In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Human Rights Watch urges a tough line on human rights during next week's trip to Europe, including stops in Croatia, Bosnia and Russia.
The Secretary is expected to leave for Europe on Saturday, for stops in Croatia and Bosnia, before traveling on to meet President Clinton in Moscow for the summit meeting with Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
August 28, 1998
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20520
Re: Trip to Croatia, Bosnia and Hercegovina, and Russia
Dear Secretary Albright:
I am writing to you regarding your upcoming trip to Europe, including stops in Croatia, Bosnia, and Russia, all countries in which we have serious concerns about human rights conditions. We strongly urge you to emphasize these concerns, summarized below, in your meetings with relevant government officials.
Human Rights Watch is troubled by the on-going discrimination suffered by Serbs in Croatia. In a recent mission to Croatia, Human Rights Watch documented persistent discrimination against Serbs, especially legal and administrative difficulties that leave them without the documents, pensions, and housing to which they are entitled.
The reintegration of Eastern Slavonia can only be viewed as a disaster in terms of protection. So-called "soft evictions" of displaced Croatian Serbs from their current residences in Eastern Slavonia by Croat returnees--through intimidation, legal and administrative discrimination, threats and periodic violence--have reduced the number of displaced Serbs in Eastern Slavonia from 60,000-70,000 in 1996 to approximately 5,000 today. Most have left for Yugoslavia, Bosnia and third countries, rather than returning to their pre-war homes elsewhere in Croatia, in part because unevenly applied housing laws leave them unable to reclaim their pre-war homes now occupied by Croats. As for long-term Serb residents of Eastern Slavonia, "For Sale" signs on houses are now a common sight in Serb villages, as they too try to leave with their families for Yugoslavia.
Meanwhile, a number of obstacles prevent the return of Croatian Serb refugees from Bosnia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to Croatia. Throughout Croatia, Serb returnees often face a hostile welcome and sometimes violence from their neighbors, especially Croat refugees from Bosnia. Moreover, current Croatian reconstruction law prioritizes reconstruction of property damaged by Serb "aggression" and the homes of "homeland defenders," while Serbs receive only limited assistance in property reconstruction from international non-governmental organizations and other donors. The lack of suitable housing and difficulties in obtaining passports and documents proving citizenship at Croatian consulates abroad, coupled with widespread uncertainty about the Croatian amnesty law and high-profile war crimes trials being conducted in Croatia, remain serious obstacles to the return of Croatian Serbs.
Under international pressure, Croatia recently took measures to facilitate return of Serb refugees and displaced persons to their pre-war homes: they adopted a program on return and repealed several discriminatory housing laws. We cautiously welcome these developments, but remain concerned that without sustained international monitoring and pressure, implementation will fall far short of Croatia's international commitments. For example, the Croatian government has so far failed to issue instructions on the functioning of the local housing commissions set up under the new program to facilitate the return of occupied property to its original owners.
Against this backdrop, we believe that your trip to Croatia is an important opportunity to impress upon the Croatian authorities that the international community will hold it to its human rights commitments. We would also encourage you, when you meet with your European colleagues in Vienna, to request them to make the human rights situation in Croatia a priority, particularly in connection with the upcoming six-month review of the E.U.'s regional approach to reconstruction assistance for the former Yugoslavia.
In addition to the foregoing concerns about discrimination suffered by ethnic Serbs in Croatia, Human Rights Watch is deeply disturbed about reports that the Croatian government may be connected to the disappearance of an indicted war crimes suspect and possible key witness against his former commanders. The Croatian weekly Nacional reported in January 1998 that Bosnian Croat and/or Croatian authorities have been involved in the disappearance of Miroslav Bralo, a Bosnian Croat who is under sealed indictment by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Miroslav Bralo, according to The Washington Post (December 9, 1997), tried to hand himself over to SFOR troops in Vitez on July 14, 1997, and was willing to cooperate with the Tribunal. However, he was turned away by the SFOR troops, who apparently did not know he was indicted. According to the story in Nacional, Miroslav Bralo was kidnaped by Croat secret police in December 1997, only days before Dutch SFOR troops in Vitez arrested two other indictees. U.S. government sources have confirmed that Bralo is no longer in Bosnia, and indicated that he might be in Croatia. Human Rights Watch believes his disappearance may be connected to his willingness to testify against his former commanders, Anto Furundzija and General Tihomir Blaskic, and is very concerned about his safety. We understand that U.S. embassy officials in Zagreb are investigating this matter, but we strongly urge you to raise the question of Miroslav Bralo's whereabouts with Croatian officials as well.
