Saturday, December 24, 2005

Kosovo could one day be self-sufficient: UN envoy

By Irwin ArieffTue Dec 20, 5:45 PM ET
Kosovo has enough natural resources, including low-grade coal, to one day make it economically self-sufficient, the United Nations mediator for the disputed Serb province said on Tuesday.

Veteran diplomat Martti Ahtisaari, who is leading U.N. talks aimed at determining whether Kosovo gains independence or remains a part of Serbia, said economic development would be a top priority in the negotiations.

Kosovo is heavily subsidized by international donors, and "when the international community knows that there are natural resources which are not exploited, you can't expect the world's taxpayers to finance this forever," Ahtisaari told reporters at U.N. headquarters.

"Everyone wants to create conditions in which these can be properly exploited," he said.

If that happens "I think there is in the future the possibility for sustainable economic development in Kosovo," he said when asked whether it could ever support itself economically.

While still legally part of Serbia, Kosovo has been under U.N. administration since mid-1999, when Serbian forces were driven out to stop what the West said was their persecution of ethnic Albanians during an uprising by Albanian guerillas.

The province's 2 million Albanians -- 90 percent of the population -- are demanding independence.

Serbs, however, see the mountain-ringed province with its scores of centuries-old Orthodox religious sites as the cradle of their nation and insist it remain a part of Serbia.

Ahtisaari said the World Bank believes that among Kosovo's natural resources were supplies of lignite that would last 50 to 75 years. Lignite is a low-grade form of coal that is used mainly to create steam for power generation.

To exploit the lignite will require significant international help. But when used to generate power, "it will be extremely useful for the economy of Kosovo and also for the provision of energy in the region in general," Ahtisaari said.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Bosnian Croat killer goes to jail

A former Bosnian Croat paramilitary who murdered and raped Bosnian Muslims during the 1990s war has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for war crimes.

The international tribunal in The Hague said it would have jailed Miroslav Bralo, 38, for longer but for his guilty plea and sincere remorse.
He had also helped in locating the bodies of his victims.

His unit called "The Jokers" had rampaged through Muslim villages in central Bosnia in 1993.

In one attack - on the villages of Ahmici and Nadioci - Mr Bralo's unit blew up a mosque and killed two families, including nine children.

Later he took a woman prisoner, repeatedly raping her in front of his colleagues during the two months he held her captive.

"The trial chamber accepts that his remorse is indeed sincere and heartfelt and that he has undergone a personal transformation since the commission of his crimes," the judge said
Mr Bralo surrendered to the tribunal a year ago and pleaded not guilty to the original 1995 indictment, which included nine counts of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and 12 of violations of the laws and customs of war.

But he later agreed an unconditional plea bargain with UN prosecutors on a simplified indictment that added the charge of persecution, a crime against humanity.

BBC News: Published: 2005/12/07 10:51:17 GMT

Monday, December 05, 2005


Belgrade, 5 Dec. (AKI) - Two key international officials said on Monday that no parallel could be drawn between Bosnia and Serbia’s southern Kosovo province, where majority ethnic Albanians demand independence, and warned that if Serbs in Bosnia tried to secede they would be playing with fire. Paddy Ashdown, 'viceroy' for Bosnia, told Belgrade daily “Vecernje novosti” the international community would not allow the partitioning of Bosnia, even if Kosovo was granted independence. The same line was taken by the European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, in an interview with Sarajevo daily “Dnevni avaz”.Both interviews were obviously aimed at discouraging speculation that in the event that Kosovo is granted independence, the Serbs, who have their own entity in Bosnia, Republika Srpska (RS), with many state attributes, might use it as a precedent to secede. The talks on the final status of Kosovo, which has been under United Nations control since 1999, are in the initial phase, but Solana said that “the international community will decisively reject any attempt to tie the Kosovo talks to any other regional problem”. He added that “all serious politicians in the region” agreed that “Bosnia-Herzegovina has internationally recognized borders which will not be changed”.Ashdown, who has large arbitrary powers in Bosnia, has been stripping RS of its state attributes and strengthening the central government, provoking extreme reactions among some Bosnian Serbs who argue that that if Serbia’s borders can be changed so too can Bosnia's. But Ashdown left no doubt that the international community viewed Kosovo and Bosnia as two separate and unrelated problems.“Whatever happens in Kosovo, it will not affect Bosnia-Herzegovina borders,” said Ashdown. Kosovo, in his words, was Serbia’s internal problem, “while Bosnia-Herzegovina is another state and whoever believes that its borders would be changed, lives in a dangerous deception”.Ashdown said that changing Bosnia’s borders would not only slow its drive to join the European Union, but “would raise the tensions in the region to a very dangerous leve" by "playing with fire".Serbia opposes the drive by 1.7 million Kosovo Albanians for independence, though it has had no authority in the province since 1999. Belgrade has warned that any change of state borders would destabilise the entire region, but the international community seems to be leaning towards granting Kosovo some sort of “conditional independence”, with strong international presence. (Vpr/Aki)


