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Crisis 1999
News Archive 1999

Dossier: Crimes in Kosovo

Confrontation and Disbelief

by Branka Kaljevic

A change of violence is taking place in postwar Kosovo: the perpetrators these days are Albanians, and the victims, Serbs. And between is KFOR. During the three months of war there was no one in between. The KLA was abroad, NATO was in the sky, and on ground were Serbian state military and police forces. The deeds committed by the last group over Albanians are presently the subject of attention of international expert medical teams and Hague Tribunal investigators

Only a month after the end of the NATO intervention over Yugoslavia, Serbia is being confronted with the results of its many year policy in its Southern Region. The only thing the official authorities in Serbia accept are the material damages from the NATO bombing in the amount of ten billion dollars. Other consequences are hard in coming through to the Serbian public: the dead are only being registered among ones family members; after the war over 100,000 Serbs fled from Kosovo, fleeing either from revenge or from bad blood. The remaining Serbs have been driven into several enclaves in Kosovo or into Serbian monasteries. EXPULSION: In the three months of war, nearly 700,000 Albanian residents of Kosovo were driven out. Many of their homes were burnt and looted. How many of them were killed and in what manner ought to become clear in the investigation being carried by international experts who are at this moment working on several mass graves in Kosovo. Individuals who dared to utter anything about the crimes committed over Albanians as NATO bombs were falling were here branded as traitors and foreign sycophants. Only the owners of satellite antennas could view the convoys of tortured and burdened people. Those who knew about, planned or committed crimes explained all warnings coming from the outside world as propaganda directed against Serbia. Now there is no more doubt: the state military, police and paramilitary forces committed horrid crimes in Kosovo. The only question open to debate is the extent of the crimes, the number of people killed and the readiness to face up to what was done in Kosovo. The braking of the ice happened when reservists and soldiers serving the army came back home on leave, telling what was happening in Kosovo. Some of them were proud of the "showdown with the Shiptars," while others were disgusted with the violence inflicted over the Albanian people. An educational worker from Kosovo (who was mobilized into one of the special units), coming into the Ministry of Education to get his pay spoke about how Albanians were dealt with, how their houses were burnt and how they were driven out to the sound of Serbian folk music. When asked why they did that and what they intend to do now, he shrugs his shoulders: "Firstly, those were the orders, and second, we thought that they would never be coming back..." At the Ministry of Education he is told that he will only get his pay if he returns to Kosovo. Partial sobering up from all the inhuman acts committed in Kosovo followed after the reaction by the Serbian Orthodox Church, more precisely by Patriarch Pavle who on his visit in June was astonished by the extent of the crimes committed in Pec: "The soul of the Serbian people has been smeared with the blood of ethnic Albanians..." The Church condemned these crimes and as a result joined "the devils" in the eyes of the present regime, just like the mentioned traitors and sycophants. The Archbishop of Raska and Prizren, Artemije reacted with similar statements, having openly accused President Milosevic at the press conference on the occasion of Ascension Day at the Gracanica Monastery of waging policies which are directly responsible for the evil which struck the Serbs and Albanians of Kosovo: "This policy brought suffering to Albanians, but Serbs also disappeared from Kosovo and only God knows how much evil was committed in Kosovo in recent years, especially in the last thre! e months..." After the post-war exodus from Kosovo which followed the return of the exiled Albanians into the Region, the only people remaining with the Serbs who stayed on are the clergy and leaders of the Serbian Resistance Movement. Ruling party officials, community presidents and other state officials mostly rushed back to Serbia. Momcilo Trajkovic, a leader with the Serbian Resistance Movement who is the object of negative attention these days, stated for VREME: "The accusation that those of us who remained behind are traitors is ridiculous. There is nothing left in Kosovo to be a traitor to. I can't even trade my apartment here. I can only leave it for someone else to occupy it by force immediately. All of them have fled, becoming heros. We remained behind and we are traitors. The situation is very difficult. For now we managed to save a few enclaves for they are the precondition for the return of the population. "The real reason for stopping cooperation with international representatives and with Albanians is KFOR's inability to stop further violence in Kosovo. What can we do in government if all our people get killed or leave. The entire region of Metohija has been cleansed of Serbs. There are no Serbs in Suva Reka, Urosevac, Srbica... The Serbs in Pristina and Gnjilan are the hardest hit at the present. This is merely payback for what the state and police forces did to Albanians during the time of the bombing. Both then and now it was innocent people that suffered," stated Trajkovic, and continuing further: "People are being driven out of their apartments and homes, they are being kidnaped, killed. Apartments are being forced open with axes. In the beginning it was only