UN 'has failed Kosovo minorities'

Click to follow

The inability of the United Nations and Nato in Kosovo to ensure security for ethnic minorities was slammed yesterday by the very humanitarian organisation that was co-founded by Dr Bernard Kouchner, the UN's civil administrator in the province.

The inability of the United Nations and Nato in Kosovo to ensure security for ethnic minorities was slammed yesterday by the very humanitarian organisation that was co-founded by Dr Bernard Kouchner, the UN's civil administrator in the province.

James Orbinski, the president of the international branch of Médecins sans Frontiÿres, (MSF) the leading international emergency medical aid organisation, criticised as "ineffective" the efforts by Nato peacekeepers and UN civilian police to ensure protection and security for ethnic minorities living in enclaves in Kosovo.

"The action of the international community in Kosovo is ineffective," said Dr Orbinski. "There is no true environment of security, there exists a climate of impunity. There has been no systematic and effective response to violence."

With daily incidences of violence, harassment, arson and intimidation against Kosovo's predominantly Serb minorities, MSF said that there had been no proactive response from the UN and NATO's 43,000-strong Kosovo mission, or K-FOR, to create a climate where people feel secure.

"From a medical perspective, we couldn't remain providing medical care for people whose most significant complaint is profound and legitimate fear," he said.

Dr Orbinski's criticisms of the UN and Nato mission came as reinforcement to a decision taken last week by MSF's Belgian section to suspend operations in Serbian enclaves in the north of Kosovo.

The harsh critique from MSF, awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1999, is likely to provoke an already embattled Bernard Kouchner, who on Sunday announced that his mandate as civil administrator had been extended until July 2001.

"MSF and Bernard Kouchner split over differences of approach to humanitarian action," said Dr Orbinski. "He's taken a political path, we've taken a humanitarian one."

Dr Kouchner split from the Red Cross in Biafra in the early Seventies to found MSF.

A UN spokeswoman, Susan Manuel, said: "The preponderance of Nato troops in Kosovo is deployed in the protection of minorities. We need groups like MSF to assist people in enclaves."

More than 200,000 Serbs have fled ethnic Albanian reprisals in Kosovo since Nato and the UN entered the province in June last year to put an end to Serb oppression of Kosovan Albanians.

* Seven Belgian peacekeepers were taken prisoner on the Kosovo border by Serb police and held for 15 hours on Tuesday, the Belgian army said yesterday.

Two Serb police officers stopped the Belgian patrol as it accompanied a UN vehicle, saying it had strayed over the security boundary between Kosovo and Serb-controlled territory, the Belgian army spokesman, Major Jacques De Coninck, said.

Comments