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17 March 1998
Crisis in Kosovo
Political Affairs Committee
Rapporteur: Mr András Bársony, Hungary, Socialist Group
The excessive and indiscrimate use of force by the Serbian security forces during the recent events in the Drenica region in Kosovo must be strongly condemned.
A long term solution to the crisis can only be found on the basis of a greater autonomy for Kosovo, within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Genuine negotiations should start on this issue between the Yugoslav authorities and representatives of the Albanian community in Kosovo.
The development of relations between the Council of Europe and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia will depend on compliance with the requests of the international community.
The Committee of Ministers should deal with the Kosovo crisis as a matter of priority within the framework of its political dialogue and in close co-operation with the OSCE and the European Union.
I. Draft recommendation
1. The Assembly is deeply concerned about the escalation of violence in Kosovo in recent weeks. While rejecting violence as a means to achieve the political goals of the Albanian community in Kosovo, it strongly condemns the excessive and indiscriminate use of force by the Serbian security forces during the recent events in the Drenica region which caused many civilian casualties.
2. The Assembly stresses that the human rights situation in Kosovo and threats to the stability in the region are a legitimate concern of the international community, and cannot be declared an internal matter of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia or Serbia.
3. The Assembly notes the conclusions of its High Level Mission, headed by its President and composed of the Chairmen of the Political Groups and the Chairman of the Political Affairs Committee, which visited Belgrade and Pristina on 12 and 13 March 1998 to discuss the crisis in Kosovo in the context of relations between the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Council of Europe.
4. The Assembly fully supports the decisions taken at the ministerial meeting of the Contact Group for the former Yugoslavia in London on 9 March 1998.
5. The Assembly reiterates its demand for the instant and full restoration of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Albanian community in Kosovo. It expects the Yugoslav authorities to implement forthwith the agreement on education concluded in September 1996 between Mr Milosevic, then President of Serbia, and Mr Rugova, leader of the Albanian community in Kosovo.
6. The Assembly calls for the establishment of an international monitoring presence in Kosovo, and for an independent inquiry into the recent events in the Drenica region.
7. The Assembly believes that a long term solution to the crisis can only be found on the basis of a greater autonomy for Kosovo, within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and calls for an immediate start of genuine negotiations on this issue between the Yugoslav authorities and representatives of the Albanian community in Kosovo.
8. The Assembly reiterates its offer to assist in contacts between the Yugoslav authorities and representatives of the Albanian community. The Council of Europe has considerable expertise in the relevant areas, such as human rights, minority rights and education, which it could put at the disposal of the parties.
9. The Assembly calls on the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to :
i. make every effort to de-escalate the situation ;
ii. establish dialogue without any preconditions with representatives of the Albanian community to examine ways for a greater autonomy for Kosovo within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia;
iii. enable the international community to establish a monitoring presence in Kosovo;
iv. agree to an independent inquiry into the recent events;
v. implement the education agreement concluded between Mr Milosevic and Mr Rugova in September 1996;
vi. comply with the recommendations made by Mr Felipe Gonzalez on behalf of the OSCE in December 1996 and accept his role as a mediator for the opening of a dialogue with the Kosovo Albanians;
10. The Assembly expects the leaders of the Albanian community in Kosovo to condemn and refrain from the use of violence, and agree to a dialogue with the Yugoslav government.
11. The Assembly calls on the international community to re-establish, and, if necessary, reinforce its sanctions with regard to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, if its requests concerning the peaceful resolution of the Kosovo crisis are not complied with.
12. The Assembly reaffirms its position that the development of relations between the Council of Europe and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia will depend on compliance with the requests by the international community.
13. The Assembly recommends to the Committee of Ministers to deal with the Kosovo crisis as a matter of priority within the framework of its political dialogue and in close co-ordination with the OSCE and the European Union.
II. Explanatory memorandum by the rapporteur
1. In 1389, the Ottoman Empire defeated the Serb army in the battle of Kosovo Polje. This marked the beginning of the end of the medieval Serb nation. Serbia was ruled by Ottoman Empire for the next 500 years with Kosovo assuming great symbolic significance in Serbian nationalist history. In 1912 Serbia joined other Balkan states in a war to drive the Ottoman Empire out of Europe and re-acquired Kosovo.
