Surviving in Ghetto-like Enclaves: The Serbs of Kosovo and Metohija, 1999-2007

The legal position of Serbia’s troublesome autonomous province of Kosovo and Metohija was redefined after the seventy-eight days of NATO bombing campaign (from 24 March to 10 June 1999). The bombing campaign, lacking UN approval, consisted of a massive air-strikes operation in order to stop the “humanitarian catastrophe” of the Kosovo Albanians and their fighting units (KLA) confronted by the Yugoslav armed and police forces. The Military-Technical Agreement between NATO and Yugoslav military representatives was signed in Kumanovo (FYROM) on 9 June 1999.

Under the Kumanovo Agreement, Kosovo and Metohija — constitutionally an autonomous province within Serbia, a member state of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia — was to be entrusted, after the eventual withdrawal of all Yugoslav military and police personnel, to the military protection of a NATO-led 48,000-strong Kosovo force (KFOR). The bilateral Military-Technical Agreement that finally ended the bombing campaign was a prerequisite for UN Security Council Resolution 1244, adopted on the East River in New York the following day, 10 June 1999. Kosovo and Metohija (referred to only as Kosovo by the UN Resolution) were placed under the administration of the United Nations.[1]

Calling for the disarmament of Albanian paramilitary units (the Kosovo Liberation Army), UNSC Resolution 1244 reaffirmed the sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia over Kosovo and Metohija and foresaw the return of an agreed number (less than 1,000) of Yugoslav (i.e. Serbian) security and military forces to the Province. The UN Resolution also envisaged the establishment of “a substantial autonomy” for Kosovo and Metohija within Serbia — since June 2006 the legal successor of both the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (April 1992 – February 2003) and the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro (February 2003 – June 2006).[2] The main purpose of UNSC Resolution 1244 — at least the one officially declared as such — was not to bring about the separation of Kosovo and Metohija from the rest of Serbia, but to rebuild this war-torn area into a new democratic, tolerant multicultural society that would eventually, enjoying the highest possible degree of autonomy, be reintegrated into a future democratic framework of the Republic of Serbia.

Under UN administration since June 1999, the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija and its Albanian-dominated Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG) were under obligation to restore the protection of fundamental human rights and to ensure freedom of movement for all of Kosovo inhabitants, regardless of their ethnic origin or religious affiliation. Furthermore, according to UNSC Resolution 1244, they were obliged to provide for the fast and safe return of internally displaced persons and to create a stable legal framework as the main precondition for the restoration of multicultural, multi-ethnic society in compliance with fundamental UN and European standards regarding human rights, property rights, and so on.

However, none of these solemnly proclaimed goals have been achieved, not even partially, within the first eight years of UN administration, despite the fact that democracy was finally restored in Belgrade after the ousting of the authoritarian regime of Slobodan Milošević in October 2000, and the new authorities were eager to co-operate closely with both the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and NATO-led KFOR. Furthermore, both the federal and Serbian governments were offering serious negotiations with the legitimate representatives of Kosovo Albanians, to support the               fulfilment of the requirements of UNSC Resolution 1244. Belgrade’s democratic approach to the Kosovo problem was manifested in the rapid liberation of all Kosovo Albanian civilian prisoners of war detained in Serbian prisons, while efficient cooperation with KFOR was established in managing the security in the Ground Safety Zone established between Kosovo and the rest of Serbia after June 1999.

In contrast to the open and democratic policy of Belgrade, the whole post-June 1999 process of rebuilding Kosovo and Metohija as a democratic, multi-ethnic society failed, as it made little or no progress in most of the sensitive areas that involved multi-ethnic cooperation or inter-ethnic reconciliation. UNMIK administration and KFOR forces, focused on helping Albanians, perceived as the main victims of civil conflict, failed to provide efficient protection for non-Albanian communities and minority groups from the highly orchestrated large-scale campaign of ethnic cleansing directed primarily against Serbs, a constituent nation in Kosovo and Metohija. Carried out by Albanian extremists led by former warlords, this new wave of post-war ethnic cleansing against the Serbs, Roma, Goranies and other non-Albanian ethnic groups was tacitly approved not only by the majority of Kosovo Albanians, but by their political leaders as well.

The ethnic cleansing against the Kosovo Serbs was openly justified both by Albanians and by their supporters throughout the international community as a kind of ugly and regrettable but inevitable revenge for all the criminal acts against local Albanians previously committed by the Serbian police or paramilitaries under the Milošević regime while fighting the KLA and its supporters during the fifteen months of armed clashes before and during the NATO bombing campaign.[3] In compliance with the Kumanovo Agreement, the Yugoslav army took all its military equipment out of Kosovo and Metohija, while KLA fighting units remained armed, despite occasional, mostly symbolic, handovers of arms to KFOR. The complete disarmament of the KLA was never accomplished although it was one of the main prerequisites in UNSC Resolution 1244. Thus, fully disarmed, the Kosovo Serbs could find protection only with KFOR, while Albanians, using the reluctance of KFOR to confront the KLA, a major NATO ally during the bombing campaign, were free to take their revenge against the Serbs and the members of those ethnic groups considered as having been loyal to Serbia during the 1999 conflict.

It is not a surprise then that despite the massive military presence of international (KFOR) troops, the overall security situation concerning personal safety and freedom of movement for the Serbs and non-Albanian minorities has been constantly deteriorating since June 1999. The major positive achievement of the UN mission in Kosovo was the quick and safe return of hundreds of thousands of Albanians who had fled or had been forced to leave Kosovo during the 1999 NATO bombing campaign. They safely returned to their often destroyed homes within weeks after KFOR and UNMIK took full control over the administration of the Province. As confirmed by independent sources, however, along with them came dozens of thousands of Albanians from the economically backward areas of northern Albania in order to pillage the abandoned property of the Serbs who, in fear of spiralling violence, had fled to central Serbia or to Montenegro.[4]

Post-1999 ethnic cleansing

 

Conversely, most of the Kosovo Serbs and other non-Albanians were forced out of the Province by Albanian extremists, while the remaining ones were and still are deprived of their fundamental human rights. The chronology of post-war developments as far as the Serbs and other non-Albanians are concerned is the following: prior to the establishment of UNMIK, at least 30,000 Serbs hastily left Kosovo and Metohija fleeing from Albanian persecutions, retribution and attacks. During the first three months of UNMIK-KFOR administration, approximately 150,000 Serbs were expelled from Kosovo and forced to find refuge in central Serbia or in Montenegro.

