Who's Killing Whom In Kosovo
Who's Killing Whom In Kosovo
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
How to Relaunch the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue
How to Relaunch the Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue
Report 78 / Europe & Central Asia

Who's Killing Whom In Kosovo

The agreement signed on 20 September between the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and KFOR commanders transformed the KLA into a 5,000-strong, nominally multiethnic civilian force - the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC).

Executive Summary

The agreement signed on 20 September between the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and KFOR commanders transformed the KLA into a 5,000-strong, nominally multiethnic civilian force - the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC).  This move is unlikely to halt the rising tide of violence and crime in Kosovo, or to stem the continued exodus of the province's few remaining non-Albanians; stopping the violence in Kosovo will require much more.  According to the UNHCR, Kosovo's non-Albanian population is now estimated at: Serbs - 70,000; Roma - 11,000; Muslim Slavs and Goranis - 20,000;[fn]The Gorani are a small minority, who according to the last census in 1991 numbered about 20,000 in the southwestern Gora district of Kosovo and a further 25,000 elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia.  An estimated 8-10,000 Gorani also live in northeastern Albania.  Goani trationally spoke an archaic form of Bulgarian until it was Serbianised during the last two decades.Hide Footnote  and Turks - 15,000.  NATO figures suggest 97,000 Serbs have remained in Kosovo, about half the pre-war Serb population.  Some100,000 Serbs have fled the province, and many have been murdered.[fn]According to KFOR figures to November, murder victims have included 145 ethnic Albanians, 135 Serbs (from a much smaller population base) and 99 others.  The Kosovo Serb National Council claims that the figure for Serbs is much higher, around 400, though how it gathers its data is unclear.Hide Footnote   Systematic attacks upon the Serb population, and to a lesser degree upon other minority groups, suggest that at least some elements of the ethnic Albanian majority are determined to rid the province of all non-Albanians.

In countless incidents since the return of the refugees, Serb owned properties have suffered grenade attacks or been set alight, and individuals and groups of Serbs have been routinely kidnapped or murdered.  The most notorious incident saw the massacre of fourteen Serb farmers in the village of Gracko on 23 July.  Serbs are still leaving Kosovo as a result of intimidation.  Before departing, many make arrangements for their property to be looked after by their Albanian neighbours.  These caretakers are, however, often evicted themselves by organised gangs.

Both the Roma and the Gorani are accused by ethnic Albanians in general of being allies of the Serbs, and thus have also found themselves targets of revenge killings.  We should not underestimate the inevitability of revenge attacks.  Atrocities committed by Serb forces against ethnic Albanians and the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Kosovo Albanians from their homes in the fall of 1998 and again during the NATO air campaign will not soon be forgotten or forgiven.  The sheer number of angry young men who have the desire to avenge not only the recent atrocities, but their lost youth, speaks to the dimensions of the challenge of overcoming ethnic intolerance.  Those thousands of former students of the parallel education system, with “degrees” of dubious value, believe their future was destroyed by the Belgrade regime and its supporters. 

Ethnic Albanians in general, and the KLA in particular, are angry that whilst they were forced from their homes by the Serbs, the Roma and the Gorani were allowed to stay.  The Turkish KFOR commander in Dragash, Izet Cetingoz, told a Radio Free Europe reporter that when his forces arrived in the district, anger among ethnic Albanians towards the Gorani was pronounced.[fn]RFE/RL, 24 August 1999.Hide Footnote  As a result, the area has experienced what the Gorani residents say were several dozen ethnically-based incidents.  These include the redistribution in Dragash of Gorani-owned flats in one building to Albanian families.

It still remains unclear who is behind the violence, how much of it is organised and how much spontaneous.  It remains a fact, however, that most ethnic Albanians believe that many Serbs who committed atrocities, and should therefore be arrested as war crimes suspects, are being sheltered by the Kosovo Serb community.  The recent killing of two Serbs and the wounding of 35 others following a grenade attack on a mainly-Serb market in Fushe Kosovë/Kosovo Polje may have proved the final straw for the Serbs, who accuse KFOR of failing to respond to a warning from "moderate" Albanians[fn]The term "moderate" is used by Serbs to denote ethnic Albanians who do not support the KLA and are opposed to the notion of an independent Kosovo.Hide Footnote  that an attack in that place would occur.

In protest at the formation of the KPC, Kosovo Serb leaders walked out of the UN-backed Transitional Council saying that the transformation of the KLA into the KPC had "violated the declared multiethnic nature of Kosovo".[fn]B92 News on Kosovo, 29 September 1999.Hide Footnote   Kosovo Serb leader, Momcilo Trajkovic, claimed that: "As long as the decision on the formation of the Kosovo Protection Corps was not withdrawn, then the Kosovo Serbs would not return to the Council, nor would they cooperate with those that were the creators of the transformation of the KLA."[fn]Kosovo Daily News, Blic, 24 September 1999.Hide Footnote   Some Kosovo Serb leaders have also put forward the idea of forming a rival “Serb Protection Force,” though that idea has been rejected by the international community, which insists that the KPC will include 10% minorities.[fn]Agence France Presse, 19 October 1999.Hide Footnote

The question remains who is doing the killing and, in consequence, furthering the destabilisation of Kosovo?  NATO and the UN blame most of the crimes on a small number of extremists.  That assumption appears plausible, but there are several distinct groups who may, for different reasons, be responsible for most, or part of, the continuation of violence in Kosovo.  They are: radicalised ethnic Albanians; the KLA[fn]Though the KLA has officially been disbanded, many of its members still consider themselves members, and still recognize a residual structure. In using the term KLA, this report refers to them.Hide Footnote ; criminals from Albania proper; participants in internal ethnic Albanian conflict; and Serb paramilitary groups.

Prishtinë/Pristina /London /Washington, 2 November 1999

 

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