War in The Balkans: Robinson backs war indictment

Human Rights
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THE HUMAN rights chief of the United Nations has accused Slobodan Milosevic's armed forces of gross violations in Kosovo, including executions, rapes and mass expulsion.

Mary Robinson's report praised the decision last Thursday by the Hague- based International Tribunal for War Crimes in former Yugoslavia to indict President Milosevic for crimes against humanity. It called on Belgrade's forces to halt atrocities and withdraw immediately from the province.

Mrs Robinson criticised some of the tactics employed by Nato in its air war against Yugoslavia, especially the use of cluster bombs.

The report yesterday followed an 11-day trip to Macedonia, Albania and Serbia in May. It is based mainly on testimony gathered by UN monitors in the region.

The monitors' own reports were based on interviews they conducted with Kosovo refugees now in Macedonia and Albania.

The refugee accounts "provide substantial evidence of gross human rights violations which have been committed in Kosovo, including summary executions, forcible displacement, rape, physical abuse and the destruction of property and identity documents", Mrs Robinson said.

"The perpetrators [of atrocities] have been identified as belonging to several paramilitary forces, the Yugoslav army and police or as being armed [Serb] civilians," the report said. Mrs Robinson said the forced expulsions had affected virtually all areas of Kosovo, including "places never targeted by Nato air strikes or in which the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army has never been present".

The comment seemed intended to rebut Belgrade's claims that the flight of more than 800,000 Kosovo civilians has been prompted by Nato's bombs, or is a result of Serbian "anti-terrorist" operations.

"Newly arrived refugees had reported that ethnic Albanians are being used as human shields to protect military convoys from Nato air strikes," the report said.

In her criticism of Nato, Mrs Robinson said that while she supported the goal of an international peace force being deployed in Kosovo to escort refugees home, the air campaign itself had destroyed schools, hospitals, churches and private radio and television stations.