CEOL - UN Investigator Says Kosovo Serbs Now Targeted

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 5, 1999 -- (Reuters) The ethnic cleansing of Albanians in Kosovo last spring has been replaced by the ethnic cleansing of Serbs in the fall, but now in the presence of the United Nations and NATO, a U.N. human rights investigator said on Thursday.

In a report on Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Yugoslavia, Jiri Dienstbier leveled criticism at various aspects of the human rights situation in all three countries. But he was particularly scathing about Yugoslavia's mainly ethnic Albanian province of Kosovo, now under U.N. administration.

"The situation in Kosovo can be summarized as follow: the spring ethnic cleansing of Albanians accompanied by murders, torture, looting and burning of houses has been replaced by the fall ethnic cleansing of Serbs, Romas, Bosniaks and other non-Albanians accompanied by the same atrocities," he said.

Dienstbier, a Czech, continued: "'Death to Serbs!' is the most common wall inscription now. Our problem is that this is now happening in the presence of UNMIK, KFOR and OSCE," he said.

He was referring to the U.N. Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, the NATO-led international force in Kosovo, and representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

They were dispatched to Kosovo in June after the Yugoslav army withdrew from the Serb province following an 11-week NATO air campaign aimed at halting the repression of its mainly ethnic Albanian population.

Dienstbier said the leadership of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which battled for independence from Yugoslavia, was creating "accomplished facts without regard to UNMIK's legal authority and the values which were the proclaimed basis of both NATO operation and the U.N. mission."

De facto government in Kosovo

The KLA created a de facto government, appointed mayors, directors of enterprises and other officials, pursued a policy of ethnic cleansing in jobs, and supported the confiscation of property of non-Albanians and even some Albanians, he said.

He called for the postponement of elections for all levels of administration "until stability has been achieved, people have returned home to live next to one another without fear, and a pluralistic multiethnic political structure has been developed."

Regarding the rest of Yugoslavia, he said that, "to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in the coming winter and to support the democratic forces, "all sanctions and embargoes (except for the arms embargo) should be terminated and humanitarian aid should be promptly delivered, especially heating oil and medical supplies."

Concerning Bosnia, Dienstbier said there was "a near-total absence of rule of law in the area of property rights," leading to the return of very few refugees from the 1992-1995 conflict that ended with the U.S.-negotiated Dayton accords.

"There is, furthermore, insufficient progress on eliminating discriminatory practices in relation to social and economic rights," he added.

Dayton must be implemented

"We can limit ourselves to the statement that the Dayton Agreement and individual decisions affecting property must be fully implemented if basic human rights are to be respected.

"It is alarming that four years after Dayton its mandate has still not been effectively utilized," Dienstbier said.

On Croatia, he expressed concern that President Franjo Tudjman recently said that "Bosnia and Herzegovina should be split into three separate entities."

This was a reference to a statement by the president last month that Bosnia-Herzegovina, now comprising a Serb republic and a Moslem-Croat federation, should have a separate Bosnian Croat entity.

Dienstbier said the president was one of the signatories of the Dayton accord, adding that "any attempt at undermining the agreement can only worsen ethnic tensions in Bosnia and Herzegovina and may result in further violations of human rights and possible humanitarian catastrophes."

Regarding parliamentary elections in Croatia next month, he said the fairness of the results "will be evaluated, among other factors, by the equality of access of all competing parties to the media, in particular television."