In the Name of Independence?

 


Josef MARTINSEN

Reconciliation – reconciliation – reconciliation. That is the sound of the mantra that has been repeated to the population in Kosovo ever since the UNMIK (the UN peacekeeping force) and the OSCE (the Organization for Co-operation and Security in Europe) began the technical work of building a new state in the Balkans after the end of the war in 1999. Those are the words, but in practise, matters are different.

It may seem as if the UNMIK and the OSCE believe that the root of all evil is to remember what actually happened in Kosovo during the violations and the persecutions in 1998-99, when the Serbian authorities allowed an Armageddon to strike the population, i.e., the Kosovo Albanian population, which constitute 90% of the province.

The idea is that everything will be fine if only the Kosovo Albanians can forget, that is, reconcile themselves, to the killings and the rapes of their families, forget that their houses were burned down, and forget all the systematic violations that were committed with the blessings of the Serbian authorities.

Normally, there are at least two parties participating when reconciliation is to be accomplished.


RESPONSIBILITY
The result of these violations were initially summed up in November 1999 by the chief prosecutor at the War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague and presented to the UN Security Council in New York. At that time, fewer than 400 mass grave were reported to the ICTY (the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia) in Pristina, and about 10,000 persons were reported missing, presumed dumped in scattered mass graves in Kosovo.

On 16 October 2001, charges were brought against the then president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic, and his closest collaborators, Milan Milutinovic, Nikola Sainovic, Dragoljub Ojdanic and Vlajko Stojiljkovic. They were all charged with crimes against humanity and violations of laws and customs of war.

On 21 June, 2006 a new charge was brought by the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague against a number of other high ranking Serbian political and military leaders, all of them for crimes against humanity and violations of laws and customs of war.


NINE YEARS LATER
In 2008, the case against the abovementioned defendants is still ongoing, with the exception of Slobodan Milosevic who died in his prison cell on March 11, 2006, and Vlajko Stojiljkovic, who also died during the trial against him, almost nine years after the violations described in the indictments drawn up by the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, the undersigned is working on a book about the mass graves in Kosovo.

So far, 7200 names of civilian victims of the Serbian regime’s conduct against the Kosovo Albanians during the period of 1998-99 have been identified, and some hundreds places reported to the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague in November 1999 remain to be examined.

In addition to the mass graves in Kosovo, mass graves to which hundreds of dead Kosovo Albanians were brought by trucks (refrigerator vans) in 1998-99, inside Serbia itself have been revealed. The story of how civilian children, women and men were murdered and what later happened to them, is a story that is so incredible that one could not have imagined such acts in one’s wildest imaginations. In several places in Kosovo actual massacres were carried out, the dead were brought in regular trucks to places where big holes had been dug in the ground.

Here the bodies were dumped and covered. Later, these mass graves have been reopened, the bodies have again been loaded onto trucks - this time they were refrigerator vans - and brought several hundred kilometres to Serbia and dumped in new mass graves.

Thanks to the Humanitarian Law Center in Belgrade, led by Natasa Kandic,  this has been documented in the report ”Fate of the Missing Albanians in Kosovo”, published in November 2005. Hundreds of thousands of Serbs, military personnel and civilians, are familiar with these events, and many have participated in the violations, yet nobody comes forward.

It is a shame for the Serbian nation that, nine years after the violations in Kosovo, no official admission has been made, and the UNMIK still nags the Kosovo Albanians about reconciliation – reconciliation – reconciliation.


HISTORICALLY
Serbian authorities began as early as in 1912 to remove Kosovo Albanians from Kosovo by murdering, persecuting, raping, and destroying their homes.  It was not the Milosevic regime that began the oppression and ethnic cleansing of Kosovo; Milosevic just followed up a policy that has been practised for a hundred years in Kosovo.

Serbian authorities have through these hundred years carried out organized state terror against Kosovo Albanians and forcibly moved hundreds of thousands to Turkey, Greece, Albania, and Macedonia.

The Serbs have carried out massacres and attempted serbiannization of Kosovo several times without succeeding in getting Serbs to stay in Kosovo, in spite of advantageous economic programs for the Serbs who moved to Kosovo from the north of Yugoslavia.


CONCERN
In 1992, the Serbian author Mirko Kovac feared that the political course the Serbian authorities had chosen with regards to, inter alia, Kosovo would have unfortunate results. He was one of the few critical voices in Serbia. In May of the same year, he wrote in the magazine ”Srpska rec”: ” With disgust and grief I see how a nation becomes crazy, and how it enjoys the self delusion, how it gets insensitive to the eyes of the world.

But what else can one expect when this nation and its intellectuals go on about absurdities such as there is a ”God’s people”, a ”heavenly people”, that God will save them, etc. One must first believe in God before one can correspond with him. One must demonstrate great tolerance before one can belong to a ”heavenly people”, and not rob and steal in Konavle (place in Croatia editor’s remark). One must save one’s that which is one’s own and not take from others.

The Serbs are today the most hated nation in Europe; not because they are the greatest and the best, as they believe they are, but because they have entered into contradiction with civilization and the times. Their anti-Europeanism will marginalize them; they will then fight among themselves at all levels, socially, ideologically, and morally.

They called on the devil by claiming that they were threatened and lied about this. But now that they are really threatened, it is mostly because of themselves … This time can truly be called a Serbian apocalypse. The nation has gone so far that it desires that which is evil. I do not know what is waiting for us, but it will neither be Good nor Prosperity, but there is still a small chance that the Serbs will topple this regime, and the world will be able to sigh in relief after the madman policy and the stupid lust for war.”

