This report documents human rights violations committed during the period frommid-June 1999 until the end of October 1999. The information contained was gathered first-hand by OSCE officers in the field, many of whom were experiencedfrom the time of the OSCE-KVM.
In the period covered by Kosovo/Kosova: As Seen, As Told Part II, no community has escaped breaches of human rights, including the Kosovo Albanians. Particularly in the Kosovska Mitrovica/Mitrovice area, their freedom of movement and rights of access to education and healthcare have been violated.
The report testifies to this anddoes not minimise the effect on the individuals concerned. However, the overwhelming weight of evidence points to violations against non-Albanians. One discernible leitmotif emerges from this report. Revenge. Throughout the regions the desire for revenge has created a climate in which the vast majority of human rightsviolations have taken place. Through the assailant’s eyes, the victims had either participated, or were believed to have participated, in the large-scale human rights abuses described in Kosovo/Kosova: As Seen, As Told; or they were believed to have actively or tacitly collaborated with the Yugoslav and Serbian security forces.
Within this climate of vindictiveness a third category of victims emerged: those individuals orgroups who were persecuted simply because they had not been seen to suffer before.While the desire for revenge is only human, the act of revenge itself is not acceptableand must be recorded and addressed. The effects on the Kosovo Albanian population of accumulated discrimination and humiliation over the past decade is documented and cannot be doubted. Neither can it be doubted that the ethnic cleansing during the war had a deeply traumatic impact on the Kosovo Albanian community, leavingvirtually no family untouched.
Given this stark backdrop to the post-war setting, only a strong law enforcement system can prevent the climate of vindictiveness that perpetuates violence. The absence of such a robust response has contributed to the lawlessness that has pervaded post-war Kosovo/Kosova, leaving violence unchecked.
The first, obvious, group that suffered revenge attacks are the Kosovo Serbs. Despite the generally accepted premise that many of those who had actively participated incriminal acts left along with the withdrawing Yugoslav and Serbian security forces, the assumption of collective guilt prevailed. The entire remaining Kosovo Serb population was seen as a target for Kosovo Albanians.
The report repeatedly catalogues incidents throughout the area where vulnerable, elderly Kosovo Serbs have been the victims of violence. The result of this has been a continuous exodus of Kosovo Serbs to Serbia and Montenegro and an inevitable internal displacement towards mono-ethnic enclaves, adding fuel to Serb calls for cantonisation.
Other particular victims of violence documented in the report are the Roma and Muslim Slavs. Many Kosovo Albanians labeled the Roma as collaborators: accused of carrying out the dirty work, such as disposing of bodies, they were tainted by association with the regime in Belgrade. The report documents the decimation of theRoma community in many parts of Kosovo/Kosova, driven from their homes in fear of their lives.
The Muslim Slav community, largely concentrated in the west ofKosovo/Kosova, may share the same faith as the Kosovo Albanians, but they areseparated by language. To be a Serbo-Croat speaker in Kosovo/Kosova is to be a suspect and can be enough in itself to incite violence. Other non-Albanians that feature in the report as victims of human rights violations include the Turks and Croats.
A disturbing theme that the report uncovers is the intolerance, unknown before, that has emerged within the Kosovo Albanian community. Rights of Kosovo Albanians tofreedom of association, expression, thought and religion have all been challenged byother Kosovo Albanians.
The report reveals that opposition to the new order,particularly the (former) UCK’s dominance of the self-styled municipal administrations, or simply a perceived lack of commitment to the UCK cause has ledto intimidation and harassment.
A further aspect of inter-Kosovo Albanian intolerance has been the challenges made in the Pec/Peje area to the rights of Catholic Albaniansto express their religion.Violence has taken many forms: killings, rape, beatings, torture, house-burning andabductions.
Not all violence has been physical, however, fear and terror tactics havebeen used as weapons of revenge. Sustained aggression, even without physical injury,exerts extreme pressure, leaving people not only unable to move outside their home,but unable to live peacefully within their home. In many instances, fear has generatedsilence, in turn allowing the climate of impunity to go unchecked.
The report shows that not only have communities been driven from their homes, but also that the current climate is not conducive to returns. As a result, the spiral of violence has driven a wedge between Kosovo/Kosova’s communities, making ever more elusive the international community’s envisioned goal of ethnic co-existence.
The report highlights that although many incidents were disparate, individual acts ofrevenge, others have assumed a more systematic pattern and appear to have beenorganised. The evidence in part points to a careful targeting of victims and anunderlying intention to expel.
This leads to one of the more sensitive areas of thereport, namely the extent of UCK involvement in the period from June to October1999. A consistent reporting feature has been assumed UCK presence and control. The report is littered with witness statements testifying to UCK involvement, bothSeptember ranging from reports before and after the demilitarisation deadline of 19 of UCK “police” to more recent accusations of intimidation by self-proclaimed members of the provisional Kosovo Protection Corps (TMK). It is clear that the UCK stepped in to fill a law and order void, but this “policing” role is unrestrained by law and without legitimacy.
The highest levels of the former UCK leadership and current provisional TMK hierarchy have openly distanced themselves from any connection oftheir members to the violence that has taken place. They highlight the ease with which criminal elements who were never part of the UCK are now exploiting the UCKumbrella for their own nefarious purposes. Close scrutiny by the internationalcommunity is needed to prove, or disprove, the veracity of these claims.
The report also highlights many instances of other human rights violations, such asdenied access to public services, healthcare, education and employment which havealso been used as a tool by both the Kosovo Albanians and the Kosovo Serbs to prevent the integration of traditionally mixed institutions.
Restricted access to education, with its long-term implications for the life-chances of those affected; poor healthcare; limited employment opportunities – these are the emerging elements thatlock segments of the population into a cycle of poverty and divide communities bothon ethnic and on economic grounds. They constitute violations of civil, political,economic, social and cultural rights.
It is clear that the deficiency in the law enforcement capability provided by theinternational community and the lack of sufficient assistance in the administration ofjustice has fostered the climate within which the human rights violations documentedin this report have taken place: impunity for the acts committed has resulted fromfailures to conduct serious investigations and this impunity, in turn, has perpetuatedthe violence.
Establishing the rule of law is an essential element of OMIK’s institution building mandate. Whoever the victims are, and even if they were themselves responsible for human rights or humanitarian law violations, their rights are inalienable and cannot be negated: life, liberty, security of person, freedom from harassment and a fair trial are rights, not privileges.
For those who perpetrated, encouraged and organised the violations listed in this report, those rights also pertain. Additional investigative resources must therefore be put in place urgently, including investigators and forensic teams and the facilities to enable them to function. The legal and judicial framework must be strengthened so that periods of pre-trial detention can be reduced and trials conducted in a timely manner.
The infusion ofmore international police and international judicial experts would greatly assist inending the cycle of impunity. The international community, through UNMIK, has the opportunity to positively influence the development of civil society in Kosovo/Kosova.
Support for UNMIK’s efforts to establish the rule of law is central, and critical, to this. With the rule of lawcomes the redress of grievance and freedom from arbitrary and discriminatory action. The OSCE Mission in Kosovo is committed, together with its UNMIK andKosovo/Kosova partners, to work for the improvement of human rights conditions inthe area.
By identifying and denouncing the violations that have been committed to date, we are all better positioned to construct a Kosovo/Kosova that is founded on the principles of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The full report is available at: