KLA `orchestrating revenge killings', says OSCE report

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The Independent Online
HUMAN RIGHTS are still being abused in Kosovo every day, despite the presence of Nato-led peace-keepers, United Nations administrators and scores of Western aid organisations, according to the most authoritative survey carried out so far.

A report from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), released yesterday, paints a dispiriting picture of Serbian brutality before and during the Nato bombing campaign, followed by Albanian retribution. While revenge attacks on Serbs since the peace-keepers arrived do not compare with the planning and co-ordination of the Serbian "ethnic cleansing" drive, OSCE clearly identifies the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) as being responsible for much of the current violence.

OSCE has had human rights observers in Kosovo since October last year. They withdrew during the Nato bombing, but the compilers of the report have had more experience of the territory than any other international officials, and they are critical of Nato and the UN as well as President Slobodan Milosevic's regime.

Drawing on hundreds of reports from its own officials as well as more than 2,700 interviews with refugees, the OSCE monitors make it clear that there was nothing haphazard about the expulsions, beatings, rapes and killings carried out by Serbian forces between March and June this year.

"Everywhere, the attacks on communities appear to have been dictated by strategy, not by breakdown in command and control," the report says. The campaign was "planned, instigated and ordered from the highest levels". The worst atrocities took place in rural areas formerly dominated by the KLA and along probable invasion routes, the monitors said. Wealthier Albanians and those thought to be KLA sympathisers were singled out.

Despite its meticulous compilation of evidence of atrocities from all 29 districts of Kosovo, OSCE admits that the chances of the perpetrators being brought to justice are small, in part because of the failings of the present administration. "The capacity to investigate violations and enforce the law has been sorely lacking," says the report. "Impunity has reigned instead of justice."

The most controversial section, however, is likely to be that on the law-and-order situation since Nato and the UN took control of the province. The desire for revenge on the part of Kosovo's Albanians, the report says, "has created a climate in which the vast majority of human rights violations have taken place". There has been an "assumption of collective guilt", so that "the entire remaining Kosovo Serb population was seen as a target".

The "intolerance" that has emerged within the Kosovo Albanian community is blamed squarely on the KLA, which is aware, according to some observers, that it would be unlikely to win elections in the province and is moving to establish control by other means. OSCE says it has numerous witness statements attesting to the KLA's involvement in intimidation, harassment and "an underlying intention to expel" non-Albanians from Kosovo.

"It is clear," the report says, "that the KLA stepped in to fill a law- and-order void, but this `policing' role is unrestrained by law and without legitimacy."

The problem for Bernard Kouchner, the head of the UN administration in Kosovo, is that the international community has provided only 1,700 of the 4,000 policemen it promised. Mr Kouchner believes that a force of 6,000 officers is necessary.