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Amnesty slams UN 'failure' to probe Kosovo missing issue

Ethnic Albanians standing near coffins during a funeral in Rogovo, south of Pristina, on February 7, 1999
This file photo shows ethnic Albanians standing near coffins during a funeral in Rogovo, south of Pristina, on February 7, 1999. Nine ethnic Albanians were buried who where killed along with 16 others during an ambush by Yugoslav security forces a few day

Amnesty International denounced on Tuesday what it called the UN mission in Kosovo's (UNMIK) failure to investigate the fate of civilians, mostly ethnic Serbs, still missing after the 1998-1999 conflict there.

"UNMIK's failure to investigate what constituted a widespread, as well as a systematic, attack on a civilian population and, potentially, crimes against humanity, has contributed to the climate of impunity prevailing in Kosovo," said Sian Jones, Amnesty International's expert on Kosovo.

In its latest report to be presented ahead of a UN Security Council debate on Kosovo on Thursday, the London-based rights group said some 150 complaints have been filed by relatives of the missing -- mostly ethnic minority Serbs -- claiming that UNMIK had failed to "investigate the abduction and subsequent murder of their relatives."

In many cases, UNMIK -- a UN mission set up to administer the breakaway territory of Kosovo after the end of the conflict with Serbia there in 1999 -- failed to "present any evidence that the investigation took place."

"There is no statute of limitations on crimes against humanity... The UN should not be allowed to shirk its responsibility any longer," Amnesty said.

Although the report focuses on abductions of Kosovo Serbs, allegedly by the ethnic Albanian separatist rebels of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), Amnesty also noted the failure to investigate alleged abductions of ethnic Albanians by Serb forces.

A squad of Albanian soldiers patrol the border between Albania and Kosovo during the civil war, in 1999
A squad of Albanian soldiers patrol the border between Albania and Kosovo during the civil war, in 1999.

"Years have passed and the fate of the majority of the missing on both sides of the conflict is still unresolved, with their families still waiting for justice," Jones said in a statement.

Amnesty called UNMIK as well as the EU rule of law mission in Kosovo (EULEX) to resolve "the legacies of the Kosovo conflict," including the "fate of missing persons from all communities in Kosovo, bringing to account those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and providing reparation."

"Only when that happens can the scars of the past conflict start to heal," it said.

The fate of more than 1,700 people missing during the Kosovo conflict between security forces of the late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic and independence seeking ethnic Albanian guerrillas is still unknown.

Serbia lost control over its former southern province in June 1999 after a NATO bombing campaign halted Milosevic's crackdown against the pro-independence ethnic Albanian majority and ousted Serbian armed forces from Kosovo.

Belgrade and Kosovo Serbs refuse to recognise the 2008 independence of Kosovo, although around 100 countries, including the United States and all but five EU member states, have done so.

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