Since the signing of the Dayton Agreement in late 1995, and particularly since July of last year, significant improvements have taken place regarding rule of law, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and democratization in Bosnia and Hercegovina:
- Freedom of movement considerably improved after the authorities from both Entities agreed on new registration plates in January 1998, and many more people cross the Inter-Entity Boundary Line than was the case during the immediate post-war period.
- The ICTY has many more indictees in custody than a year ago, though few of these apprehensions can be attributed to cooperation by the Bosnian authorities.
- The joint political institutions have begun to meet regularly, albeit with many difficulties, and only after extensive pressure by the international community. On many key issues, including the flag, the coat of arms, the new currency, and privatization laws, the High Representative ultimately had to make a decision himself, due to the inability of local authorities to come to an agreement.
- The process of reform and restructuring of the police force is well underway in the Federation, and a modest beginning has been made in the Republika Srpska (RS).
- The RS government of Prime Minister Dodik has shown much more willingness to cooperate with the international community than its predecessor, which was under the control of Radovan Karadzic.
While these developments are significant, what is most notable is the extent to which they have been imposed on the authorities of Bosnia and Hercegovina by the international community. Human Rights Watch remains deeply concerned about the authorities' persistent disrespect for fundamental human rights, which is undermining all western efforts at reconstruction and peace-building. A number of our key concerns are outlined below:
Cooperation with the ICTY
While many more indictees are in custody in The Hague than was the case a year ago, this is only to a limited extent the result of cooperation by the authorities in Bosnia and Hercegovina. For the most part, indictees have decided themselves to surrender, or were detained by SFOR troops. In no case has an indictee been arrested and turned over to The Hague by national, entity or local officials. Indeed, there are numerous examples of governmental authorities' ongoing obstruction of such arrests. It was only after intense and sustained pressure by the international community that the Republic of Croatia handed over ten Bosnian Croat indictees to the ICTY in October 1997. The Federation authorities, in this case the Bosnian Croats, did nothing to arrest or detain these indictees, although they had been living in areas under their control. At the present time, at least two other publicly indicted persons, Ivica Rajic and Zoran Marinic, are believed to be living in Bosnian Croat territory. Yet, the local authorities have taken no steps to arrest them.
After much delay, the local authorities in Republika Srpska finally allowed the ICTY to open an office in Banja Luka. However, no further cooperation has been forthcoming. The RS authorities have yet to arrest a single person indicted by the ICTY, despite their legal obligations to do so. Moreover, Louise Arbour, the Chief Prosecutor of the ICTY, stated recently that "Republika Srpska [...] has [...] been engaged in deliberately frustrating the Tribunal's work by issuing false identification papers to those persons indicted by the Tribunal in an attempt to shield them from the Tribunal's jurisdiction."
Rule of law, impunity and the role of the police and the judiciary
The impunity enjoyed by prominent war crimes suspects reverberates throughout Bosnian government and society. Ethnically motivated violence, including homicide, continues to occur throughout Bosnia and Hercegovina. Over the last year, ethnically motivated attacks occurred in, among others, Travnik, Drvar, Vares, Jajce, Mostar, Derventa, Doboj, Bugojno, Bijeljina, Janja, Sarajevo and Banja Luka. In most of these cases, the perpetrators have never been brought to justice. Often, this is the result of an unwillingness on behalf of the local police or judiciary: many of the investigations into, and court proceedings of, these incidents are fundamentally flawed.
Moreover, in several of these incidents, the local police played a very dubious role: they often made no attempt to prevent these incidents from happening or to react to them once they were underway and, in some cases, the police were even actively involved in these incidents. IPTF reports on Drvar, Teslic, Jajce, Mostar, Stolac and other places provide ample evidence to prove this. During violent demonstrations in Jajce in August 1997, the reaction of the local police was at best non-existent. On several occasions, police officers were observed standing by without intervening, and in one case seven police officers refused to take action to remove a roadblock (despite being asked to do so by IPTF) and instead retreated from the scene. During the violent demonstration in Drvar in April 1998, local police were observed walking in the crowd, without any attempt to control the crowd. Furthermore, a police officer from Bosansko Grahovo encouraged a crowd to block an SFOR vehicle from moving, and even put a log in front of the vehicle.