Pristina, 2 Dec. (AKI) - The Kosovo Albanian language media on Friday gave star treatment to Fatmir Limaj and Isak Musliu, two Kosovo Albanians acquitted by UN war crimes tribunal in the Hague. The two man were indicted by the International Tribunal for War Crimes in Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on charges of killing civilians in a Kosovo prison camp during ethnic Albanian rebellion against Serbian rule in 1998. A third man facing the same charges was convicted. The acquittals have been harshly criticised by Belgrade and Serbian leaders in Kosovo who argues that it proves that the tribunal is anti-Serb.Limaj and Musliu, who operated a prison camp in the village of Lapusnik in which 23 Serb and Albanian civilians, suspected of collaborating with Serbian forces, were killed, arrived in Pristina on Thursday night, greeted by a crowd of their supporters. They were acquitted by the Tribunal on Wednesday, while a third indictee, Haradin Bala was sentenced to 13 years for killing nine civilians.Kosovo newspapers celebrated their return in celebratory front page articles and the daily “Koha ditore”, quoted Limaj as saying their release was a “victory for Kosovo, which will surely become independent”. The two were commanders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which started a rebellion against the Serbian authorities, whose persecution of Kosovo's Albanian majority led to a NATO bombing campaign and forced Serbian troops from the province, which has been under United Nations control since 1999.“There was no need to go to the Hague to prove the holiness of the war conducted by the KLA,” said Limaj. He predicted Bala would soon also be freed on appeal. Meanwhile, Vojin Dimitrijevic, a professor of international law at Belgrade University, until now a staunch supporter of the Tribunal, said that the Hague prosecutors haven’t shown “the usual diligence” in proving Limaj and Musliu guilt. Furthermore, the “chain of command responsibility” was completely neglected in this case, since Limaj and Musliu, as commanders, were freed while Bala, who was a guard in the prison camp, was convicted. The verdict will only strengthen “anti-Hague sentiments in Serbia”, argued Dimitrijevic, adding that court has demonstrated “partiality in favor of Kosovo Albanians, who turned out to be privileged participants in all these wars”.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Kosovo's Status: Serb Sovereignty vs. Albanian Self-Determination

POLITIKA (Belgrade) Friday, December 2nd, 2005
Originally Published in Cyrllic Serbian. English version below.


Raju G. C. Thomas

The Serbian-Albanian Paradox

As to whether whether Kosovo should remain part of Serbia-Montenegro or become an independent state, the"international community" should resolve it's status in accordance with the practice of international law, not on Albanian claims of victimhood, or personal images of good Albanians and evil Serbs. International law generally has favored the territorial integrity and sovereignty of existing states and rejected the right of self-determination, whatever the historical origins of state boundaries. For Albanians, this is residential land. For the Serbs, this is their religious and emotional heartland, no different than the historic land of Israel to the Jews.