After KFOR officially took over in Priština on 12 June, busy with finding suitable accommodation for the incoming troops, “a wave of unprecedented violence, looting, murders and abductions spread throughout the Province, especially in the cities, the victims of which were the remaining Serbs, Roma, Goranies and Muslim Bosniacs”.[5] Furthermore, tens of thousands of Roma, and thousands of Muslim Slavs (mostly Goranies), whose houses were also burnt or usurped by Albanians, also fled the Serbian province freshly entrusted to UN.[6]

The very difficult situation for the Serb and non-Albanian population became critical, going from bad to worse. Thus, on 17 June 1999, about 5,000 Kosovo Serbs left Uroševac, an important town in the south of the Province, escorted by a strong KFOR contingent. According to the data offered by the Serbian police and eventually confirmed by UNMIK, since 1 January 1998 there were 1,303 missing persons: 944 Serbs, 210 Muslim Roma and 149 ethnic Albanians. According to other data provided by The Hague Tribunal (ICTY), 547 Serbs were killed and 932 Serbs and non-Albanians kidnapped in June 1999 alone.[7]

The first five Serb civilians were abducted on the streets of Priština as early as 12 June 1999, while news kept arriving of an orchestrated campaign of terror against both the Serb and Roma populations. The Serb population of the village of Zočište near Orahovac fled on 14 June after their homes and the fourteenth-century Serbian monastery of Sts. Kosmas and Damian were set on fire by a group of Albanian extremists. After that, the small but historically important medieval monastery church was blown up. Between 14 and 16 June in Orahovac (a vine-growing area of Metohija) about 600 Serb residents scattered in various parts of the town all fled to the Serbian quarter in the vicinity of the church, ready to organize joint resistance to Albanians who were setting fire to all Serbian houses, one after another. On 24 June 1999 roughly 3,200 Serbs were forced to leave Orahovac escorted by KFOR: of 6,000 prewar Serb residents barely 2,000 remained ghettoized in the Serb-inhabited quarter. A 1,200-Serb-strong enclave in neighbouring Velika Hoča, a historic Serb village with fourteen churches dating from various periods, monuments of Oriental architecture and the well-preserved fourteenth-century wine cellars founded by the Serbian Emperor Stefan Dušan (1331–1355) and presently in the ownership of the monastery of Dečani, managed to survive at that moment, protected, as the Serbs of Orahovac, by KFOR tanks and barbed wire.

Another notable fourteenth-century Serb monastery, the Holy Trinity in Mušutište was looted and burned to the ground on 12 June, while the nuns barely managed to escape. Four days after German KFOR troops entered Prizren, on 16 June 1999, a KLA group kidnapped Fr. Chariton Lukić, a monk of the monastery of the Holy Archangels near Prizren, in charge of the evacuation of Serb nuns from Mušutište and monks from Zočište. More than a year later his beheaded, mutilated body was found near Prizren. On 15 June 1999, German KFOR finally decided, though not until the Albanian mob had destroyed most of the Serbian monuments around the seat of the Eparchy of Raška-Prizren, to provide military protection for the besieged Serbian cathedral and bishopric.

The other areas of Metohija, with significant Serb settlements, were rapidly emptied as the ethnically motivated terror of armed Albanian extremists continued unhindered, from abduction and expulsion to torture and random killings. Belo Polje and Vitomirica near Peć were completely emptied of Serbs. Driven out of their houses, the Serbs of Belo Polje near Peć left for neighbouring Montenegro on 19 June, after three of their compatriots were found slaughtered. Between the middle of June and late July 1999, the Metropolitan of Montenegro and his monks, authorized by the Serb Patriarch to provide protection for the Patriarchate of Peć and its flock, found and buried some thirty bodies of Serbs, mostly elderly men and women, civilians brutally massacred throughout the Peć area. The monastery of Dečani, famous for giving shelter to civilians in danger regardless of their ethnic origin, especially to Albanians during the 1999 war, now provided shelter not only to Serbs but also to fifty Roma whose houses in the neighbouring area were torched by the Albanians. Another family sheltered in Dečani was from the Muslim-Slav Gorani (Goranci) community. The tiny Christian Serb community of Djakovica, living in a single street, known as Serbian Street (Srpska ulica), totalling roughly 700 persons, gathered around the walls of the parish church of the Mother of God. A series of migrations reduced the presence of Serbs to six old ladies, living in complete isolation under the protection of Italian KFOR forces.[8]

As reported on 15 August 1999 the situation in the British-controlled area of central Kosovo was the following: “Looted houses, banished senior citizens, stolen cars, racketeering, murders, abductions, rape, trafficking: the KFOR troops are facing crime, both organized and uncontrolled, committed by Kosovars and Albanian Mafia. In two months, in the British Sector only, there were 127 murders (accounted for), 378 arsons, 504 known robberies. Kosovo has only been under UNMIK administration for six weeks, and the word ‘mafia’ emerged into media reports. A coincidence?”[9]

According to the verifiable sources of the Kosovo and Metohija diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church (Raška-Prizren Eparchy), the number of Serbs remaining in the larger cities in August 1999 was as follows:

Gnjilane: 25,000 Serbs reduced to about 5,000

K. Mitrovica: 27,000 Serbs reduced to 15,000

Kosovo Polje: 20,000 Serbs reduced to less than 10,000

Peć: 12,000 Serbs reduced to less than 100

Pristina: 30,000 Serbs reduced to 500 to 1000

Prizren: 5,000–6,000 Serbs reduced to 600[10]

During the first three months of UN administration approximately 250,000 Serbs and other non-Albanians (Roma, Muslim Slavs, Croats and the tiny Jewish community) were driven out and displaced from Kosovo, finding refuge in the rest of Serbia or in Montenegro, the other constituent republic of the FRY. Abductions and random killings of Serbs in all parts of the UN-governed Province became the predominant contents of hundreds of exhaustive and well-documented reports of local priests and church-people’s councils, covering the events involving Serb victims from the Gnjilane, Vitina, Lipljan, Klina, Uroševac, Prizren, Orahovac and Peć areas.[11] A significant number of Serbs left Kosovska Vitina on 19 July 1999, after the random attacks by Albanian extremists culminated in a group of Serbs being injured by a hand grenade thrown near the Serbian Orthodox church in the town.

Hieromonk Stefan Puljić of the monastery of Budisavci (a dependency of the Peć Patriarchate) was abducted with one other Serb civilian by extremist Albanian Roman Catholics, only to be tortured and eventually killed.

Metohija, the fertile plain stretching from Peć to Prizren and bordering Albania, was the first area to become ethnically cleansed of Serbs as early as August 1999, with tiny surviving enclaves, apart from Orahovac and Velika Hoča, remaining as small pockets (village of Goraždevac near Peć, the villages of Suvo Grlo, Banja and Crkolez east of Istok). The Serbian cemeteries in all the abandoned villages — such as Belo Polje near Peć, and the villages of Seča, Brestovik and Šakovica in the vicinity — were either desecrated or totally destroyed.

