HELSINKI COMMISSION LEADERS: MILOSEVIC RESPONSIBLE FOR “BARBARIC” KOSOVO MASSACRE
(Washington, DC) — Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) and Ranking Member Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) released today the following statement on the situation in Kosovo:
“The massacre committed in the Kosovo village of Racak is nothing short of barbaric. The mutilation and killing of 45 villagers, including three women and at least one child, constitutes a crime against humanity, and units which participated in this gruesome act must be identified, as well as the chain of command. Ultimately, Slobodan Milosevic must himself be held accountable for the crimes committed in Kosovo and in Bosnia. The U.S. Congress has already stated its belief that Milosevic should be tried as a war criminal, and the recurrence of events like this massacre should remove all doubt as to the urgency of such a step.
“The arrogant response of the Yugoslav and Serbian authorities to the incident—denying access to the site by the International Tribunal prosecutor and declaring the head of the OSCE Mission as persona non grata—cannot be tolerated. In fact, Serbia may well have lost Kosovo once and for all. No state has the right to exercise its authority in this manner, and we consider Serbian authority in Kosovo to be illegitimate. The international community should begin to treat it as such.
“Trying to coax Belgrade for an agreement on Kosovo has proven fruitless. NATO must respond to these atrocities. Unfortunately, the hesitance of the Alliance to take firm and definitive action in the face of Serbian atrocities continues to cost innocent lives. While we had hoped that the OSCE Verification Mission ably led by Ambassador Walker could make a difference, the Mission’s success hinges on Belgrade’s understanding that each atrocity will face a swift and severe international response. This latest brutality shows Belgrade’s real intentions. An unarmed “verification mission” is not the answer to the current human crisis.”