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The Albanian American Civic League Opposes Aid To Serbia

Updated: Aug 12, 2018


Subcommittee on European Affairs


March 15, 2001


Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi

Albanian American Civic League

Ossining, New York

President George Bush must certify to the U.S. Congress by March 31 that the newly elected Serbian government of Vojislav Kostunica is ready to arrest and imprison former President Slobodan Milosevic, transfer at least one indicted war criminal to The Hague Tribunal, release the Albanian prisoners of war in Serbian jails, cooperate with the Dayton Agreement, and educate the Serbian people about the crimes against humanity that were committed in their name. Otherwise, $50 million in American aid ostensibly will be cut off and the United States will also withdraw its support for IMF and World Bank loans to Serbia.

The Albanian American Civic League urges the Bush administration not to back down from its original demand that Slobodan Milosevic be extradicted to The Hague and allow the transfer of another indicted war criminal in his place. The Civic League is concerned about the Administration’s apparent willingness to certify Belgrade whether or not it recognizes the authority of the International War Crimes Tribunal and complies with the set of demands that were delivered to the Kostunica government by U.S. Ambassador William Montgomery last week. This is reminiscent of the failed policy of appeasement toward Serbia that enabled the country, under the Milosevic regime, to rise to power on a platform of anti-Albanian racism, to brutally occupy Kosova for ten years, and to wage four wars of conquest in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosova that left more than 350,000 dead and more than two million homeless.

If we do not want to lose the prospects for resolving the Balkan conflict and unifying Europe, then the Kostunica government’s access to more American aid and to international financial institutions should be contingent on its demonstrating a genuine commitment to democracy and the rule of law by meeting the following conditions:

  • All Albanian prisoners of war must be released immediately from Serbian jails and returned to Kosova. Serbia must also begin the investigative work necessary to giving a full accounting of the missing Kosovar Albanians. America’s oft-lamented “lack of leverage” over Belgrade is at an end, and so now is the time to rectify the Clinton administration’s mistake in dropping the provision in the war-ending agreement that would have guaranteed the release of all Kosovar Albanian prisoners of war. Indeed, if we certify Serbia without first securing their release, we will lose the only real leverage that we have ever had to free 500 or more innocent men and women.

  • There can be no shelter for war criminals. The Kostunica government has repeatedly denounced the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague as “anti-Serb” and refused to turn over Slobodan Milosevic and other indicted war criminals. If the United States is serious about reinforcing the rule of law, then Serbian war criminals, beginning with Slobodan Milosevic and including Bosnian Serb commanders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, must be apprehended and brought to The Hague for trial. America’s decision in this matter will reveal the level of our commitment to opposing genocide and dramatically impact our ability to bring a just and lasting peace to the Balkans, to prevent future conflicts, and to build respect for human rights around the world. It is now widely understood that the major reasons why democracy remains illusive in postwar Bosnia is the West’s failure to confront war crimes, allowing war criminals and their accomplices to maintain their political and economic power. The same is true in Serbia, where Milosevic’s cronies have retained their control over large sectors of the economy and the military, and the result has been rampant official corruption, the spread of organized crime, and continuing violence against minority populations.

  • Serbia must begin a “de-Nazification” campaign to end a century of anti-Albanian and anti-Muslim racism, apart from which there will be no stability in the Balkans. The Kostunica regime could constructively initiate such a program by publicly acknowledging Serbia’s responsibility for war crimes and by apologizing to the victims in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosova. To date, there has been no acknowledgment of any kind by President Kostunica and his colleagues of the atrocities and mass murder committed by Serbia during the Milosevic era. This failure has fueled reprisal killings by Albanians and stymied efforts to bring interethnic reconciliation to Kosova.

  • Serbia must honor its stated commitments in Bosnia-Herzegovina and help bring peace and democracy to this fragile nation. The Kostunica government’s continuing financial and moral support for Serbian separatist leaders in Republika Srpska is destabilizing Bosnia and undermining the full implementation of the Dayton Accords.

  • In order to bring an end to the conflict in the Presheva Valley, Serbia must cease its historic repression and violence against the Albanians of Presheva, Medvegja, and Bujanoc, recognize their civil and human rights, and enable them to participate meaningfully in both municipal and central governments, the police, and the judiciary.

Serbia must come to understand, and the Kostunica government must accept, the new reality of Kosova and Montenegro. The new reality is that both Kosovars and Montenegrins refuse to come back under Serbian rule and have chosen to exercise their right to self-determination, just as the other constituent units in the former Yugoslavia did in the 1990s. Instead of continuing to assert its authority over Kosova and Montenegro, Serbia should work to develop constructive bilateral relationships with its neighbors.

Unless Serbia makes a real effort to meet these conditions, ultranationalist forces will prevail inside the country and regional stability will be threatened. And unless Serbia makes a radical change in the direction of compliance with the conditions for certification in the next two weeks, the Albanian American Civic League believes that the Bush administration should cut off aid to Belgrade.

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