Illegal policing causes rights abuses in Kosovo

PRISTINA, Mar 18, 2000 -- (Reuters) Illegal policing, mostly by former ethnic Albanian guerrillas, has caused serious human rights abuses in Kosovo ranging from extortion to murder, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe says.

"Illegal policing is widespread throughout Kosovo...Its continuing existence is a major human rights concern," said an OSCE report dated March 10.

"The illegal policing itself has led to ... extortion, illegal detention, torture and, apparently, murder."

Official responsibility for policing in Kosovo rests with UN civilian police and the Kosovo Police Service (KPS). International peacekeepers known as KFOR also retain police powers in some areas of the Yugoslav province.

The OSCE report said that most of the illegal policing was being carried out by former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), the ethnic Albanian guerrilla group that battled Serbian security forces in 1998-99.

A 78-day NATO bombing campaign forced Serbian forces to withdraw last June. NATO-led KFOR troops took military control of Kosovo and the United Nations began setting up a civilian administration in the province.

The KLA, reckoned to number at least 18,000, officially disbanded in September under international pressure.

Some of its members have been accepted as recruits into the KPS, which works alongside the U.N. police.

Other KLA members were accommodated in the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC), a national guard unit with conservation and civil emergency duties but no military or police function.

That has left thousands of former KLA fighters without gainful employment.


Some have turned to crime on a free-lance basis while others are working in civilian clothes as self-appointed local police, or as enforcers to safeguard the residual interests of the officially defunct KLA.

In other cases KPC members have been found to be carrying out unauthorized police duties.

Illegal police sometimes usefully fill a void created by the shortfall of UN police in Kosovo, of whom there are fewer than 3,000 as compared to the 6,000 originally requested. Elsewhere, illegal police are sources of crime, not a solution.

"Illegal police activities range from anodyne offences, such as unauthorized traffic control and the organization of demonstrations, to much graver acts of violence and intimidation," the OSCE report said.

Examples of abuses cited by OSCE included the detention by KPS members of five children accused of theft in Podujevo in late January. After their release the children said they had been beaten by their captors.

U.N. police told the OSCE in February that illegal taxation of businesses in the town of Urosevac amounted to approximately 400,000 German marks ($197,800) per month.

The report said that former members of the KLA police had been actively intimidating members of the Moslem Slav community in the Prizren area.

"In this particular part of Kosovo illegal policing has been one of the key instruments in intimidation, resulting in Gorani (Moslem Slav) children in some cases not being sent to school and in the extreme in massive outflow of Gorani," the report said.

Original article