to bolster his public
image.50 The offensive was also another reminder of Milosevic's now-familiar
tactics: talk peace and conduct war.51
Although there was clearly fighting between the
government and the KLA, many villages from Pec in the north to Djakovica
in the south were shelled indiscriminately without consideration for civilian
lives. Noncombatants who fled the attacks were sometimes fired on by snipers,
and a still undetermined number of people were taken into detention. In
three cases, helicopters marked with the Red Cross emblem reportedly fired
on civilians. Anti-personnel landmines were placed in strategic points
along the border, as well as along the southern border with Macedonia.
Most villages in the region were looted and systematically destroyed, and
farmers' livestock was shot, to ensure that no one could return in the
short run. Fifteen thousand people fled to Albania and an estimated 30,000
went north to Montenegro.52
Around the same time, Milosevic also took steps
to consolidate his power in Serbia proper. In May 1998, the Serbian parliament
passed a highly restrictive university law that marginalized independent
or opposition-oriented academics. The government also continued its assault
on the independent media by refusing broadcast licenses to some independent
radio and television stations.53 Milosevic's political ally from Montenegro,
Momir Bulatovic, was appointed Yugoslav prime minister.
By the June 9 meeting of E.U. foreign ministers,
the pattern of deception could no longer be ignored. The ministers adopted
the investment ban on Serbia, together with a declaration that stated:
President Milosevic bears a special responsibility
as head of the FRY government for promoting a peaceful settlement to the
problems of Kosovo. He should not believe that the international community
will be taken in by talk of peace when the reality on the ground is ever
greater repression. . . . The European Union remains ready to press ahead
with other measures against Belgrade if the authorities there fail to halt
their excessive use of force and to take the steps needed for genuine political
progress. Furthermore, the E.U. encourages international security organizations
to pursue their efforts in this respect and to consider all options, including
those which would require an authorization by the [United Nations Security
Council] under Chapter VII.54
On June 11, NATO defense ministers directed NATO
military authorities to develop a range of options for "halting or disrupting
a systematic campaign of violent repression and expulsion in Kosovo."55
As a demonstration of military might, NATO agreed to conduct air exercises
over neighboring Albania and Macedonia. Exercise "Determined Falcon," carried
out on June 15, was presented as a demonstration of NATO's "capability
to project power rapidly into the region."56 Planes flew over Tirana, the
Albanian capital, but not over North Albania where they would have been
seen by Serbian forces and the KLA alike.
The June 12 Contact Group meeting reaffirmed the
asset freeze and investment ban, with Russia in dissent and promised additional
measures unless certain steps were taken immediately. These steps were
essentially the same as those that were supposed to have been implemented
within ten days of March 9, except that what had once been internationally
mediated dialogue and then a "framework for dialogue and a stabilization
package" had become "rapid progress in the dialogue with the Kosovar Albanian
Taking advantage of the division between Russia
and the other Contact Group members, Milosevic agreed to meet Russian president
Boris Yeltsin on June 16. The Milosevic-Yeltsin meeting yielded Yugoslav
commitments to continue talks with Kosovar Albanians, to commit no repressive
actions against the peaceful population, to guarantee full freedom of movement
on the whole territory of Kosovo, and to provide unimpeded access for humanitarian
organizations. The joint statement between Milosevic and Yeltsin was honored
in the breach, but it bought Milosevic time at a critical juncture, when
NATO threats were stronger than they had been at any time up to that point.
One concrete result of the Yeltsin meeting was the
creation of the Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission (KDOM), established
on July 6, 1998, which was mandated to observe and report on freedom of
movement and security conditions in Kosovo. Coordinated by the Contact
Group ambassadors in Belgrade, the European Union Presidency (Austria),
and the Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE (Poland), the mission consisted
of three groups: U.S.-KDOM, Russian-KDOM, and EU-KDOM, each of which had
teams traveling and monitoring throughout the province. By December 1998,
KDOM had 400 personnel in Kosovo, many of them defense and intelligence
KDOM members in the field began to establish contact
with the KLA, such as a U.S.-KDOM outpost in the village of Dragobilje
(Dragobil), where the KLA had a base of operations. The U.S. government
also maintained public contact with the KLA in July as negotiators tried
to sell a political settlement for "enhanced autonomy" within Yugoslavia.
While the first FRY government offensive partially
dislodged the KLA along the border with Albania, the insurgents gained
territory in other parts of Kosovo, especially around Malisevo. The rebels'
growth throughout the spring dispelled thoughts of international military
action as too likely to tip the balance in favor of Kosovo independence.
Forceful KLA statements about "liberating Pristina" and even eventual unification
with Albania made the international community even more reluctant to take
any action that might be construed as supporting the insurgency.
Emboldened, the KLA's first major offensive began
on July 19 when it attempted to capture the town of Orahovac. The offensive
failed badly, as the police recaptured the town two days later, as well
as the KLA stronghold of Malisevo. In the Orahovac fighting, at least forty-two
ethnic Albanians were killed. Witnesses reported summary executions and
the use of human shields by the police. An estimated forty Serbs also vanished
during the brief time that the city was under KLA control, most of whom
were still missing and are presumed to have been murdered as of August
2001 (see section below on KLA Abuses in 1998).