2. Kosovo is now a region in Serbia in the south of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) with an overwhelming Albanian-speaking majority (90% of the population). It was given autonomy in the revised Yugoslavian constitution of 1974. The Serbian President Mr Milosevic took away the province’s autonomous status in 1989 and strengthened the Serb presence in the police and armed forces there. He also declared the Albanian language unofficial and changed school curricula. This repression led to a declaration of independence by the Albanian majority in Kosovo, not recognized by the international community, and the creation of an independent parallel government in 1991, with its own institutions to support civil society. Mr Rugova, leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), was elected president of the self-proclaimed republic. He advocates peaceful resistance to the Serb authorities.
3. Tensions have escalated in the last two years since the emergence of the clandestine « Kosovo Liberation Army » (KLA) in 1996, an armed group that has taken responsibility for a series of violent attacks against Serbian authorities. Some Kosovo Albanians are openly critical of the non-violent tactics of the shadow Albanian administration, as they consider that they have not led to any progress. The actions of the KLA have led to a Serbian police crackdown in Kosovo.
4. The incidents of the past weeks, have once again focused attention on Kosovo. So far the FRY authorities have not agreed to any international mediation, claiming that Kosovo is an internal matter for the FRY.
5. The Kosovo Albanians, together with parties in Albania itself, have been urging the involvement of NATO, the European Union and the United Nations.
6. Dialogue and enhanced autonomy for Kosovo are the international community’s preferred options at present. However, new sanctions have been imposed on the FRY and deadlines set for compliance with the demands of the Contact Group (see AS/Pol (1998) 11 annexes to the report – separate document).
B. Recent events in the Drenica region
7. On 28 February 1998 a unit of the Serbian Ministry of Interior was ambushed near the village of Likosane, in the Drenica region of Kosovo. Four policemen were killed by members of the so-called « Kosovo Liberation Army ».
8. The following day, the Serbian security forces, using armoured vehicles and attack helicopters, swept the area and conducted house-to-house raids. More than 20 people, including ten members of the same family, as well as a pregnant woman, were reported to have been killed over the weekend. Allegedly, some people were killed after having been detained. The Serbian authorities have not acknowledged any civilian casualties, refering to all killed, wounded and detained ethnic Albanians as terrorists.
9. The Yugoslav President Mr Milosevic, on Sunday 1 March, stressed that the situation in Kosovo is and will remain an internal matter of Serbia.
10. On Monday 2 March, the Serbian police used truncheons, water cannons and tear gas to disperse about 30 000 ethnic Albanian demonstrators in Pristina, protesting against the killings.
11. In spite of strong international reaction, calling for an immediate end to violence, the Serbian security forces continued their operations in the Drenica region throughout the week. Two ethnic Albanian villages Lausha and Donji Prekaz were attacked at dawn on Thursday 5 March 1998. According to the Serbian Ministry of Interior some 20 ethnic Albanians, as well as two Serbian policemen were killed during the operation. Much higher casualty figures of close to one hundred dead, in particular civilians, including children, were later confirmed.
12. On Sunday 8 March 1998, the Yugoslav authorities announced the end of their security operations. They declared that the presumed leader of the « Kosovo Liberation Army » Mr Jashari, was killed in the assault. They also displayed large amonts of weapons, seized during the operations and allegedly belonging to members of the KLA. Serbian officials claim that these weapons had been smuggled from neighbouring Albania.
C. The reaction of the international community
13. Immediately after the eruption of violence in Kosovo the international community strongly condemned the indiscriminate and excessive use of force and asked the Yugoslav authorities to put an immediate stop to violence. On 2 March the President of the Assembly called on the authorities to make every effort to de-escalate the situation. She asked the leaders of the Albanian community to condemn and refrain from the use of violence, and called for immediate establishment of dialogue between the two sides. The President’s statement (see AS/Pol (1998) 11 annexes to the report – separate document) also stressed that the human rights situation in Kosovo and threats to the stability in the region were and would remain a legitimate concern of the international community. In a letter to the President of the Yugoslav parliament Mr Minic of 4 March (see AS/Pol (1998) 11 annexes to the report – separate document) the President proposed a high level Assembly mission to visit Belgrade as soon as possible in order to discuss the Kosovo crisis in the context of the relationship between the Council of Europe and the Federeal Republic of Yugoslavia.
14. During the first week of March Belgrade the Foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom, Greece and Turkey visited Belgrade. All of them failed to obtain any concessions from the Yugoslav authorities on the cessation of violence and a political solution for the crisis.
