Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page


Human Rights Developments

Throughout 1994, human rights conditions continued to deteriorate in the rump Yugoslavia, now renamed the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) and comprising Serbia and Montenegro. Although paramilitary violence against Hungarians and Croats subsided somewhat, continuing oppression against Sandzak Muslims and Kosovo Albanians continued throughout the year, directly contradicting Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's remarks that "in Serbia there is no policy of ethnic discrimination." The Yugoslav government also failed to investigate and prosecute abuses by armed civilians and paramilitary squads.

Police raids on homes and marketplaces occurred frequently in Kosovo; heavily armed Serbian police officers patrolled the streets, creating a state of terror. Albanians were arbitrarily arrested, interrogated and subjected to torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment in detention. Their political trials were marked by violations of the rights of the accused, including denial of the right to counsel and denial of the right to a fair and open public hearing by a competent, independent tribunal without unreasonable delay.

In late 1993 and early 1994, police violence increased in Sandzak, a heavily Muslim-populated region straddling Serbia and Montenegro. Police there used the same tactics as their counterparts in Kosovo: raids on homes, arrests and beatings as part of ostensible searches for illegal weapons. During these searches, police beat Muslim men with rifle butts and clubs over their entire bodies and heads. After such severe ill-treatment, many victims were unable to walk. When villagers had no guns to surrender, the police threatened them with further beatings unless they delivered weapons by a certain date. Police thus coerced Muslims into selling their meager property to buy guns to turn over, in the hope that they would be spared additional abuse. Although such attacks subsided by mid-1994, reports of police violence continued to be received from Sandzak throughout the year.

Also, in late 1993 and early 1994, Serbian authorities clamped down on the predominantly Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA), arresting dozens of its activists. Some of the defendants were taken to Serb-controlled territory in Bosnia-Hercegovina, where they were tortured until they signed "confessions" stating they had planned an armed rebellion. For weeks, even though prisoners had serious wounds from the beatings, the authorities refused to grant them access to either defense counsel or medical treatment. By October, the defendants had been tried, found guilty and sentenced to prison terms ranging from one to six years. Between mid-1992 and late 1993, more than fifty Muslims from Sandzak were murdered or went missing. Their leaders have been silenced, hundreds have been displaced, and thousands have fled the country. Through these repressive practices, the Yugoslav authorities have effectively crushed the Sandzak Muslims' participation and future voice in Yugoslav politics.

While Yugoslav authorities continued their repression in Sandzak, from late 1992 to mid-1993, Bosnian Serb forces too abducted and disappeared Sandzak Muslims travelling through Bosnian Serb territory. Yugoslav authorities showed little will to identify or arrest the perpetrators of these abuses despite pledges by numerous senior Serbian officials, including President Milosevic, to bring to justice those responsible for the abductions and disappearances. Only one man, a Belgrade resident named Milan Lukic, was arrested in connection with the disappearances. In early 1994, Lukic was "extradited" to the Bosnian Serb authorities but he was not taken into custody in Bosnian Serb-held territory.

The Serbian government launched a campaign against the free press in April, targeting foreign journalists, and independent domestic media. Foreign correspondents accused of spreading "anti-Serb propaganda" were stripped of their accreditation, while others found it increasingly difficult to obtain entry visas. The Belgrade office of the U.S.-based humanitarian Soros Foundation was also included in this campaign, as the Serbian authorities opposed the foundation's support for the independent media. On April 17, state television broadcast a twenty-five-minute attack on the Soros Foundation, with the government-controlled press following suit; the tone of the report was also clearly anti-Semitic.

In 1994, President Milosevic sought to exonerate himself and his government of any blame for atrocities perpetrated against non-Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina. Rather, he blamed individual extremists and the Bosnian Serbs for such crimes. In an interview with a U.S. magazine published in June, President Milosevic stated, "Serbs have not started this war [in Bosnia-Hercegovina]. In fact, Serbia is not even at war. Bosnia is." Two weeks after the article was published, a district court in the town of Sabac in Serbia, indicted a citizen of Serbia_Dusan Vuckovic_on war crimes charges, including killing sixteen Muslims near the northeastern Bosnian town of Zvornik in June 1992, as well as raping a Muslim woman in the Serbian town of Loznica in July 1992. This was the first time a war crimes act was officially recognized by the Serbian authorities but it was widely regarded as a show trial within Serbia. The trial was scheduled to begin on November 21.

In October, the chief prosecutor for the international tribunal established to adjudicate war crimes and crimes against humanity in the former Yugoslavia visited Belgrade but failed to obtain the full cooperation of the Yugoslav authorities. Instead, the rump Yugoslav government stated that it regarded the tribunal "as an act of discrimination." At most, the government stated that it would consider appointing officials within the FRY's Public Prosecutor's Office to facilitate cooperation between governmental and nongovernmental organizations and the tribunal's prosecutor.

The Right to Monitor

Although local human rights groups were allowed to function in the rump Yugoslavia, international monitors were denied access to the country, or prevented from investigating human rights abuses there. In November 1993, police detained and interrogated a Human Rights Watch/Helsinki representative in Kosovo because she had been monitoring a trial of Albanians. In July 1994, Yugoslav officials rejected the efforts of the special rapporteur for the United Nations Human Rights Commission, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, to send a mission to Yugoslavia, as they found his work "one-sided, full of prejudice and above all politicized."