The government forces intensified their offensive
throughout July, August, and September despite repeated promises from Milosevic
that it had stopped. By mid-August, the government had retaken much of
the territory previously held by the KLA. Unable to protect the civilian
population, the KLA retreated into the hills of Drenica and some pockets
in the west and south of Kosovo.
Government Abuses in 1998
The government offensive, which continued unabated
despite the deployment of KDOM, was an apparent attempt to crush civilian
support for the rebels. Government forces attacked civilians, systematically
destroyed towns, and forced thousands of people to flee their homes. The
police were repeatedly seen looting homes, destroying already abandoned
villages, burning crops, and killing farm animals, as well as committing
summary executions, all violations of the rules of war. The majority of
those killed and injured were civilians. At least 250,000 people were displaced
between May and September 1998, according to UNHCR, many of them women
and children. The border region with Albania was particularly hard hit,
but so were other areas of KLA activity, such as Drenica and the area around
The government restricted the ability of humanitarian
aid agencies to assist the internally displaced. On various occasions,
the police hindered access to needy populations, confiscated supplies,
harassed, and even attacked humanitarian aid workers. The government justified
the restricted access by arguing that some humanitarian organizations had
distributed supplies, including arms, to the KLA.
The Yugoslav government also restricted the work
of domestic and foreign journalists who sought to report the atrocities.
Some ethnic Albanian journalists were threatened, detained, or beaten by
the police. Independent radio and television stations in the Albanian language
were denied licenses or, in one case, closed down.
The independent Serbian-language media was not exempt
from state pressure. News wires, newspapers, and radio stations that attempted
to report objectively on Kosovo were labeled "traitors" and threatened
with legal action. A complex and contradictory legal framework in Serbia
made it virtually impossible for independent radio or television stations
to obtain a broadcast frequency.58 As was the case during the wars in Bosnia
and Croatia, the state-run radio and television purposefully spread disinformation
and promoted images of "the enemy" intended to inflame passions in the
The international media covering Kosovo also faced
a number of restrictions on its work, starting with the denial of visas
to critical journalists whom the state considered "anti-Serb." One journalist
was declared persona non grata, and a few foreign journalists were beaten
or fired upon by the police.
At least one hundred ethnic Albanians "disappeared"
in Kosovo between February and October 1998, about half of whom were last
seen in the custody of the police. The precise number was impossible to
determine since the Yugoslav authorities refused to make public the number
of people they had in detention, a problem that continued after the NATO
bombing commenced in March 1999. In addition, some Albanians, considered
"collaborators with the Serbs" were abducted by the KLA.
More than 500 ethnic Albanians were arrested and
charged with committing "terrorist acts." In July and August, detained
individuals increasingly included human rights activists, humanitarian
aid workers, political party members, doctors, and lawyers, many of whom
were physically abused. The use of torture against detainees was widespread,
and at least six people died from abuse in prison.59
The Serbian and Yugoslav government offensive closed
in late September with serious combat around Suva Reka and in the Drenica
region. On September 27, KDOM observers discovered the bodies of twenty-one
ethnic Albanian civilians executed in the forest near the village of Gornje
Obrinje (Abri i Eperme). The next day, re-searchers from Human Rights Watch
and journalists visited the site and documented the killings, as well as
the execution of thirteen ethnic Albanian men in nearby Golubovac.60 The
massacre galvanized world opinion and helped spark a new round of diplomatic
negotiations led by the U.S.
KLA Abuses in 1998
The KLA also committed serious violations of international
humanitarian law during this time, as well as in early 1999, including
the taking of hostages and extrajudicial executions.61 On June 21, 2000,
in Pristina, ICTY chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte announced that "five
episodes" of alleged KLA crimes were under investigation by the tribunal.
In some villages in areas of KLA control, the rebels
drove ethnic Serbs from their homes. In some cases, elderly Serbs stayed
behind, either too old to flee or unwilling to abandon their homes. Some
of these people went missing and are presumed dead. The KLA also attacked
and killed or seized some ethnic Albanians and Roma whom it considered
"collaborators" with the Yugoslav government.
According to the ICRC, ninety-seven Kosovo Serbs
abducted in 1998 were still missing as of May 15, 2000.62 According to
the Humanitarian Law Center, a highly respected Yugoslav human rights group,
103 Serbs went missing between January and August 1998, thirty-nine of
whom were last seen in KLA custody. The center also documented the abductions
of three Kosovar Albanians by the KLA.63
The KLA detained an estimated eighty-five Serbs
during the offensive in Orahovac on July 19, 1998. Thirty-five of these
people were subsequently released but the others remain unaccounted for
at the time of this writing. According to the ICRC, thirty-nine Serbs went
missing from the Orahovac municipality on July 17 and 18.64 On July 22,
the KLA briefly took control of the Belacevac mine near Obilic. Nine Serbs
were captured that day, and they remain on the ICRC's list of missing.