15. The United States and the European Union made it clear that they held Mr Milosevic personally responsible for the violence. They also announced their readiness to re-introduce and, if necessary re-inforce sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. They called for greater autonomy for Kosovo Albanians as a basis for a durable political solution to the crisis and for immediate talks between the two sides.
16. Russia and Greece stressed that they consider the Kosovo crisis an internal matter of Serbia and warned against foreign interference.
17. The Albanian government made several initiatives for a peaceful solution to the conflict. It asked Greece to mediate in the conflict and requested a meeting with the 16 permanent representatives of NATO member states in Brussels. This was the first time that any country participating in NATO’s Partnership for Peace has raised such request. The Albanian army has been put on high alert in regions bordering to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
18. The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and Turkey on 10 March adopted a joint declaration (appended in a separate document) calling both parties to condemn and refrain from the use of violence and establish a genuine dialogue to find a political solution based on a large autonomy for Kosovo within the FRY.
D. The meeting of the Contact Group.
19. On the initiative by the United States and United Kingdom, a ministerial meeting of the six-member (Germany, France, Italy, Russia, United Kingdom and the United States) Contact Group for the former Yugoslavia was held in London on 9 March. They issued a statement in which they adopted a visa ban on Serbian officials and the halting of government support for trade and investment in Serbia. They urged the UN Security Council to impose a total arms embargo on Yugoslavia and to ban the sale of weapons which may be used for repression or terrorism. They threatened to freeze all assets held by the Yugoslav government abroad if Mr Milosevic fails to co-operate. The Contact Group supported a new mission by Mr. González on behalf of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office that would include a new and specific mandate for addressing the problem in Kosovo. They also suggested a role for the UN Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate the situation in Kosovo, and urged the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia to consider prosecuting people accused of war crimes in the region.
20. Russia, which had initially declared its opposition to any punitive measures, at the end agreed to a part of the sanctions, to be applied during a limited period of time, and did not oppose to others.
21. On 9-10 March the US Special Envoy for the Balkans, Mr Gelbard, visited Belgrade and Pristina. He urged both the FRY Government and representatives of Kosovo Albanians, to engage in talks, on the basis of the conclusions of the Contact Group.
E. Visit to Belgrade and Pristina – 12-13 March 1998
22. On 12-13 March, a High Level Mission headed by the President of the Parliamentary Assembly and composed of Mr Peter Schieder, Chairman of the Socialist Group; Mr Walter Schwimmer, Chairman of the the European People’s Party Group; Lord Russell-Johnston, Chairman of the Liberal, Democratic and Reformers’ Group; Mr Birger Hagard, European Democratic Group and Mr András Bársony, President of the Political Affairs Committee and Rapporteur, visited Belgrade and Pristina to discuss the crisis in Kosovo in the context of relations between the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Council of Europe. The report of the Mission will be presented to the Standing Committee on 18 March 1998.
23. The use of force by the Serbian security forces has been excessive and indiscriminate. The FRY Government has to agree to an undependent inquiry.
24. The human rights situation in Kosovo and threats to the stability in the region are a legitimate concern of the international community.
25. The Contact Group Statement of 9 March serves as a basis for international action concerning the Kosovo crisis.
26. The High Level Mission to Belgrade and Pristina on 12-13 March 1998, in its meetings with the FRY authorities and with representatives of Kosovo Albanians, fully supported the Contact Group statement of 9 March and called for immediate establishment of genuine dialogue between the two sides to find a political solution to the crisis.
27. The international community does not support the calls for an independent Kosovo. A political solution must be based on a new political status of Kosovo, with enhanced autonomy, within the FRY.
28. The development of relations between the FRY and the Council of Europe will depend on the compliance with the requests by the international community.
29. The Committee of Ministers should continue to support the efforts of the Assembly, by dealing with the Kosovo crisis as a matter of priority in the context of its political dialogue, and in close co-ordination with the OSCE and the European Union.
london contact group meeting, 9 march 1998 - statement on kosovo
1. We the Foreign Ministers of Contact Group countries, together with representatives of the European Commission and the Office of the High Representative, met in London on 9 March to discuss the increasingly tense situation in Kosovo, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), and the unacceptable use of force over recent days. The Balkans region has seen too much bloodshed in recent years for the international community to stand aside.
