The Current Situation in Kosovo
Liz GriffinAfter the NATO intervention in Kosovo in 1999 an agreement led to the total withdrawal of Serbian troops, but independence for Kosovo was never an option. In 1999 the UN became the de facto government. There is still no decision, however, on whether Kosovo will become independent at some point in the future, or gain some special status within Yugoslavia. One basic problem is that the Kosovar Albanians want independence but the Serbs will not countenance this. There is a nominal framework in place in Kosovo for the Kosovars to run their own affairs, but in the absence of a decision on the future fate of the country this is not happening, and the UN is still running everything. There has been no progress in passing new laws or improving the political structures. In 1999 Kosovo was in fact a failed state. The Serbs had gone and the Albanians were debarred from participation in government for ten years. Education, social welfare, the military and the police had all collapsed.
Of the population of approximately four million 88 per cent are Albanians and 7 per cent are Serbs. About 150,000 of the Albanians are Catholics and the rest are Muslims. Most of the Catholics (Croats) have left since 1999, leaving only a few hundred. Religion as such has not played any part in causing the conflict; the divisions are along ethnic and linguistic lines. The Albanian Muslims are largely nominal; only a very small number practise regularly. In the Serbian community religion is a much more important factor; unlike the Albanians, the Serbs articulate their identity through their religious leaders. In the face of Albanian attacks since 1999 the Serbs have flooded to areas where there is the protection of Serbian monasteries: Pec, Gracanica, Decani. Serbian patrimonial sites have been damaged or destroyed by the Albanians, but again the motivation is not religious as such.
Several basic human rights issues have been salient since 1999.
Four which are interrelated are freedom of movement, access to education, access to health care and access to work. The last three arise out of the first. Living in ghettoes, people from minority communitites are unable to travel to where education, health care and work are available. In my view there has not been enough international effort to enable the inhabitants to travel more freely.
Another problem is that of refugees returning to the country in large numbers and finding that newcomers are now living in their former property. The whole issue of property restoration is fraught with difficulties.
Another problem is that of missing people. Many Albanians were in prison in Serbia. These have now all been located and released, but were a bone of contention for many years as the Serbs would keep them as bargaining counters.
A final problem is that investigations into war crimes are unfinished. The priority has been to deal with the big players; but at the local level war crime liability remains largely uninvestigated since the legal infrastructure to do so is absent.
All of these basic human rights issues present major obstacles which prevent reconciliation between the various ethnic communities.
Discussion on Croatia and KosovoThe following were among the points made:
Liz Griffin is a lecturer in human rights law at the University of Essex; she has been working in Kosovo.