The worst crime in the first weeks of large-scale terror and violence against Serbs committed by the Kosovo Albanians was the “Harvest Massacre”. On 23 July 1999, fourteen Serbian farmers from the village of Staro Gracko in the Lipljan area of eastern Kosovo were killed by local Albanian extremists while harvesting their crops in the early evening hours. The UNHCR official report stressed that “a wave of arson and looting of Serb and Roma homes throughout Kosovo has ensued. Serbs and Roma remaining in Kosovo have been subject to repeated incidents of harassment and intimidation”, while “more seriously, there has been a spate of murders and abductions of Serbs since mid-June, including the late-July [Staro Gracko] massacre of Serb farmers.” Despite official scaling-down of the level of discrimination and persecution against Kosovo Serbs, it was the Philadelphia Inquirer that reported “a sinister pattern of violence and intimidation” where “Serb houses are bombed and set ablaze” and where the scale of violence amounts to “systematic ethnic cleansing.”[12]

The Albanian perpetrators of the “Harvest Massacre” have not been identified, apprehended or tried, as in thousands other similar cases of ethnically motivated crimes against members of the Serbian community. It became a practice that additionally forced the Kosovo Serbs still surviving in the mixed Serb-Albanian areas to leave the Province. Despite a huge international civilian and military presence, they remained deprived of the rule of law and minimal guarantees for both their security and property. Ruled by the criminal gangs that emerged from the highest ranking officials of the KLA guerrilla, Albanian-dominated Kosovo was turned into a law-free area for all sorts of criminal activities and illegal trafficking, but its dominant political agenda remained to be ethnic and religious discrimination, abductions, property usurpations and random killings of Serbs and non-Albanians.

Mixed villages gradually emptied, urban areas completely cleansed

 

During the last months of 1999, the pre-war Serbian population of 40,000 of Priština, the provincial capital — urban (30,000) and suburban (up to 10,000) — decreased to less than 1,000 only to be additionally reduced, within months, to barely 120, all confined to a single apartment building (YU Program Building), heavily guarded by KFOR, but fully deprived of freedom of movement through the city.[13] Priština, previously the main economic, cultural and university centre for the Kosovo Serbs, became totally devoid of Serb intellectuals, professors, medical doctors, engineers etc. Tens of thousands of Roma of urban and suburban Priština, a distinct component of the provincial capital’s population, virtually disappeared under orchestrated Albanian violence. Both Serbs and Roma mostly were replaced by rural Kosovo Albanians, who rushed to settle in Priština, moving with their extended families into the vacant houses and apartments of the expelled Serbs and other non-Albanian groups.

Furthermore, during the last months of 1999 and in early 2000, the urban Kosovo Serbs were first reduced and eventually completely evicted from all other major Kosovo towns such as Peć, Prizren, Djakovica and Uroševac. Of the original several thousand Serb inhabitants of Prizren, only few dozen persons remained, mostly elderly, surviving by hiding in churches or in the Serbian Orthodox Theological School (Bogoslovija), as elsewhere owing to the protection of KFOR units. At least 200 Serb, Roma and Muslim residents of Prizren found refuge in the Serb Theological School in Prizren under German guard, along with a group of Kosovo Albanians who received death threats from their compatriots for supporting Serbs.[14]

The formerly flourishing community of 12,000 Serbs and Montenegrins in the town of Peć, successful in trade, business and crafts, was completely driven out by early 2000, while the number of Serbs in Prizren, already reduced to less than 200 in 2000, further declined to 68, mostly elderly people in 2002. The first wave of attacks on Serbs in Gnjilane started on 24 July 1999. The first wave of destruction targeted the monument to the Holy Prince Lazar, the hero of the 1389 Battle of Kosovo, while six mutilated Serb bodies were found on the local hospital garbage dump. Once numerous, strong and prosperous, the Serb urban residents of Gnjilane and Orahovac, lacking efficient and continuous protection from international forces, were eventually forced to flee Kosovo in 2000: in early 2001 their number was reduced from pre-war 12,000 to 400 in Gnjilane and approximately 450 in Orahovac.

The monastery of Devič, in the Drenica area, venerated by the Christian Serbs and a privileged target of Muslim Albanian extremists (set ablaze in 1941 and reconstructed after 1945) was held for three days under the KLA siege in mid-June 1999, and restored to its sisterhood only after nuns from Kosovo’s northernmost monastery, Sokolica, brought French KFOR forces to establish military protection of this oldest medieval Serb endowment in the Drenica area. The monastery of Devič, famous in medieval Serbia and during Ottoman rule, venerated by pilgrims from all neighbouring states for the relics of the local saint St. Joanikije Devički, was desecrated anew by the KLA in 1999.

The revengeful wave of ethnic cleansing, carried out by Albanian extremists against Serbs and other non-Albanian populations became a by-product of the new political landscape dominated by Kosovo Albanians and controlled by extremists: “Amid this anarchy, the question has to be asked: can the shameful campaign of ‘ethnic cleansing’ and murder of Serbs that continues under KFOR’s eyes still be explained away as revenge attacks, as retaliation for the mass atrocities committed against Albanians by Serb forces before and during the Kosovo war? A growing number of Albanian intellectuals, including several courageous journalists on the [Albanian] daily Koha Ditore newspaper, fear that the murders and dispossession of Serbs are now being organized.”[15]

Most of the remaining Kosovo Serbs have since June 1999 been confined to ghetto-like living in virtual segregation within the KFOR-protected enclaves in Kosovo and Metohija. The Kosovo Serbs’ enclaves located south of the Ibar River in particular were all deprived of basic security provisions, lacking freedom of movement and other fundamental civil rights. Only several predominantly Serb-inhabited areas north of the Ibar River, owing only to the direct territorial link with the rest of Serbia, in the Kosovska Mitrovica area (districts of North Mitrovica) as well as in the municipalities of Zubin Potok, Zvečan and Leposavić, have managed to escape the discrimination and isolation that the Serbs confined in smaller or larger enclaves (Štrpce, Kosovska Vitina, Gračanica, Gnjilane, Goraždevac, Novo Brdo, Velika Hoča and others), usually bordering predominantly Albanian-inhabited areas, could not.

The imposed regrouping of the remaining Serbs into several KFOR-protected enclaves keeps about 130,000 Serbs in four separate zones: 1) the northern zone, north of the river Ibar and Kosovska Mitrovica (encompassing Zubin Potok, Zvečan and Leposavić municipalities), to which the citizens of the Vučitrn region resorted; 2) the central zone, encompassing the area between the village of Gračanica and the town of Lipljan with thirteen Serb-inhabited villages, to which a certain number of Serb citizens from Priština and the neighbouring villages fled and found refuge; 3) the zone from Kosovska Kamenica to Gnjilane and Novo Brdo, where the Serb majority exiled from the Gnjilane area has found temporary shelter; 4) the Štrpce municipality (Sirinićka župa) with Brezovica Mountain, where a number of Prizren’s Serbs and the people from the neighbouring areas (Sredska or Sretačka župa) inhabited by Muslim Slavs fled from violence and persecution by Albanian extremists. Remaining Serb enclaves covering the areas of Kosovska Vitina, Ranilug, Parteš or Vrbovac in eastern Kosovo remained to be highly vulnerable to ethnically motivated violence ranging from random attacks and arson to abduction, despite significant KFOR presence and numerous check-points or enhanced patrolling in areas with a mixed Serb-Albanian population.

