A major restructuring of
the Yugoslav federation was under way in 2002, although by November it had not
come to a formal conclusion. On March 14, the authorities in the two
constituent republics agreed to create a new state under the name of
In October parliamentary
accountability was slow, both with regard to the surrender of indictees to the International Criminal Tribunal for the
former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the tribunal's access to archives and witnesses in
the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (F.R. Yugoslavia). As of November 2002, only
one individual, Bosnian Serb Ranko Cesic, accused of war crimes in a detention camp in the
Bosnian town of
On April 11, the
Yugoslav parliament adopted a law on cooperation with the ICTY. Contrary to
For months the authorities failed to facilitate access for ICTY investigators to Yugoslav archives and potential witnesses. By mid-year this began to change, although at the time of writing the tribunal did not yet completely have the access it had requested. In July and August, the government freed a number of police officials from the obligation to guard state secrets while giving testimony in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic. (See below.) The government also allowed limited access to the requested archives.
In February, a Serb government official acknowledged to the media, under condition of anonymity, that Ratko Mladic, ICTY indictee and the former commander of the Bosnian Serb army, had been protected by the Yugoslav army up to that time. On the record, Serbian officials throughout the year denied knowledge of Mladic's whereabouts or, in the alternative, argued that an attempt to arrest him would trigger civil war in the country. A dozen other ICTY indictees were believed to live in the country during the year.
Four domestic war crimes
trials were held in 2002. On July 8, the district court in
The police and judiciary
failed to act to resolve a number of other war crimes cases, in which a
significant body of evidence was known to exist. These included the case of
mass graves in
As of November, the
truth and reconciliation commission, established in 2001 by Yugoslav President
Vojislav Kostunica, had failed to hold any hearings on war crimes and other
abuses committed during the 1990s in
The authorities did not use police violence against the political opposition, but during the year police abuses against ordinary citizens were still commonplace. The Serbian Ministry of Interior either ignored allegations of police torture and ill-treatment made in the media and human rights reports, or claimed that it had no knowledge of the alleged events. Of the eight known court decisions since October 2000 dealing with torture and ill-treatment by the police, all but one of a dozen convicted law enforcement officers received sentences of less than eight months in prison, even where the torture resulted in serious bodily injuries. The exception was an August 2002 court decision in which one accused policeman was sentenced to eighteen months of imprisonment.
Serbian human rights groups and media registered a dozen serious cases of police torture between December 2001 and October 2002. The abuses often occurred in police stations, when officials attempted to compel detainees to admit to theft or other crimes. As a consequence of the abuse, in one case the victim underwent brain surgery (Nenad Tasic, tortured in August in Vranje); other victims suffered a ruptured eardrum (Nemanja Jovic from Belgrade), bruised ribs (Marko Brkic from Novi Sad), and other physical injuries.
On July 18, the Serbian parliament amended the law on the judiciary to strengthen the role of parliament in the selection of judges, at the expense of an independent body of experts, the High Judicial Council. The new provisions left the council its role in nominating judicial candidates but, in cases where parliament rejects the nomination, gave the decision on alternative candidates to parliament's judicial committee. The amendments also excluded the High Judicial Council from the procedure for the election of the presidents of the courts.
On February 26, new
Although the Yugoslav constitution and law on the army allowed for alternative military service in civilian institutions, the army continued to reject all requests by conscientious objectors for service in humanitarian, health, or other similar institutions.
While most of the media operated freely during 2002, the cabinet of the Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic effectively shaped the editorial policy of the two main private television stations in F.R. Yugoslavia, Television BK and Television Pink, through behind-the-scenes pressures.
The governments of
On February 13, the
federal parliament adopted a Law on the Rights and Freedoms of National
Minorities. The law was prepared with the assistance of the Council of Europe
and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Over half a million
refugees and displaced persons continued to live in
In a report presented on
March 25 to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, Jose Cutileiro,
special representative on the situation of human rights in
On February 12, the
trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic began at the ICTY.
Milosevic stood accused of command responsibility for crimes committed against
Six other individuals were transferred from F.R. Yugoslavia to the custody of the ICTY in 2002 (see above), but trial had not begun in any of these cases as of November. The tribunal provisionally released two indicted Yugoslav citizens, Pavle Strugar and Miodrag Jokic, after receiving guarantees from the Yugoslav government that the two would appear for trial.
Organization for Security and Cooperation in
The Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission to F.R. Yugoslavia organized,
jointly with the Serbian Ministry of Interior, multiethnic police trainings
aimed at establishing an ethnically mixed police presence in the area of Presevo, Bujanovac, and Medvedja, the three municipalities in southern
Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) recommended membership for F.R.
Yugoslavia at its plenary session in September. In connection with its vote the
PACE outlined a list of commitments on which progress would be scrutinized
post-accession, in areas including cooperation with the ICTY, domestic war
crimes trials, police abuse, and discrimination against Roma. The Committee of
Ministers declined at its November session, however, to formally invite F.R.
