WASHINGTON — “NATO’s military action has not accomplished the stated objectives to protect helpless Kosovars from Belgrade’s brutal offensive and to cripple Milosevic’s military capability. The humanitarian needs are ballooning and we must respond to that crisis. I do not, however, believe that NATO’s manhood is sufficient reason to put lives at risk,” said Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) today in a Commission hearing on the “Atrocities and the Humanitarian Crisis in Kosovo.”
Ranking Member Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) said in his opening remarks, “I have talked about the necessity of confronting Slobodan Milosevic—not the Serbian people, but the leader of the Serbian and now Yugoslav Government—confronting him is a way that he clearly understood the West was serious; that the West would not tolerate genocide in Europe. Though we are now doing that, the delay has cost us. … Having made the commitment to stop this madness, the United States and our NATO allies must see this action through.”
The lead-off witness, Ambassador William G. Walker, Head of the Kosovo Verification Mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, detailed the process by which the West has come to where it is in Kosovo, beginning with the October 1998 agreements and leading up to the break-down of the cease-fire agreement and the Rambouillet talks in March. He concluded that unarmed peacekeeping with no enforcement mechanism doesn’t work, nor does attempting to be balanced, where one side is consistently far worse.
Nancy Lindborg of Mercy Corps International described the deteriorating situation in Kosovo over the years, and how the provision of humanitarian aid to the Kosovars had become increasingly inefficient.
She agreed with Chairman Smith and Mr. Hoyer that several opportunities to resolve the conflict were missed. Dr. Jennifer Leaning of the Physicians for Human Rights detailed, through statistics and anecdotal evidence, the terrible situation in and around Kosovo, including a deterioration of the situation prior to the NATO air strikes; the terrible medical conditions, lack of food and the difficulty of gaining access to the refugees. She recommended that the Macedonian Government open its borders and open multiple sites for the refugees, and for NATO to use troops in Macedonia to assist the refugees.
Mark S. Ellis of the Coalition for International Justice described legal methods that could be used to indict and arraign Slobodan Milosovic. He pointed out that the War Crimes Tribunal must aggressively investigated Kosovo atrocities committed by the Yugoslav authorities. He also emphasized that deportation and depopulation are to be considered acts of genocide under the Genocide Convention, and that Milosovic’s activities in Kosovo would appear to fall within that Convention.
The conclusion of the hearing was that NATO bombing has failed to stop genocide and that the international community needs not only to care for the displaced but to consider other options to restore peace in Kosovo.