Photo: BIRN

Academy of Sciences: Kosovo Too Slow in Documenting Serbian War Crimes

The Academy of Sciences and Arts of Kosovo said the country was late in properly identifying the crimes committed by Serbia in Kosovo during the war, as well as in compensating victims.

The Academy of Sciences and Arts of Kosovo on Friday at the conference named Genocide and massacres of Serbia in Kosovo (1998-1999)” discussed the massacres committed in Kosovo during the war.

The President of the Academy, Mehmet Kraja, declared that Kosovo was tardy in creating a well-equipped institute able to identify the crimes committed during the war in 1998-99.

“We all have empathy for this painful history of Kosovo. Regarding the identification of massacres with a genocidal background … we have done some things well, but we have been late in [creating] a well-equipped institute complete with professional staff, experts in criminology, lawyers and forensic experts,” he stated.

According to him, much of Kosovo’s work so far in this field is also at an amateur level.

“Our work so far has remained at the amateur level; we must go down from the level of folkloric interpretation of massacres and put things on a legal level, with solid evidence for the punishment of the perpetrators and compensation for the victims,” Kraja said.

He emphasized that the political parties have made a mistake by considering crimes and genocide a political argument.  According to him, the Special Court in The Hague has also taken on political attributes.

“Even the Special Court has taken on political attributes, emissaries have recently arrived here at the academy demanding that this institution take initiatives to suppress the court,” Kraja emphasized.

Academic and former PM Isa Mustafa spoke about the violent means that Serbia used to achieve its goals in cleansing Kosovo of Albanians.

“It is considered a special case since the Second World War that a state like Serbia, with manipulations for political purposes, organized and executed the expulsion of more than half of the Albanian population from Kosovo,” he said.

“Serbia destroyed Albanian structures by closing Albanian schools, and applied the lowest methods of humiliation to Albanian women. These were just a few actions that left behind thousands of victims, and there are still many missing,” he added.

According to him, Serbia even used Albanians as human shields to accompany military convoys, in violation of the Geneva Convention.

The former Prime Minister added that the death rate from February 1998 to June 1999 in Kosovo rose to 3.25 per thousand residents from 0.72 earlier.

He also spoke about Kosovo Special Chambers in Hague, stressing that it showed a regrettable tendency to equate crimes.

“There are tendencies to equate the crimes of the entire military mechanization of Serbia with a voluntary organization [in Kosovo] whose aim was to protect people’s  homes, which is beyond any logic,” added Mustafa.

Attending this conference was also Josef Martinsen, a Norwegian-born author based in Belgrade, who has collected arguments related to the crimes committed by Serbia in Kosovo during the war.

“During 18 months, over 10,000 people were killed and placed in 400 mass graves. If NATO had not intervened in Kosovo in March 1999, I think the majority of the Albanian population of Kosovo would probably be refugees all over the world,” he said.

According to him, the international community is still not using the proper term genocide in relation to the crimes committed in Kosovo.

“The international political and legal community has condemned the use of the term genocide for the crimes committed in Kosovo in 1998-99 where thousands of civilians were killed,” he added.

According to him, identification of victims in Kosovo has been a very difficult process, since Serbian forces took away all the documentation of the Albanians who were forcibly deported.

When UNMIK came to Kosovo, they did not have data on the population that would help work on a list of missing persons. They could not document who they were because Serbian forces had taken their documents by force.

Amor Masovic, head of the Bosnian Federation entity’s Commission for Missing Persons, drew parallels between Serbian crimes in Bosnia and Kosovo.

He said that both in Kosovo and in Bosnia, serious crimes were committed against civilians.

“The most macabre example of massacres carried out by the Serbs is the case of a Bosnian youth killed in 1995, when his body parts were found in several different cemeteries,” he said.

During the conference, stories of the survivors of the massacres in Kosovo were shown as well as testimonies from Serbs who had participated in various crimes.

28/04/2023 - 17:42

28 April 2023 - 17:42

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