The Acts of the Democracies

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1999

Yugoslavia and Kosovo

Yugoslavia (mainly Serbian and Orthodox Christian) attacks Kosovo, whose people are Albanian and Muslim. Thousands of people are killed, raped or expelled after the offensive.

Serbian troops enter villages and systematically burn homes, loot businesses, expel civilians, and kill those suspected of participating in separatist movements, including women and children. Often, bodies would be removed and buried in Serbia where seven mass graves would be discovered in 2001.

Rape and sexual violence are also components of the campaign used to terrorise the civilian population, extort money from families, and push people to flee their homes. Human Rights Watch documents 96 cases of rape and sexual assault in Kosovo.

The USA and UK bomb Kosovo and Serbia under a NATO umbrella. One NATO member, Turkey, threatens to veto the action until the USA gave assurances that Turkey's treatment of the Kurds would not be punished in a similar way.

The bombing lasts for 78 days and kills many civilians as residential areas are targeted in Belgrade. The residence of the president, Slobodan Milosevic, is attacked in an apparent assassination attempt. The USA declares that the bombing is for humanitarian purposes but, in one answer, the USA president Bill Clinton states:

"If we're going to have a strong economic relationship that includes our ability to sell around the world, Europe has got to be a key....That's what this Kosovo thing is all about."

Although NATO states that the bombing of civilian targets is accidental, a statement by Lieutenant General Michael Short contradicts this:

"If you wake up in the morning and you have no power to your house and no gas to your stove and the bridge you take to work is down and will be lying in the Danube for the next twenty years, I think you begin to ask, 'Hey, Slobo, what's all this about? How much more of this do we have to withstand?'"

Short tells the USA newspaper, New York Times, that he "hopes that the distress of the Yugoslav public will undermine support for the authorities in Belgrade". NATO spokesman, Jamie Shea adds: "If President Milosevic really wants all of his population to have water and electricity all he has to do is accept NATO's five conditions and we will stop the campaign".

One major building in Belgrade containing political parties, television and radio stations as well as a hundred private companies is bombed. Before the attack, NATO planners had estimated 250 civilian casualties and up to 100 government workers.

Over 1,100 cluster bombs are dropped over Yugoslavia each carrying 202 bomblets. The bomblets explode sending out metal shrapnel that can slice through metal. The failure rate of the bomblets (over 5%) means that over 11,000 bomblets fail to explode, becoming in effect land mines waiting to be touched. Many children, drawn to the bright yellow colour of the bomblets become victims after returning to their villages. One doctor states: "neither I nor my colleagues have ever seen such horrific wounds as these caused by cluster bombs. They are wounds that lead to disabilities to a great extent. The limbs are so crushed that the only remaining option is amputation. It's awful."

97 bomblets are later recovered from the Adriatic Sea after several Italian fishermen are killed.

The USA is one of the few countries not to sign a treaty banning the use of land mines which comes into force on 1 March: Treaty Banning the Use, Production, Stockpiling and Transfer of Anti-Personel Landmines.

© 2020, KryssTal


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