UN rights envoy denounces Kosovo ethnic violence

BELGRADE, Jun 22, 2000 -- (Reuters) The United Nations human rights investigator for the former Yugoslavia said on Wednesday that attacks on Serbs by ethnic Albanians in Kosovo were an organized campaign, not isolated acts of revenge.

"We cannot and should not accept that the result of the international operation in Kosovo will be the ethnic cleansing of all non-Albanians from the region," Jiri Dienstbier told a news conference.

An estimated 150,000 Serbs have fled Kosovo since June 1999, when international forces took over after NATO's 11-week air war to stop Belgrade's repression of ethnic Albanians in the province.

"What is happening in Kosovo is not some revenge or understandable revenge, it is very well organized, all these expulsions and evictions are a political goal of Albanian extremists and not the revenge of ordinary people," he said.

The attacks could spark other conflicts in the region, he warned.

"There is another danger, that they will destabilize Presevo valley (on Serbia's boundary with Kosovo) and West Macedonia and the conflict will be much broader than the one we have had," he said

Kosovo, still legally part of Yugoslavia, is under de facto international rule. More than 40,000 NATO-led peacekeeping troops are posted in the region to secure peace and prevent vengeful ethnic Albanians from attacking Serbs and other non-Albanians.

Dienstbier said that international forces were doing a good job under impossible conditions but that he could not ignore the fact that tens of thousands of non-Albanians had departed.

"One ethnic cleansing was replaced by another ethnic cleansing," Dienstbier told reporters in Belgrade, where he was completing a three-day visit to Yugoslavia.

Asked about a recent dispute with Bernard Kouchner, the U.N. administrator in Kosovo, over Kouchner's running of the province, Dienstbier said: "Mr Kouchner knows the same thing I know so that is the reason why he is nervous," but did not elaborate.

Speaking at the first anniversary of international rule in Kosovo earlier this month, Kouchner had bitterly denounced Dienstbier for criticising his administration of Kosovo.

Original article