Between June 1999 and December 2000, all judges and prosecutors were Kosovo Albanians, while seven subsequently appointed Kosovo Serb judges were forced to resign and flee to inner Serbia as a result of threats by Albanian extremists. The appointment of international judges, although welcomed, proved to be insufficient due both to constant pressures and to the reluctance of the predominantly Albanian environment to cooperate in finding the perpetrators of ethnically motivated crimes. According to the report of 26 June 2003 of the Secretary-General on UNMIK, there were only fifteen international judges and ten international prosecutors serving in the local justice system, capable of dealing with only three percent of criminal cases. The inevitable consequence of the inefficient judiciary was the emergence of a culture of impunity surrounding violence against the non-Albanian population, Serbs in particular.[16]

In addition, thousands of houses, apartments (approximately 45,000) and estates owned by non-Albanians were in 2006 still under the occupation of squatters after usurpation by local Albanians, while an additional 30,000 dwellings and other property were either robbed or damaged. In comparison to approximately 70,000 Albanian-owned properties that were burned, damaged or destroyed by Yugoslav forces during the fighting in 1998 and the NATO bombing campaign in 1999, this post-war record of Kosovo under the weak and inefficient UNMIK administration is an obvious evidence of a large-scale revenge, a nineteenth-century-style collective vendetta against the Serbs, the Albanians’ main rivals, as well as against other non-Albanian ethnic communities.

“Vandalism with a mission”: The orchestrated destruction of the Serbian cultural and religious heritage

 

In parallel with the persecution of the Serb civilian population, the target of Albanian retaliation were numerous Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries, ranging from medieval Byzantine-style monuments to more recent churches built between the sixteenth and the twentieth century. Until the end of 1999, more than seventy Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries were plundered, desecrated and, in most cases, levelled to the ground. One-third of these churches were important cultural monuments dating from the medieval period with invaluable frescoes, sculptures, and icons.[17] As stressed by a Western eyewitness “…this demolition cannot be just ‘revenge’ — NATO’s usual excuse for the destruction under its auspices. You do not just fill with rage and spend days gathering explosives to blow up churches. This is vandalism with a mission”.[18]

A renowned British war correspondent reported that “the Serb Church has issued its own list of destroyed or partly demolished buildings. Between 13 June — when NATO troops entered Kosovo — and 20 October, they say, seventy-four churches have been turned to dust or burnt or vandalized. The fifteenth-century monastery of the Holy Trinity above Mušutište, begun in 1465, has been levelled with explosives. The monastery of the [Holy] Archangels near Vitina, built in the fourteenth century, has been looted and burnt. So have the church of the Archangels in Gornje Nerodimlje; and the church of St. Paraskeva near Peć: and the church of St. Nicholas in Prekoruplje — razed and its nine sixteenth-century icons lost, including that of the apostle Thomas. The rubble of Orthodox churches across Kosovo stands as a monument to Albanian vandalism. After declaring that Kosovo must remain a ‘multi-ethnic society’, 40,000 troops from K-For cannot, it seems, look after its historical heritage against the violence of those whom its spokesmen treated as allies in the war against Yugoslavia’s President, Slobodan Milosevic, only five months ago.”[19] The destruction continued in the Suva Reka area: the Serb parish church in the town and the impressive medieval church in Mušutište, dedicated to the Mother of God and beautifully frescoed (built in 1315, immediately after the monastery of Gračanica), were both levelled to the ground.

During the second half of 1999, an additional number of centuries-old Serb religious centres were destroyed in a highly orchestrated action, focusing primarily on the living Serb communities around certain churches and monasteries. The church of Petrič near Peć, Nerodimlje near Uroševac, the monastery of Binča near Vitina, and another fifty churches and monasteries were destroyed or levelled to the ground, dozens of Serb cemeteries desecrated or devastated, in addition to an unknown number, mounting to thousands, of abandoned Serb homes routinely looted, torched and destroyed, in order to prevent the return of their rightful owners.

A series of renewed attacks on civilian convoys took place in February 2001 in order to reinforce fear and insecurity within the Serb-inhabited enclaves of Kosovo. The most criminal, among several others, occurred on 14 February 2001 between Merdare and Podujevo, when Albanian extremists, applying Sicilian-mafia methods, planted explosive beneath the road and destroyed a whole bus with 56 Serb civilians travelling home under the escort of Swedish KFOR troops. Among 44 heavily injured victims, fourteen Kosovo Serb passengers perished, including two children. KFOR and UNMIK played down the whole incident, not naming the ethnic origin and number of the civilian victims of the “bus bombing massacre” near the village of Livadice.[20]

From June 1999 to June 2003 the number of destroyed and desecrated Serb Orthodox churches — at least one-third of them important Byzantine-type medieval Serbian monuments — amounted to 117, while the most important medieval monasteries, from the Patriarchate of Peć and Visoki Dečani to Gračanica and Prizren’s Cathedral of the Mother of God Ljeviška, were after June 1999 put under continuous KFOR protection. The general impression is that after the establishment of UN administration there was an orchestrated attempt by Albanian extremists to evict not only all of the Serbs, but also to remove all traces of their cultural and historical heritage, something perceived by them as an important precondition for obtaining independence for an Albanian-dominated Kosovo.

As stressed on many occasions by representatives of the Raška-Prizren Eparchy of the Serbian Orthodox Church, this is a strategy of cutting off Kosovo Serbs from their historical and religious traditions. Only in November 2002, for instance, a day before UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s visit, two separate explosions blew up two Serbian Orthodox churches in western Kosovo: a church in Ljubova was razed to the ground, while the interior of the church in nearby Djurakovac sustained serious damage. In addition, during the same month, several cemeteries in Dečani and Kosovo Polje were vandalized by Albanian extremists, raising the toll of desecrated Serbian cemeteries all over the province of Kosovo to several dozen.[21]

In May 2003, Spanish and Greek soldiers of KFOR were attacked with hand grenades while protecting Serbian churches in Istok (monastery of Gorioč) and Uroševac respectively. On 26 July 2003, the discovery of a powerful explosive device in the vicinity of the Holy Archangels near Prizren prevented the massacre of at least one thousand Serbian pilgrims who came, under heavy KFOR escort, to celebrate the 650th anniversary of the monastery. A detonation rang out on the hillside above the Holy Archangels during the Divine Liturgy. The nine kilograms of powerful explosive were planted in the hillside in order to bring the huge cliff down on the gathered Serb pilgrims and the monastery. The next target was the Serb church and community in Klokot (Vitina area in eastern Kosovo).

