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U.S. Department of State

Department Seal Report on the Visit of Ambassador Scheffer to the Border Between The Former Republic of Macedonia and Kosovo April 1-2 and Refugee Accounts of Atrocities
Released by the Department of State, Washington, DC,
April 7, 1999

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On April 1-2, 1999, Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, David Scheffer, interviewed a large number of Kosovar refugees at Blace, Macedonia, about their experiences in recent days which led to their arrival in Macedonia. Ambassador Scheffer visited the border crossing at Blace on three occasions, including during the night of April 1 and 2, at the direction of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. He was able to interview refugees at length for a total of 15 hours without disclosing his identity and to move freely throughout the Blace camp. No press accompanied him during these interviews. Every interview attracted a crowd of additional refugees who contributed additional accounts of atrocities. An estimated 200 refugees engaged with Ambassador Scheffer during these interviews.

Ambassador Scheffer pursued three objectives during his visit to Macedonia. First, he ascertained as quickly as possible the humanitarian plight of Kosovar refugees on the Macedonia-Kosovo border and recommended steps to address their plight immediately. Second, he obtained first-hand the accounts of those fleeing the Serbian army and police assault on the civilian population of Kosovo in order to assess the criminal character of the Serb actions. Third, Ambassador Scheffer launched a reporting mechanism of refugee accounts for the near term so that the record of their ordeals can be quickly ascertained and provided to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) as lead information for the Prosecutor's investigation of criminal conduct in Kosovo. Ambassador Scheffer achieved progress with all of these objectives and continues to pursue the second and third objectives as the humanitarian relief operation intensifies.

Ambassador Scheffer reports that efforts are now well underway to maintain in the field a number of American personnel to interview Kosovar refugees about war crimes during the coming weeks. We are very encouraged that a number of Americans and others are willing to remain in the region to undertake war crimes work. Some U.S. personnel already are undertaking interviews. The reports compiled by the interviewers will be made available as soon as practicable to the ICTY. We also expect ICTY investigators will conduct refugee interviews.

As to the substance of the interviews Ambassador Scheffer conducted, there was remarkable consistency in the refugees' accounts. Of course, because of the actions of Serb forces in Kosovo, these accounts cannot be individually verified at the present time. But the large and growing number of consistent reports by the refugees is too significant either to ignore or to understate. Kosovars are fleeing Kosovo not because of the NATO bombing campaign, but because of the Serb assault on the civilian population. We believe these reports, coupled with what we are learning from other sources of information, clearly demonstrate that ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and crimes against humanity are occurring in Kosovo. The widespread and systematic character of the criminal conduct of Serb military, paramilitary, and police units in Kosovo is among many of the indicators of genocide that we are seeing.

The pattern of Serb assaults on Kosovar civilians can be described as follows, based upon the interviews that Ambassador Scheffer had on April 1 and 2:

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