On September 9, the Serbian police announced that
they had found a number of bodies of people reportedly killed by the KLA
near Glodjane. By September 16, the authorities recovered thirty-four bodies,
eleven of whom were identified, some of them as ethnic Albanians. Prior
to that, the most serious reported KLA abuse involved the reported execution
of twenty-two Serbian civilians in the village of Klecka, where in August
the police claimed to have discovered human remains and a kiln used to
cremate the bodies. The manner in which the allegations were made, however,
raised serious questions about their validity.65
The KLA, slowly transforming from a disorganized
guerrilla group into a more serious armed force, did not abide with their
stated commitments to respect international law and the laws of war, and
in public statements appeared not to recognize some of the basic principles
of these norms. Indeed, executions were acknowledged and justified in the
early months of the war. In an interview given to a Kosovo newspaper, KLA
spokesman Jakup Krasniqi said:
[T]he KLA has never dealt with civilians, or only
if they have been in the service of the army and the police and have done
serious harm to the people and the Albanian national cause. There have
been cases in which they have been kidnaped, but in this event they have
been handed over to international organizations, of course when they have
First of all, all Serbian forces, whether the police,
the military, or armed civilians, are our enemy. From the start, we had
our own internal rules for our operations. These clearly lay down that
the KLA recognizes the Geneva Conventions and the conventions governing
the conduct of war, even though it has not been offered the chance of signing
them, as it would have done. We do not go in for kidnaping. Even if some
people have suffered, these have been more Albanian collaborators than
Serbian civilians. We do not deal with civilians, and we return those whom
we take as prisoners of war. A few days ago we handed over two Serbs originating
from Croatia to the International Red Cross. Those we have kidnaped are
either announced in a list or reported to be executed, but we do not behave
in a base fashion like Serbia.66
The KLA's disregard for ethnic Albanian civilians
is also striking. Villages declared "liberated" by the KLA were often smashed
shortly thereafter by the Serbian security forces, who vented their anger
on the civilians who did not retreat into the hills with the KLA. Ambushes
of police or army checkpoints often provoked a response against the nearest
village, if the KLA was based there or not. The pattern of KLA behavior
suggests that the rebels, relying on the predictable aggressiveness and
brutality of the Serbian forces, may have deliberately provoked attacks
against ethnic Albanian civilians, since innocent victims would promote
their cause and help bring the West, especially the United States, into
the conflict. In the very least, the KLA understood the political benefit
of civilian casualties.
Response of the International Community
The international response to the summer offensive
was considerably weakened by persistent disunity within the international
community. In the Security Council, China and Russia, both permanent members
with veto power, maintained that the conflict was an internal matter for
resolution by the Yugoslav authorities. This position effectively blocked
a forceful Security Council response to the conflict.
A similar degree of disunity emerged in the Contact
Group, where Russia in particular played the role of spoiler, although
Russia's resistance was at times used by Western states as an excuse for
their own inaction.
Throughout the Serbian and Yugoslav offensive, the
international community condemned the government's abuses but took no steps
to halt the ongoing offensive. Inaction by the West left the impression
that it was tolerating the attacks against civilians, and may have been
interpreted by Milosevic as a green light to continue. Advocates of inaction
in the West presumed the offensive would drive the Kosovar Albanians to
the negotiating table. As one Western official was quoted in the press,
"There is a general recognition that the KLA was getting too big for its
boots and needed to be taken down a peg or two before there can be negotiations."67
The U.S. position was aptly presented by Secretary
of Defense William Cohen who said that NATO did "not want to see" Serbian
or Yugoslav government troops attacking civilians or using disproportionate
force, but that NATO did not want to take action that "could be construed
as lending support, either moral or military, to those seeking independence,"
meaning the KLA.
Prior to September, the only measure adopted by
the Security Council having any bite had been resolution 1160, passed on
March 31, 1998, imposing an arms embargo on FRY, a position reached with
China abstaining and only after repeated warnings by the Contact Group
had been ignored. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1199, passed on September
23, 1998, (again with China abstaining), went further by condemning acts
of violence committed in Kosovo, reaffirming the arms embargo and, under
authority of Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, demanding an immediate cessation
Resolution 1199 also called upon the FRY and Kosovar
Albanian leadership to enter into immediate and meaningful dialogue and
demanded that FRY implement immediately the measures set out in the June
12 statement of the Contact Group. The resolution called on the president
of FRY to implement his own commitments from the June 16 joint statement
with Yeltsin, among other things, not to carry out any repressive actions
against the peaceful population, to facilitate refugee return, and to ensure
full access for the ICRC and UNHCR. The resolution also called on the government
of FRY, the Kosovar Albanian leadership, and all others to cooperate fully
with the prosecutor of the ICTY, and it underlined the need for FRY authorities
to bring to justice members of security forces involved in mistreatment
of civilians and the deliberate destruction of property. It stated that
the Security Council would consider "further action and additional measures"
if the measures demanded in its two resolutions were not taken. Porous
borders, a well established Balkan arms market, and weak enforcement had
kept the embargo from having any substantial impact on the ground.
On September 24, NATO took the first formal steps
toward military intervention in Kosovo, issuing an "ACTWARN" for both a
limited air option and a phased air campaign in Kosovo.69
The Deployment of the _Kosovo Verification
The September 26 massacre in Gornje Obrinje, in
which twenty-one members of one ethnic Albanian family were killed, garnered
major media coverage in the West and catalyzed a more unified international
response to the crisis. With winter approaching, international concern
was also focused on the estimated 250,000 internally displaced ethnic Albanians.
