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30 April 1999

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Geneva,30 April 1999



This report is submitted in virtue of my mandate as High Commissioner and pursuant to Commission resolution 1999/2 on the situation in Kosovo. It follows on the two public statements I have issued on the situation, my statement to the Commission on 1 April, and the preceding three weekly reports I have made to the Commission. The sources of information used for this report are as I have previously stated them: information gathered by our personnel on the ground and in Geneva, information provided by institutional partners, and information submitted by Governments directly involved, including the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. As before, I have contacted a number of institutions offering them the possibility of providing me with information to help me prepare my report.

The Background

To set this report in perspective, it is helpful to summarise the background to the situation. The key elements are the following:

(a) An internal conflict in Kosovo resulted in disproportionate use of force on the part of the Yugoslav authorities, widespread loss of life, human suffering, and forced displacement of the population.

(b) A group of countries sought to broker a peace agreement; laid down a blueprint which was accepted by one side to the conflict but not the Government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

(c) On the basis that the conflict could not be permitted to continue because of the massive gross violations of human rights involved, NATO began a bombing campaign in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia which has thus far lasted five weeks.

(d) NATO asserts that it has legal authority for its actions while this is contested by others, including the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, who contend that the use of force in such a situation must be explicitly approved beforehand by the United Nations Security Council. These two sets of views were canvassed in the debate that led to the adoption of Commission resolution 1999/2.

(e) In its resolution 1999/2, the Commission condemned gross violations of human rights taking place in Kosovo and called for the deployment of human rights monitors.

The Facts

Some essential facts are beyond dispute in the situation:

(a) Over half a million people have fled Kosovo into neighbouring countries.

(b) Thousands of people are internally displaced inside Kosovo.

(c) Numerous women and children have reached refuge outside Kosovo separated from their men-folk, whose whereabouts and fate are unknown.

(d) There is widespread fear for the fate of these thousands of missing Kosovar men-folk.

(e) 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. The Government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia asserts that the NATO bombing campaign has caused people to flee.

(f) Refugees arriving in neighbouring countries have in overwhelming numbers complained that they were stripped of all identity papers, car registration papers or plates. This is widely interpreted as intended to prevent them from returning to their places of residence. It is hard to avoid the conclusion of premeditation in the expulsion of the refugees and in the intention to keep them out for good.

(g) Children, women, and the elderly have been mistreated in the most callous manner. Vivid reports of women being raped and of young and old people hobbling bare-feet across the borders into safety have riven our consciences.

(h) From the reports of the deliberate destruction of the homes of the Kosovar Albanians, the destruction of their property, and the looting of their personal belongings, it is hard to avoid the conclusion of a pattern of ethnic cleansing carried out with cold-blooded determination.

(i) In the NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, large numbers of civilians have incontestably been killed, civilian installations targeted on the basis that they are or could be of military application, and NATO remains the sole judge of what is or is not acceptable to bomb. In this situation, the principle of proportionality must be adhered to by those carrying out the bombing campaign.

Issues of Principle

We face, as a matter of conscience, various issues of principle in this situation:

The principle of justice: In the closing year of this century, we must surely agree on one thing: that those responsible for the deliberate ethnic cleansing that has gone on in Kosovo must be brought to justice.

The Prosecutor of the ICTY has made it clear that, as a matter of international law, the International Tribunal has jurisdiction over continuing events in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, including the territory of Kosovo. Under the Tribunal’s statute, the Prosecutor may investigate war crimes committed by any of the parties to the armed conflict. The actions of individuals belonging to Serb forces, the KLA, or NATO may therefore come under scrutiny, if it appears that serious violations of international humanitarian law have occurred. The investigations of the Office of the Prosecutor are currently focusing on two main areas: first, the crimes themselves; and second, the persons responsible for their commission. The Prosecutor also wishes to do as much as possible to deter the commission of crimes by those involved in the conflict.

The principle of human rights protection: The right of the refugees and displaced persons to return to their homes and to be compensated for the losses and damage they have suffered must be vindicated if we are to be true to the principle of human rights protection.

The principle of proportionality: It surely must be right to ask those carrying out the bombing campaign to weigh the consequences of their campaign for civilians in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

As Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in Berlin on Wednesday, "Since the beginning of the conflict, we've all been consumed with the tragedy of the Kosovo Albanians. But as the conflict escalates, we see its negative impact spreading through the sub-region, claiming victims throughout the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The human cost of the violence is unacceptably high."

The principle of legality: It surely must be right for the Security Council of the United Nations to have a say in whether a prolonged bombing campaign in which the bombers choose their targets at will is consistent with the principle of legality under the Charter of the United Nations.

The ends and means of peacemaking: What we are in effect seeing is that war-making has become the tool of peacemaking. There must surely be cause for us to pause and to think where this will lead us. The Secretary-General made this appeal in Berlin: "Each day's delay in the search for a political solution means more deaths, more displacement and more destruction.

Once again, innocent civilians are paying the price for unresolved political conflict.
We must be bold and imaginative in the search for a lasting political solution, which cannot be won on the battlefield."


You will have a separate briefing from UNHCR on the humanitarian dimensions of this unfolding tragedy. In presenting this report to you, I thought it important for us to take a view of the salient facts, to give expression to the voice of conscience, to underline the issues of principle at stake, and at the same time to raise some issues for reflection. The objectivity that is required of me as High Commissioner requires that in reporting on a situation such as this, I have in mind the Charter of the United Nations, the norms of international human rights and humanitarian law, my mandate, the sentiments of this Commission, and the plight of the innocent children, women and men caught up in the conflict.

Regrettably, the conflict victimizes innocent people on all sides, Serbs as well as Kosovars, and other nationalities too. It is 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. Unless diplomacy succeeds, Kosovo will be thoroughly cleansed of Albanians while Serbs will, on present performance, be bombed without end. There must be a better way. I call for reason to prevail on all sides and for a return to diplomacy and peacemaking. I call for an immediate end to ethnic cleansing. I call 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.

I thank you.