Articles on the Kosovo Conflict



Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo
By the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights
March 30, 1999

Vienna, 30 March 1999. The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) and the Kosovo Helsinki Committee provided information and analysis today concerning the nature of genocide 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 killing, violence and displacement of Albanians in Kosovo, and to help protect all citizens of Kosovo and FRY irrespective of their ethnic, religious and national background. The IHF also provided comments from other affiliates in Albania, Greece, Macedonia and Russia.

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

The capital of Kosovo, Prishtina, and its Albanian population is surrounded and under threat of being crushed from all sides by Serbian forces and militias. Parts of town are ablaze as is the case with scores of other towns in Kosovo. According to reports reaching the IHF, residents indicate that they are afraid to leave the burning city for fear of apprehension by death squads and other groups that extort monies in return for safe passage. 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, a program of terror that has been threatened explicitly beforehand by high Serbian officials.

The IHF is deeply concerned that the systematic killing of prominent Albanians in Kosovo is based on a criminal policy to decapitate the society by destroying its moral, intellectual and political leadership. In recent days, numerous leading Albanian figures have reportedly been abducted and executed in door-to-door raids, including e.g. Dr. Fehmi Agani, a top political advisor to Ibrahim Rugova, leading voice in moderation and ranking member of the Kosova delegation in Peace Talks in Paris,;Dr. Idriz Ajeti, president of the Kosova Albanian Parliament and member of the Kosova delegation in Peace Talks in Paris, Dr. Alush Gashi. foreign Secretary of the LDK; Dr.Latif Berisha, member of the presidency of the LDK (mutilated in front of his children); Teki Dervishi, prominent Albanian journalist; Din Mehmeti, prominent Albanian writer; Agim Hajrizi, prominent trade union activist (killed with his son and his mother); and Koha Ditore editor Baton Haxhiu. 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. There have been unconfirmed reports alleging the death of Veton Surroi publisher of the largest and most influential daily Koha Ditore and one of the pivotal members of the Kosova Albanian delegation in the Peace Talks in Paris

These pre-planned murders represent an 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 partition 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 militia . We believe that this pattern suggests a coherent policy aimed at a future partition 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 torture, mutilation, and degradation to achieve its ends. Approximately 500,000 persons (over a quarter of the total population) are refugees or internally displaced persons (IDPs).

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

The IHF stresses the imperative to stop Serbian military actions by undertaking, with utmost efficiency, urgency and resolve and by all necessary means--military, political and diplomatic--, to bring about an immediate stop to the killings, genocide and ethnic cleansing going on in Kosovo.

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.

The IHF stresses the need to encourage initiatives also for urgent political and diplomatic efforts.

4. Reports and appeals from other Helsinki Committees in the region

The Albanian Helsinki Committee stated that "given the rapid deterioration of the situation, the necessity is emerging" to take immediate and resolute intervention to protect the civilian population at this stage." The Committee also stressed the need to collect evidence of war crimes for analysis by the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia and in particular its Chairman Meto Jovanowski has received threatening messages accusing it of sympathy with NATO and cooperation with the been United States Central Intelligence Agency. According to the Helsinki Committee, there is a rising pro-Serbian sentiment and hostility for NATO and "the West," a rising anti-Albanian sentiment as well as against those individuals and groups viewed as cooperating with international institutions.

Greek Helsinki Monitor expressed its "grave concern that the sweeping majority of Greek media and politicians have in the last few days aligned themselves unconditionally with the Yugoslav authorities. The most reactionary and intolerant anti-Western and Serbophile statement and articles have been abundant. The government’s rather responsible and balanced efforts to help end the tragedy in FRY is met with indifference if not censorship by its own state media.

Ludmilla Alexeyeva, President of the Moscow Helsinki Group and of the IHF, expressed regret that events had led to a military confrontation and said the Moscow Group "appealed to the Serbian government to stop its campaign of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo."

For more information:
Aaron Rhodes, IHF Secretariat, +43-1-402 73 87 or +43-676-339 05 06


Balkan Witness Home Page

Articles index




Contact Balkan Witness

Report broken links