Yugoslavia to become a Council of Europe member, because
In a recommendation on the situation of refugees and displaced persons in F.R. Yugoslavia, adopted in June, the PACE expressed concern about "the still unresolved question of refugees and internally displaced persons" in the country and called for renewed efforts on the part of the international community and the authorities of F.R. Yugoslavia to address the problem.
In the course of 2002,
the E.U. acted as a mediator in negotiations between the Serbian and
Montenegrin authorities over constitutional reform. Montenegrin officials
occasionally accused the E.U. of bias in favor of
In an April 4 Stabilization and Association Report, the European Commission identified police reform, eradication of corruption, improvements in freedom of expression, and cooperation with the ICTY as the main outstanding issues that the authorities needed to address. The E.U.'s failure to insist on Yugoslav cooperation with the ICTY, however, prompted ICTY Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte in April to urge stronger E.U. pressure.
On May 21, U.S.
Secretary of State Colin Powell lifted a freeze on financial assistance to F.R.
Yugoslavia, after receiving assurances from Yugoslav officials that they would
cooperate with the ICTY.
post-conflict general elections, held in November 2001, were largely peaceful
and fair. Ibrahim Rugova's
Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) won a significant
lead over the other parties, but not enough for a majority in the 120-seat
Assembly. Thirty-five seats, including twenty guaranteed by the Constitutional
Framework, went to the Kosovo Serb "Return" Coalition and five other
minority parties. The successful conduct of the election was overshadowed,
however, by difficult subsequent negotiations among the LDK, the Democratic
Party of Kosova (PDK), and the
In February, the U.N.
secretary-general appointed German diplomat Michael Steiner as his new special
representative in Kosovo. In April, Steiner presented the U.N. Security Council
with an "exit strategy" that contained a series of benchmarks to be
met before Kosovo's final status would be decided and the international mission
terminated; these included respect for the rule of law, freedom of movement,
and the right of all Kosovars to return to their
homes. Questions about Kosovo's final status--that is, its future relationship
Municipal elections held in October 2002 were judged "within European standards" by international monitors, but were marred by the killing of Ukë Bytyçi, the LDK mayor of Suva Reka/Suhareke, the day after the ballot. The majority of Kosovo Serb voters boycotted the elections, in a blow to U.N. efforts to integrate them into the local political processes.
The year saw, for the
first time since 1999, a significant decline in the number of life-threatening
attacks against minority communities. In order to remove psychological barriers
to free movement, the Kosovo peacekeeping force (KFOR) replaced checkpoints and
other static security arrangements around minority areas with mobile patrols.
Serbs and other non-Albanians began to venture out of their enclaves onto the
main roads and into towns. Despite these improvements, however, minorities--including
Roma and other non-Albanians as well as Serbs--generally faced a precarious
security environment. The greater mobility made them subject to persistent
intimidation and harassment, such as stone throwing, vandalism, and verbal
abuse. In October, a large Albanian mob attacked a bus carrying Serb pensioners
in the town of
perceptions of insecurity, as well as scarce donor commitment, affected the
return of refugees and internally displaced Kosovars.
The number of returns remained low, despite statements of support by the new
local institutions and an UNMIK campaign to inform potential returnees about
improving circumstances in the province. UNMIK faced repeated threats of mass
returns from groups of displaced Kosovo Serbs, and pressures by the
With the exception of the high-profile Milosevic trial at the ICTY, there was little progress toward accountability for war crimes committed during the conflict, clearly undermining the processes of refugee return and reconciliation. Neither the Serbian authorities nor UNMIK took effective steps to hold accountable lower-level Serbs for crimes committed against Albanians; at the same time, no Albanians were indicted for war crimes against Serbs, Roma, and other civilians. The ICTY prosecutor said in October that investigations of ethnic Albanian suspects were being hampered by witnesses' reluctance to confirm their earlier statements and appear in court. The number of war crimes convictions handed out by the Kosovo courts remained insignificant, with most trials ending in acquittals or convictions for lesser crimes.
Although the U.N. stepped up efforts to hold accountable those responsible for post-war ethnically motivated crimes, most such perpetrators remained at large. In December 2001, the Supreme Court ordered the release of three Kosovo Albanians implicated in the February 2001 bombing of a bus full of Serb civilians. The U.N. administrators complied, after having held the suspects for months in extrajudicial detention in defiance of similar court orders; they claimed "it had not been possible to transform the [relevant] intelligence ...into evidence that would secure their conviction in a court of law." To address such problems, the UNMIK Department of Justice and the UNMIK police set up specialized structures to gather and analyze evidence in sensitive cases.
While police statistics showed a general decrease in violent crime during the year, KFOR troops and the UNMIK police faced some of the most aggressive confrontations since their deployment. The attackers were often Serb and Albanian extremist groups that had been tolerated for too long by the peacekeeping mission. The hottest security spot continued to be northern Mitrovica/Mitrovice, where the February arrest of two "bridge watchers" (a violent gang supposedly organized to protect the town's Serbian population from Albanian attacks) triggered a wave of growing vandalism against the international forces. On April 8, when UNMIK police arrested a bridge gang leader, a rioting crowd responded with hand grenades and gunfire, leaving twenty-two police officers injured.
