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Cleansing Serbs in Kosovo

Jeremy Scahill

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Monday, 19 June 2006

In early June, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan told the Security Council that violent attacks by Kosovo Albanians against Serbs and other minorities "appear to be part of an orchestrated campaign."

The Secretary General did not say who exactly is orchestrating this campaign.

Perhaps that's because to do so would implicate the Kosovo Protection Corps, established, funded and commanded by the UN. It would also acknowledge that the UN's stated efforts to maintain peace in Kosovo following Belgrade's brutal campaign against Albanians have failed to stop a second deadly round of ethnic violence.

On paper the 5,000-man KPC is conceived as a "civilian emergency service agency." Its tasks range from removing landmines to repairing roads. It is to have "no role in defense, law enforcement, riot control, internal security or any other task involved in the maintenance of law and order."

In reality the KPC, consisting almost entirely of "demilitarized" members of the Kosovo Liberation Army a disparate group ranging from nationalists to common criminals that came to prominence before the NATO bombing and whose activities are under investigation by the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has been instrumental in sustaining an atmosphere of terror aiming for an ethnically cleansed Kosovo.

An internal UN report prepared for Annan and leaked to journalists earlier this year accuses the KPC of "criminal activities, killings, ill-treatment/torture, illegal policing, abuse of authority, intimidation, breaches of political neutrality and hate speech."

Yet Susan Manuel, spokesperson for the UN Mission in Kosovo, says, "As far as I know, no one's been [criminally] charged with anything." This refusal to prosecute those in the KPC who commit atrocities has in effect given the go-ahead to a wider campaign of terror against Serbs and other civilians.

This campaign, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, has forced more than 200,000 minorities - mostly Serbs - to flee Kosovo since NATO forces rolled in last summer.

The United States is the largest funder of the KPC, shelling out some $5 million for its activities to date. But the US connection doesn't end there.

The man chosen to head the KPC is well-known to Washington: Gen. Agim Ceku, former military Chief of Staff of the KLA. Ceku refined his brutality as a general in the US-backed Croatian Army during the Balkans war and was trained by Military Professional Resources Inc., a private paramilitary firm founded in 1987 and based in Alexandria, Virginia, with former high-ranking US generals and NATO officials on its board [see Ken Silverstein, "Privatizing War," July 28/August 4, 1997].

In 1995, armed with a contract authorized by the Clinton Administration, MPRI officially began to train Croatian forces.

Just months after MPRI arrived on the scene, Croatian forces carried out the notorious Operation Storm. In a brutal four-day blitzkrieg in 1995, these forces expelled some 200,000 Serbs from the Krajina region of Croatia after their villages were mercilessly shelled.

Jane's Defence Weekly reported that Ceku was "one of the key planners" of the operation that the New York Times called "the largest single 'ethnic cleansing' of the war."

The criminal tribunal has been investigating Operation Storm for years. The Sunday Times of London recently reported that Ceku is also suspected by the tribunal of war crimes committed during raids he led in the south of Croatia in September 1993, when he was commanding the feared 9th Brigade. Spokeswoman Manuel says the UN is "aware" of Ceku's history and the accusations against him but placed him at the head of the KPC "because he was the leader of the KLA when we arrived, and he wanted to contribute to the transformation of the KLA to a constructive force for the future of Kosovo."

Washington, maneuvering to reward the KLA in the "new" Kosovo, has sacrificed human tights and ethnic tolerance to a desire to maintain a close relationship with the forces it hopes to do business with for years to come.

In legitimizing Agim Ceku and thousands of other KLA members by putting them in positions of authority, Washington is giving ethnic cleansing a green light. Not criminally charging KPC members sends a clear message to those in and outside the KPC that crimes may continue with impunity. It's not surprising that some of the worst brutality against Serbs has occurred in the US sector of Kosovo.

The only way the UN can begin to have credibility with minorities, particularly Serbs, is to remove Ceku from any position of authority within Kosovo and to dismantle the KLA, both in name and force. KPC members who commit crimes should be arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned, not just fired or internally disciplined. The United States should immediately cut all funding of the KPC until it is verified that it is no longer engaged in murder, torture, kidnapping and other atrocities.

Read the entire article on the American Council for Kosovo website (new window will open).

Posted: 30-Jun-06

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