Human Rights Developments
After a number of military setbacks in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina, which created an exodus of approximately 250,000 refugees headed for Serbia, the FRY announced in mid-August that all men of fighting age coming from Krajina would be barred from entering the country and would be redirected to the battlefields in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Reviews of their claims for refugee status were often rejected, and they were forcibly conscripted into abusive armed forces, as members of which they were likely to commit violations of international humanitarian law. Earlier in the summer, the Yugoslav police and army had arrested military-aged Serbian refugees in Serbia who were then forcibly mobilized by either the Bosnian Serb Army or, more recently, by notorious war criminal Arkan's paramilitary forces based in eastern Slavonia, Croatia. By June 22, the campaign widened to include even citizens of Serbia proper who in the past had lived or worked in Croatia or Bosnia-Hercegovina for some period of time. The scale of the governments's roundup was so large that it even prompted outrage within the parliament.
Serbian refugees and some Serbian citizens physically harassed Croats and Hungarians and forcibly evicted them from their homes in Vojvodina in reprisal for the Croatian Army's military successes in Krajina and western Slavonia in May and August, respectively.
The human rights situation in Kosovo_a region in the south of Serbia in which approximately 90 percent of the population is Albanian_continued to deteriorate. Shielded from international scrutiny, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's government intensified oppression of ethnic Albanians during the year. As of late 1995, eleven people ranging from ten to sixty-six years of age had been arbitrarily killed and eleven others wounded by the Serbian police and/or Yugoslav Army soldiers. There were approximately 2,400 cases of arbitrary arrests of Albanians by Serbian authorities, and thousands more summoned for "informative talks." Many of these individuals were beaten by the police; at this writing, over 200 were reportedly still in police custody under spurious charges. Serbian police continued to raid Albanian villages, conduct indiscriminate and brutal house raids without official search warrants, and arbitrarily arrest and imprison individuals. Excessive force and torture during detention were often reported. Forced expulsions from houses and apartments also continued to exacerbate tensions in the area.
A number of Albanians, particularly former government employees in the police and army, were especially targeted by the Serbian authorities during the year. During 1995, over 200 Albanians were reportedly prosecuted for, among other things, "acts of hostility against the state" and "jeopardizing the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia." In addition, some were accused "of forming a parallel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Interior Affairs, with the goal of jeopardizing the constitutional order and territorial integrity of Serbia and Yugoslavia." Many of the defendants were subjected to beatings and torture, were coerced into making incriminating statements, and were held for up to four days without the right to contact their lawyers or relatives.
As of late 1995, an estimated three-quarters of the overall number of formerly employed Albanians had been dismissed from their state jobs. The Kosovo Albanians continued to refuse to recognize Serbian direct rule in the province and established a "parallel society" and government, including "underground" schools, clinics and other civic institutions.
Approximately 13,000 Serbian refugees, many of whom had fled the Krajina region during the Croatian offensive or areas of northwestern Bosnia that fell to Bosnian government forces, were settled in Kosovo by the Belgrade government during the last quarter of 1995. Another 3,000 had been settled in Kosovo earlier during the year. This resettlement initiative served the government's longstanding goal of changing the demographic composition of the region. The refugees were given incentives to settle permanently in the region, including free land, jobs, credits, and in some cases Albanians' houses and apartments that were either temporarily vacant or from which Albanian tenants had been evicted.
The Right to Monitor
The Role of the International Community
Despite Milosevic's numerous past promises to the international community to seal the border with Serbian-controlled areas of Bosnia-Hercegovina and to cut all political, economic and military ties with the Bosnian Serbs, as well as U.N. certification that the border was sealed, the international press reported that the border remained porous and that Serbia continued its support for Bosnian Serb forces. According to a July 26 article in The Independent (London), there were frequent sightings of petrol, munitions, soldiers and vehicles with Yugoslav army registration plates crossing over from Serbia into Bosnia-Hercegovina. In January, according to U.N. representatives, more than sixty-two helicopter flights crossed the Serbian-Bosnian border, in violation of the U.N.-imposed "no-fly" zone over Bosnia. By exploiting loopholes in the border closure agreements drawn up by the international community, the FRY continued to provide important material and manpower assistance to the Bosnian Serb army.
On July 4, the International Herald Tribune (Paris) reported that Belgrade was, in effect, running the Bosnian and Krajina Serb war machines: in the aftermath of Croatia's offensive to retake Serbian-controlled western Slavonia, uncovered documents reportedly revealed that 300 officers were on Belgrade's payroll. Moreover, in May, a member of the Yugoslav Army's general staff_Lt. Gen. Mile Mirksic_was sent from Serbia as the replacement commander for the forces of the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina in Croatia. In March, Milosevic sent up to 900 troops, twenty tanks, ground-to-ground rockets and other equipment from the rump Yugoslavia into the Serb-controlled area of eastern Croatia. This was all carried out in the presence of U.N. troops mandated to demilitarize the zone, who were ordered by their Russian commander not to block the movement.
At the end of May and beginning of June, after Bosnian Serbs took hostage approximately 400 U.N. soldiers, Milosevic's chief of security Jovica Stanisic was a ubiquitous figure at the Bosnian Serb-U.N. negotiations to bring about the U.N. prisoners' release. Stanisic's appearance in Pale just before each group of hostages was freed further underscored the view that Milosevic had never broken off his military and strategic support for the Bosnian Serbs despite a highly publicized feud with Karadzic.
At the outset of the year, the contact group_comprising representatives from the U.S., France, Germany, U.K. and Russia_agreed to lift sanctions imposed on rump Yugoslavia if Milosevic would recognize Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia and tighten its border with the Bosnian Serbs. Throughout the year, countless European_and more recently American_diplomats traveled to Belgrade, invariably attempting to convince Milosevic to recognize Bosnia-Hercegovina in exchange for a lifting of the international sanctions. Milosevic turned down such offers a number of times, insisting that sanctions be lifted first. Although the international community was not satisfied with his preconditions, Milosevic was able to score a fundamental political success for FRY: he brought an end to the country's status as an international pariah by linking his personal involvement in the Bosnian peace negotiations with the issue of lifting the international sanctions against rump Yugoslavia.
In November, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia indicted three Yugoslav Army officers in connection with war crimes perpetrated during and after the fall of the city of Vukovar in Croatia in 1991.
The Work of Human Rights Watch/Helsinki
By substituting individualized guilt for the assumptions of collective ethnic guilt that now fuel the conflict, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia_the only existing fair trial venue and viable road to accountability_offered an historic opportunity to provide justice to victims of atrocities, possible deterrence against further abuse, and a basis for eventual peace in the region. In June, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki released a report critiquing domestic war crimes trials in Bosnia-Hercegovina, Croatia and the FRY, pointing to their politicization and lack of due process. The report also highlighted the paucity of trials in which members of the parties' own forces are tried for violations of human rights.
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki also focused its efforts in the FRY on monitoring and exposing abuses against non-Serbs and Serbian refugees from Krajina in the FRY. In January, we submitted written statements concerning minority rights in the FRY to the 51st Session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.