2. We recalled that when we met in New York on 24 September 1997, we voiced deep concern over developments in Kosovo and called on the authorities in Belgrade and the leadership of the Kosovar Albanian community to join in a peaceful dialogue. We are dismayed that in the period since September, rather than taking steps to reduce tensions or to enter without preconditions into dialogue toward a political solution, the Belgrade authorities have applied repressive measures in Kosovo. We note with particular concern the recent violence in Kosovo resulting in at least 80 fatalities and condemn the use of excessive force by Serbian police against civilians, and against peaceful demonstrators in Pristina on 2 March.
3. Our condemnation of the actions of the Serbian police should not in any way be mistaken for an endorsement of terrorism. Our position on this is clear. We wholly condemn terrorist actions by the Kosovo Liberation Army or any other group or individual. Those in the Kosovar Albanian community who speak for the different political constituencies should make it clear that they, too, abhor terrorism. We insist likewise that those outside the FRY who are supplying finance, arms or training for terrorist activity in Kosovo should immediately cease doing so.
4. We condemn the large-scale police actions of the last 10 days that further inflamed an already volatile situation. The violent repression of non-violent expression of political views is completely indefensible. We call upon the authorities in Belgrade to invite independent forensic experts to investigate the very serious allegations of extrajudicial killings. If these accusations are borne out, we expect the FRY authorities to prosecute and punish those responsible.
5. Our commitment to human rights values means that we cannot ignore such disproportionate methods of control. Government authorities have a special responsibility to protect the human and civil rights of all citizens and to ensure that public security forces act judiciously and with restraint.
6. In the light of the deplorable violence in Kosovo, we feel compelled to take steps to demonstrate to the authorities in Belgrade that they cannot defy international standards without facing severe consequences. The Contact Group has decided to take a broad range of action to address the current situation on an urgent basis. The Contact Group welcomes the continuation of consultations in the United Nations Security Council, in view of the implications of the situation in Kosovo for regional security.
Against that background, the Contact Group:
• requests a mission to Kosovo by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
• urges the office of the Prosecutor of the ICTY to begin gathering information related to the violence in Kosovo that may fall within its jurisdiction. The FRY authorities have an obligation to cooperate with the ICTY. Contact Group countries will make available to the ICTY substantiated relevant information in their possession
• supports the proposal for a new mission by Felipe Gonzalez as the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office for the FRY that would include a new and specific mandate for addressing the problems in Kosovo
• supports the return of the OSCE long-term missions to Kosovo, the Sandzak and Vojvodina
• recommends that the Special Session of the OSCE Permanent Council meeting on 11 March arrange for Embassies in Belgrade of OSCE participating states to intensify their visits to Kosovo so as to provide for a continuous presence
• will continue vigorously to support Sant'Egidio's efforts to secure implementation of the Education Agreement, and identify resources to assist a fair and acceptable arrangement
• proposes the establishment of an international consortium including non-Governmental Organisations that would promote civil-society building in Kosovo and the distribution of humanitarian assistance.
• recognising that neighbouring countries of the FRY have legitimate security concerns stemming from violence and unrest in Kosovo, will arrange an urgent meeting of the Contact Group with representatives of governments in the region to discuss the grave consequences of an inter-ethnic conflict and its possible spillover to other parts of the region. We expect them to do all in their power to prevent support for terrorism. The meeting will in particular address:
- the possible despatch of a short-term OSCE monitoring group to enhance the ability of the Albania mission's Shkodra field office to monitor the FRY (Kosovo) border
- the possible strengthening of the present OSCE mission in Skopje
• recommends that consideration be given to adapting the current UNPREDEP mandate, and would support the maintenance of an international military presence on the ground in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia when the current mandate of UNPREDEP expires
• will monitor the situation in Kosovo by frequent joint visits to Pristina by Contact Group and other representatives
7. At the same time, it is not enough for the killing to stop; too much damage has already been done to human life and to the FRY's credibility. Because of the gravity of the situation, we endorse the following measures to be pursued immediately:
a) UN Security Council consideration of a comprehensive arms embargo against the FRY, including Kosovo;
b) Refusal to supply equipment to the FRY which might be used for internal repression, or for terrorism;
c) Denial of visas for senior FRY and Serbian representatives responsible for repressive action by FRY security forces in Kosovo;
d) A moratorium on government financed export credit support for trade and investment, including government financing for privatisations, in Serbia.
