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The killings in Kosovo continue
11 November 1999
Levels of violence in Kosovo are the same as before the war. But now many of the victims are Serbs, and the perpetrators, Albanians.
By Daut Dauti in Pristina
Few people are better placed than former US diplomat William Walker to issue a warning call to Kosovo Albanians to halt vengeance attacks on the province's remaining Serb community.
Walker is respected by Kosovo Albanians for his early condemnation of Serb atrocities at the outset of the crisis, while he was head of the international monitoring mission in Kosovo. In Pristina last week, at the invitation of Kosovo Albanian leaders, he warned a crowd of several hundred in front of the National Theatre, "If the violence continues, this could be harmful and devastating for the Albanians and the future of Kosovo."
A similar warning had been issued earlier that week by statement by the 54-nation Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), tasked to help restore order and oversee reconstruction in Kosovo.
``The population of Kosovo and their leaders must understand that this violence jeopardises the international reputation and the standing of Kosovo,'' the OSCE said in a statement. ``The international community did intervene in Kosovo to protect human rights and not to pave the way for a new wave of ethnic harassment and violence.''
Continuing violence is ``likely to affect donors' sympathy and support at a time when important donor meetings are coming up,'' cautioned OSCE human rights chief Sandra Mitchell.
According to the OSCE, crime statistics during the past four months include 348 murders, 116 kidnappings, 1,070 lootings and 1,106 cases of arson. A precise breakdown is not certain, but certainly much of this violence is against the remaining Serb population, which tends to live in isolated, compact communities. The most prominent Serb victim so far has been Momcilo Trajkovic, the leading Kosovo Serb political figure, who was shot in the thigh last week.
A report from the International Crisis Group (ICG) concludes that the number of killings now is comparable to the levels reported before the NATO intervention.
"During the two months preceding the airstrikes, an average of 10-15 Serbs and a similar number of Kosovo Liberation Army soldiers a week were being killed in various attacks," said the ICG, in a report released this week.
"By August an estimated 30 people a week were being killed in Kosovo. Two months on that figure remains roughly the same."
The latest crime statistics released by the UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) show a decline in the overall number of incidents concerning minorities.
But this may be due partly to the flight of non-Albanians - Serbs, Roma and Goranis - over the past months.
Again, there are no generally accepted figures. Vladislav Jovanovic, Yugoslavia's envoy to the United Nations, claimed last week that 250,000 non-Albanians had fled Kosovo to escape the violence. According to the Yugoslav Red Cross, by the end of October, the number of registered internally displaced persons from Kosovo in both Serbia and Montenegro stood at 230,884. Independent estimates have placed the exodus of Serbs at between 100,000 and 180,000.
Ole Irgens, spokesman for the NATO Kosovo Force (KFOR), has reported "positive indications" of an improvement in the security situation. Yet according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the OSCE, the situation remains dangerous for minorities in Kosovo.
Albanian intellectuals and moderate political figures in Kosovo have raised the concern that the "oppressed should not become the oppressors". But other Kosovo Albanians have put forward justifications. They have emphasised that Serbs in Kosovo are still not ready to face the new reality but continue to support the anti-Albanian policies and attitudes of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
In any event, everyone in Kosovo is reading the numbers for violence incidents as part of a game with numbers.
The local press naturally focuses more on violence against Albanians. It frequently reports that more Albanians have died over the past four months than Serbs. Yet this may only be an indication that violent crime is also increasing among the Albanians.
There are first indications that local gangs may be cooperating with gangs from Albania in crimes ranging from car theft and smuggling to kidnapping and murder.
With the policing and judicial system in Kosovo still largely ineffective, there are fears that the "Albania syndrome" of social chaos could spread and take roots in Kosovo. "Do not allow criminals and mafia to control the situation," warned Dan Everts, the OSCE chief.
Such a development is especially worrying in the absence of any indications that a functioning police and judiciary will be in place soon. The absence of local administrations throughout Kosovo has left a vacuum easily filled by crime. Many people hope that the situation will improve after elections, when local power structures will be properly formed. But a vote is not scheduled yet.
During his visit, Walker was made an "honorary citizen" of Kosovo by Albanian leaders. But that didn't stop him speaking his mind. On the day of his visit, Russian forces detained ten Serbs for illegal possession of weapons, while NATO officials reported the death of a 69-year-old Serbian woman in the western Kosovo village of Donji Streoc, near Decani.
Daut Dauti is an IWPR correspondent in Kosovo.
Copyright (C) 1999 The Institute for War & Peace Reporting
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