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.

 

THE SITUATION

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…]

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NATO in Kosovo – Failed peacekeeping

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 72 – June 18, 1999

Originally published here.

Serbo-Croatian version here.

 

“If a UN operation had gone this wrong from the beginning, if the mandate had been violated to this extent, politicians, diplomats and media worldwide would have cried ‘Failure!’

But since it is a US-lead NATO operation, independent-minded evaluations and criticism is conspicuously absent from mainstream media and the political discourse. The homogenisation of public opinion with NATO propaganda throughout the Western democracies is disheartening,” says TFF director, Dr Jan Oberg.

 

1. THE NATO DOG WILL WAG THE UN TAIL

While NATO troops have been in Macedonia the last 8 months, only on June 14 could the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan present a plan for a civil UN administration for Kosova. It puts the EU in charge of reconstruction and gives the OSCE primary responsibility for establishing democratic institutions, organising elections, and monitoring human rights. The UNHCR will take charge of the resettlement of refugees and displaced persons.

The UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) will administer the police, justice, schools, public transport, telecommunications, and power plants. An international police unit of up to 2,000 will oversee the establishment of a Kosova police force. On 12 June, Annan appointed UN Undersecretary-General Sergio Vieira de Mello of Brazil as interim – interim! – special representative.

SC Resolution 1244 consistently mentions “the rapid early deployment of effective civil and security presences” and consistently mentions the two components simultaneously. Reality on the ground is already totally different. Evident for everyone who wants to see, the NATO dog will wag the UN tail as it pleases, in time and in space. And it will take months before the civilians are in place and co-functioning. Remember that it took 5-6 months to get the former OSCE KVM mission of 1200 deployed – only to be forced out due to NATO’s bombing plan.

This is catastrophic. Precisely in this type of conflict, the need for social, village-based security provided by civil police and what the UN used to call ‘Civil Affairs’ staff is absolutely essential. While NATO is simply not trained for this or has any experience in it, the UN an OSCE and civilian NGOs everywhere have.

[Read more…]

Human rights in Kosovo/a – Not so simple

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 45 – August 27, 1998

Originally published here.

“To understand a conflict – and, thus, help solve it – we need to know something about at least three things: Attitudes, Behaviour and the root Causes of the conflict. That’s the ABC. Most media simply report on behaviour and ignore the two other dimensions. This is why people in general feel that they don’t understand much of it all, in spite of watching and listening carefully to news reports. And when media cover conflict behaviour, many seem to use the KISS principle – Keep It Simple, Stupid. What you have heard about human rights in Kosovo/a is a good example of KISS journalism,” says Jan Oberg, head of TFF’s Conflict-Mitigation team upon returning from yet another mission to Belgrade, Prishtina and Skopje.

“I want to make it clear that I consider the Serb government guilty of extremely serious and systematic human rights violations in the Kosovo province. Over the years, the Serb leadership has pursued an absolutely immoral and self-defeating policy of repression. Having listened to hundreds of personal accounts of human rights violations, I know that. Numerous human rights organisations offer overwhelming documentation.

During our missions, TFF’s team has been stopped repeatedly on the roads, interrogated at police stations for hours, and deprived of written Albanian materials. I have seen the blood on the sidewalk after a young Albanian shot dead close to the Grand Hotel one morning in peacetime Prishtina. And, undoubtedly, when a people is this strong and this united in its desire for freedom, repression of its fundamental rights must be a basic explanation – however not the only one.

This, however, can not explain” – continues Dr. Oberg – “why so many human rights advocates, columnists, experts and diplomats ignore the fact that the rights of all, also the Serbs, are violated in this province. [Read more…]