UN Security Council says fate of missing persons top issue in Kosovo

UNITED NATIONS, May 2, 2000 -- (AFP) The credibility of the UN Security Council depends upon its handling of the problem of people missing from Kosovo, the leader of a council mission to the province said Monday.

"The issue of missing persons and detainees emerged again and again," the ambassador of Bangladesh, Anwarul Karim Chowdhury, said after returning from a two-day visit to Kosovo with seven other ambassadors.

"It broke our hearts to see hundreds of families gathering with photographs of their near and dear ones who are missing, for 10 or 12 months," he told a news conference, and added:

"The council cannot maintain credibility unless we address this issue."

In a report to the council, Chowdhury said the ambassadors had "noted the strong support of the different ethnic communities for the appointment of a special envoy for detainees and missing persons."

While in Kosovo, he had vowed to bring the plight of some 1,200 ethnic Albanians held in Serbian jails to the attention of the UN Security Council.

On Saturday, in the western Kosovar town of Djakovica, the ambassadors were told that about 1,200 local ethnic Albanians were still missing since the conflict.

A crowd of 200 to 300 ethnic Albanians greeted the delegation in front of the town hall, carrying photographs of missing relatives or persons imprisoned in Serbia.

Chowdhury's report said "the lack of an effective and unbiased rule of law in Kosovo was a recurring theme at many of the meetings" the ambassadors had with UN officials and community representatives.

It blamed the lack of physical security and freedom of movement for the refusal of Kosovo's Serb community to take part in municipal elections which the UN administrators plan to hold later this year.

But, the report said, "all ethnic communities expressed a desire to live together in peace" -- a claim which Chowdhury repeated to reporters.

Unless one had visited Kosovo, he said, "it is not possible comprehend the enormity of the task facing the UN mission (UNMIK)" which took over the running of the province after NATO warplanes chased Yugoslav forces out last year.

UNMIK's mandate comes up for renewal by the Security Council on June 10 and Chowdhury said the people of Kosovar were waiting for it as a signal and "a confidence-building measure."

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