This article ought to be reprinted because the attitude the Serbian authorities show today towards the Kosovo Albanians has not changed to any degree worth mentioning. During the entire 1990s, the Serbian authorities did everything they could to physically remove the Kosovo Albanians from Kosovo. They almost succeeded, but thanks to the US and Western Europe, the Kosovo Albanians got to stay in the country.


INDEPENDENCE
With the Dayton Agreement of 1995, nearly all of the former Yugoslavia’s republics got their independence, with the exception of Montenegro and Vojvodina, which want to remain with Serbia. Why was Kosovo treated differently when the process of establishing independent states was accomplished?  

It may seem as if Western diplomats and journalists were seduced by Serbian disinformation concerning the conditions in Kosovo. One example is the statement by former UN and EU mediator Thorvald Stoltenberg, who said on 31 May 1995 in a lecture that all people in the former Yugoslavia are really Serbs!

Or, as Jahn Otto Johansen (author and journalist) wrote in the paper “Aftenposten” in Norway in the summer of 2007: ”The old Albanian clans which trafficked drugs and humans made themselves available to NATO’s war, which many believed were in violation of international law, and now they are awaiting their reward”.

Be aware that from the early 1980s and on, after the death of Tito, the Serbs ruled Kosovo with an iron fist, and any criminal activity having taken place in Kosovo had no doubt Serbian connections. At the same time it must be mentioned that there are of course criminal groups in Kosovo among Albanians as there are among Serbs in Serbia, among Croats in Croatia, and among inhabitants in every other country in the world.

The freedom fighters (the UCK soldiers) were young, enthusiastic men and women who had had enough of Serbian oppression and ethnic cleansing and who had gotten tired of the then leader Ibrahim Rugova’s passive resistance through 8 years, beginning in the early 1990s, not leading to any results.

The Western world chose to ignore Rugova’s repeated requests for support for Kosovo. Thus active freedom fighting became regarded as the only possibility of drawing attention to the Kosovo Albanians’ wish for independence and for freedom from the Serbs’ yoke through a hundred years.

The freedom fight the Kosovo Albanians began was first labelled terrorism, but led to greater attention to the inhumane conditions under the Serbian rule. The great breakthrough in this freedom fight came when Milosevic in 1998 decided to expel all Kosovo Albanians to the neighbouring countries and to the countries in Western Europe and the USA by allowing military branches together with the police and paramilitary forces, to bomb the Kosovo Albanians out of their villages.

”Operation Horse Shoe” was implemented, and as early as in the summer / fall of 1998 more than 250,000 Kosovo Albanians were fleeing in the south of Kosovo to the borders of Albania and Macedonia. In June 1999, more than one million Kosovo Albanians had been driven from the area, and half a million had been internally dispersed to the mountain and forest regions of Kosovo.


ORIGIN
Again one may ask where the information was gathered from when one reads what the abovementioned Jahn Otto Johansen wrote: ”Kosovo has forever been a part of Serbia and is regarded by the Serbs as their core country”.

From the 1390s to 1912, Kosovo belonged to the Ottoman Empire, and at that time too the Albanians were in the majority. In the 1920s, Kosovo became part of the Yugoslav kingdom, and in 1945, Kosovo was included in the Communist Yugoslav state as a separate province. In 1974, Kosovo became an autonomous province with its own parliament and government. Kosovo has of course never been a core country for the Serbs.

Take a trip by car through the former Yugoslavia, and you will see what has been and what is Serbian core country. The impoverished Kosovo, which is so backwards in all respects compared to the rest of Yugoslavia, has been used as a supplier of raw materials to Serbia and the rest of the former Yugoslavia, and little value has been returned to Kosovo.


OF CURRENT INTEREST
The Balkan wars that shook the foundation of Europe in the 90s, seem already to have been forgotten, less than twenty years later. Kosovo elected a new provincial government in the fall of 2007, and a large majority of the population wants Kosovo to be a separate state.

The UN Security Council’s attempt to solve the problems in the Balkans by giving Kosovo independence from Serbia is unfortunately being blocked by Russia. What do they fear? Giving Kosovo independence will not create any precedence, rather, it will give the Kosovo Albanians the freedom they rightfully should have gotten in connection with the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1995.


FACT BOX

Kosovo (Albanian: Kosova).
Province in southern Serbia.
2,325,000 inhabitants (2001).
93% of the inhabitants are Albanians and 5% are Serbs (2000).
Capital: Pristina (165,800 inhabitants in 2004).


Since 1999, Kosovo has been governed by a UN administration, but it elects a provincial government ever three years.
In the last election in November 2007, the former political leader for the Kosovo Albanian liberation army, UCK, Hashim Thaci, gained the victory. He heads Kosovo’s democratic party (PDK), and his most important campaign issue was Kosovo’s independence from Serbia, which he also promised to declare should he get to lead the province in the next period.

Josef Martinsen has military experience and experience in banking and was responsible for the Norwegian Church Aid’s well clearing project in Kosovo. The project was started immediately after the end of the war in 1999, when it was revealed that Serbian forces systematically had dumped bodies in the wells of the province, in addition to the many hundreds mass graves that were discovered. In 2005, he published the book Kosovo: The Wells of Death, subtitle “ Nine Weeks in the Spring of 1999” at Sypress Forlag, Oslo, Norway and he is still working to make apparent the violations that took place in Kosovo at the end of the 90s.

Currently Josef Martinsen is working on another book concerning approximately 400 mass graves in Kosovo and Serbia. 7,200 of the approximately 10,000 persons missing following the Serbian violations in Kosovo have so far been found in mass graves and identified.

Oslo, 21.01.2008






 
 
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