The BBC's "Kosovo Timeline" states that "Kosovo lies at the heart of the Serbian empire under the Nemanjicdynasty.... The period sees the building of many Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries." Under Ottoman rule, "over the centuries the religious andethnic balance tips in favour of Muslims and Albanians.... Serbia regains control of Serbia from the Turks, recognized by the 1913 Treaty of London." Following NATO's military action in 1999, UN Security Council Resolution 1244, reaffirmed that Kosovo is part of Serbia.

Demographic Transformation

A demographic transformation has taken place in Kosovo while it remained a part of Serbia. Over thelast decades, this demographic change was caused bythe flight of Serbs from Kosovo under Albanianharassment, better opportunities in Serbia, higherAlbanian birthrates, and Albanians coming across theborder from Albania into Kosovo within Tito's Yugoslavia where economic opportunities were better.

Similar conditions prevail in Texas, New Mexico and California where the Mexican population isovertaking the White Anglo population. However, such demographic changes within a province of a statecannot justify the demand for new independent states. The Irredentist Terrorist Strategy of VictimhoodAlbanian claims of victimhood, and therefore theright to independence, is no different from that of similar claims in Nigeria (Ibos), India (Kashmiris), Russia (Chechens), Turkey (Kurds) and Sri Lanka (Tamils). Claims of victimhood by Albanians in Kosovo are minor compared to these regions.

In all of these cases, terrorist attacks on civilians and police are intended to invite overwhelming military retaliation by the state against an enemy that cannot be distinguished from the civilian population. There is an outcry of human rights violations against the state, and appeals to the international community by the minority group for independent statehood. The extremely violent independence movement led bythe Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE)_for an independent Tamil state against the wishes of the majority Sinhalese- dominated federal government in Sri Lanka, has continued for more than two decades without resolution. The LTTE was labeled a terrorist organization by the US State Department, just as the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was also labeled as such earlier by State.

Both the LTTE and the KLA adopted the means of terrorist attacks to achieve its territorial goals. Whether it is the Tamils, the Kashmiris, the Chechens, the Kurds, the Palestinians, or the Kosovo Albanians led by the KLA, such tactics to carve out independent states should not be allowedto succeed. It will encourage similar tactics elsewhere among ethnic groups wishing to secede froman existing sovereign state.

Gaining Independence Under International Law Kosovo may obtain independence under international law on the willingness of the federal government in Belgrade to grant it. For example, in August 1998,the Canadian Supreme Court, while acknowledging that Canada is not indivisible, declared that Quebec could not secede through a simple majority vote among its residents. The terms of secession would have to benegotiated with the rest of Canada as an amendment tothe Canadian constitution. The nine Canadian justices indicated that while sucha secession would be theoretically feasible, it would be difficult, painful and costly, suggesting that itwas not likely to be accepted in practice. More importantly, the Canadian Supreme Court (that included3 judges from Quebec) declared that underinternational law, there is no right of unilateralsecession except territories that are judged to becolonies of oppressed peoples. Quebec did not fulfill this category.

Does Kosovo? Do Kosovo Albanians havea greater right to independence than demandselsewhere?Should Belgrade Concede Kosovo's Independence?Perhaps it would be in the interests of Serbia to let Kosovo go. It appears unrealistic for Serbia toregain control and maintain law and order. Serbforces would face indefinite attacks from the KLA whowould be indistinguishable from Alabanian civilians. Serb civilians of Kosovo are unlikely to return underthese circumstances. The trade-off offered by theUnited States to Serbia for relinquishing Kosovo isfaster entry into NATO and the EU.

On the other hand, there are cases where suchviolent struggles for independence were resolvedwithin the territorial boundaries of the state, e.g.,the Ibos of Nigeria, the Sikhs of India, and even theSerbs of Bosnia.The territorial integrity and sovereignty of everybreakaway republic of the former Yugoslavia has beenpreserved - Croatia, Bosnia-Herzgovina, and Macedonia. So must that of Serbia.