U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke flew to Belgrade for
talks with Milosevic. At the same time, after the Gornje Obrinje killings,
the Serbian police and Yugoslav army wrapped up the summer offensive in
the end of September and began a partial withdrawal from Kosovo. As one
Serbian journalist wrote of the Gornje Obrinje massacre, government forces
"slammed the door on the way out."70
With the offensive over, Milosevic had largely achieved
his goals, and then granted Holbrooke some concessions: a cease-fire, NATO
air surveillance to verify compliance with UN Security Council Resolution
1199, and the deployment of an observer mission from the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) called the Kosovo Verification
Mission (KVM). By January 1999, the KVM had 2,000 observers in the field,
many of them westerners with military experience. Human rights officers
were also deployed throughout the province to monitor, document, and publicly
report on violations.71 A subsequent agreement brokered by NATO set the
limit of Yugoslav Army and Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs troops
allowed in Kosovo. Hours before the deadline for meeting these limits,
the Yugoslav government complied.
Around this time, other developments in Serbia had
an impact on Kosovo. On November 3, Milosevic fired the Chief of the General
Staff of the Yugoslav Army, Momcilo Perisic, and replaced him with a known
loyalist, Gen. Dragoljub Ojdanic. Col. Gen. Nebojsa Pavkovic, commander
of Pristina Corp, was promoted to commander of the Third Army, which had
responsibility for southern Serbia and Kosovo. In late October, Milosevic
dismissed the Yugoslav Air Force commander Col. Gen. Ljubisa Velickovic,
and the chief of Serbia's security service, Jovica Stanisic, who had been
a close confidant of Milosevic for the past seven years.72 Velickovic was
replaced by Lt. Col. Gen. Spasoje Smiljanic. Stanisic was replaced by Radomir
The precise reason for these dismissals remains
unclear. Some analysts speculate that the individuals removed disagreed
with government policy on Kosovo, fearing that Milosevic was heading into
a direct conflict with the West. In particular, it was believed the Perisic
had warned Milosevic against a direct confrontation with NATO (as well
as having argued against a military deployment against Belgrade demonstrators
in late 1996 and early 1997).73 The replacements were generally viewed
as personally loyal to Milosevic and hardline, perhaps necessary for another
offensive against the KLA.
Notwithstanding the KVM presence in Kosovo, late-October
1998 to March 1999 saw continued provocations by both government forces
and the KLA. The KLA captured two Serbian journalists and nine Yugoslav
Army soldiers during this time, all of whom were later released, and conducted
periodic strikes on police and army posts-an apparent attempt to provoke
the government into a response in front of international monitors. As KLA
commanders later admitted, they used the calm from the monitors' presence
to continue mobilization, training, and arms procurement.74
Serbian and Yugoslav forces also repositioned during
this time. Gradually throughout January and February reinforcements and
heavy armor made their way back into Kosovo, as detailed in the OSCE report
on Kosovo, As Seen, As Told-Part I.75
On December 13, the army killed more than thirty
ethnic Albanians along the border with Albania, ostensibly while they were
smuggling in arms. On December 14, unidentified armed men attacked the
Panda Cafe in the western city of Pec, killing six Serbian youths. On December
23, the army and police undertook military action against the KLA near
Podujevo, in northern Kosovo, along the main road linking Pristina with
On February 25, the Yugoslav Army announced the
beginning of "winter exercises" in the Vucitrn municipality, where the
KLA had positions in the Cicavica mountains along the Mitrovica-Pristina
road (based in the village of Pantina (Pantine)). Skirmishes were ongoing
throughout February, as were KLA abductions of local Serbs. According to
the OSCE report on Kosovo:
As armed engagements between Yugoslav/Serbian forces
and the UCK continued in the areas of the "exercises," it became clear
that these "exercises" had a strategic aim: for the VJ [the Yugoslav Army]
to secure the main road and rail routes between Kosovska Mitrovca and Pristina
by pushing the UCK back into their strongholds in the Cicavica mountains.76
In some cases, the "exercises" included the army's
shelling of villages and the forced expulsion of noncombatants. Fighting
between the army and KLA was ongoing as the OSCE left the Vucitrn area
on March 19. According to U.S. General Wesley Clark, NATO thought Milosevic
was "preparing for a spring offensive that would target KLA strongholds."
No one expected the "wholesale deportation of the ethnic Albanian population."77
During the military buildup by all sides, the U.S.
government was engaged in shuttle diplomacy to reach a political solution.
U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Chris Hill, working closely with Richard Holbrooke,
continued work on draft plans that would provide Kosovo with substantial
autonomy within Yugoslavia. Previous drafts were scuttled after they were
leaked and published in a Kosovo-based newspaper, Koha
A major turning point took place on January 15,
1999, when forty-five ethnic Albanians were killed in the village of Racak.
Although the attack was possibly provoked by a KLA ambush that killed three
Serbian policeman a few days before, government forces responded by shooting
at civilians, torturing detainees, and committing summary executions.78
The massacre in Racak was well documented by the
OSCE mission, and immediately condemned by the mission's head, U.S. diplomat
William Walker. The Yugoslav government said that the Albanians were KLA
fighters killed in combat, and threatened to expel Walker-labeled "a representative
and a patron of separatism and terrorism"-from the country.79 On January
18, Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour of the war crimes tribunal was denied
entry into Kosovo, where she planned to investigate the Racak incident.
The Racak massacre provoked an outcry among the
Western public and Western governments began consulting on ways to back
up diplomacy with force. NATO increased its threats of military action
if attacks on civilians did not stop.
