Page 938 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
P. 938

Dušan T. Bataković
tive areas that involved multi-ethnic cooperation or inter- ethnic reconciliation. UNMiK administration and KFOR forces, focused on helping albanians, perceived as the main victims of civil conflict, failed to provide efficient protec- tion for non-albanian communities and minority groups from the highly orchestrated large-scale campaign of eth- nic cleansing directed primarily against Serbs, a constitu- ent nation in Kosovo and Metohija. Carried out by alba- nian extremists led by former warlords, this new wave of post-war ethnic cleansing against the Serbs, Roma, Goran- ies and other non-albanian ethnic groups was tacitly ap- proved not only by the majority of Kosovo albanians, but by their political leaders as well.
The ethnic cleansing against the Kosovo Serbs was openly justified both by albanians and by their supporters throughout the international community as a kind of ugly and regrettable but inevitable revenge for all the criminal acts against local albanians previously committed by the Serbian police or paramilitaries under the Milošević regime while fighting the KLa and its supporters during the fif- teen months of armed clashes before and during the Na- TO bombing campaign.3 in compliance with the Kumano- vo agreement, the Yugoslav army took all its military equip- ment out of Kosovo and Metohija, while KLa fighting units remained armed, despite occasional, mostly symbolic, handovers of arms to KFOR. The complete disarmament of the KLa was never accomplished although it was one of the main prerequisites in UNSC Resolution 1244. Thus, fully disarmed, the Kosovo Serbs could find protection only with KFOR, while albanians, using the reluctance of KFOR to confront the KLa, a major NaTO ally during the bomb- ing campaign, were free to take their revenge against the Serbs and the members of those ethnic groups considered as having been loyal to Serbia during the 1999 conflict.
it is not a surprise then that despite the massive mili- tary presence of international (KFOR) troops, the overall security situation concerning personal safety and freedom of movement for the Serbs and non-albanian minorities has been constantly deteriorating since june 1999. The ma- jor positive achievement of the UN mission in Kosovo was the quick and safe return of hundreds of thousands of alba- nians who had fled or had been forced to leave Kosovo dur- ing the 1999 NaTO bombing campaign. They safely re- turned to their often destroyed homes within weeks after KFOR and UNMiK took full control over the administra- tion of the Province. as confirmed by independent sourc- es, however, along with them came dozens of thousands of albanians from the economically backward areas of north- ern albania in order to pillage the abandoned property of the Serbs who, in fear of spiralling violence, had fled to cen- tral Serbia or to Montenegro.4
3 The albanian testimonies to wartime sufferings, extensive but not always fully reliable, are available in Under Orders War Crimes in Kosovo (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2001).
Post-1999 ethnic cleansing
Conversely, most of the Kosovo Serbs and other non-alba- nians were forced out of the Province by albanian extrem- ists, while the remaining ones were and still are deprived of their fundamental human rights. The chronology of post- war developments as far as the Serbs and other non-alba- nians are concerned is the following: prior to the establish- ment of UNMiK, at least 30,000 Serbs hastily left Kosovo and Metohija fleeing from albanian persecutions, retribu- tion and attacks. During the first three months of UNMiK- KFOR administration, approximately 150,000 Serbs were expelled from Kosovo and forced to find refuge in central Serbia or in Montenegro.
after KFOR officially took over in Priština on 12 june, busy with finding suitable accommodation for the incom- ing troops, “a wave of unprecedented violence, looting, mur- ders and abductions spread throughout the Province, es- pecially in the cities, the victims of which were the remain- ing Serbs, Roma, Goranies and Muslim Bosniacs.”5 Fur- thermore, tens of thousands of Roma, and thousands of Muslim Slavs (mostly Goranies), whose houses were also burnt or usurped by albanians, also fled the Serbian prov- ince freshly entrusted to UN.6
The very difficult situation for the Serb and non-alba- nian population became critical, going from bad to worse. Thus, on 17 june 1999, about 5,000 Kosovo Serbs left Uro- ševac, an important town in the south of the Province, es- corted by a strong KFOR contingent. according to the data offered by the Serbian police and eventually confirmed by UNMiK, since 1 january 1998 there were 1,303 missing per- sons: 944 Serbs, 210 Muslim Roma and 149 ethnic alba- nians. according to other data provided by The Hague Tri- bunal (iCTY), 547 Serbs were killed and 932 Serbs and non- -albanians kidnapped in june 1999 alone.7
The first five Serb civilians were abducted on the streets of Priština as early as 12 june 1999, while news kept arriving of an orchestrated campaign of terror against both the Serb and Roma populations. The Serb population of the village of Zočište near Orahovac fled on 14 june after their homes and the fourteenth-century Serbian monastery of Sts. Kos-
4 The first UNMiK administrator Bernard Kouchner warned pub- licly on 2 august 1999 of “the presence of gangsters coming from neighbouring albania and amplifying the already existent chaos in Kosovo.“ Despite 36,500-strong military forces and civilian person- nel, with only 555 international policemen and 20 judges, it was im- possible to deal with a KLa-sponsored albanian mafia in UNMiK- administrated Kosovo.
5 Cf more in The Memorandum of the Serbian Orthodox Church on Kosovo and Metohija.
6 Cf. the documentation in “Ne ubijaju Srbe tamo gde ih nema” [Serbs not being killed only in places where there are none], Blic, Belgrade, 22 august 1999.
7 Cf. detailed documentation on 932 missing persons in Abduc- tions and Disappearances of non-Albanians in Kosovo (Belgrade: Hu- manitarian Law Center, 2001).

   936   937   938   939   940