Raju George C. Thomas
Visiting US Fulbright Professor Faculty of the Political Sciences
Jove Ilica 165, Belgrade University 11000 Belgrade, Serbia Montenegro

About Raju Thomas^DB/CATALOG.db&eqSKUdata=0739105175

Friday, December 02, 2005

Germany Wins Out in Kosovo End Game

The Kosovo debacle is finally coming to a close. Albania’s gain will be Serbia’s loss. But who is the real winner? Germany.

“Game, set and match to Germany,” wrote the Trumpet six years ago. “Germany: the peace-broker in Kosovo, the future administrator of Kosovo and of the whole Balkan Peninsula—the lead nation in the Eurocombine shortly to rule the European continent and extend its powerful reach globally to impact all nations” (June 1999).

That’s the way the Trumpet called the outcome of the grand Vatican/German-inspired strategic game to sew up the Balkan Peninsula and pave the way for expanding the empire of the European Union eastward from central Europe. This action paved the way for 10 more nations from Eastern Europe to be added to the grand Germanic design for a pan-European Union, which occurred four years later.

The game began in 1991 with Germany—quickly followed by the Vatican—declaring its recognition of the Catholic states of Slovenia and Croatia as sovereign nations, outside the Yugoslavian federation of Balkan states. To that point, the nations of the Balkans had survived 46 years in union since World War II. The very first foreign-policy initiative of the newly united Germany—this act of contempt for global public opinion and the will of many Balkan peoples—was a deliberate attempt to initiate a crisis in the Balkans upon which Germany and the papal state could impose their own well-planned solution. By initiating an illegal war, funded by and fought for the EU largely by the United States and Britain via nato, all that was left for the Vatican and Germany to do was to sit back and wait till the dust settled—then simply take over.

It was a masterful piece of political subterfuge which served to demonstrate that the old Teutonic masters of the ancient, ever-reviving Holy Roman Empire had learned much from their failure to win Europe in two great world wars. Simply let others fight the wars—preferably at their own expense—and always appear reluctant to enter the offensive; then follow along, cap-in-hand, and offer to be the peacemaker at the end of the major conflict. Fait accomplis!

With Bosnia now due to be handed to a German nominee high commissioner, one festering sore yet remains within this revamped, 21st-century Balkan Peninsula—Kosovo.

The United Nations is exasperated with the mess. “Kosovo has been stewing in economic destitution and political no-man’s-land for six years. And now the United Nations finally seems ready to admit that it will not get any better, and so let it move on. … The urge to wash hands and simply dispose of the mess is palpable” (Stratfor, October 25). Faced with virtually no real progress toward a resolution of the division of hatred that exists between the Serbian minority and Albanian majority in Kosovo, the UN has decided to basically walk away from the problem as soon as it finds someone willing to take it on.

Enter former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, hand-picked to lead final-status talks on the future of this former territory of Yugoslavia that has existed as a de facto UN protectorate since the end of the Kosovo war.

Actually, it is a re-entry onto the Kosovo stage for Ahtisaari. He was originally charged with the responsibility of delivering the ultimatum to former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic during the illegal nato war in that region in 1999. At that time, the Finnish negotiator told Milosevic that pulling Serb forces out of Kosovo was the only way to stop nato’s bombing of Yugoslavia. The bombing lasted 11 weeks, largely destroying the region’s infrastructure and opening the way for an incursion by Albanian militants into Kosovo, leading to much bloodletting of Serbs at Albanian hands.

The UN’s eagerness to wash its hands of the Kosovo mess comes after its rank failure to resolve the conflict between Serbia and Albania over control of the region—Serbia seeking to retain political control, the Albanians holding out for independence. Unless a strong hand emerges to take firm control of this situation as a result of Ahtisaari’s negotiations, the result could be another bloodbath, when UN forces withdraw from Kosovo.

Yet, the solution will soon become obvious. The future of Kosovo will probably be decided by referendum, and the majority will hold sway. The pattern is set.