The Rambouillet Conference
Kosovar Albanians and Serbs were hastily summoned
to a government chateau in Rambouillet, France, for negotiations between
February 6 and 22, 1999. The British and French foreign ministers co-sponsored
the talks, with negotiators from the U.S., Austria (as president of the
E.U.) and Russia. A diverse delegation of Kosovar Albanians representing
the various political forces elected Hashim Thaci, political leader of
the KLA, as their spokesman. Milosevic refused to attend and sent Serbian
president Milan Milutinovic to head a motley delegation of ethnically diverse
but unimportant representatives from Kosovo-an attempt to demonstrate his
multi-ethnic and tolerant approach to the province.
After two weeks, the negotiators presented both
sides with an interim agreement that would have provided for substantial
autonomy and self-government for Kosovo inside Yugoslavia, protected by
a strong NATO presence on the ground. The final status of Kosovo was to
be worked out in three year's time by an international conference.
The Serbian delegation refused to sign, stating
that Kosovo was an integral part of Yugoslavia. Some parts of the accords
were clearly of particular concern to the delegation, such as NATO's unrestricted
access throughout Yugoslavia and NATO's authority to detain individuals.80
The Kosovar Albanian delegation, while more inclined to give support, said
it needed approval from the regional commanders of the KLA-a reflection
of the group's decentralized character. The conference was halted while
Thaci returned to Kosovo to get the commanders' agreement. The conference
reconvened in Paris on March 15. Three days later, under great pressure
from the West, the Kosovar Albanian delegation signed.
Throughout the conference, Serbian and Yugoslav
forces were observed positioning themselves around the Kosovo border with
Serbia proper, a clear indication-coupled with the Serbian delegation's
intransigence-that a military offensive was in preparation. According to
the OSCE, "a significant build up of VJ forces" was taking place throughout
Kosovo.81 Many observers believe that Milosevic never had any intention
of signing an agreement; he simply used the time to further reinforce his
troops, and he gained three weeks because of Thaci's need to consult commanders
Media reports later claimed that the Austrian government
had warned NATO before the bombing that a large-scale Serbian offensive
was in preparation. The allegation was repeated two weeks into the bombing
by the German government, which said that Operation Horseshoe-a plan to
expel Albanians from Kosovo-had been drafted six months prior to the air
war.82 A retired brigadier general in the German Army, however, later stated
that the claims of a plan were faked from a vague intelligence report in
order to deflect growing criticism in Germany of the bombing.83
In anticipation of the NATO bombing and the deteriorating
security situation, the OSCE's KVM mission withdrew from Kosovo on March
20. Although there had been fear the observers would be seized as hostages,
government forces welcomed rather than hindered their withdrawal. That
day, attacks against Kosovar Albanians began in parts of Kosovo, notably
Drenica and the Llap region near Podujevo. Yugoslav soldiers, Serbian special
police, paramilitaries, and armed irregulars poured into the province.
With no local information, ethnic Albanian civilians sat waiting for the
In a final effort to avoid bombing, U.S. special
envoy Richard Holbrooke flew to Belgrade to meet Milosevic and threaten
air strikes unless he signed the agreement. He left empty-handed on March
23 and, the next day, NATO air strikes commenced without awaiting approval
from the United Nations Security Council.
the headlines in 1999, but the conflict was predictable as long ago as
1989. The international community failed to implement effective preventive
measures, acting only after the crisis had evolved into an armed conflict.
Even after open conflict began, the international
community failed to take meaningful steps to stop the serious abuses committed
against civilians in Kosovo. Throughout 1998, the international community
repeatedly failed to develop a unified position to resolve the conflict.
Slobodan Milosevic used this lack of consensus to his advantage in a series
of bilateral negotiations buying time to advance the campaign in Kosovo.
Members of the international community took advantage of the disunity as
well: pointing to each other as the excuse for inaction. When the international
community sent a strong message of condemnation to the parties to the conflict,
words and symbolic action proved meaningless, with deadlines postponed,
conditions abandoned, and sanctions poorly enforced or withdrawn as abusive
In addition to concerns over the stability of Bosnia
and supporting the Dayton Accords, the international community's approach
to Kosovo was strongly influenced by its desire to avoid independence for
the province. The redrawing of Yugoslav borders, it was (and still is)
feared, might destabilize Montenegro, Bosnia and Macedonia, as well as
encourage secessionist movements in other parts of Europe and around the
This is not a trivial concern. But the international
community's interest in preserving international borders should not have
been elevated above the imperative of halting abuses before they escalated
into open warfare, leading to thousands of dead and many more displaced.
If the international community wanted to promote territorial integrity
in the Balkans, it should have pressed for the national unity that comes
from respect for the rights of all citizens-a respect that had been sorely
lacking in Kosovo as well as in other parts of the region. But seeking
to preserve borders by tolerating serious abuses led to the regional instability
that the international community was trying to avoid.
1 For a good description of the evolution
of the KLA, see
Tim Judah, Kosovo, War and Revenge (New
Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000).
2 Ruza Petrovic and Marina Blagojevic,
Migration of Serbs and Montenegrins from Kosovo and Metohija, Serbian Academy
of Science and Arts, June 7, 1988.
3 For details, see
Helsinki Watch (now Human Rights Watch), Yugoslavia:
Crisis in Kosovo, March 1990.