The Contact Group notes that the Russian Federation cannot support measures c) and d) above for immediate imposition. But if there is no progress towards the steps called for by the Contact Group, the Russian Federation will then be willing to discuss all the above measures.
We call upon President Milosevic to take rapid and effective steps to stop the violence and engage in a commitment to find a political solution to the issue of Kosovo through dialogue. Specifically, he should within 10 days:
- Withdraw the special police units and cease action by the security forces affecting the civilian population.
- Allow access to Kosovo for the ICRC and other humanitarian organisations as well as by representatives of the Contact Group and other Embassies.
- Commit himself publicly to begin a process of dialogue, along the lines in paragraph 10, with the leadership of the Kosovar Albanian community.
- Co-operate in a constructive manner with the Contact Group in the implementation of the actions specified in paragraph 6 above which require action by the FRY government.
If President Milosevic takes these steps, we will immediately reconsider the measures we have now adopted. If he fails to take these steps, and repression continues in Kosovo, the Contact Group will move to further international measures, and specifically to pursue a freeze on the funds held abroad by the FRY and Serbian governments.
The Contact Group has decided to meet again on 25 March to assess the response of the government of the FRY.
8. Belgrade's own actions have seriously set back the process of normalisation of the FRY's relations with the international community. Unless the FRY takes steps to resolve the serious political and human rights issues in Kosovo, there is no prospect of any improvement in its international standing. On the other hand, concrete progress to resolve the serious political and human rights issues in Kosovo will improve the international position of the FRY and prospects for normalisation of its international relationships and full rehabilitation in international institutions.
9. No one should misunderstand our position on the core issue involved. We support neither independence nor the maintenance of the status quo. As we have set out clearly, the principles for a solution of the Kosovo problem should be based on the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and be in accordance with OSCE standards, Helsinki principles, and the UN Charter. Such a solution also must take into account the rights of the Kosovo Albanians and all those who live in Kosovo. We support an enhanced status for those who live in Kosovo. We support an enhanced status for Kosovo within the FRY which a substantially greater degree of autonomy would bring and recognise that this must include meaningful self-administration.
10. The way to defeat terrorism in Kosovo is for Belgrade to offer the Kosovar Albanian community a genuine political process. The authorities in Belgrade and the leadership of the Kosovar Albanian community must assume their responsibility to enter without preconditions into a meaningful dialogue on political status issues. The Contact Group stands ready to facilitate such a dialogue.
Reporting committee: Political Affairs Committee.
Reference to committee: request for urgent procedure, Reference No. 2251 of 18 March 1998.
Budgetary implications for the Assembly: to be assessed.
Draft recommendation adopted by the committee unanimously on 17 March 1998.
Members of the committee: Mr Bársony (Chairman), Mr van der Linden (Vice Chairman), Mrs Ojuland (Vice-Chairperson), Mr Baumel(Vice-Chairman), MM Antretter, Atkinson, Mrs. Belohorska, MM Bergqvist, Bernardini, Björck (alternate Mr Hagard), Bloetzer, Chircop, Chornovil, Daly, Davis (alternate : Lord Judd), Diacov, Dokle (alternate : Mr Koçi), Domljan (alternate : Mr Obuljen), Gjellerod (alternate : Mrs Severinsen), Gül, Hadjidemetriou, Hornhues, Mrs Iotti, Irmer, Iwínski, Kalus, Mrs Kautto, MM Kirilov, Krzaklewski, Kuzmickas, Mrs Lentz-Cornette, MM Lopez-Henares (alternate : Mr Puche), Lupu (alternate : Mr Kelemen), van der Maelen, Maginas, Martínez, Medeiros Ferreira, Meier, Mota Amaral, Mühlemann, Musto, Mutman, Nallet, Oliynik, Pahor, Palmitjavilo Ribo, Popovski, Prusak, Mrs Ragnarsdóttir, Mrs Roudy, MM Schieder, Schwimmer, Séguin, Selva, Shokhin, Sinka, Mrs G Smith, Mrs Stanoiu (alternate : Mr Badulescu), Mrs Stepova, MM Thoresen, Toshev, Urbain, Volcic, Vrettos, Woltjer, Ziuganov.
N.B. The names of the members who took part in the meeting are printed in italics.
Secretaries of the committee: Mr Kleijssen, Mr Gruden