The Balkan states of Serbia, Albania and Bosnia are presently negotiating a Stability and Association Agreement (saa) with the European Union. This is a major step toward formal EU membership talks. Macedonia and Croatia already have an saa in place. Montenegro, the other remaining piece of the old Yugoslavia, together with Serbia and Kosovo, plans to hold an independence referendum early next year. This vote is almost certain to pass. Once it does, it sets a precedent for the only remaining bit of the old Yugoslavian federation needing to be sorted out—Kosovo. It simply would be foolish for the United Nations to deny a similar vote to the German-backed Albanians in Kosovo. Poll results have consistently indicated that such a referendum would pass by a ratio in excess of nine to one.

The Kosovo Serbs’ fate will be sealed. The German plan to Albanianize Kosovo will be a done deal.

And with the future of that final piece of the Balkan Peninsula then firmly wedded to the Albanian bid for EU membership, the Vatican-German plan to sew up the Balkans crossroads will be finalized.

As we declared five years ago, “Game, set and match to Germany, the future administrator of Kosovo and of the whole Balkan Peninsula.”

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal Acquits Limaj

By ANTHONY DEUTSCH, Associated Press WriterWed Nov 30, 4:19 PM ET

The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal acquitted a senior officer of the Kosovo Albanian rebels Wednesday of torturing and murdering ethnic Serbian and Albanian civilians at a prison camp during the 1998-1999 war.

Several dozen friends, family and supporters applauded and roared in approval as Fatmir Limaj's acquittal was announced.

A second defendant, Isak Musliu, was also acquitted, while the third, Haradin Bala, was sentenced to 13 years in prison for executing nine prisoners in the woods in July 1998. All three pleaded innocent on all charges.

In Kosovo, where Limaj is considered a hero, celebratory gunfire echoed through the Serbian province's capital, Pristina, and drivers honked their horns.

Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova hailed the court's decision, saying it proves "the righteousness of the war for liberation and independence by ethnic Albanians" in Kosovo.

"We are delighted," said Hashim Thaci, the former leader of the ethnic Albanian rebel force who now heads the opposition Democratic Party, of which Limaj is a member. "It is a victory for Limaj, for citizens of Kosovo," Thaci said.

Serb leaders in Kosovo criticized the ruling, saying it will further undermine Serb trust in the international community.

It was the first trial of members of the NATO-backed Kosovo Liberation Army, which fought for independence from the Serbian state led by President Slobodan Milosevic.

The chief suspect, Limaj, 34, a former KLA commander, was accused of running the Lapusnik prison camp, about 15 miles west of Pristina.

"It has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused Fatmir Limaj had any role in the prison camp or in the execution in the Berishe mountains or that he has criminal responsibility for any offenses for which he is charged," presiding judge Kevin Parker said.

The court found that crimes were committed at the camp, which held ethnic Serbs and ethnic Albanians suspected of collaboration. But it said the prosecution failed to link Limaj to beatings, inhumane treatment, torture and murder.

Most prisoners were "detained in either a very small basement storage room or another very small room used as a cow shed," Parker said. "In the cow shed, most detainees were chained to the wall and unable to move."

The camp was abandoned in late July 1998 during an assault by Serbian forces, and about 20 detainees were taken to the nearby mountains under a KLA escort.

Bala was convicted for his role in the execution of nine prisoners, but the court said his sentence of 13 years in prison reflected his low rank.

"You were acting as a soldier under orders in releasing some prisoners and executing nine of them. You did not do this on your own initiative or decision. While that does not excuse your conduct it affects the degree of the seriousness of your conduct," Parker said.

The war in Kosovo ended after a 78-day NATO bombing campaign against Serbia that forced Milosevic to pull Serbian troops out of Kosovo in 1999. Milosevic, who was indicted for crimes against humanity in Kosovo, has built his defense on the argument that he was defending Serbs from a terrorist campaign conducted by the KLA.

Kosovo technically remains an autonomous part of Serbia-Montenegro, the union that has replaced Yugoslavia, and since the war has been administered a U.N. mission and patrolled by NATO-led peacekeepers.

The U.N. war crimes court so far has brought charges against six ethnic Albanian rebels, including Kosovo's former prime minister Ramush Haradinaj.