The Role of the

International Community

European Union, Russian, and U.N. Policy

Economic sanctions imposed on the rump Yugoslavia continued to be grossly violated: a July 6 Reuters article reported that "some 1,000 trucks, including some carrying oil, cross the border [with Macedonia] every week ... So much fuel is coming in that as a fire safety measure, Belgrade authorities are setting up semi-official petrol markets to move smugglers' canisters and oil drums from impromptu sales points on city roadsides." Other news sources reported that private vehicles brought some twenty tons of fuel into Serbia every day through Bulgaria.

On August 4, President Milosevic announced that Yugoslavia was cutting all political and economic ties with the Bosnian Serbs because of their rejection of the latest international peace plan for Bosnia-Hercegovina. Despite a failed attempt to seal the Bosnia-Serbia border in 1993 and continued resistance by the Serbian government throughout 1994, on September 14 President Milosevic finally consented to the stationing of approximately 140 international civilian observers along Serbia's 375-mile land and river border with Bosnia instead of the 1,500-2,000 troops originally envisaged. International negotiators accepted President Milosevic's demands that the observers not be called monitors and not include military officers as originally planned. The observers also depended on drivers and interpreters supplied by the Yugoslav authorities. Inspections were to be carried out in warehouses rather than at border crossings, and observers were not given the authority to inspect suspect trucks, which suggested that they could act only with the consent of Yugoslav police and customs officials.

The enforcement of the border blockade remained in dispute after international observers were deployed. In early October, the U.S. and German press reported massive cross-border commercial traffic, including black-market fuel and light weaponry. U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry said on September 30 that the Bosnian Serbs were still receiving weapons or other equipment from across the Drina river, but Lord David Owen, the European Union's peace negotiator for the former Yugoslavia, reported to the U.N. in early October that "controls of the border have been adequate." Meanwhile, hundreds of helicopter flights were reported over Bosnia in mid-September and early October; fifty-five flights took place on Saturday, October 8 alone. After U.N. officials said the flights might be a Yugoslav army effort to resupply Bosnian Serb forces, the flights reportedly stopped.

Despite the early failures and uncertain enforcement of the border blockade, on October 23 the U.N. Security Council approved a resolution partially lifting economic and cultural sanctions against the government of rump Yugoslavia, thus rewarding President Milosevic for his pledge to seal the border. The resolution was to remain in effect for one hundred days, unless U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali found that arms were once again being transported across the border.

U.S. Policy

The Clinton administration paid some attention to continuing abuses in the rump Yugoslavia in 1994, particularly Kosovo, but it also acquiesced to European pressure to reward the Milosevic government for its alleged rupture of relations with the Bosnian Serbs. Little attention was paid to the human rights record of the Yugoslav authorities or the Serbian government's past support for "ethnic cleansing" in Croatia and Bosnia.

Initially against lifting sanctions, the U.S. in late August and early September supported easing U.N. sanctions against Yugoslavia. The U.S. moved to support further efforts to lift sanctions if President Milosevic granted diplomatic recognition to Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina. This position contradicted statements made by Madeline Albright, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., in late 1993 and in January, when she stated that the U.S. would oppose lifting sanctions against any state that did not cooperate with the investigations and prosecutions of the international tribunal by freely permitting investigation of war crimes and crimes against humanity and by extraditing those indicted for offenses. Because the Yugoslav government continued to question the legitimacy of the tribunal and had failed to cooperate with it, and because the human rights situation within the rump Yugoslavia had not improved, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki considered the U.S. change of position extremely unfortunate.

The Work of

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki

Because of the lack of an international human rights presence in the rump Yugoslavia, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki continued to maintain one or more staff members there throughout 1994 in order to monitor human rights in the rump Yugoslavia and Serbian-controlled areas of Bosnia and Croatia.

Throughout the year, staff researchers investigated human rights violations in Serbia proper, Kosovo, and Sandzak. In February, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki issued a protest letter calling on Yugoslav Defense Minister Pavle Bulatovic to cease activities related to recruiting Serbian refugees from Bosnia and Croatia to serve in the Bosnian Serb army. In March 1994, Open Wounds: Human Rights Abuses in Kosovo was published, a report that documented escalating human rights abuses of Albanians by Serbian authorities. On May 6, Human Rights Abuses of Non-Serbs in Kosovo, Sandzak and Vojvodina reported on human rights abuses against non-Serbs in these provinces of Yugoslavia. At the request of Tadeusz Mazowiecki, the special rapporteur for the United Nations Human Rights Commission, on September 1 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki submitted a lengthy letter reporting human rights abuses in rump Yugoslavia.

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki also protested against restrictions on freedom of the press and the right to monitor in 1994. On April 14, in a letter to the prime minister and information minister of Yugoslavia, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki protested the revocation of press credentials to foreign journalists.

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki investigated the state of domestic war crimes trials and advocated that the easing of sanctions against the rump Yugoslavia be conditioned on the Serbian authorities' demonstrated cooperation with the international tribunal established to adjudicate war crimes and crimes against humanity in the former Yugoslavia.

Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page