If Serbia wants to join the European Union, it must „face the past and victims“, while the perpetrators of the crimes “must face justice“, the President of Kosovo, Vjosa Osmani said on Friday in Potsdam. Osmani also spoke about the victims of the Kosovo war. „13,000 innocent civilians were killed, around 25,000 women were raped as a war instrument of the genocidal Milosevic regime, and 125,000 houses were burned,“ she claims.
The Kosovo president participated in a conference on democracy and media freedom in Potsdam, Germany this week, where she once again compared Serbia to Russia, saying that the former views the other countries in the region as „temporary states“.
„They (Serbia) have the same view of not only Kosovo but also Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Practically, they believe that they should decide our fate since they committed genocide against our people,“ said Osmani, noting that it is „absolutely unacceptable“.
„Particularly because Serbia never apologized, never showed any remorse, never brought the perpetrators to justice. There are still countless mass graves all over Serbia with the bodies of missing persons from Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia… It never distanced itself, even today, from Milosevic’s crimes, because the President of Serbia once served as the minister of propaganda to Milosevic, so it’s not surprising,“ Osmani said.
On the other hand, she also spoke about the „alliance of Western countries in 1998 and 1999“ which was reached, as she claims, to save lives in Kosovo.
„We were victims of aggressors whose goal was to exterminate our people because we were of different ethnicity. The deep wounds from the war are still very present. In just a few months, 13,000 innocent civilians were killed in Kosovo, around 25,000 women were raped as a war instrument of the genocidal Milosevic regime, 125,000 houses were burned, not with bombs, so much cultural heritage, so many artifacts were destroyed,“ alleged Osmani.
In her words, Kosovo was „reduced to ashes“ and then „built from nothing, but with the help of partners“.
Osmani told Serbia that if it wants to join the EU it must „face the past and the victims“, and that „the perpetrators of crimes should face justice“.
„As expected and I would say that it is not only just by us but also Croatia – an EU member which is also asking Serbia to open its archives and tell us where the missing persons are located, almost 2,000 missing persons, many of them small children – who are still missing and who are in mass graves in Serbia. We need them to tell us where they are. It is a matter of human rights. Secondly, they must stop handing out medals and promoting generals and police chiefs who carried out massacres in Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia,“ the Kosovo president claims.
She highlighted that throughout its history, Kosovo has shown how important it is to have friends.
„It ‘would not have survived’ in 1999 without the alliance of the democratic countries of the USA, Germany, and other countries that supported Kosovo,” she emphasized.
Osmani also referred to the recent events in the north of Kosovo, where she once again accused Serbia of „destabilizing the region“.
What is happening in the north „is not just a dispute between two countries“, she says, alleging that Russia is also involved in all of this.
„What is taking place in the north of Kosovo should be viewed in the geopolitical context of absolute Russian influence on Serbia. It is unfortunate for all of us in the region that our neighbor has turned into a Russian proxy and is carrying out Russian intentions to destabilize the Western Balkans because by destabilizing the Western Balkans they are fighting against a system based on values, namely the European Union and NATO. By fighting us, they are fighting all of you. It is not a problem of two countries quarreling over IDs. Serbia is dancing to every tune of Putin’s. Vucic is dancing to Putin’s tune. That’s what is happening. He is dancing as per Putin’s script. And that’s unfortunate for all of us, because that kind of tension sets the whole region back,“ Osmani assessed.
What does the data of HLC and other organizations say?
In her public and media appearances, Vjosa Osmani regularly accuses Serbia of genocide and mentions figures that significantly differ from the ones presented by the Humanitarian Law Center and other organizations that deal with reconciliation and war crimes initiatives.
According to the Humanitarian Law Center and the Humanitarian Law Center of Kosovo, which developed a database on war events that took place from January 1st, 1998, to December 31st, 2000, a total of 13,535 people were killed or went missing during the armed conflict in Kosovo – this figure includes the total number of civilian and military casualties of Serbian forces, the KLA, and NATO bombing (10,812 Albanians, 2,197 Serbs and 526 victims from the Roma, Bosnian, Montenegrin and other non-Albanian communities).
According to HLC and HLC Kosovo data, during the NATO bombing (March 20th-June 14th, 1999), Serbian forces killed 6,872 Albanian civilians. In the same period, KLA members killed 328 Serbian civilians and 136 Roma and members of other communities. In the clashes between the Serbian forces and the KLA, 1,204 members of the KLA and 559 members of the YA and MIA of Serbia were killed (108 of whom were under the age of 25 – most of them were active-duty soldiers).
Also, according to HLC data, 756 people died in NATO attacks – 452 civilians and 304 members of the armed forces. Out of the civilian victims, 206 were of Serbian or Montenegrin ethnicity, 218 were Albanians, 14 were Roma, and 14 were civilians of other ethnicities. A total of 275 members of the Yugoslav Army (VJ) and MIA, and 29 members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) died in the bombing. A total of 261 people were killed on the territory of Serbia, 10 in Montenegro, and 485 in Kosovo.
In the period from June 15th, 1999 to the end of December 2000, approximately 1,257 people were killed, abducted, or went missing in Kosovo (a recent figure of 1,306 is also being mentioned) – 717 Serbs, 307 Albanians, and 233 Roma (the figure of 273 victims of Roma and other ethnicities is also mentioned). These crimes are mostly attributed to the KLA.
In 2015, the Kosovo Special Chambers were opened in The Hague dealing with crimes against humanity and war crimes initiated or committed in Kosovo from January 1st, 1998, to December 31st, 2000, by or against citizens of Kosovo or the former FRY. Currently, four proceedings against the eight defendants are ongoing.
In February 2018, the Government of Kosovo started the process of registration of rape victims. According to the data of the Kosovo Commission on Recognition and Verification of the Status of Sexual Violence Victims, as of the end of 2021, around 1,000 citizens have acquired the status of victims of sexual violence during the Kosovo war. The number of those registered so far is significantly smaller compared to the mentioned figure of 20,000 victims of sexual violence.
According to Kosovo law, a war victim of sexual violence is a person who survived sexual abuse and rape in the period from February 27th, 1998, to June, 20th 1999.
According to UNHCR data from November 1999, almost 40% of all homes in Kosovo were severely damaged or completely destroyed. Out of a total of 237,842 homes, 45,768 were severely damaged and 46,414 were destroyed.
Two years ago, the Humanitarian Law Center of Kosovo warned the Kosovo Assembly to be cautious with legal qualifications, considering that even after 20 years since the end of the conflict, no verdict has qualified the crimes in Kosovo as genocide. The Kosovo authorities have yet to initiate international court proceedings, although they stress that they are preparing for it.
Also, the RECOM coalition believes that „the issue of missing persons in connection with the war in Kosovo is extremely politicized“, that „politicians and heads of victims’ associations increase the number of missing people from their ethnic community, and that the pro-governmental media reinforces the belief that only one side is the victim and the other is the ‘villain’, and that the civilizational perspective and the humanitarian dimension of the missing person issue is completely absent“.
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