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Crisis 1999
Opinions Archive 1999
Crimes against humanity in Kosovo must be stopped

New York and Vienna, 10 May 1999. While the international community searches for a formula for ending the conflict in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia that is acceptable to NATO and to the Serbian government, Kosovo Albanian civilians continue to be subjected to ethnic cleansing and other crimes against humanity. Daily, they are being murdered, raped, mutilated, robbed and deported by the soldiers and agents of the Milosevic regime.

The Executive Committee of the Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), which represents 39 Helsinki committees and other human rights organizations in North America, Europe, and the Former Soviet Union, insists that the protection of these people and their future in Kosovo is the central responsibility of the United States and its European and Russian partners. The IHF is firmly convinced that the Serbian regime is the source of the tragedy in Kosovo. Although the tactics of the allies have failed so far to achieve their aims, NATO's lack of success does not detract from the noble principle of humanitarian intervention.

That principle must now be upheld and acted upon. All necessary and appropriate available means must be deployed swiftly to stop the atrocities and the ethnic cleansing; to save the Albanians remaining under Serb oppression in Kosovo; and to provide for the safe return of those who have fled or been deported. The allied governments must carefully consider mounting an armed protective force for this purpose.

Humanitarian military operations cannot be conducted at no risk. The fate of Albanians - and also many Serbs - shows that risks that the allied military forces have avoided for themselves have been transferred to people bearing no responsibility.

It is the responsibility of the international community to stop the atrocities being perpetrated against Kosovar Albanians and to create conditions under which everyone can enjoy the full civil and political rights guaranteed to them under international law. The international community also has a responsibility to assist the multi-ethnic government of Montenegro in its efforts to establish democracy and resist the destabilizing efforts of the Serbian authorities.

We insist that the Serbian regime's crimes against humanity cannot be tolerated. Those responsible for the crimes must be charged, and brought before the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia in The Hague. They must stop or be stopped.

The IHF urges the allied governments promptly to deliver humanitarian aid to the displaced people of Kosovo who are dying of starvation and illness. We also urge the neighboring Balkan countries as well as the allies to provide for the refugees outside Kosovo and to ensure that their basic needs are met and their basic rights guaranteed.

The IHF is deeply skeptical of an outcome where the Milosevic government would be left in power and thousands of Kosovar Albanians unable to return to their homes. Such a settlement would legitimate the genocidal tactics of the Serbian government and would serve as a precedent for other governments seeking to suppress ethnic constituencies.

For more information:

Aaron Rhodes, International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF)
Sonja Biserko, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia
Gazmend Pula, Kosovo Helsinki Committee
Slobodan Franovic, Montenegrin Helsinki Committee for Human Rights at (917) 842-3825

Source: International Helsinki Federation

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