4 Petrovic and Blagojevic, Migration
of Serbs and Montenegrins from Kosovo and Metohija.
5 Judah, Kosovo,
War and Revenge, p. 49.
6 Laura Silber and Allan Little,
Yugoslavia: The Death of a Nation,
(New York: Penguin USA, 1995).
7 On August 25, 2000, Ivan Stambolic
was abducted by unknown persons from the Kosutnjak Park in Belgrade. As
of August 2001, his whereabouts remained unknown. Stambolic's family accused
Milosevic and his wife, Mirjana Markovic, former Serbian Interior Minister
Vlajko Stojiljkovic, and former State Security Chief Rade Markovic of organizing
the abduction because they feared Stambolic would reenter politics.
8 Tim Judah, "Kosovo's Road to War,"
July 1, 1999.
9 After six months in prison, Vllasi
was charged with "counter-revolutionary acts" on August 28, as well as
culpability in the deaths of twenty-four ethnic Albanians who had been
shot by Serbian police on March 28, 1989 (see below), even though he was
in prison at the time. He was convicted, but released after approximately
one year in prison. (See
Helsinki Watch (now Human Rights Watch) and the International Helsinki
Federation for Human Rights, Yugoslavia:
Crisis in Kosovo, March 1990.)
10 Ibid., by Helsinki Watch and the
International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, Yugoslavia:
Crisis in Kosovo, March 1990.
11 The Program for the Realization
of Peace, Freedom, Equality, Democracy, and Prosperity of the Socialist
Autonomous Province of Kosovo, item 6, Republic of Serbia, March 30, 1990
12 Under pressure from the West,
Albania's support for Kosovo's independence ceased with the change of government
13 For documentation on human rights
abuses following the revocation of Kosovo's autonomy, see
Human Rights Watch, "Human Rights Abuses of Non-Serbs in Kosovo, Sandzak
and Vojvodina," A Human Rights Watch
Report, vol. 6, no.6, October 1994, Human Rights
Watch; Open Wounds: Human Rights Abuses
in Kosovo, (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1994);
Human Rights Watch, "Abuses Continue in the Former Yugoslavia: Serbia,
Montenegro & Bosnia-Hercegovina," A
Human Rights Watch Report, vol. 5, no. 11, July
1993; Helsinki Watch (now Human Rights Watch), "Human Rights Abuses in
Kosovo," A Human Rights Watch Report, vol. 8, no. 63, October 1992; Human
Rights in a Dissolving Yugoslavia, 1/91,
Yugoslavia: Crisis in Kosovo, 3/90.
14 The Serbian government constructed
settlements for relocated Serbs throughout Kosovo. Ethnic Albanians referred
to the newcomers as "colonizers."
15 Kosovar Albanians were requested
to pay the LDK three percent of their annual income.
16 Ivo H. Daalder, "Kosovo: Bosnia
Deja Vu," Washington Post,
April 17, 1998.
17 Judah, Kosovo:
War and Revenge, p. 113.
18 In response to a Freedom of Information
Act request, Human Rights Watch received an unclassified cable sent from
the U.S. embassy in Belgrade on December 2, 1996, highlighting the "lack
of awareness [among Albanians] that U.S. policy toward Kosovo does not,
repeat not, support its independence." The public affairs officer who sent
the cable was concerned that "98 percent of Albanians do not know that
the U.S. does not support Kosovo's independence" and he called for more
clarity on this position from Washington, especially in the programming
of the Voice of America.
19 The LDK spurned offers to support
Milosevic's opponents in elections, like Milan Panic in 1992, because they
thought their goal of independence was more achievable with the internationally
despised Milosevic in power. A similar trend was discernible in October
2000 when the Albanians feared the victory of Vojislav Kostunica would
undercut their drive for independence.
20 For documentation of the abuses
in Albania between 1992 and 1996, see
Human Rights Watch, Human Rights in Post-communist
Albania, May 1996. The destabilization of Albania
culminated in the 1997 collapse of the so-called pyramid schemes, multi-million
dollar financial scams, and resulting months of anarchy. Arms depots were
looted throughout the country and tens of thousands of small arms made
their way across the border into Kosovo.
21 The Dayton Agreement divided the
former Yugoslav republic of Bosnia Hercegovina into two entities: Republika
Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. After large-scale
ethnic cleansing during the war, Republika Srpska had an almost exclusively
22 Among those killed were Stana
Radusinovic, a Serbian emigrant from Albania, and Blagoje Okulic, a Serbian
refugee from Knin, who were killed while sitting in a Serb-owned cafe in
the city of Decan. Two Serbian policemen, Zoran Dasic and Safet Kocan,
23 Interview with former KLA commander
of the Llap region Rrustem Mustafa (a.k.a . Remi), published in the Kosovo
between April 21 and May 4, 2000.
24 On June 16, a Serbian policeman,
Goran Mitrovic, was wounded by gunfire at the bus station in Podujevo.
The next day, policeman Predrag Georgovic was shot dead in the village
Sipolje (Shipol), while his colleague, Zoran Vujkovic, was wounded. The
police station in the village of Luzane (Lluzhane) was also attacked. Then,
on August 2, four police stations in Podujevo (Podujeve) and Pristina were
attacked, but no one was hurt. Six days later, there were several explosions
at a Serbian settlement being built near Decan (Decane).
