October 7, 2002
In a recent issue of one of the most respected weekly news magazines in Yugoslavia, NIN, appears an article entitled "The Cruelest Cleansings."
It opens with a story of a "mass grave." The site is marked by four gravestones, but they bear no names or any other identifying marks -- and locals are apparently not happy to talk about this matter. One young Albanian man went so far as to volunteer that the graves contained the "burned remains" of the Krasnici family, but immediately distanced himself from the matter by saying, "And that's all I know."
In fact, the graves contain the bodies of 24 Albanians -- including 13 children -- whose houses were burned down and who were then executed by a firing squad. No, not by a Serb firing squad, else the remains would have been taken and buried at the cemetery at the end of the village, the "plot of heroes" who perished in the fight against the Serbs and now sleep under fluttering Albanian flags. Digging a little deeper into this story reveals that the Krasnici family was murdered by their own ethnic brothers -- and, according to at least one witness, after the arrival of KFOR into Kosovo. The four Krasnici brothers, who worked for "Serbian" enterprises, were known as "loyalists" to the Serbs. In the New Kosovo, that was enough for a death sentence -- for them and for their families.
Crimes like this have been notoriously treated with kid gloves by Kosovo's current rulers, America and the UN. It was highly non-PC to accuse, let alone arrest, members of the KLA for such actions. But the halo of the KLA is beginning to slip, even amongst the most ardent of their supporters; some things just cannot be swept under the carpet forever. A number of leaders of the erstwhile Kosovo Liberation Army have found themselves arrested -- and accused of doing a touch too much "liberating."
Bujar Bukosi, once the Premier of Kosovar refugees and today the leader of the New Kosovo Party, is on record as saying that the KLA leadership was notorious for liquidating its political opponents by the very simple dictum of labeling them as Serb "collaborators" and performing an execution. "Everyone knew about it, but nobody is willing to speak out," Bukosi states. The number of victims of this "cleansing" is thought to be more than a thousand.
There is, for instance, the "contract" put out by an ex-KLA commander on a moderate Albanian who had announced the imminent publication of a book on war crimes -- including those committed by the KLA. Only a few hours after the victim's death the murderers or their representatives showed up at the doorstep of his widow, to pick up the computer which contained the MS of the controversial book. The computer and its contents have never been seen again.
The police have finally started doing something about the situation. A number of arrests have been made, and the list of the accused miscreants is beginning to read rather like a who's-who of known KLA leadership cadres. If empirical evidence was needed, it was noteworthy that, after the arrest of an influential KLA commander near the settlement of Dragas, incidents of bombing and armed attacks in that region ceased.
Another high-ranking KLA member was recently accused not just of criminal acts but also of wide-ranging spying activity. The hard drive of this particular computer, unlike the one of the hapless author, has proved a treasure trove of evidence for war crimes and blackmail.
"We're making progress," states a spokesman for UNMIK.
Possibly so. Unreported by mainstream media, the Kangaroo Court in The Hague has finally opened an office in Pristina -- perhaps things have become too egregious even for them to ignore any longer. There is even talk of three top Albanian leaders -- including Hasim Thaci himself, as well as the confirmed war criminal from Bosnia, Agim Ceku -- finding themselves listed in the little black books of the Hague investigators. Naturally, such rumours could be "neither confirmed nor denied" by the spokesman for the Tribunal -- although Carla del Ponte herself is on record as stating that the warrants for the arrests of "some Kosovo Albanians" need to be acted on before the end of the year. It would be good if she could find enough integrity to name those Albanians. She has never been coy about naming the Serb victims of her witch-hunts.
Perhaps the best reason for coyness is given by the UNMIK spokesman: "We know a lot, but our problem is the witnesses. They have a gun to their head. Under the circumstances, and under threat from the people who were once their comrades and brothers in arms, many are withdrawing their original statements."
That should go far to bear witness, as and of itself, as to the state of justice in Kosovo. People who may not have committed war crimes are accused, tried and convicted on the grounds of their ethnicity alone; others, who did commit such crimes and are known by UNMIK itself to have done so, cannot be brought to justice because they have managed to so comprehensively intimidate the witnesses against them.
And for the rank-and-file KLA, the leaders who have been arrested and jailed remain heroes. There are demonstrations every Friday outside the jail in Pristina, with accusations that UNMIK is being "partial to Milosevic" -- in other words, not being Serbs or "Serb collaborators;" how could the innocents in jail have possibly committed any crime? The leader of the association of journalists, a Mr. Zeka, is even on record as having called his colleagues to fight against the "police dictatorship" of UNMIK chief Michael Steiner. The German administrator, Zeka says, is "insulting an entire generation of Albanians." (How? By letting them know that they live in a civilized society, however shallow the layer of civilization actually is, where the rule of the brute is frowned on and where they are simply not allowed to do what they want with impunity and utter disregard for consequences?)
The more light is shed on the situation on the ground in Kosovo, the more obvious it is starting to be just how egregious the lies were in the beginning, and how deep in the morass the NATO action has left the entire region. The Western media's directive for the past decade or more has been to "blame the Serbs" -- hit or myth, whatever occurred in Kosovo could be laid at their door. But the evidence is mounting. The mythology is crumbling.
The murders remain.
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Aleksandra Priestfield is a writer and an editor. She contributes her regular columns to Swans.
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