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Failure to Protect: UNMIK and KFORs Inability to Protect Serbs and Other Minorities
The widespread attacks by ethnic Albanians on Serbs, Roma, Ashkali (Albanian-speaking Roma) and other non-Albanian minorities, documented below in this report, are a cause for grievous concern. Of equal concern, however, are the near-collapse of the international security organizations in Kosovo when confronted by the violence and unrest of March 2004, and the inability of KFOR, UNMIK international police, and the local KPS to provide effective protection to Kosovos minority communities during the two days of violence.
In community after community, Serbs and other minoritiesa disproportionate number of them elderly and infirmwere left for hours at the mercy of hostile ethnic Albanians rioters, waiting for KFOR and UNMIK to rescue them. A summary of the protection failures shows just how severely the international community failed Kosovos minorities in its time of greatest need:
In the capital Pristina, Serb residents of the YU Program apartment buildingsan apartment complex originally built to house Serb refugees from Bosnia and Croatiawere besieged for hours by ethnic Albanian crowds who set their apartments on fire and shot at them before they were rescued by KFOR and UNMIK international police.
Even where UNMIK and KFOR were present, they often proved ineffective and outnumbered:
In the absence of KFOR and UNMIK, the dire security situation was often left in the hands of the recently trained and under-equipped Kosovo Police Service (KPS), whose performance was mixed. Some KPS officers performed with great courage and professionalism during the crisis, working tirelessly to protect or evacuate Serbs from their homes and doubtlessly saving lives. Many other KPS officers stood by passively, refusing to take steps to protect ethnic Serbs and other minorities, or participate in their evacuation. In a number of cases, KPS officers showed a bias against minorities, arresting Serbs or Ashkalis who tried to defend their homes while ignoring the criminal actions of Albanian rioters. Some KPS officers took an active part in the violence, allegedly participating in the burning of homes in Vucitrn, Obilic, and Kosovo Polje.
The failurealmost collapseof the security institutions in Kosovo during the March 2004 violence is beyond dispute. What is more difficult to analyze is why the security institutions in Kosovo failed so miserably during the March violence. It is crucial that such an analysis takes place, in order to reform the institutional set-up of the security institutions in Kosovo and to prevent a similar collapse in the future. However, it appears that both UNMIK and KFOR are resistant to such a comprehensive review of its failures. Most of the UNMIK and KFOR officials with whom Human Rights Watch met painted an inaccurately rosy picture of their response to the March 2004 violence,53 or blamed each other for the failures.
Although international officials have been outspoken in their criticism of the Kosovar leadership for its failings during the crisis, they have not shown a similarly critical attitude in evaluating the failures of their own organizations and institutions. For example, when Jean-Marie Guéhenno, the U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Peace-Keeping Operations, briefed to U.N. Security Council on April 13, he criticized the Kosovar leadership for their ambivalent role during the crisis, but did not offer any critique of UNMIK and KFORs performance, arguing that what was required now was concrete action by Kosovos leaders and its people to address the causes of the ethnically motivated violence [and] to implement measures to ensure the violence would not be repeated. Adam Thomson, the U.K. representative at the U.N. Security Council, responded by congratulating UNMIK and KFOR for restoring calm in Kosovo.54 Such uncritical, self-congratulatory rhetoric ignores the reality of UNMIK and KFORs failures, and the urgency with which these shortcomings need to be addressed in order to prevent a repeat of the March 2004 events. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annans own April 30 Kosovo report to the U.N. Security Council similarly fails to give a critical analysis of UNMIK and KFOR performance during the March violence, although it does analyze the response of Kosovar politicians and the KPS.55
NATO has instituted a Lessons Learned review of KFOR actions during the March 2004 violence, but it is unlikely that its findings will be made public.56 UNMIK police officials also carried out a review of their response to the crisis, according to a senior UNMIK spokesperson, but the results of that review have also not been made public, and UNMIK is not expected to institute major changes as a result of the review. On June 11, 2004, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Norwegian Ambassador Kai Eide to investigate the March violence,57 but it appears Eides mandate is to probe the political implications of violence between ethnic Albanians and Serbs and recommending ways in which the provinces residents can live together again peacefully, rather than focusing on UNMIK and KFOR security failures during the crisis. German officials conducted their own internal review of the actions of their troops, reportedly concluding that KFOR was unable to fulfill its mandated security tasks or effectively protect minority communities in Kosovo, and raising serious concerns about the failure of German KFOR troops to effectively respond to the anti-Serb violence in Prizren.58
While this report addresses the failures of Kosovos security institutions, understanding why those failures occurred requires a level of access to UNMIK, KFOR, and KPS commanders and documents that Human Rights Watch was not able to obtain. Commanders and soldiers must be interviewed at all levels of responsibility, and documentation such as intelligence information, orders issued, deployment requests, and post-deployment assessments must be reviewed. However, even the limited access available to Human Rights Watch points to several conclusions about the reasons for the failure of Kosovos security institutions:
 For example, KFOR officials repeatedly told Human Rights Watch that KFOR had to chose between protecting minority lives and protecting minority property during the March violence, and had chosen to focus on protecting minority lives. Such a characterization is misleading, as it ignores the reality that KFOR played only a minor role in protecting minority lives in many communities affected by violence, as shown in this report.
 U.N. Security Council press release, March Violence in Kosovo Huge Setback to Stabilization, Reconciliation, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Tells Security Council, April 13, 2004, U.N. Doc. SC/8056.
 United Nations Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, April 30, 2004, U.N. Doc. S/2004/348.
 See International Security Information Service, Europe, NATO Notes, Vol. 6, No. 2, April 2004 [online], http://www.isis-europe.org/ftp/Download/NATO%20Notes%20v6n2.PDF (retrieved June 28, 2004), p.6.
 UNMIK News, Kosovo: Norwegian envoy to head UN probe into March violence, June 11, 2004 [online], http://www.unmikonline.org/ (retrieved July 6, 2004).
 Renate Flottau et al., Deutsche Soldaten: Die Hasen Vom Amselfeld, Der Spiegel (Germany), May 3, 2004.
 Human Rights Watch interview with senior UNMIK official, June 16, 2004.
 Ibid. KFOR spokesperson Lt.-Col. James Moran similarly described the relationship between Lt-Gen. Kammerhoff and the Multinational Brigade Commanders: COM-KFOR cannot give brigade commanders orders, but the brigade commanders receive guidance from COM-KFOR. Human Rights Watch interview with KFOR spokesperson Lt-Col. Moran, Pristina, April 19, 2004.
 NATO Defense Ministerial, Final Communique, December 1, 2003.