the Serbs who suffered, but now it is the local Albanians who are also suffering, with a conflict between the Albanian mafia from Kosovo and the Albanian mafia from Albania brewing. Albanian leaders are dist! ancing themselves from all that, but every day a new territory intended for cleansing from Serbs is being announced. KFOR is looking on with no desire for getting mixed up further into the problem. They are an army, but what is happening here is the job of the police. And there is still no police here. For instance, only one thousand Serbs remained behind in Pristina. Twenty thousand were driven out or simply fled. Over two hundred people have been killed since the beginning of peace, with more than thirty of them dead. The destruction of shrines and churches is a story onto its own. We have confirmation that 15 were burnt or demolished. All Serb villages have been burnt to the ground. I do not wish to say that the International Community is an accessory to all this, but I have a feeling that they came to Kosovo unprepared. Those are the real reasons for stopping cooperation." The crimes in Kosovo certainly do not date back to yesterday. There are more than 60,000 burnt houses, the largest number of them Albanian houses because in sheer numbers they were far bigger. Who knows how many civilians were killed as a result of the state's attempt in the past ten years to institute order in the Region using weapons and violence. The culmination of this policy occurred in the past three months. The collective guilt for this has fallen on the entire Serbian people, while international indictments for war crimes have been sent to the leaders of this country. For now there are no complete details on everything that happened in Kosovo. One of the rare, perhaps the only organization, which meticulously investigated the extent of crimes committed in Kosovo during the war and before is the Fund for Humanitarian Law. On the basis of interviews with exiled persons and visiting the scenes of the crime the Fund's Director, Natasa Kandic, confirmed for VREME that since the beginning of the NATO bombing, the violence against Albanians reached a peak: "Everything that happened during the entire past year was merely the exiling of the population within Kosovo, from one territory into another, while this time more than 700,000 people were forced to cross the border." REACTIONS: In Serbia, the crimes committed in Kosovo continue to be shrouded in silence. Beside the Church the Serbian PEN Center also spoke out, warning that silence must not be kept on the crimes which were committed over Albanian civilians, some of whom number children also. Noting the PEN announcement, Academician Predrag Palavestra stated for VREME that such things must not be glossed over; simply, whatever was done must be acknowledged, it must be found out who is guilty, and those people must be taken to court. In the PEN Center statement, it is noted among other things that "We believe that the real and full truth must not be kept from the Serbian people, that the crimes against children and the civilian population must be decisively condemned. And all those who are responsible for this must be publicly named and punished. Otherwise the guilt and shame for this crime will fall on the entire Serbian people which has been the greatest victim and loser of all wars, o! f ethnic cleansing and political compromises in the territories of the former Yugoslavia." These days PEN also reacted to the driving out of Serbian intellectuals and writers who are presently facing great pressures of revenge and physical harm in Kosovo. Palavestra states that many of them are forced to leave their place of work and their apartments. Their apartments are being broken into and they are being forced to move: "I'm familiar with the case of the children's author Milos Andric who is 60 years old and who was driven out of his apartment in Pristina with his entire family. Some writers sought protection with the priests in the Monastery of Decani. We heard that the poetess Darinka Jevric is afraid to leave her home and has nothing to eat. Today I received information that Vladeta Vukovic, a university professor and poet, age 72, is in the same position. He and his wife put their chests of drawers on the front door in order to protect themselves. They are not answering their telephone. We also sent a letter to the International PEN in London. I rec! eived an answer that the threatened writers should contact the Emergency Fund in London, the International PEN in London, to call the Committee "Writers for Peace", whose seat is in Ljubljana, with President Boris Novak, in order that these organizations could intervene with KFOR to take them under its protection," stated Palavestra. Facing up to the crimes committed in Kosovo will take some time, just like lifting the collective burden of guilt for the crimes committed from the Serbian people as a whole. For now there is still disbelief on this score. An encouraging fact is that there is far less public denial of the fact that crimes were committed. These days, Louise Arbour, Chief Prosecutor of the Hague Tribunal, is also spending time in Kosovo. Six months ago our authorities did not give her a visa to come into the country. This time she did not even need one in order to go to Kosovo. Official announcements indicate that she will visit investigating teams and places where mass graves in Kosovo are suspected. According to media reports, at the beginning of her trip in the Balkans she stated that the facts uncovered thus far support considerably the accusations against the Yugoslav President for murder and deportation of Albanians from Kosovo.

Source: Vreme

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