Although the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the UN High Commission for Refugees stressed in their reports that 2002 saw a continued fall in ethnically motivated crime, this was only due to the fact that many Serbs had simply disappeared from many previously mixed areas after continuous threats, attacks and assassinations perpetrated by Albanian extremists. Since May 2002, KFOR has begun to scale down its presence in the so-called ‘minority areas’, which was a signal to Albanian extremists to resume their strategy of ethnic cleansing, persecuting Serbs from all parts of Kosovo and Metohija, through a new series of ethnically motivated crimes, in order to force them to leave the province, and, additionally, discourage those willing to return.

Freedom of movement, after three years of KFOR presence, remained unattainable for Serbs and non-Albanians. Among dozens, if not hundreds of examples, this is a striking one: a group of some fifty retired Serbs transported by UNMIK bus from Osojane to Peć were heading for the local bank on 11 October 2002, but experienced a brutal attack by over 600 Albanians in the streets of Peć. Their bus was stoned and additionally demolished by Molotov cocktails, while at least fifteen elderly Serbs were injured and subsequently evacuated by Spanish KFOR to a temporary refuge in the nearby building only to be hastily escorted back to their village.[22]

The decreased number of ethnically motivated killings in 2002 showed, however, that the targets were not any more large Serbian communities, but usually smaller and more vulnerable ones, mostly in ethnically mixed areas. On 6 January a Serb was killed by a grenade in front of his house in Kosovska Kamenica. On 23 February, a Serbian woman in Lipljan was shot and killed by an unknown perpetrator. In August, five Serbian houses in Klokot near Kosovska Vitina were destroyed by planted explosive devices while several persons were injured, including two members of US KFOR troops. In October, a woman from the same village was assassinated. In December, a Serbian peasant from the village of Cernica, near Gnjilane, was killed. The number of attacks that did not end up in killings was considerably higher. The number of ethnically motivated attacks against Serbs, resulting in serious injuries had increased from 274 in 2001 to 454 in 2003.[23]

The ghetto-like situation is typical for smaller Serb communities (villages, parts of villages or groups of villages): the village of Cernica in the Gnjilane area previously had 85 Serb households amidst 400 Albanian. From 2000 to 2003 Serb residents were frequently attacked by the local Albanian extremists, including arson and assassinations. Five Serbian families in Cernica lost their members, including a child; dozens were wounded, their houses burned or destroyed, while the church of St. Elijah was devastated. After four years of international rule, at the end of 2003, in 6,391 ethnically motivated attacks by Albanian extremists, 1,192 Serbs were killed, 1,303 kidnapped and another 1,305 wounded. Nevertheless, few perpetrators have been identified, let alone arrested, tried and sentenced.[24]

On 12 April 2003 Albanian extremists planted 40 kilograms of explosive under the railroad bridge of Ložište near Banjska and Zvečan. Due to an error made during placement and activation, the explosive only slightly damaged the bridge but killed both Albanian perpetrators, members of the “Kosovo Protection Corps” and the terrorist group known as the “Albanian National Army”. An UNMIK police investigation established that the purpose of the attack was to blow up the train carrying Serbs from the central Kosovo enclaves to Serb-inhabited Leposavić in the north, on its way to its final destination, Belgrade.

It was rightly observed that “neither United Nations police forces nor NATO Kosovo peacekeeping forces (KFOR) were willing to acknowledge that as early as the previous summer there had been an increase in ethnic and criminal violence against minorities and police that had raised the total expulsions of Serbs, Roma and other minorities since 1999 to 240,000. Regardless of the warnings of minority leaders, checkpoints and sentries protecting Serb settlements and churches had been withdrawn. The number of KFOR personnel had been prematurely reduced, to 17,500 troops. Neither civilian officials nor the military command were prepared for the two-day pogroms by majority Albanians against non-Albanians. There simply were no contingency plans for such an emergency.”[25]

The March pogrom of 2004

 

In March 2004 it became obvious, at least to international observers, that some leaders of the Kosovo Albanians believed that by several orchestrated waves of ethnic cleansing of all the remaining Serb population from the Province they could present the international community with a fait accompli. The incentive for the next wave of ethnic cleansing was the mild international reaction to the previous ethnic cleansing of two-thirds of Kosovo’s Serbs that had begun in mid-June 1999. Although Kosovo’s Serbs had been warning of the real nature of Albanian nationalism in Kosovo for years, both the UN and the West assumed they were exaggerating, only to receive a confirmation of almost all Serbian claims in just three days of orchestrated violence — the March pogrom — Kosovo’s Kristallnacht.

The previous destruction of at least 117 Serbian cultural sites, mostly churches and monasteries, passed almost unnoticed or was mildly criticized everywhere except in Serbia, Russia and Greece. Ethnic purity, as envisaged by Kosovo Albanian extremists, however, is not a concept that can be accepted as the legitimate foundation for either democracy or state independence. It became evident that none of the values of the West would eventually take root in the lawless, illegal trafficking paradise of mafia-ruled Kosovo, a “Balkan Columbia”, as it was named by international experts for drug trafficking routes to Western capitals.[26]

The official pretext for the three-day campaign of violence against the Serb-inhabited enclaves triggered on 17 March 2003 was the tragic drowning of several Albanian children in the Ibar River near Kosovska Mitrovica. The allegations that the Albanian boys drowned after being chased by local Serbs turned out to be false, and this was later confirmed by UNMIK. Quite the opposite, as observed by Derek Chappell, the UNMIK spokesman, “the wave of violence has been too coordinated to be a spontaneous, popular reaction to rumours […] It was planned in advance.”[27] More than 51,000 Albanians participated in the thirty-three areas where there was mass ethnically motivated violence, while 163 of them were arrested, as reported by UNMIK on 22 March for arson, murder and other criminal acts.

Busloads of Albanians were transported to Serb-inhabited areas, clashing occasionally with KFOR units on the way, while targeting in particular those enclaves that stood in the way of controlling the main transport and railway routes in Kosovo. For this reason, entire Serb villages in central and eastern Kosovo were razed to the ground, and some 4,000 Serb civilians became homeless within two days of unconstrained violence. The UN evacuated its missions from at least three cities in Kosovo. In two of them, Serbian Orthodox churches were set aflame. The only functioning Serb Orthodox church in Priština, St. Nicholas (Sv. Nikola), dating from the 1830s, was eventually set ablaze, as another act of denying the Serbs the very possibility of living or returning to the provincial capital of Kosovo and Metohija.[28]

While insisting that they are capable of governing an independent state, the Albanian leadership in Kosovo and Metohija also claim that they were unable to control their compatriots and to halt the pogrom against the Serbs. Hence, while the most influential Albanian party leader in Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi, travelled overseas preaching the virtues of multi-ethnicity and a civic-based identity, the five most important medieval Serbian sites in his hometown of Prizren were burned or heavily damaged by his supporters in the raging Albanian mob, in front of a passive German KFOR contingent, lacking orders from Berlin to act against the perpetrators.[29]

