Jonathan SteelePattern of violent assaults revealed in Kosovo
Tuesday March 21, 2000
Serb and Yugoslav forces frequently gang-raped Kosovo Albanian women during the Nato bombing campaign, although a claim by the foreign secretary, Robin Cook, that they had set up "a rape camp" has not been confirmed, according to a Human Rights Watch report.
After documenting 96 cases of rape, the New York-based organisation says this almost certainly understates the issue because victims were very reluctant to report the crimes. A pattern of rapes was recorded: in women's homes, while they were being herded along in refugee columns, or in detention centres.
Rapes often took place in front of victims' families or with senior officers on hand. "These are not occasional incidents committed by a few crazy men," said Regan Ralph, the executive director of Human Rights Watch's women's rights division. "Rape was used as an instrument of war."
Human Rights Watch takes issue with Mr Cook and Kenneth Bacon, the US Pentagon spokesman, for alleging that the Serbs set up rape camps. Mr Cook's allegation came the day after Nato was criticised for attacking a train in Serbia, killing 20 Serb civilians. "We are concerned that Nato's use of rape to bolster support for the war relied on unconfirmed accounts. Offering such accusations... suggests that those invoking the abuses may have been more concerned with pursuing certain political goals," the report said.