Indicted persons and others who are believed to have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during the war continue to exert control over parts of Bosnia and Hercegovina. Their ongoing influence is one of the greatest obstacles to Bosnia's development into a democratic, pluralistic state where human rights and fundamental freedoms are respected. Not only do these persons obstruct the implementation of important human rights provisions of the Dayton Agreement, they also prevent other more moderate leaders from fulfilling their international obligations. RS Prime Minister Dodik's limited success at implementing the Dayton Agreement can be attributed, at least in part, to the fact that he still does not exert real control over Eastern Republika Srpska, which remains under the influence of Radovan Karadzic and his supporters. The arrest of Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and other individuals indicted by the ICTY is necessary for long-term peace in Bosnia, as well as any successful western "exit strategy" for the country.
Return of refugees
Closely related to on-going ethnic violence, inadequate policing, and the pervasive lack of respect for the rule of law is the slow pace of refugee return to Bosnia and Hercegovina. The international community in Bosnia and Hercegovina has declared 1998 to be the Year of Return. However, with some notable exceptions, the pace of returns remains extremely slow, and those that do take place are mainly returns to so-called "majority areas." The latest UNHCR figures show that, between the signing of the Dayton Agreement and June 30, 1998, around 475,000 displaced persons and refugees have returned (out of over 2 million displaced persons and refugees). However, of those 475,000 returnees, only about 15,000 were returns to the Entity where the returnee is now a "minority." And even including the return of Muslims to Croat areas of the Federation and vice versa, "minority returns" only constitute 11% of all returns.
The "Open City" program was created by UNHCR to encourage minority return by financially rewarding municipalities that allow minority groups to return to their former homes. In order to be awarded the status of Open City by UNHCR, municipalities have to meet a set of basic criteria that are proof of genuine commitment to minority return. While the Open Cities program can be called a success in some areas, in places like Vogosca and Konjic it has failed. In Vogosca, one of the first municipalities to receive Open City status, there has been virtually no return: only 26 Bosnian Croats and 46 Bosnian Serbs have returned this year, and UNHCR is considering revoking the Open City status. And as the International Crisis Group pointed out in its report "The Konjic Conundrum," there have been fewer than 300 minority returns to Konjic, despite the fact Konjic, according to UNHCR, is a "model Open City." Although other factors--such as lack of housing and willingness to actually return--play an important role, obstruction by local authorities is a significant factor as well.
Authorities continue to obstruct return in several ways. In Sarajevo, they have consistently failed to meet targets and deadlines set by the Sarajevo Declaration, the final document of a February 1998 conference on return to Sarajevo. These targets and deadlines concern a variety of issues, such as the identification of cases of multiple occupancy, resolution of all pending UNHCR and Jewish community cases, revision of school curriculums and police reform. According to the second Sarajevo Declaration Quarterly Implementation Review, the Sarajevo authorities have verified only 148 addresses of multiple occupancy, whereas the target for June 30, 1998 was the identification of 1500 addresses. Furthermore, of the 98 pending UNHCR return cases, only 36 have been resolved, and of the 29 Jewish community return cases, only 16 have been resolved. But the lack of progress is most obvious when we look at actual return: whereas the target for 1998 was to have 20,000 members of minority groups return to their prewar homes in Sarajevo, as of June 30, 1998, only 423 Bosnian Croats and 575 Bosnian Serbs had returned.
Republika Srpska Prime Minister Dodik promised to allow 70,000 Bosniaks and Croats to return to the RS during 1998. However, despite assurances given during the April 1998 Banja Luka Regional Returns Conference, the RS authorities failed to meet the June deadline set by the Conference for revocation of discriminatory property housing legislation. Now, the Peace Implementation Council (PIC), at its meeting in Luxemburg, has set a new deadline: August 31, 1998. Moreover, as of this writing, the RS authorities have still not presented a comprehensive return plan for the RS. The government's failure to create even these minimum conditions for return make it improbable that there will be any significant return to the RS this year: by the time new laws and a comprehensive return plan are adopted and ready for implementation, the "return season" will be almost over. As of June 30, 1998, only 1,920 members of minority groups had returned to the Republika Srpska since the signing of the Dayton Agreement.
Furthermore, there are still hundreds of cases of so-called "floaters" (ethnic minorities who were expelled from their homes after the signing of the Dayton Agreement, but who, nevertheless, remain in the same city). There has been little progress on these cases, despite repeated demands from the international community to allow these people to return to their property immediately.
