bosnia report
New Series No. 9/10 April - July 1999
Declaration on Kosova

The burning fields and cities and the streams of refugees fleeing Kosovo are not the by-product of a conflict between `Serbs' and `Albanians'. They are the strategic goals of a war launched by a criminal regime against a population fighting for national survival. The policy of emptying Kosovo of its majority Albanian population had been systematically, meticulously prepared in advance, and was well under way before NATO's belated intervention. It began in 1989, with the illegal revocation of Kosovo's autonomous constitutional status, the mass expulsion of Albanians from public employment, their exclusion from schools and healthcare and the introduction of a regime of institutionalized violence and apartheid. It has been accelerating ever since, slowly but inexorably, to the extent that an estimated 400,000 Kosovars were displaced already as the Ram bouillet negotiations took place earlier this year.

Systematic terror by Serb army, police and paramilitary units and the burning and shredding of public records and travel documents are designed not only to uproot the Kosovars, but to erase the memory of their presence in Kosovo. The programme is not a new one:

'If we assume that the gradual displacement of the Albanians through our progressive colonization is ineffective, then we are left with only one course - that of their mass emigration. At a time when Germany can expel tens of thou sands of Jews, the shifting of a few hundred thousand Albanians will not lead to the outbreak of a world war. [The goal must be] to make staying intolerable for the Albanians [through] any measure that an experienced police force can con trive. From the economic aspect: the refusal to recognize the old land deeds, the requisitioning of all state and communal pastures, dismissal from state, private and communal offices. There remains one more means, which Serbia had employed very successfully after 1878: secretly burning down Albanian villages and city quarters.'

Vaso Cubrilovic, The Expulsion of the Albanians, Belgrade 1937

Serbian policy between the two world wars encouraged the confiscation of Albani an land, the humiliation and denationalization of the Kosovars, and systematic colonization by Serbs. When these efforts failed to achieve Serb demographic su premacy, more forceful measures were contemplated. Vaso Cubrilovic, the author of The Expulsion of the Albanians, was a well-known publicist and professor of history at Belgrade University. His proposals were submitted as a policy paper to the Yugoslav government and seriously discussed. When the pre-war Serbian parties were swept away by the Nazi invasion, war, andÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÔ civil war, he offered his services to the Communist leadership, advising them in 1944 that `The only cor rect solution of the question of minorities (sic) is emigration.' Milosevic, the opportunistic apparatchik turned apostle of Greater Serbia, has simply walked the same path in reverse, and is now implementing the policies his ideological predecessors either shrank from or were prevented by circumstances from imple menting.

To the horrors of the killings, the destruction of entire towns and villages, and the mass expulsions must be added what can only be described as a conscious drive to physically eliminate the Kosovar intelligentsia and all those with po litical experience and international contacts, including trade unionists. In this context, we recall the murder of our brother, Agim Hajrizi, President of the BSPK Assembly and founding member of the independent trade union, killed to gether with his mother and twelve-year-old son. Other workers and trade-union members, including those of our sister organization BSPK - Agrokompleksi i Kosov‰‰s - remain unaccounted for. The refugees, already numbering some half million, are predominantly women and children. Given the Milosevic regime's his tory, the reports filtering in from Kosovo, and the stories told by the refu gees, there is ample reason to fear that a super-Srebrenica is planned, or al ready taking place.

Under these circumstances, can the trade-union movement reject the use of force to repel barbarism? Can we fail to show solidarity with the victims? Can we cam paign for the indictment of General Pinochet and not demand the same for Milosevic and his henchmen? Can we abandon our political and moral responsibili ties, our obligation to formulate independent views and to seek to influence government policy and public opinion?

To those who reject military intervention in these circumstances, the question must be posed: what is your answer to mass murder? And to the Western govern ments who have finally taken action, the question must be asked: what is the de sired political objective?

Force must be used, because the Kosovars are being systematically murdered, herded into boxcars, expelled from their homes at the point of a gun. Many of those who make it to the border are now being forcibly separated from their families and dispatched unwillingly to unknown destinations. The flood of refu gees threatens to overwhelm Kosovo's neighbours, already the poorest countries in Europe. The immediate goal of military intervention must be to halt the slaughter and to establish the conditions, as quickly as possible, for the re turn of the refugees to their homes. Their lives and security must be effec tively guaranteed, and this calls for the introduction of ground troops. There is no alternative, unless NATO's display of force is designed to produce a partition which would leave Milosevic in control of the `mines and monasteries' of northern Kosovo and lock the Albanians into an impoverished southern Bantus tan. This prospect must be rejected if we are serious about securing a demo cratic peace and long-term stability for the region.

An international protectorate for Kosovo must be established, backed by interna tional peacekeeping forces. Serbian police, army and paramilitary units must, without exception, pull out of Kosovo and be prevented from returning. The troops must have as their mandate the protection of all the peoples of Kosovo, including the Serbs.

The use of ground forces to bring the refugees home must be backed with massive assistance to Kosovo's neighbours Albania, Macedonia, and Montenegro. Firm com mitments must be given by NATO to the government of Montenegro, which has coura geously refused to participate in the Kosovo bloodbath and has already been the target of one Belgrade-backed coup attempt.The policy of organized violence and terror against the Albanians of Kosovo has been aided and abetted by years of confusion and prevarication on the part of Western diplomÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÔ acy, which against all evidence treated Slobodan Milosevic as a privileged `interlocutor' and a `factor of stability' rather than as the chief source of instability in the tortured re gion. Criminal policies have for too long been euphemistically reduced to `humanitarian crises'. International arrest warrants must be immediately issued for Milosevic and his henchmen, who must be brought as swiftly as possible be fore the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague. Any programme of action to save Kosovo must address the future of Serbia, a con sideration which has been noticeably absent from NATO's concerns. Milosevic's claim that he is defending Serb interests in Kosovo must be exposed, above all to the people of Serbia, as a cynical lie. The poisonous ideology of `Greater Serbia' was fundamental in bringing about the violent destruction of Yugoslavia, leaving in its wake death, destruction, and shattered lives. It has made the Serbs hostage to a regime of serial killers, buried Serbia's best traditions (including those of the labour and socialist movements), and impoverished the nation economically, intellectually and culturally. The dwindling core of Ser bian democrats have many years of hard work ahead in digging themselves out from the layers of confusion, brutality, demoralization and corruption accumulated over the past decade, and they will need massive assistance. This, too, is our responsibility, and it must not be forgotten.

Translated from Galeb (Zagreb), Glasilo Samostalnog Sindikata Ugostiteljstva i Turizma Hrvatske, April 1999.


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