Amnesty condemns terror in Kosovo

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The Independent Online
SERBIA'S authorities have increased significantly their oppression of ethnic Albanians in the southern province of Kosovo in the last year, according to an Amnesty International report published today. It details beatings, arrests, house searches, fraudulent trials and even killings, including a Serbian police officer firing on a car and killing a boy aged six.

'Over the past year, human rights abuses perpetrated by police against ethnic Albanians in the predominantly Albanian-populated province of Kosovo in Serbia have dangerously escalated. Thousands of ethnic Albanians have witnessed police violence or experienced it at first hand,' the report says. In one case, a police officer carved a Serbian nationalist symbol on the chest of an 18-year- old student and policemen routinely express ethnic hatred towards their victims.

About 90 per cent of Kosovo's 2 million people are Albanians. The province enjoyed self-rule under Tito's 1974 Yugoslav constitution. But Serbs regard the province as their heartland and President, Slobodan Milosevic, stripped Kosovo of autonomy in 1990.

The efforts of ethnic Albanians to build an 'underground state', with special emphasis on schools, medical care and welfare, have led to increased Serbian intimidation, according to Amnesty. 'Brutal beatings with truncheons, punching and kicking are the most common forms of violence, but electric shocks have also sometimes been used by police officers.' Amnesty believes that Serbian policemen are particularly prone to violence when they search Albanian homes for weapons. Since former Yugoslavia collapsed into war in June 1991, such searches are commonplace, even though ethnic Albanians have mostly refrained from using force in their campaign to achieve self-government.

'Over the past year, arms searches have increased dramatically and are now conducted on a daily basis, most intensively in border villages and rural areas, but also more generally throughout the province,' the report says.

BELGRADE - Up to 1,700 people were evicted at the weekend from their homes in Banja Luka and Bijeljina by Bosnian Serbs, and crossed into the Muslim stronghold of Tuzla, writes Robert Block. Some 3,200 Muslims and Croats have been forced out of Serb-held areas of northern Bosnia since mid-July.

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