Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo: An Accounting
|U.S. State Department Report December 1999|
On June 10, 1999, NATO forces entered Kosovo and the world for the first time saw overwhelming evidence of the atrocities that Serbian forces had committed. Before then, most of these crimes had occurred out of sight, or the evidence of these crimes were seen through the lens of aerial photography. But today we are piecing together the story of one of the largest population displacements in Europe since the 1940s. Many details remain obscure; a complete picture of what happened will not be known for a long time. This report, which identifies about 500 individual mass grave and killing sites across Kosovo, is only one step toward documenting the Kosovo conflict, securing justice for its victims, and ensuring accountability for its perpetrators.
On May 10 of this year, the State Department released Erasing History: Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo. This report helped fill the information shortfall surrounding events in Kosovo after the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Kosovo Verification Mission left Kosovo on March 19. Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo: An Accounting has been compiled as a follow up to Erasing History. It documents not only the Serbian assault on its own citizens in Kosovo, but also the retribution that took place against ethnic Serbs, Roma, Gorani and other minorities after Serbian security forces left the province.
This report offers only a snapshot of the Milosevic regime's brutal, premeditated, and systematic campaign to expel many Kosovar Albanians from their homeland. Based on maps, aerial photography, and aggregate data collected from interviews of eyewitnesses, international organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the press and other sources, this report provides a more comprehensive assessment of the chronology, scale, and intensity of human rights and humanitarian law violations that occurred in Kosovo in 1999.
As was the case when Erasing History was released in May, this report aims to establish the facts, sketch the big picture of ethnic cleansing, and to assist in ensuring accountability for these crimes. This report provides more extensive data then the earlier one on ten broad categories of human rights violations and war crimes that have occurred in Kosovo: forced expulsions, looting, burning, detentions, use of human shields, summary executions, exhumations of mass graves, systematic and organized mass rape, violations of medical neutrality, and identity cleansing. Most importantly, its describes about 500 mass grave and killing sites in Kosovo.
This report highlights the need for a consistent and systematic means to gather and collect the stories of victims and witnesses. NGOs that have contributed to a common approach to information gathering among refugees and other displaced persons include: the American Bar Association's Central and East European Law Initiative, the Coalition for International Justice, the International Crisis Group, No Peace Without Justice, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights, Amnesty International, and others. These groups are fulfilling the first function of human rights reporting--truth telling--and in this way are helping to hold the perpetrators accountable. The May indictments of Slobodan Milosevic and others of his inner circle provide evidence that comprehensive and methodical reporting from governments and non-governmental organizations can make a difference.
The facts, figures, photos, and maps in this report represent a broad scale approach to cataloguing the nature of Belgrade's crimes against the people of Kosovo. But we must stress that it is impossible to know the full scope of the atrocities that were committed by Serbian forces during the Kosovo conflict. Details on these crimes and the high level policies behind them surface daily. Meanwhile, human rights violations are still ongoing in Kosovo and in Serbia itself.
This volume, like its predecessor, was produced by the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and the Office of War Crimes Issues at the Department of State.
Sometimes, when an unspeakable horror unfolds day after day, it is hard to separate the fragments of tragedy from the big picture. We encourage international organizations, other governments, the NGO community, and the media to join us in systematically and comprehensively documenting these crimes so that we can distinguish anecdote from history. By documenting these crimes, we can come to a better understanding of how to avert future ethnic cleansings.