The March Pogrom of 2004 was labelled by Admiral Gregory Johnson, NATO commander for South-eastern Europe, as “ethnic cleansing”, while he was still sending additional troops to halt the two-day outburst of violence against Serbs.[30] As confirmed by Italian General Alberto Primiseri, the whole campaign was planned in advance, forcing Kosovo into blood and fire.[31] UN ombudsman Marek Antoni Nowicki called this pogrom a real “drama of the Serbs”, while the correspondent of Le Figaro Magazine titled his detailed report Kosovo Serbs: Suitcase or Coffin (Les Serbes du Kosovo :  la valise ou le cercueil).[32]

The series of subsequent reports of Kosovo ombudsperson Nowicki about negative trends in multi-ethnic relations, as well as the detailed November 2005 report of UN Special Envoy in Kosovo, Ambassador Kai Eide, about the situation in the Province have shown that very little or no progress has been recorded for the last seven years, i.e. since June 1999. Kai Eide reported that the position of Serbs, and of other non-Albanians, was “grim”[33] and that Kosovo Serbs chose to stay outside the PISG of Kosovo and to maintain direct (“parallel”) links with Belgrade for both health and educational services. He described that the Kosovo Serbs feared that they would be, as they had been before, simply a decoration to any PISG of Kosovo, with little ability to achieve tangible results or to protect their rights. In turn, Eide confirmed that the Kosovo Albanians had done little, if anything, to dispel this widespread fear.[34]

Moreover, the Kosovo Albanians’ condemnation of ethnically-motivated violence against the Serbs since June 1999 has always come tardily, reluctant and mildly phrased, and exclusively under strong pressure from UNMIK or Contact Group representatives, who demanded public condemnation from the Kosovo Albanian leaders of orchestrated campaigns of ethnically motivated crimes perpetrated by Albanian extremists.

The return of at least 230,000 internally displaced persons expelled from Kosovo and Metohija since June 1999 remains an unresolved issue. The main obstacle to their sustainable return is strong opposition from both local Albanian communities and the Albanian-dominated PISG. According to UNCHR, for the eight years of UN administration (June 1999 – June 2007) only 7,100 IDPs returned, most of them elderly peasants. Furthermore, despite joint efforts by both KFOR and UNMIK, the systematic persecution of the Kosovo Serb population and of non-Albanians in general carried out by extremists and tacitly approved by the majority of Albanians, has continued to be the main impediment to any viable progress towards rebuilding a tolerant multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious Kosovo society that would function under the rule of law. According to the UNMIK office for returnees, more than 1,467 of 4,100 Serbs forcibly displaced in March 2004 were still outside of their previous households more than a year later.[35] According to a Beta-Press report quoting the UNHCR representative in Belgrade, in mid-2005 there were 226,000 Serbs and members of other non-Albanian communities and ethnic groups still living as displaced persons in central Serbia and more than 25,000 in Montenegro.[36]

Concluding remarks

 

The orchestrated ethnic cleansing of the Kosovo Serbs, organized and carried out in several waves after June 1999, has continued throughout 2006 and 2007 with occasional attacks, bombing of churches and random killings. The final goal of Albanian extremists was to reduce radically the number of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija from eighteen to less than ten percent, in order to be able to present them as an insignificant minority not entitled to the rights of a constituent nation that they have elsewhere in Serbia. The number of Serbs remaining in northern Kosovo (in several municipalities with a Serb majority, Zvečan, Zubin Potok, Leposavić and the northern part of the city of Mitrovica) and within several KFOR-guarded, variously-sized enclaves scattered throughout the Province (Gračanica, Novo Brdo, Štrpce) is between 130,000 and 146,000. Hence, roughly sixty percent of the Serbian population has been expelled from Kosovo and Metohija during the last eight years of international rule; most of them still live as IDPs in central Serbia. The actual number of registered displaced and expelled persons is 212,781 in Serbia, and 29,500 in Montenegro.

All of the province’s cities, with the exception of the Serb-controlled northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica, were ethnically cleansed of Serbs in 1999, and remain so today. There are practically no Serbs left in large cities such as Priština, Prizren, Uroševac or Peć. In Priština, there were about 40,000 Serbs prior to 1999, while today there are less than a hundred of them living in a single building, under appalling conditions and constantly guarded by KFOR. The conditions in different Serb enclaves in terms of personal security and freedom of movement are still precarious. There is rampant unemployment among Serbs (up to 93 percent) and extreme poverty, while the living standards in general remain far below the average in the region and the Province itself. The number of returnees, despite many written agreements with UNMIK and frequent promises by both UNMIK and the Albanian-dominated provisional institutions, remains insignificant. So far, only 5.5 percent of the total number of internally displaced Serbs and other non-Albanians have returned to the UN-administered Province since June 1999, and in practice, very few of the returnees have been permanently resettled.

The export of the Kosovo war model of ethnic domination, first, in 2000, to the mixed Serb-Albanian municipalities in the Preševo Valley in southern Serbia, and then, in 2001, to the predominantly Albanian-inhabited areas of neighbouring Slavic Macedonia (FYROM), demonstrated that the anachronistic concept of Albanian nationalism in the region is not motivated by the noble struggle for human, civil, collective or any other internationally sanctified rights, which is how it is usually presented to internationals, but by a narrow-minded long-term project of establishing full and uncontested ethnic domination over a territory through systematic persecution, pressure and discrimination of all other, numerically weaker ethnic groups.

In essence, the Albanian war concept means making life impossible for members of every other national group or ethnic community until they become numerically and politically so negligible that they no longer represent any threat to the whole strategy of exclusive ethnic domination. The concept of full control over a certain territory is combined with some seemingly democratic political demands, which, however, are paving the way to the creation of an independent Kosovo and, in the next phase, most probably, of a single, ethnically unified Greater Albania, if not de iure, at least de facto.

For years the extremists among the Kosovo Albanians have found crucial logistic support in the extended, and dominant in Europe, Albanian-controlled trafficking in drugs, arms and humans. Thus, organized crime gave a strong economic stimulus to the war concept of the Kosovo Albanians, while endemic lawlessness additionally boosted illegal businesses, especially drug smuggling.[37]

According to reliable data gathered by the German Intelligence Service (BND), filed in the sixty-seven pages of the confidential report of 22 February 2005, recently partly published by the Swiss weekly Weltwoche, the leading political figures of Kosovo Albanians, former KLA warlords Hashim Thaci, Ramush Haradinaj (indicted by the ICTY tribunal at The Hague) and Djavid Haliti, are, for years now, deeply involved in organized crime in the Province, from arms and drugs smuggling to human trafficking and money laundering.[38]

The same report includes the statement of Klaus Schmidt, chief of the European Mission for Police Assistance of the EU Commission in Albania (PAMEC), that “through Kosovo and Albania 500 to 700 kilos of drugs are smuggled daily, and that a part of it is refined in Kosovo laboratories.” The lack of control over borders and the movement of people and goods between UN-controlled Kosovo and Albania additionally strengthen organized crime, which further increases the concerns of the international community.[39]

Over the last eight years, the KLA war commanders, doubtlessly involved in criminal activities and accused of war crimes, have become the leaders of the most influential Kosovo Albanian political parties. They continue to be the main representatives of the war concept as the only effective method of resolving the Kosovo status problem, by harassing and discriminating Serbs, in order to change the pre-war ethnic structure and thus delegitimize all the claims of Serbia to Kosovo and Metohija.

