3 Jun 2017

Text: Corinna / Translation: Miriam & Daniel

You can find the first part of this article here.


The autonomous region Kosovo, whose population is approximately 90% of Albanian descent, was not included in the Dayton Agreement, and was therefore still subjected to repressions by the Serbs. Consequently, the UÇK (Kosovo Liberation Army) started a guerrilla war aiming to unite Kosovo and Albania. The Serbs launched their cleansing campaign once again in order to free their Serbian home country – this time from the Albanians.

Hundreds of Albanians were killed and roughly 200,000 fled to the neighbouring countries, threatening the region’s stability. The European Economic Community sent an observation team (the Kosovo Verification Commission) to assess the situation and to call for a ceasefire. The team came to the conclusion that both sides were committing serious crimes and that a ceasefire would be highly unlikely.[1]

Photo: Moyan Brenn/www.flickr.com/Creative Commons

From the 24th March 1999, NATO renewed their air strikes against the Serbs. Since this operation was not supported by the UN Security Council, it was against international law. The violence escalated even more and led to mass deportations, mass executions, torture and rape: on the 27th April 1999, the Serbian army raided a valley east of the town of Junik to ‘collect’ all Albanian men. They captured approximately 300 men, loaded them onto trucks and told the women to ‘Go to Albania!’. This process was repeated village-to-village.

‘This gravesite would make a great picnic spot. It’s a beautiful valley with a clear stream running through glades shaded from the harsh Balkan summer sun. It’s just right for chilling the beer and bathing naked. Wildflowers grow abundantly, especially in the soil around the grave. No one comes by here; it’s secluded from the main road, up a dead end dirt track. A perfect place for a massacre.’[2]

Around mid-day, a group of men were brought to a hill, and shot and burned. A second group of approximately 70 men were forced to lie on their stomachs in three rows, and were shot from behind with machine guns. The remaining 35 men were brought to a small house, and locked into a room. The militia then shot their victims through a small window, executing all survivors. They then set the house on fire and left – singing.[3]

Photo:ICTY photos/www.flickr.com/Creative Commons

Only after Russia put enormous pressure on president Milosevic and NATO threatened to send out troops did the Serbian army laid down their weapons. A new ceasefire was agreed, and 18,000 NATO soldiers, as well as 3,500 UN police officers, were stationed in the region. Before those troops were able to gain control over Kosovo, however, the Albanians sought vengeance again and forced 150,000 Serbs to flee.[4]

Of a population of approximately 2,000,000 Albanians, roughly 9,000-12,000 were killed, and a further 800,000 fled to neighbouring countries or became internally displaced.


Even though NATO’s air strikes on Kosovo were illegal and, according to several critics, incited the conflicts – resulting in the deaths of approximately 3,500 people – it is generally recognised that those air strikes were what brought the Serbs’ cleansing campaign to an end. This is further evidenced by the Albanians’ perceived inability to defend themselves sufficiently.[5]

The extent and nature of NATO and the UN’s intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo are, however, questionable. It is generally assumed that this war was an expression of old enmities, meaning that there should have therefore been no intervention at all. The arms embargo was only issued to avoid further escalation of the conflict; however, this occurred at the expense of the Muslims and Albanians, whose strength was simply inferior to the well-armed Serbs.[6]

Roughly 2.6 million people fled from former Yugoslavia, approximately 530,000 of whom ended up in Europe. Nevertheless, the European Economic Community closed their boarders and introduced strict visa checks. This gave rise to the question as to if ethnic cleansing would have been encouraged and its perpetrators would have been enabled, if the Bosnians were allowed to flee. Former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Sadako Ogata summarised the debate as follows:

‘If you take these people, you are an accomplice to ethnic cleansing. If you don’t, you are an accomplice to murder.’ [7]

However, the Rights of Refugees’ fundamental concept is that every human has the right to flee when facing pursuit and murder.

Receiving refugees is not helping the perpetrators, it is saving lives.



# Cain, K., Postlewait, H. & Thomson, A. (2004) Emergency Sex (and other desperate Measures). London: Ebury Press.

# ICTY (2014) Homepage. Available at: http://www.icty.org/ (12.10.2014)

# Jones, A. (2010) Genocide – A comprehensive Introduction. 2nd Edition. London and New York: Routledge.

# New York Times (1992) Flora Lewis: Safe Lives in Bosnia. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/1992/11/09/opinion/save-lives-in-bosnia.html (12.10.2014)

# Spencer, P. (2012) Genocide since 1945 – Making of the contemporary World. London and New York: Routledge.

[1] Jones (2010) pp. 329
[2] Thomson Emergency Sex (2004) pp. 250
[3] Jones (2010) pp. 330- 331
[4] Jones (2010) pp. 331
[5] Spencer (2012) pp. 86-87
[6] Spencer (2012) pp. 89- 90
[7] Lewis in New York Times (1992)

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