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Press releases Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights


30 April 1999

30 April 1999

High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson called today for an immediate end to ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and for a return to diplomacy and peacemaking.

Reporting to the Commission on Human Rights on the situation in Kosovo, the High Commissioner said that unless diplomacy succeeds, the province will be thoroughly cleansed of ethnic Albanians. Mrs. Robinson said that from the reports of deliberate destruction of the homes of the Kosovar Albanians, the destruction of their property and the looting of their personal belongings, it was hard to avoid the conclusion of "a pattern of ethnic cleansing carried out with cold-blooded determination". Those responsible must be brought to justice, she said.

The High Commissioner said there was widespread fear for the fate of thousands of missing Kosovar menfolk separated from their women and children. “There is overwhelming evidence from numerous thousands of refugees that they were forced to flee by military and security personnel of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Belgrade asserts that bombing by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has caused people to flee,” said Mrs. Robinson.

In the NATO bombing, the High Commissioner said, large numbers of civilians have incontestably been killed and civilians installations targeted on the ground that they are or could be of military application. NATO remains the sole judge of what is or is not acceptable to bomb, said Mrs. Robinson, adding that the principle of proportionality must be adhered to.

The High Commissioner said that, regrettably, the conflict victimizes innocent people on all sides -- Serbs as well as Kosovars and other nationalities. It was therefore all the more crucial and pressing that diplomacy and peacemaking be stepped up to bring about a peaceful resolution of the situation respectful of human rights precepts. She called on the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to declare unequivocally that every refugee and displaced person will be entitled to return to his or her home in safety.

Earlier this month the High Commissioner requested the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the former Yugoslavia, Jiri Dientsbier, and her personal envoy, Michel Moussali, to travel to the area along with monitors to collect testimonies and verify allegations of massive human rights violations. The Office of the High Commissioner presently has monitors in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro.

The High Commissioner is undertaking a visit to the region from 2 to 13 May.