by Vesna Peric-Zimonjic
(IPS) BELGRADE --
the Russian chairman of the
UN Security Council left Yugoslavia carrying a pile of
human rights complaints, a UN forensic team said it had
exhumed more than 2,100 corpses of ethnic Albanians from
mass graves in Kosovo.
Once again, information on alleged abuses and discrimination against the remaining Serbian community in Kosovo is matched by atrocities committed by the Serbs in Kosovo during the 11-week NATO air war between March and June.
The report on mass graves came from a team gathering evidence against Pres. Slobodan Milosevic and four other top Yugoslav officials indicted as war criminals by the UN International War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
"Our judiciary doesn't have any access to the alleged sites, so how can we believe in what they say. They act as judge and jury at the same time," Serbian Deputy Information Minister Miodrag Popovic said Nov. 11.
The Yugoslav government does not recognize the Tribunal's jurisdiction.
The chief prosecutor at the Tribunal, Carla del Ponte, informed the Security Council Nov. 10 that more than 10,000 deaths have so far been reported to the authorities in the Serbian province, now under NATO-UN administration.
Sergei Lavrov, Russian ambassador to the UN,
ended a four-day visit to Kosovo and Belgrade on Nov. 10 with
a stack of complaints about the reportedly biased stand of
international organizations towards the problems of Kosovo.
Lavrov started his four-day tour after the Yugoslav government lodged several protests, arguing that Security Council Resolution 1244, which put an end to hostilities, has not been respected by the NATO-led International Security Forces (KFOR) and the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).
In a protest in early November, the Yugoslav government demanded that all relevant parts of the Resolution be respected, especially those that call for the safety for all people in Kosovo and the impartial treatment of the population -- both Serbs and ethnic Albanians.
"Since the arrival of KFOR and UNMIK to Kosovo (in June), 447 Serbs and non-Albanians were killed, 684 people were abducted and about 330.000 Serbs, Montenegrins and other non-Albanians were forced to leave the province," the protest said.
Before NATO air raids against Serbia started last March, the population of Kosovo was estimated at some 1.8 million ethnic Albanians and more than 400,000 Serbs and other non-Albanian ethnic groups like Gypsies and Muslims.
The stand was repeated in Lavrov's meeting with Yugoslav President Milosevic on Nov. 9. According to an official statement, Milosevic blamed the UN administrator of Kosovo, Bernard Kouchner and his staff for being "accomplices of Albanian criminals."
Although Russia has supported Yugoslavia in its stand against NATO, in his role as Security Council Chairman, Lavrov was careful not to express any bias.
Some specific aspects of the implementation of Resolution 1244 were discussed. "I believe that we have better knowledge on how we shall proceed in the Security Council," he said.
While in Pristina, the Kosovo capital, Lavrov met Momcilo Trajkovic, leader of the remaining Serbs in the province and a moderate politician opposed to Milosevic's government.
Trajkovic described his Nov. 7 talks as "full of understanding." Lavrov "was told about the enormous problems of Serbs in Kosovo, now, when peace is on, not war" he told IPS.
"Russia, the country that Lavrov comes from, has a very responsible role...Its help can have great psychological influence on Serbs here...it would be good if the Security Council could deal more with extremists," he added.
speaks for the small community of Serbs in Kosovo,
which can be counted in the tens of thousands now. Mostly
they live in the northern parts of the province that border
Serbia proper, or in heavily guarded enclaves inside Kosovo,
described by themselves as "ghettos."
The enclaves are guarded by KFOR troops, who deliver bread, milk and other goods to Serbs. Not more than 1,000 Serbs live in each village, where water supply systems and electricity have not been reestablished.
No phone links are operative in the villages. The biggest enclave is the northern part of the divided town of Kosovska Mitrovica where regular confrontations take place.
During Lavrov's stay in Pristina, the small Serb village of Pasjane was under mortar attack by ethnic Albanians.
The Kosovo Serbs fear that the conversion of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) into a Kosovo Protection Corps has left the fighting force almost intact.
Trajkovic and other Serb leaders that have remained in Kosovo had called for the establishment of Serb Protection Force, but the proposal was dismissed by UNMIK.
Trajkovic, one of the highest officials of the Serb National Council in Kosovo, was himself a victim of an attack by two Albanian-speaking men in Pristina 10 days ago.
Trajkovic described the attack on him as "an attack on all Serbs who have stayed in Kosovo."
"Ethnic cleansing is continuing, but now the perpetrators are Albanians. The situation is getting out of control, but a multi-ethnic Kosovo must survive," he said at the time.
November 28, 1999 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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