Lift the sanctions and bring more aid to people in Yugoslavia

By Jan Oberg & Soren Sommelius

TFF PressInfo 90 – April 5, 2000

Originally published here.


 “Lift the sanctions and help people in Yugoslavia – or stop talking about humanitarian politics and intervention,” say TFF conflict-mitigation team members Soren Sommelius and Jan Oberg upon returning from a fact-finding mission to Serbia and Montenegro.

“If journalists would provide people all over Europe and the rest of the world an opportunity to see what we have seen, only the heartless would continue the present policies. The sanctions contribute to widespread social misery, they hit those who are already poor, and demolish the middle class.

In addition, the opposition which the West officially supports also wants the sanctions lifted, knowing that they undermine the socio-economic basis for any democratization process.

The international community’s commitment to protect, help and repatriate the Albanian refugees and displaced persons is as noble as it is shameful to not do the same when other – equally innocent – ethnic groups in the same conflict region are in obvious need of humanitarian aid. There is only one word for it: obscene. Sanctions are a mass-destructive weapon,” say Sommelius and Oberg who support the campaign, recently launched in Sweden, to get the sanctions lifted.



Here are some facts from UNHCR – and if you have not heard about them numerous times already, you may ask what free media and democratic policies are for:

Today’s Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) – Serbia and Montenegro – hosts more than 500.000 refugees from the wars in Croatia (250.000 from Krajina and some 50.000 from Eastern Slavonia) and Bosnia (some 200.000). In addition, there are 250.000 who have recently been forced to leave the Kosovo province. Some of those from Croatia have been refugees since 1991-92 when the war raged in ex-Yugoslavia. This total of 750.000 to 800.000 creates Europe’s largest refugee problem. Most are Serbs but there are also Muslims, Albanians, Romas and others among them. Only 40.000 of all these are in collective centres, the rest live with relatives or friends. About 50.000 of all the refugees and displaced persons presently live in Montenegro, the population of which is estimated at 650,000, while Serbia’s population is 9-10 million.

Since 1995 only about 40.000 have been able to return to Croatia. UNHCR believes that local integration is the lasting solution for the majority of refugees currently in FRY. [Read more…]

Support free media and education in Serbia now

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 51 – November 23, 1998

Originally published here.


“The law on information, on the universities and the prepared law on NGOs should be strongly opposed by all international organisations, governments and NGOs.”

Jiri Dienstbier, Special Rapporteur of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights


“Serbian authorities commit gross human rights violations through new draconian laws that will further undermine free media, education and civil society in Serbia. Given its seriousness, we have heard deplorably few and low-voiced protests from top diplomats, politicians, fellow intellectuals and media people in the Europe and the US. Dienstbier’s is an important exception” says TFF’s director Jan Oberg.

The situation is appalling. After media and education, NGOs will probably be targeted. People in Serbia are in a double cage – that constructed by their own authorities and that constructed by the international community since 1991. Just look at how the Kosovo conflict is now “managed” through the Milosevic-Holbrooke agreement and you’ll see how the two cages reinforce each other. The losers? Ordinary citizens – like in Bosnia under Dayton.

All citizens of Serbia – including the 650.000 forgotten refugees from Bosnia and Croatia – have suffered enough inside these cages since 1991. Shuttle diplomats, NATO, OSCE, EU and the US display a profound and disastrous lack of any strategy for civil society support. Much more must therefore be done by European peoples’ organisations everywhere to show solidarity with and assist independent media, education and movements in Serbia – and urgently,” says Dr. Oberg.

This is the background. In May this year, the Government of Serbia passed a new university law without consulting universities, teachers or students. It effectively reduces academic independence, the autonomy of academia. The government now controls the appointment and firing of professors, deans and university governing boards and may close faculties. The law further limits [Read more…]