Moreover, some who have tried to return to their homes have been prevented--often violently--from doing so. Violent incidents, often believed to be orchestrated by the local authorities and police have occurred in both Entities. The incidents in Drvar and Doboj in April 1998, and the ongoing obstruction of return in Stolac, are the best known, but certainly not the only, examples of obstruction to return. In Drvar, a series of violent incidents, ranging from arson of houses of (potential) returnees to the killing of an elderly Serb couple that had just returned, have taken place. Tensions culminated in a violent demonstration on April 24, 1998, in which the municipality building and offices of several international organizations were attacked, ransacked and set on fire, and in which Mile Marceta, the Serb Mayor of Drvar, was seriously injured. The incident led hundreds of Serbs, who had just returned to Drvar, to leave again. On April 26, 1998, a violent clash in Svjetlica, a village in the vicinity of Doboj (RS) between Serbs and Bosniak returnees resulted in at least five Bosnian Serbs being injured by a hand grenade. The implementation of the pilot project for return of Bosniaks to Stolac has been hampered by an endless series of incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence against Bosniak returnees. Moreover, many houses of (potential) Bosniak returnees have been destroyed by explosions or have been set on fire.
Implementation of local election results
We understand that a primary purpose of your trip is to emphasize the importance the U.S. places on the conduct of free and fair elections next month. Accordingly, we would like to highlight a number of on-going problems relating to the implementation of last year's local elections. The results of the local elections have been implemented in almost all municipalities, albeit in many cases only after a long and difficult process of negotiations, and often with considerable pressure by the international community. However, the municipal councillors of Srebrenica have failed to come to an agreement on the constitution of municipal bodies. Before the war, Srebrenica had a clear Bosniak majority (72.9% according to the 1991 census). Since the fall of Srebrenica in 1995, the town has been inhabited exclusively by Serbs, many of whom are displaced persons from Sarajevo and Bosnian Krajina. In the 1997 municipal elections, however, the Coalition for a United and Democratic Bosnia, a coalition of Bosniak political parties, won 24 seats in the Srebrenica Municipal Assembly, while the Serb Democratic Party and the Serb Radical Party together won the other 20 seats. Since the councillors could not agree on the constitution of municipal bodies, the OSCE appointed an interim Executive Board, headed by an OSCE representative (Mr. Larry Sampler). But according to sources in the OSCE, even the members of the appointed Executive Board refuse to meet each other.
In the other municipalities, the election results have been formally certified, and municipal bodies have been elected, but such bodies often do not function properly, as a result of the inability of opposing ethnic groups to agree on any topic. In several municipalities, representatives of post-war ethnic minority groups only have a symbolic role, without any substantial influence in the municipality. This is especially the case in municipalities where the post-war ethnic minority only has a relatively small number of seats. Even elected officials of minority groups are often unable to perform their duties due to obstruction of the other councillors or the municipality. In many cases, elected councillors are still unable to reclaim their prewar accommodations, and are therefore forced to live in another city (often in the other Entity). In Drvar, for months Mayor Mile Marceta did not have an office nor keys to the building. Similar situations exist in many other parts of the country.
In light of the conditions described above, we urge you to impress upon all authorities of Bosnia and Hercegovina with whom you meet that the peace process requires a new level of commitment by the authorities to implement the human rights components of the Dayton Peace Agreement. Specifically, we believe that you should insist upon full cooperation with the Tribunal; official action to end incidents of ethnic violence and hold accountable those responsible, including police officers; guarantees of the rights of displaced persons to return safely to their pre-war homes, including the revocation of discriminatory housing laws in RS; and free and fair elections, the results of which must be fully implemented. Moreover, in response to the growing sense of disillusionment with the peace process and with the quest for justice in particular, we feel that it will be especially important for the people of Bosnia to hear from you that the U.S. remains committed to the Tribunal and to securing the surrender or arrest of all individuals indicted on war crimes charges.
Human Rights Watch's current concerns in Russia are threefold: corruption, and its connection to human rights abuses; violence against women; and Russian foreign policies toward Belarus and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. We strongly urge you and President Clinton, during your visit to Moscow, to raise these concerns detailed below, which directly affect the rights of millions of people, in Russia and beyond, and are very clearly linked to U.S. policy interests in areas beyond human rights.