On August 28, three grenades
were thrown at the police station in Lolopak (Lollopak) near Pec, causing
no casualties but substantial material damage. That same day, an inspector
with the Serbian police, Ejup Bajgora, was killed by automatic gunfire
near his home in Donje Ljupce (Lupqi i Poshtem) near Podujevo. Finally,
on October 26, a Serbian police officer, inspector Milos Nikic, and an
employment office employee, Dragan Rakic, were ambushed and killed by unknown
attackers in the village of Surkis (Surkish) near Podujevo. See
Human Rights Watch, "Persecution Persists: Human Rights Violations in Kosovo,"
A Human Rights Watch Report, vol. 8, no. 18, December 1996.
25 For a description of police violence
in 1996, see
Human Rights Watch, Persecution Persists.
26 The vaguely worded agreement called
for "the normalization of the educational system of Kosovo for Albanian
youth," and "the return of the Albanian students and teachers back to schools."
27 According to the U.S. government,
the outer wall of sanctions was to stay in place until Yugoslavia met the
following demands: compliance with the terms of the Dayton Accords, cooperation
with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, regulated
relations between the successor states of the former Yugoslavia and a restoration
of civil and political rights in Kosovo. This position was emphasized on
numerous occasions by European and U.S. diplomats.
28 See Human Rights Watch, Persecution
29 Human Rights Watch interview with
Deputy Minister Rade Drobac, Belgrade, Yugoslavia, July 19, 1996.
30 U.N. peacekeepers had been stationed
in Macedonia since 1991 to preserve the unity of the state, which is still
seen as a vital buffer between competing countries in the southern Balkans.
For information on human rights conditions in Macedonia, see
Human Rights Watch, A Threat to Stability:
Human Rights in Macedonia, (New York, Human
Rights Watch, April 1996), and Human Rights Watch,
Police Violence in Macedonia, (New York, Human
Rights Watch, April 1998).
See Human Rights Watch, "Discouraging Democracy:
Elections and Human Rights in Serbia," A
Human Rights Watch Report, vol. 9, no. 11, September
32 The three fighters were Rexhep
Selimi, Muje Krasniqi, and Daut Haradinaj.
33 Statement by the Contact Group
on Kosovo, Moscow, February 25, 1998.
34 Press conference by U.S. Special
Representative Robert S. Gelbard, Belgrade, Pristina, Serbia and Montenegro,
February 22, 1998.
35 Press conference by U.S. Special
Representative Robert S. Gelbard, Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro, February
23, 1998. Gelbard repeated his condemnation of Albanian terrorist actions
again on February 25 during an address at the U.S. Institute of Peace in
36 For a list of organizations considered
terrorist groups by the U.S. government, see: www.state.gov/www/global/terrorism/,
37 Adem Jashari, a known KLA fighter
who became a local hero and martyr after his death, had already been convicted
in absentia by a Pristina court on July 11, 1997, for terrorist acts along
with fourteen other ethnic Albanians, in a trial that clearly failed to
conform to international standards. See press release, "Human Rights Watch/Helsinki
Condemns Political Trial in Kosovo," July 15, 1997.
See Human Rights Watch, Humanitarian
Law Violations in Kosovo, (New York: Human Rights
39 "Interior Ministry Spokesman Gives
Press Conference," Tanjug, March 7, 1998.
40 The International Criminal Tribunal
for the former Yugoslavia, "Prosecutor's Statement Regarding the Tribunal's
Jurisdiction Over Kosovo," The Hague, March 10, 1998.
41 Press Statement by James P. Rubin,
U.S. Department of State Spokesman, March 2, 1998.
42 London Contact Group Meeting,
March 9, 1998, Statement on Kosovo. Available at: www.secretary.state.gov/www/travels/980309_kosovo.html,
43 The Contact Group adopted four
measures, although it did not specify how they were to be implemented:
a) U.N. Security Council consideration of a comprehensive arms embargo
against the FRY, including Kosovo; b) Refusal to supply equipment to the
FRY which might be used for internal repression, or for terrorism; c) Denial
of visas for senior FRY and Serbian representatives responsible for repressive
action by FRY security forces in Kosovo; d) A moratorium on government-financed
export credit support for trade and investment, including government financing
for privatization, in Serbia.
44 On March 10, 1998, the prosecutor's
office at the war crimes tribunal stated that the violence in Kosovo fell
within its mandate.
45 Contact Group Statement on Kosovo,
Bonn, March 25, 1998.
46 Contact Group Statement on Kosovo,
Rome, April 29, 1998.
47 Members of the Kosovar Albanian
group, known as the G5, were: Ibrahim Rugova, Pajazit Nushi (head of the
Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms), Machmut Bakalli
(former head of the Kosovo Communist Party), Fehmi Agani (leading member
of the LDK, who was murdered by Serbian police during the NATO bombing),
and Veton Surroi (publisher of the independent newspaper Koha
48 Media Center Pristina, Dialogue
not Separatism and Terrorism, Third Amended
Edition, (Pristina: Media Centar Pristina, 1998), pp 96-97.
49 Conclusions of the European Union
General Affairs Counsel, May 25, 1998.
50 In his book, Kosovo,
War and Revenge, Tim Judah claims that Rugova
was promised a meeting with Clinton in return for agreeing to meet Milosevic.
