Articles on the Kosovo Conflict





International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights

Refugees from Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo


  UN Human Rights Commission

Intervention by the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF)
Dr. Gazmend Pula
14 April 1999

Dear Mr. Chairman,

I am speaking on behalf of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) based in Vienna and the Kosovo Helsinki Committee for Human Rights (KHC) based in Prishtina to provide information and analysis concerning the refugee crisis that has been created by genocide, mass expulsions and atrocities against Kosovo Albanians; the pattern of ethnic cleansing taking place; and the steps that can be taken to bring about an immediate halt to the large scale Serbian-state sponsored violence, killing and massive forceful displacement of Albanians in Kosovo, which have been unleashed in an incomprehensible scale and medieval manner as Serbian retaliation against Albanians for NATO air attacks on Yugoslavia. By providing this information and analysis about the genocide in Kosova the IHF and the KHC aims to help protect all citizens of Kosovo and FRY irrespective of their ethnic, religious and national background as much as possible from potentially even graver consequences of the on-going massive disaster.

1. Killings, massacres, expulsions and other rampant violence against Kosovar Albanian civilian population

The capital of Kosovo, Prishtina, and its Albanian population, as well as most major towns in Kosovo, such as Peja, Gjakova, Dechan, Podujeva, Vushtrria, Mitrovica, have been turned almost into ghost towns after the largest part of their Albanian population has been forcefully ordered out of their homes at gun point by Serbian forces and militias. Parts of these towns, such as in the case of Peja, Djakova, Podujeva, as well as many villages in the Drenica and Shala regions, have been burned down and destroyed. According to reports reaching the IHF, residents of Kosova indicate that they are afraid to leave their shelters for fear of apprehension by certain death-squadron-type of Serbian paramilitias and other armed enraged groups that extort money and valuables in return for grant of arbitrary safe passage out of Kosova. A reign of systematic, state-sponsored terror by Serbian militias has taken hold all over Kosovo, apparently in retaliation for the on-going NATO air strikes on Serbian military targets; the program of terror that has been threatened explicitly beforehand by high Serbian officials t unfortunately has not been given due and responsible preventive consideration by relevant policy makers and planners. The "ethnic cleansing" of Kosovo is being completed with a medieval type of brutality not anticipated in even the most pessimistic scenarios. Thus the NATO air strikes on

Yugoslavia, being carried out in order to facilitate a peaceful and political solution for Kosova, have so far only fractionally achieved their declared aim, while the human toll and plight of Kosovo Albanians has been immensely increased and is getting worse by the hour. Namely while the NATO declared objective of diminishing the capability of the Serbian war machinery to wage war has been partially achieved, the principal objective of preventing a humanitarian disaster in Kosova and stabilizing the region, have not only been missed so far, but have been immensely aggravated . The humanitarian disaster and plight of Albanians in Kosovo has achieved catastrophic proportions, and the region has been thoroughly destabilized, especially Macedonia, Albania, and Montenegro, indirectly also the Dayton Bosnia. Related potentially uncontrollable developments threaten thus a potentially further large scale humanitarian suffering, international calamity and bloodshed for the entire region that should be addressed and prevented efficiently, immediately and appropriately by all means.

The IHF is deeply concerned about still unconfirmed reports alleging the killing and/or detention of prominent Albanians in Kosovo by Serbian forces, possibly in a criminal effort to decapitate the society by destroying its moral, intellectual and political leadership. Thus Bajram Kelmendi, prominent human rights lawyer, was killed with his two sons after having been abducted from his house by uniformed policemen in the presence of his wife and daughter. Whereabouts of many other prominent Albanian leaders are unknown and it is being feared for their fate.

The pre-meditated genocide and large scale violence on the Kosova Albanian population presents a brutal attack upon the future of Kosovo, and can only be compared to the most inhumane cases of Nazi or Stalinist terror.