Within such a context, the Serbs and non-Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija, sharply diminished in number, are still living under the strong, permanent and highly discriminating pressure of extremist Albanians, most often fully deprived of basic security, individual and collective rights, legal and ownership protection and the right to maintain and further develop both their national and cultural identities. The protection of their identity, including the right to return, as stressed not only by UNSC Resolution 1244, but also by the eight standards of the international community, set to develop the rule of law, inter-ethnic tolerance and democracy, and to provide for the Province’s sustainable development. Thus, Kosovo and Metohija remains very far from the minimal standards required for a society to be modern, tolerant and civilized and to function in accordance with the most fundamental European values.

Violence against the Serbs has somewhat diminished due to the UN-sponsored negotiations on Kosovo’s future status in Vienna (2006–2007), but the general trend of covert or overt pressures aiming at an Albanian-dominated and ethnically cleansed Kosovo is still underway. On European soil, under the UN flag, the Serbs, members of one of the oldest European nations, still live in ghetto-like conditions, in areas guarded by international military forces, their armoured vehicles and, in some places, by barbed wire. For the majority of them, the only solution for their very survival, for their demographic recovery, sustainable return and both political and economic sustainability is to maintain Kosovo within Serbia, on the path towards the European Union.

 

(Kosovo and Metohija.Living in the Enclave ed. by Dušan T. Bataković, Belgrade: Institute for Balkan Studies, Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, 1997, pp.  239-263). 

 


[1] D. T. Bataković, “Kosovo: from Separation to Integration”, Serbian Studies. Journal of the North American Society for Serbian Studies, vol. 18, No 2 (Washington DC 2004), 311–320.

 

[2] The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, renamed the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro on 4 February 2003, was eventually succeeded by the Republic of Serbia on

5 June 2006, after the referendum on independence of Montenegro.

 

[3] The Albanian testimonies to wartime sufferings, extensive but not always fully reliable are available in Under Orders. War Crimes in Kosovo (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2001).

 

[4] The first UNMIK administrator Bernard Kouchner warned publicly on 2 August 1999 of “the presence of gangsters coming from neighbouring Albania and amplifying the already existent chaos in Kosovo”. Despite 36,500-strong military forces and civilian personnel, with only 555 international policemen and 20 judges, it was impossible to deal with a KLA-sponsored Albanian mafia in UNMIK-administrated Kosovo.

[5] Cf. more in the Memorandum of the Serbian Orthodox Church on Kosovo and Metohija.

[6] Cf. the documentation in “Ne ubijaju Srbe tamo gde ih nema” [Serbs not being killed only in places where there are none], Blic, Belgrade, 22 August 1999.

[7] Cf. detailed documentation on 932 missing persons in Abductions and Disappearances of non-Albanians in Kosovo (Belgrade: Humanitarian Law Center, 2001).

 

[8] These ladies were eventually evacuated by Italian KFOR on 17 March 2004 when thousands of Kosovo Albanian rioters attacked their parish seat and church hurling stones and petrol bombs. After their evacuation to the monastery of Dečani, the parish church and seat were looted and set on fire. In the following days all remains of the church were completely removed.

[9] Report by Agence France-Presse of 15 August 1999.

 

[10] For a detailed account, see D. T. Bataković, “Kosovo: From Sparkling Victory to Troublesome Peace” in D. Simko & H. Haumann, eds., Peace Perspectives for South Eastern Europe, Proceedings of the Symposium 2000 Basel, Switzerland, 29–30 June 2000 (Academia: Prague 2001), 127–147.

[11] These Reports, covering especially the first post-war months (July–October 1999), sent from Gnjilane, Vitina, Lipljan, Prizren, Orahovac and Peć, have been partially reproduced in the collection of documents on post-war crimes against Serbs and non-Albanians Nova Srpska Golgota [A New Serbian Golgotha], vols. 1–3 (Cetinje: Svetigora, 2000).

 

[12] Philadelphia Inquirer, 18 November 1999.

 

[13] Jean-Arnault Dérens, Kosovo, année zero (Paris: Ed. Paris – Méditerranée, 2006), 214.

[14] For more detail, see Dušan T. Bataković, “The Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija: War, International Protectorate and National Catastrophe”, Eurobalkans 36–37 (Athens, Autumn/Winter 1999), 23–40.

 

[15] “Armed Albanians take revenge with campaign of murder, house-burning and intimidation that has driven out thousands Serbs murdered by the hundred since ‘liberation’ ” reported Robert Fisk from Priština to The Independent, 24 November 1999. Other eye-witnesses whose reports have been published: Mike O’Connor, “Rebel Terror Forcing Minority Serbs Out of Kosovo”, New York Times, 31 August 1998; R. Jeffrey Smith, “Kosovo Rebels Make Own Law”, Washington Post,  24 November 1999; Peter Worthington, “NATO’s Reputation a Casualty of War”, The Toronto Sun, 18 November 1999. Cf. also Max Boot, “U.N. Discovers Colonialism Isn’t Easy in Kosovo”, The Wall Street Journal,  2 November 1999.

 

[16] Bataković, “Kosovo: From Separation to Integration”.

[17] Cf. bilingual Serbian-English publication: Crucified Kosovo. Destroyed and Desecrated Serbian Orthodox Churches in Kosovo and Metohija (June–August 1999), ed. Fr. Sava Janjić (Belgrade 1999); revised and updated Internet edition: www.kosovo.net; French and Russian editions are available at www.yunet.com/destruction.html and  www. kosovo.net.

[18] Robert Fisk [from Djakovica], “NATO turns a blind eye as scores of ancient Christian churches are reduced to rubble”, The Independent,  20 November 1999.

 

[19] The Independent,  20 November 1999.

 

[20] A detailed report by Bishop Atanasije Jevtić in the Diocesan archive in Gračanica Monastery describes the attempt by UNMIK to scale down the number of Serbs killed in this Albanian-organized attack. Although it was known right away that eleven passengers died on the spot, UNMIK claimed only seven deaths. Less than ten killed is considered a crime, while more than ten is considered an act of terrorism.