We urge you to send a message to the Russian government and the Russian people that the U.S. government deplores the debilitating effects corruption has had not only on the Russian economy, but especially on the rule of law. The Russian government is riddled with corruption, and its current difficulties, including, for example, chronic wage and pension arrears, insider privatization deals and tax evasion, are often a consequence of corruption. Moreover, it has laid waste to the public institutions crucial to long-term economic development, the rule of law and human rights protection. Finally, it is difficult to overstate how thoroughly corruption has eroded public trust in these institutions.
Among the most corrupt government institutions in Russia are its law enforcement agencies; this is no doubt of grave concern to the Clinton administration because it sabotages U.S. policy goals in fighting international crime. Corruption in law enforcement agencies also facilitates or is directly responsible for human rights abuses: ill-treatment and abuse in police custody, trafficking of women and police harassment of refugees and ethnic minorities.
Throughout the past year, Human Rights Watch has researched police abuse in four Russian regions--Irkutsk, Arkhangelsk, Nizhniy Novgorod, and Ekatarinburg, in addition to Moscow and St. Petersburg. We found incontrovertible evidence in most places that police routinely torture or ill-treat criminal suspects, defendants and even witnesses (including juveniles) to compel testimony or a confession. Police are frequently more preoccupied with generating income through corruption than with criminal investigations, the quality of which is generally unacceptably poor. Criminal justice officials (police, prosecutors, and judges at local and regional levels) commonly solicit and accept bribes to drop charges and investigations, yet crime solving rates are higher than ever, no doubt due to torture and inventive falsification of crime statistics. Finally, corruption's rampancy in the Russian police has helped to foster the atmosphere of impunity that prevents abusive police from being brought to justice.
Most commonly, police detectives beat criminal suspects in police stations in the earliest hours of custody. Other forms of torture include repeated suffocation with a simple plastic bag or gas mask. The suspect is effectively isolated from his family, and is routinely denied access to a lawyer. A confession by a torture victim practically guarantees a guilty verdict, as courts systematically ignore torture complaints and often base their verdicts primarily on confessions. Abusers are rarely brought to justice, as procuracy inquiries into police abuse are pro forma at best, and, without the approval of the case investigator, defense attorneys cannot order forensic testing for their clients to confirm torture allegations.
Corrupt policing in Moscow seriously violates the rights of ethnic minorities. In a 1997 report, Moscow: Open Season, Closed City, we documented the predatory conduct of Moscow police in its enforcement of the propiska system. Police in the capital routinely detain people on residence permit checks and extort bribes from them. Such abuse is often accompanied by physical violence, and the alarmingly frequent invasion of privacy: according to police statistics, 1.3 million passport checks were conducted in private homes in the first five months of 1997; in many cases that Human Rights Watch documented, police enter the apartments forcibly. In neighborhoods with large refugee populations, police extort bribes from destitute asylum seekers on a monthly basis, amounting to an informal tax. Their victims in many cases are people with dark skin who seek refuge in Russia, usually from Central Asia, the Caucasus, Afghanistan, and some African countries.
Corruption is directly linked to the trafficking of women. The Clinton administration announced on March 11 a firm commitment to fight the scourge of trafficking worldwide. The administration must now turn its attention to trafficking out of and through the Russian Federation. Trafficking cannot be eliminated solely through the adoption of new laws and support of grass-roots NGOs; the Russian government must also make a commitment to end the corruption which surely allows trafficking to flourish. According to media reports, traffickers allegedly rely on corrupt officials in various ministries to issue bogus passports, visas, and other documents. To date, the Russian government has not come forward with any initiatives to fight trafficking.
We urge you to make clear in meetings with Russian officials that abuse by law enforcement agencies and the corruption that facilitates it sabotage U.S. policy aimed at building the rule of law and protecting rights. In 1997, the U.S. government funded more than sixty law enforcement training programs; the Russian government should be on notice that such programs will not serve to support corruption and abuse. Furthermore, the U.S. government should register alarm at the vicious blend of racism and corruption in the enforcement of residence permits, and should make clear that it is inconsistent with the purpose of U.S. funds targeting Russian migration programs.
Violence against women
In our recent report, Too Little, Too Late: State Response to Violence Against Women, Human Rights Watch documented the Russian government's systematic failure to respond to violence against women. Widespread police refusal to take reports and state failure to prosecute cases in the face of rampant rape and domestic violence constitute serious human rights violations. Our research revealed that police and prosecutors routinely reject or discourage complaints, suggesting that female complainants either provoked or fabricated attacks. In the rare cases in which rape reports are investigated, women are subjected to highly invasive and seemingly irrelevant broad inquiries into their psychological state, reputations and sexual histories.
