Misleading UN report on Kosovo (A)

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 77 – October 3, 1999

Originally published here

 

“Those who wrote the Report of the UN Secretary-General on the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) must have had other aims than accurate reporting. The report is biased, embellished, slanted. It omits important aspects which point toward the fact that this mission ignores Security Council Resolution 1244 on which it is based and is a failure in-the-making on its own criteria,” says TFF director Jan Oberg upon his return from TFF’s 37th mission to the region and his visit to Pristina, Skopje and Belgrade.

“The report (S/1999/987 of September 16) covers the period in which at least 150.000 legitimate non-Albanian (Serbs, Roma,etc) citizens were driven out of the province. Normally this would be called ethnic cleansing. It has happened under the very eyes of 45.000 NATO soldiers, 1.100 UN civilian police and thousands of other internationals, including the OSCE and EU.

The report does not state that this is a fatal blow to both NATO and the UN. Res. 1244 states that the mission is to ‘ensure conditions for a peaceful and normal life for all inhabitants of Kosovo’ as well as, among many other things, maintain law and order, protect and promote human rights and ensure public safety. The report states that ‘KFOR deserves great credit for its efforts…’

I do not think it does,” says Oberg. “The international community condemned Yugoslavia for having, at the height of the war and bombing, about 40.000 soldiers and police in the province to maintain law and order and – as they saw it – to protect the Serb and other minorities. Now the total international presence is almost twice as big and it has not been able to fulfil the centre-piece of the UN mandate: to preserve a multiethnic Kosovo in safety for everybody.

For all practical purposes, Kosovo has been ethnically cleansed by the KLA and other Albanians after the international community arrived. This is neither regretted nor condemned in the report. Rather, the report states that ‘senior Kosovo Albanian personalities, including the leadership of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), have voiced increasingly forthright public positions on tolerance and security for minorities. Senior KLA figures have denied KLA involvement in attacks and called for non-Albanians to remain in Kosovo and repeatedly affirmed their commitment to human rights, tolerance and diversity.’

The report, issued in the name of the UN Secretary-General, does not mention that KLA set up a self-appointed government, installed local leaders in virtually all municipalities and, thus, see themselves as the legitimate authority of Kosovo. In short, the report omits any mention of who is or must be made responsible for the recent ethnic cleansing of Kosovo.

Could the reason be that the KLA and the political Kosovo Albanian leadership was NATO’s ally during the war and the international community’s partner now? That its prime minister, Hacim Thaci, is the favoured leader – for the time being at least – by the United States and other leading actors? In short, that the West’s partner is doing what we accused Milosevic of doing?

The Yugoslav government was always pointed out as the culprit of ethnic cleansing of Albanians. Fantastic stories circulated without evidence about Serb plans to drive out all Albanians from the region during NATO’s bombing campaign. With perhaps 90% of all non-Albanians now driven out, the Kosovo-Albanian leadership is responsible for the proportionately largest ethnic cleansing in the Balkans since the wars started in 1991.

But those who wrote the text of this report – presumably UNMIK staff and the office of UNMIK head, Dr. Bernhard Kouchner in Pristina – see no reason to condemn this! The formulation of the report is: ‘In the period since mid-June 1999, non-Albanians, primarily Serbs and Roma, have been the target for harassment, intimidation and attacks. As a result, many have left Kosovo.’ And then it mentions that the Yugoslav Red Cross estimates that 150,000 have gone to Serbia and Montenegro.

They have been the target – by whom? If Belgrade or Serb paramilitaries had ethnically cleansed 150,000 Albanians or more from their province, you may wonder how the international community – the UN, U.S. State Department, the media – would have formulated it. At no point does the report state who should be made responsible for this latest ethnic cleansing campaign, there is not a word about Albanian atrocities, war criminals or any hesitation on the part of the West to co-operate with individuals, groups and institutions who is likely to have caused this exodus. Neither does it regret that Albanians are intimidated by KLA and forced out of their temporary houses upon return, or punished for not wanting to join KLA.

The bias is put in perspective when the report immediately after states that: ‘Hardening Serb attitudes towards Kosovo Albanians, driven in part by outside extremists, are helping to radicalise Albanians in Mitrovica.’ The authors of the report has evidently never noticed any outside extremists on the Albanian side, now or earlier. Neither have they observed hardening Albanian attitudes. The formulation also makes the few remaining Serbs the causal factor and the Albanians innocent, non-guilty of their own radicalisation.

If the basic character of Western policy and its UNMIK/KFOR mission had been genuinely humanitarian, this would have been dealt with in different terms. Human rights violations play a conspicuously modest role in this report!

Secondly, the report argues that demobilised KLA soldiers can be a source of instability in the future which may be true,” says Jan Oberg. “However, the report enigmatically argues that there is not enough civil employment opportunities for these 10.000 fighters. One would otherwise believe there was enough to do in a war-torn society such as Kosovo! So KFOR and the UN Special Representative, Dr. Bernhard Kouchner, are thus ‘developing a concept for demobilisation of the KLA, offering individual members an opportunity to participate in a disciplined, professional, multi-ethnic civilian emergency corps’ of which KFOR will provide day-to-day direction. This is what a few days later was established formally as the Kosovo Protection Force, KPF.

The report conveniently omits reference to the fact that such a force is not even mentioned in SC Resolution 1244 which talks only about demilitarisation. We see here why the Rambouillet document stipulated neither a time table nor the modalities of demilitarisation of the Albanian side as it did for the Yugoslav side: 1244 says that KLA and other armed Kosovo Albanian groups shall ‘comply with the requirements for demilitarisation as laid down’ by the heads of KFOR and UNMIK.

The fact that KPF is hardly distinguishable from, but indeed looks like the embryo of, a new Kosovo Army shall be dealt with in a forthcoming TFF PressInfo.

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