Judah, Kosovo, War and Revenge,
51 Negotiations foundered, largely
because the Albanians, who had formed a larger group called the G15, refused
to negotiate during an offensive that so severely affected civilians.
52 See Human Rights Watch, Humanitarian
Law Violations in Kosovo.
53 For information on the university
law, see Human
Rights Watch, "Deepening Authoritarianism in Serbia: The Purge of the Universities,"
A Human Rights Watch Report,
vol. 11, no. 2, January 1999. For information on the Serbian media, especially
Serbia's broadcast media laws, see "Restrictions on the Broadcast Media
in FR Yugoslavia," a September 1998 report by Free2000, the international
committee to protect free press in Serbia that is affiliated with the Serbia-based
Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM). See http://www.free2000.opennet.org/,
54 Declaration by the European Union
on Kosovo, Brussels, June 9, 1998.
55 Statement on Kosovo issued at
the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Defense Minister Session,
Brussels, June 11, 1998.
56 Statement by NATO Secretary General
Dr. Javier Solana on Exercise "Determined Falcon," Brussels, June 13, 1998.
57 Contact Group Statement on Kosovo,
London, June 12, 1998.
58 See ANEM's website at: www.anem.opennet.org/index.phtml
See Humanitarian Law Center, Spotlight
Report No. 28, January, 1999, and Human Rights
Watch, Detentions and Abuse in Kosovo.
60 See Human Rights Watch,
A Week of Terror in Drenica.
62 "Persons missing in relation to
the events in Kosovo from January 1998," International Committee of the
Red Cross, First Edition, May 2000.
63 Humanitarian Law Center, "Kosovo-Disappearances
in Times of Armed Conflict," Spotlight
Report No. 27, August 5, 1998.
64 See Human Rights Watch, "Humanitarian
Law Violations in Kosovo."
65 For details of the Klecka case,
Rights Watch, "Humanitarian Law Violations in Kosovo."
In April 2000, two Kosovar
Albanians, Luan and Bekim Mazreku, went on trial in Nis, Serbia, for allegedly
executing Serbian civilians in Klecka. On May 30, their trials were indefinitely
postponed and, as of September, there had been no verdict. See trial monitoring
reports by the Serbia-based organization, Group 484, April 21 and September
Koha Ditore, July 11, 1998.
67 Reuters, July 29, 1998.
68 U.N. Security Council Resolution
1199, September 23, 1998.
69 Statement NATO Secretary General
Javier Solana, Vilamoura, Portugal, September 24, 1998.
70 Dejan Anastasijevic, "Slamming
the Door," Vreme,
no. 415, October 3, 1998.
71 The creation of a large-scale
human rights department was an innovation for OSCE missions. The human
rights findings during the KVM's mission, as well as during and after the
NATO bombing, were later presented in two useful reports: OSCE/ODIHR,
Kosovo: As Seen as Told, Parts I and II.
72 On the occasion of his dismissal,
Stanisic issued a brief statement that included these lines: "The service
under my leadership functioned in line with its constitutional and legal
framework, and it was under the constant legal control of the Serbian Supreme
Court. The service linked its activities and the responsibilities primarily
to the institution of the Serbian president." BBC Worldwide Monitoring,
"Text of statement issued by Serbian security chief on his dismissal,"
Source: Beta news agency, Belgrade, October 28, 1998.
73 Perisic, Chief of the Yugoslav
Army General Staff from August 1993 to November 1998, was generally considered
more inclined toward compromise with the West. For an interesting account
of Perisic's negotiations with western military leaders, see "Serbs' Offensive
Was Meticulously Planned," by R. Jeffrey Smith and William Drozdiak, April
11, 1999, The Washington Post.
See also, "Vengeful After First Setbacks, Army Chose Unrepentant Force,"
by Michael R. Gordon and Thom Shanker,
New York Times, May 29, 1999.
74 See the interview with former
KLA commander of the Llap region Rrustem Mustafa (alias Remi), published
in the Kosovo daily Zeri
between April 21 and May 4, 2000. Commander Remi states, "The UCK [?] welcomed
the [KVM] agreement, and in general it was profitable for us, for further
mobilization, for the training of our soldiers, and for pulling our strength
together so that we could continue the way that we had already started."
75 OSCE/ODIHR, Kosovo/Kosova:
As Seen, As Told-Part I, pp 26-29.
76 OSCE/ODIHR, Kosovo/Kosova:
As Seen, As Told-Part I, pp. 384.
77 Smith and Drozdiak, "Serbs' Offensive
Was Meticulously Planned."
See Human Rights Watch, "Yugoslav Government
War Crimes in Racak," A Human Rights Watch report, January 1999.
79 Statement by Serbian President
Milan Milutinovic, Borba,
January 18, 1999.
80 The Rambouillet Accords, Interim
Agreement for Peace and Self-Government in Kosovo, February 23, 1999, Appendix
B, paragraphs 8 and 21.
81 OSCE/ODIHR, Kosovo/Kosova:
As Seen, As Told-Part I, p 27.
82 Press conference of German Foreign
Minister Fischer, April 6, 1999, World Hall of the Foreign Office, and
Tony Paterson, "Germany Gives Details of Covert Plan," Times
(London), April 9, 1999.
83 John Goetz and Tom Walker, "Serbian
Ethnic Cleansing Scare Was A Fake, Says General," Sunday
Times, April 2, 2000.