Remedying this situation demands political will to implement better policing and to adopt better criminal and criminal procedure laws. Pressure must be felt at the highest political levels in order to overcome tremendous resistance and stubborn prejudices.
The Clinton administration has long emphasized that violence against women is a priority issue. Congress has mandated spending of up to $1.5 million in 1998 for law enforcement training programs focused on domestic violence in the Russian Federation. However, without overall policy change, these efforts will be for naught. High-level Russian government officials must make public statements condemning all forms of violence against women and pledging equal justice for victims of these human rights abuses. The Procurator General and the Minister of Internal Affairs must enact directives mandating that police and prosecutors make the investigation and prosecution of violence against women, in all its forms, a priority.
In the fall of this year, the State Department plans to hold a conference on domestic violence in Moscow. This conference provides an excellent opportunity for the Russian government to announce initiatives to fight violence against women. In order to set the stage for the upcoming conference, as well as to support the growing grass-roots violence-against-women movement in Russia, Human Rights Watch urges that violence against women be raised at the summit as a serious, on-going human rights violation. President Clinton should seek assurances from President Yeltsin that Procurator General Yuri Skuratov and Minister of Internal Affairs Sergei Stepashin will send their deputies to the conference. Further, President Clinton should urge the Russian government to implement domestic violence and rape training programs for police and prosecutors, and discipline officers who refuse to take reports from victims of violence.
Russian foreign policy toward Belarus and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Russia is perhaps the only member of the international community with key leverage over Belarus and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, whose leaders have created human rights disasters in their respective countries.
Russia has largely failed to use this leverage at crucial moments to stop Belarus's return to Soviet-era authoritarian practices. Considering the Clinton administration's stated commitment to improving human rights in Belarus, it must, in this summit, press the Yeltsin administration to make the most of this leverage. The eviction of the U.S. and E.U. ambassadors from their residences in Minsk illustrated President Alexander Lukashenka's authoritarian style, just as human rights violations in Belarus since 1996 have clearly born his personal stamp. President Lukashenka's presidential decrees have flagrantly violated freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and the right to due process. Our July report, Turning back the Clock, describes these and secret presidential instructions that seek to choke off information to the independent media. His political enemies have been subject to criminal prosecution; government security agents have clearly been involved in assaults and threats against politically independent persons, including an opposition newspaper editor, a human rights activist, and a film director. Since President Lukashenka is involved in the appointment of judges and can dismiss them, court hearings for his political enemies are unlikely to be fair, and anti-government demonstrators, graffiti writers and other political activists charged with misdemeanors are rubber stamps that generally result in jail terms and exorbitant fines. We hope that President Clinton will use the summit as a forum to call on the President Yeltsin to support the OSCE mission in Minsk and to engage the Belarusian government and President Lukashenka personally to respect fundamental principles of democracy and human rights as stipulated in the Russia-Belarus Union Charter.
Russian foreign policy toward the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia should also be a high priority for the summit. Russian cooperation with the U.S. and other members of the Contact Group and Security Council is critical to solving the escalating crisis in Kosovo. As in Belarus, Russia enjoys important political, economic, and historic ties to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia that give it special leverage with the Serbs. Russia's reticence to use this leverage to help bring an end to mounting human rights and humanitarian law violations is inexcusable. Since late February, discord within the international community, in particular between Russia and other key players, has given Slobodan Milosevic the green light to pursue a brutal crackdown resulting in serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. A lack of cooperation with Russia must not get in the way of effective condemnation of abuses, enforcement of economic and military sanctions, or pursuit of other means necessary to end the conflict. In this regard, we welcome the recent collaborative efforts of the U.S. and Russian governments at shuttle diplomacy and monitoring conditions on the ground, and we urge you to make certain that Kosovo figures prominently in the summit agenda. Moreover, we believe that President Clinton should take the opportunity, jointly with President Yeltsin, to publicly condemn violations of international humanitarian law committed in Kosovo, vow to hold accountable those responsible for any such abuses, and commit to bringing the hostilities to a swift end.
In closing, let me assure you that we appreciate the priority attention that you are paying to the situation in Croatia, Bosnia and Hercegovina, and the Russian Federation. I hope that the information contained in this letter will be of assistance to you and your staff. Please do not hesitate to contact me if we can be of any additional assistance.
Human Rights Watch, Europe & Central Asia Division