UN Rights prober says Kosovo is mafia paradise

BELGRADE, Mar 21, 2000 -- (Reuters) The U.N. special human rights investigator for former Yugoslavia said on Monday a lack of organised civilian power structures in Kosovo had turned it into "a paradise for different mafias".

"There is chaos in Kosovo," Jiri Dienstbier said at the end of a 10-day tour of Yugoslavia in which he focused on problems in and near the province, a de facto international protectorate since NATO-led peacekeepers (KFOR) deployed there last June.

"There are very different private structures of power...It is a paradise for different mafias which not only control certain regions and villages, they even fight each other."

Tensions have been rising in Kosovo ahead of the first anniversary of NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia undertaken to halt its repression of the province's majority ethnic Albanians.

KFOR took military control and the United Nations began setting up a civilian administration in the bitterly polarised province last June after a 78-day NATO bombing campaign forced Serbian security forces to withdraw.

But Dienstbier, who criticised the bombing from the start, said the international community had been slow to take control.

"I see that what is happening in Kosovo now is the result of a mistake of policy of the international community... bombing Yugoslavia without knowing what will be next," the former Czech foreign minister said.

"Meanwhile, Kosovo Liberation Army weapons came and they took over control and are now cleansing non-Albanians."


The KLA has since been officially disbanded, but according to Dienstbier its power structures retain a firm grip on the province which would now be hard to break.

Dienstbier quoted a New York-based international anti-narcotics organisation as saying in a report that 40 percent of Europe's heroin trade was now going via Kosovo.

He also appealed for the release of Kosovo Albanian humanitarian worker and activist Flora Brovina, jailed for 12 years for "anti-state" activities, saying it was a clear case of misjustice and that her release would help Serbs held in Kosovo.

"Mrs Brovina belongs to those ethnic Albanians who refused ethnic cleansing and who support cooperation and a multi-ethnic society in Kosovo," he said.

The U.N. Human Rights investigator also visited the volatile Presevo valley in southeastern Serbia, where tensions have risen following armed incidents between ethnic Albanians and Serbs.

He said the Albanian majority there did not want guerrillas from Kosovo to destabilise the region and that Belgrade should allow it to have its own media and re-admit Albanians to police ranks.

Dienstbier also criticised a trade blockade by Serbia against Montenegro, its tiny partner in the Yugoslav federation, which has been edging away from Belgrade since it elected pro-Western Milo Djukanovic as its president in 1997.

And he called for freedom of media and speech in Serbia, saying a recent campaign to close non-government radio stations was a sign of government weakness.

"I think we all have to fight for freedom of media," he said. "Without this society can only stagnate further."

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