Later in the year, the
UNMIK police made a failed attempt to arrest Milan Ivanovic,
the extremist leader of the Serb National Council for northern Kosovo, who was
reportedly caught on tape attacking the police during the April riots. When Ivanovic fled to
Kosovo Albanian leaders' support for the rule of law was tested throughout 2002 as UNMIK police conducted a series of arrests of former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) members. At least four different groups, including several active members of the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC), were charged with serious crimes against fellow ethnic Albanians allegedly committed during and after the armed conflict. In November 2001, Gani Ymeri, a senior KPC officer, was arrested for the alleged kidnapping and attempted murder of a Kosovo Serb family in the last days of the conflict; investigations into the case were ongoing as of October 2002, but Ymeri had in the meantime been released on bail.
The arrests of Kosovo Albanians met with negative reaction from the Albanian public, frustrated by the judiciary's ongoing failure to address the crimes they had suffered as well. Each of the high-profile arrests was followed by protests, which turned violent in February and August, but subsided with time. However, the August detention of former KLA commander Rustem Mustafa, on reported charges of wartime murder and torture of fellow Albanians, triggered a barrage of accusations against UNMIK by the media and politicians associated with the rebel movement. The Kosovo government issued an official statement charging that the KLA leaders' arrests were politically motivated. Such attitudes put unacceptable pressure on the pending judicial proceedings and prejudged their outcome.
Women's groups welcomed the inclusion of rape charges in the Milosevic indictment on Kosovo, as amended in October 2001. In 2002, Kosovar Albanian victims of rapes committed during the 1999 campaign of "ethnic cleansing" gave testimony on those charges at the ICTY, facing Milosevic in the courtroom.
The UNMIK police estimated that 104 establishments operated with trafficked women and girls forced into prostitution throughout the province. Despite efforts to train prosecutors and judges, both still failed to observe elements of a new anti-trafficking regulation designed to protect trafficking victims. The lack of witness protection for victims who agreed to testify against their traffickers remained a major concern. This, coupled with bribery and intimidation of the judiciary, frustrated police efforts to crack down on traffickers, who continued to operate with widespread impunity.
Human rights groups did
important monitoring, reporting, and advocacy in the province, although they
were constrained by the security situation and, on occasion, the international
administration. In January, Serb "bridge watchers" in Mitrovica/Mitrovice seized two vehicles and harassed staff
members of the
Ombudsperson Marek Antoni Nowicki, who was reappointed for a second term, made good headway toward the consolidation of the ombudsperson institution and started preparations for its gradual handover to local leadership. The ombudsperson's second annual report was highly critical of UNMIK's human rights record, citing, among other things, its arbitrary restrictions of liberty and property rights, violations of basic suffrage, and failure to make legislation available in local languages.
As new crises unfolded around the world, the international community began to show signs of peacebuilding fatigue in Kosovo. This led to calls for a speedier handover of authority to local institutions, but also raised concerns that a premature disengagement would be counter-productive for regional peace and stability.
The U.N. mission strengthened its efforts to steer Kosovo toward a path of democracy, rule of law, and economic recovery. More than three years into its international administration, however, the mission continued also to restrict and derogate from basic rights, invoking vague justifications of internal emergency and threats to international peace and security. One instance of such arbitrariness was the decision--taken without any due process--to bar three party leaders from contesting the November 2001 election.
On a number of occasions, members of the peacekeeping mission violated fundamental rights and set negative precedents for the rule of law in Kosovo. In one egregious example, in February an Austrian officer of the UNMIK police, along with two local subordinates, beat an ethnic Albanian detainee for three hours, made him dig his own grave, and forced him to walk through a Serb village wearing a sign that read: "I kill all Serbs!" The officer was detained and stripped of his U.N. immunity, but was then illegally whisked out of Kosovo by the Austrian authorities, who, as of this writing, refused to send him back for prosecution in Kosovo. UNMIK served an indictment to the Austrian government, but no trial date had been set as of late October.
A lengthy report by Mental Disability Rights International revealed that patients at Kosovo's psychiatric facilities were routinely subjected to physical and sexual violence, arbitrary committal, and grossly inadequate treatment. According to the rights group, UNMIK was informed of the abuses, but did little to guarantee the patients' physical integrity and basic rights.
Organization for Security and Cooperation in
The Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
In May, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) announced a reduction of its thirty-eight thousand-strong presence in Kosovo by around five thousand troops, stressing that this reflected the improved security situation rather than a waning commitment to the region. The NATO-led KFOR continued to violate habeas corpus rights by detaining individuals without charge and without bringing them promptly before a judge. An OSCE report charged that neither international law nor the security situation on the ground supported such practices.
The E.U., Kosovo's biggest donor, announced in September a significant reduction in future aid to the province--€50 million (U.S.$48.3 million) for 2003, down from €134 million ($129.6 million) in 2002. E.U. officials said they were shifting focus from physical reconstruction aid to the strengthening of Kosovo's institutions. The E.U. supported UNMIK's efforts to uphold the rule of law and condemned the government's allegations of bias regarding the arrests of former KLA commanders.