BBC - Horrors of Kosovo revealed

Monday, 6 December, 1999, 10:35 GMT

Mass graves containing the bodies of Kosovo Albanians have been discovered

A grim catalogue of mutilation, murder and rape in Kosovo is unveiled in a major human rights report published by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Testimony gathered by OSCE monitors from more than 3,000 witnesses and refugees builds a detailed picture of recent events in Kosovo.

It says massive human rights abuses were carried out by Serbian forces on Kosovo Albanians.

This was followed by revenge attacks against remaining Serbs after Belgrade withdrew its troops from the province.

"The evidence of recent violations ... indicates that the cycle of violence has not yet been broken," the head of the OSCE mission in Kosovo, Ambassador Daan Everts, wrote in the introduction.

The report outlines a series of human rights abuses committed between 1998 and June this year when the territory was still under Serbian control.

This, the report says, was the result of a deliberate planned strategy by the government of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

The OSCE says Serb attacks increased after Nato began its bombing campaign, and summary and arbitrary killing spread throughout Kosovo.

Among the worst incidents, it says, were reports of the deliberate killing of children, and of elderly and disabled people being shot or burned alive.

There are accounts of children decapitated in front of their parents and refugees suffocating to death in crowded trains.

Revenge attacks

Human rights monitors have also been watching the climate of intolerance and revenge that has been sweeping the province since the arrival of Nato peacekeepers in June.

They detail human rights violations such as executions, abductions and intimidation, directed mainly against Serbs and other minorities.

One of the worst examples occurred in the US-controlled sector of Gnjilane, which had been largely untouched by the war, the report says.

But between June and October, almost 280 properties owned by Serbs and other minorities were either burned or destroyed.

Furthermore, the Roma, or Gypsy, population has left en masse, monitors say, and daily human rights reports in June, July and August were dominated by accounts of killings, house burnings, missing persons and abductions.

But the report draws a distinction between the abuses in the past and the violations that are continuing.

'Policy of apartheid'

Bernard Kouchner, the UN's special envoy to Kosovo, says in the report's introduction that there had been a systematic policy of apartheid against Kosovo Albanians for at least a decade, but this was no longer the case.

The monitors say that many of those involved in attacks on Serbs appear to have been members of the Kosovo Liberation Army or its successor organisation, the Kosovo Protection Corps.

The KLA waged a 15-month guerrilla campaign against Serb rule.

"It is clear that the (KLA) stepped in to fill a law and order void, but this 'policing' role is unrestrained by law and without legitimacy," the report said.

[URL may be different next day if article is archived]