2. The emerging pattern of ethnic cleansing—a possible partitioning of Kosovo

The IHF has for 15 months drawn attention to the pattern of large scale attacks and reprisals of Serbian security forces and paramilitary militias against Kosovo Albanians. We believe that this pattern suggests a coherent policy aimed at a potential future partitioning of Kosovo following the decimation of its Albanian social and political fabric—where residents have not been killed or physically forced from their homes, they leave for fear of state terror that uses systematic and large scale indiscriminate violence to achieve its ends.

In what seems to have been the biggest refugee disaster in Europe since World War II, the forced expulsion and holocaust-like deportations of Albanians out of Kosova by Serbian forces has so far well exceeded the number of half a million Albanians or over a quarter of their original population. The specification of the refugee massively forced exodus out of Kosova is as given below:

- 320.000 into Albania

- 115.000 into Macedonia

- 60.000 into Montenegro

- 25.000 into Bosnia

The majority of these Albanian refugees are reported to be children, about half of them, women and elderly, with an ominous absence of mature-age male Albanians. Despite massive international efforts to alleviate their plight their situation remains very grim.

An additional and massive humanitarian plight is going on in Kosova itself, far away from cameras and reporters, where up to an additional 400.000 Albanians have been forcefully displaced from their destroyed, burnt, damaged and endangered homes. Out of them, an estimated quarter of a million i.e. 250.000 of them, are wandering around in the hills and woods of Kosova, without any shelter, open and succumbing to exposure, disease, and starvation, whilst trying to flee the violence, shelling and fighting. An estimated 70.000 of them are in the Llap region in northern Kosova, in addition to about 150.000 others that have some provisional shelter, among them many from Prishtina and Podujeva. There are an estimated additional 80.000 similar forcefully displaced people in the Shala region, most of them without shelter, as well as an estimated 100.000 of them in the Drenica region and in parts of central Kosova around the Pagarusha valley near Malisheva. The humanitarian situation there is catastrophic and getting worse by the hour as food is running entirely out and might not be sufficient even for the on-going week, even at a rate of one meager ration per day according to reports from the field being received by the IHF.

3. Steps to protect Kosovo Albanians and members of other communities from further genocide and dislocation

Urgent and dramatic appeals are being made for a humanitarian corridor for these refugees that the Pope has called for, or for targeted NATO air drops of food and medicine, either by implementing a humanitarian pause in air strikes, or otherwise in any other appropriate and feasible way so that they could survive the on-going open-ended humanitarian and other catastrophe.

The IHF and KHC emphasizes its deepest regret for loss of lives of civilians and innocent people and calls it an imperative, to stop Serbian military actions by undertaking, with utmost efficiency, urgency and resolve, and by all necessary means--military, but necessarily also political, diplomatic, and humanitarian--, to bring about an immediate and efficient stop to the genocide and ethnic cleansing going on in Kosovo and create premises for a just, peaceful, stable and internationally verifiable and guaranteed solution of the Kosovo issue.

The IHF stresses in particular the need to encourage initiatives for urgent and efficient political and diplomatic efforts, especially having in mind that Albanians in Kosova find themselves in a large scale hostage-like situation in which they are being executed by their Serbian-regime captors. The fate of the Albanian people of Kosova must not be lost from sight and should be in the focus of the on-going dangerous stand-off between the NATO and the Serbian outlaw regime. And the worst might yet be coming with Albanians being potentially used as human shields and specific hostages in potentially forthcoming and contemplated NATO operations as well as in cross fire and additional vindictive Serbian retaliatory strikes. The fate and survival of the people of Kosova should be first and foremost in the disaster that is storming over Kosova. Please help save the people of Kosova.

According to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, state parties (which include all major Western states as well as FRY) have agreed that "genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish." (Article I). According to Article II of the Convention, genocide means killing, causing serious bodily or mental harm and several other violent act committed "with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national ethnical, racial or religious group, as such."

If it is accepted that what happens now in Kosovo is "genocide," the Convention obligates its signatories to stop it.


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