[21] Info Service of Serbian Raška-Prizren Eparchy of Kosovo and Metohija (ERP KIM), report from Gračanica of 28 November 2002. The report related to the destruction of cemeteries is as follows: “Marking the national holiday of Albania, the so-called Flag Day, in the night between 28 and 29 November, local Albanian extremists destroyed a total of 46 gravestones at the [Christian] Orthodox cemetery in Kosovo Polje […] the gravestones of prominent Serb families and Serbs killed after the arrival of the international mission in Kosovo and Metohija. On most gravestones the photographs of the deceased were completely destroyed and their names removed. […] Following the attack on the cemetery of Dečani two days ago, this latest act of vandalism demonstrates the intent of the Albanian extremists to fully achieve their goal and erase the last traces of Serb graves and holy places in Kosovo and Metohija. In all of this, especially upsetting is the fact that the UN mission and KFOR have no solution to this problem and that cemeteries and more recently built churches have been completely left to their fate and the barbarism of the ‘Balkan Taliban’.” (ERP KIM, report from Gračanica, 30 November 2002).

 

[22] Additional data in the Memorandum of the Serbian Orthodox Church on Kosovo and Metohija.

[23] More in Bataković, “Kosovo: From Separation to Integration”.

 

[24] For detailed data on the victims of Albanian terror in the period between June 1999 and November 2001, see I. Simić, ed., Žrtve albanskog terorizma na Kosovu i Metohiji (Belgrade: Committee for Gathering Information on Crimes against Humanity and Violations of International Law, 2001).

[25] Quoted from Marie-Janine Calic, “Standards and Status. Violence against minorities a year ago scared everyone”, Internationale Politik, Munich 2005.

 

[26] “International agencies fighting the drug trade are warning that Kosovo has become a ‘smugglers’ paradise” supplying up to 40% of the heroin sold in Europe and North America. NATO-led forces, struggling to keep peace in the province a year after the war, have no mandate to fight drug traffickers; and – with the expulsion from Kosovo of the Serb police, including the ‘4th unit’ narcotics squad – the smugglers are running the ‘Balkan route’ with complete freedom.”  (Maggie O’Kane [from Belgrade], “Kosovo drug mafia supply heroin to Europe”, The Guardian, 13 March 2000). Cf. also Nick Wood [from Pristina], “Kosovo ‘mafia’ strikes”, The Guardian, 13 September 2000.

[27] Cf. reports and analysis of Raška-Prizren Diocese, ERP KIM 17–19 March 2004. Cf. also Special report on violence on Kosovo by B92, Belgrade (Specijal B92: Nasilje na Kosovu. Hronologija dogadjaja (16–22. marta 2004).

 

[28] Upon hearing the news of the pogrom and the burning of churches in Kosovo, a small but aggressive crowd of Belgraders surrounded the Bairakli mosque. In retaliation, the windows were broken, and a fire started. (A similar retaliation against the local mosque took place in Niš, the second largest city of inner Serbia.) In contrast to the scene in Kosovo and Metohija, the Serbian government dispatched police forces. However, they were not entirely successful in dispersing the angry mob. A Serbian Orthodox bishop joined his fellow Muslim clerics in Belgrade in trying to prevent the crowd from attacking the mosque. These were isolated incidents in reaction to the Kosovo pogrom, not a systematic campaign of destruction as in Kosovo and Metohija.

 

[29] “Murder upon murder, kidnapping upon kidnapping, arson upon arson, and now finally this pogrom, have led the Serbs to the realization that they are at the mercy of barbarians. This is ethnic aggression of the worst sort ‘in the heart of Europe’ (as Madeleine Albright famously called Kosovo before she bombed Serbia). Today, we see the true face of the ‘multiethnicity’ of which all spoke so highly. And all this is happening under U.N. and NATO administration. Imagine how bad it could get if Kosovo becomes independent.” “Senator Sam Brownback (R., Kan.), after having met Bishop Artemije of Kosovo several weeks ago [before March 2004] in Washington, wrote a letter to President Bush in which he concluded: ‘We should not consider advancing the cause of independence of a people whose first act when liberated was to ethnically cleanse a quarter of a million of their fellow citizens and destroy over a hundred of their holy sites.’ This week’s dismal events have proved him all too right. Perhaps this pogrom will force the Bush Administration to take seriously the warnings of Belgrade, and help stop the rivers of Kosovo from flowing red with blood.” (Quoted from “Kristallnacht in Kosovo. The burning of churches raises questions about independence”, 19 March 2004, by Damjan Krnjevic-Miskovic, on www.nationalinterest.com).

 

[30] Voice of America News, 19 March 2004. Cf. also IWPR (Institute for War and Peace Reporting), London, Report of 19 March 2004; Danas, Belgrade, 20 March 2004.

[31] Italijanski general: Albanci imali smišljen plan, FoNet & B92, 19 March 2004.

[32] Jean-Lous Tremblais in Le Figaro Magazine, April 2004. Cf. also Marek Waldenberg, “Why Kosovo should not be independent” in Kosovo and Metohija. Past, Present, Future (Belgrade: Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, 2006), 428.

[33] With regard to the foundation for a multi-ethnic society, the situation is grim. Kosovo leaders and the international community should take urgent steps in order to correct this picture. The overall security situation is stable, but fragile. The level of reported crime, including inter-ethnic crime, is low. However, on the ground, the situation is complex and troubling, especially for minority communities. There are frequent unreported cases of low-level, inter-ethnic violence and incidents. This affects freedom of movement in a negative way. To correct this situation, it will be important to prosecute crime more vigorously. When perpetrators remain at large, a sense of impunity prevails.

[34] “The continued existence of camps inside Kosovo is a disgrace for the governing structures and for the international community. The Roma camps in Plemetina and Žitkovac are particularly distressing. They should be dealt with on an emergency basis.” “The Serbian Orthodox religious sites and institutions represent a critical element of the spiritual fabric of Kosovo Serbs. They are also part of the world cultural heritage. There is a need to create a ‘protective space’ around these sites, with the involvement of the international community, in order to make them less vulnerable to political manipulation.”

 

[35] Beta-Press, Belgrade, 16 June 2005.

[36] Beta-Press, Belgrade, 21 June 2005: “Roughly 220,000 Kosovo citizens are still living as internally displaced persons in other parts of Serbia and Montenegro”. According to UNHCR, after the arrival of international peacekeeping forces in 1999, 230,000 Serbs and Roma left Kosovo, while 800,000 Albanians returned to Kosovo.

 

[37] Xavier Raufer (avec Stéphane Quéré), Une menace pour l’Europe. La mafia albanaise. Comment est née cette superpuissance criminelle balkanique? (Lausanne: Favre, 2000).

 

[38] Jürgen Roth, “Rechtstaat? Lieber nicht!”, Weltwoche 43/05, pp. 48–50.

[39] Ibid.