Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Serbian Government Website denies Kosovo crimes

By Douglas Hamilton
BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbia launched a Web Site on the disputed province of Kosovo on Tuesday which appears to skip the bloodiest part of its recent history to focus on Serb suffering at the hands of Albanians in the past six years

"Images of Suffering" (www.srbija.sr.gov.yu/kosovo-metohija) glosses over what Serbs did to Albanians before 1999 and zooms in on what Albanians did to Serbs thereafter, especially in March 2004 when Albanians rioted, killed and burned homes.

It cites a Serbian Intelligence Service book on "Albanian terrorism and organized crime" in Kosovo, including the alleged "pan-Islamic factor" and a hint that Osama Bin Laden, not a desire for emancipation, incited Albanian separatism.

"This site is a total denial that the war took place," said Halil Matoshi, a prominent Kosovo Albanian writer jailed in Serbia during the separatist guerrilla war of 1998-99.

"According to this, only Serb rights have been threatened, and Albanians are just terrorists...there was no repression by the police and army, the state was just defending its territory by legal means," he told Reuters in Pristina.

The site intends to "remind the foreign public" of Serbian grievances in the year that the United Nations is expected to decide whether the Kosovo Albanian majority's demands for independence from Serbia should be met or rejected.

But its rendering of Kosovo history omits the parts most familiar to Europe and the United States, which launched a military "humanitarian intervention" against Serbia six years ago to stop mass murder and ethnic cleansing.


The site has only one mention of former Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, whose repression of Kosovo Albanians in the 1990s triggered an Albanian insurgency, provoked NATO into its first war and landed him in The Hague on charges of genocide.

It speaks of facing "crimes committed by the previous regime secretly, in our name" but says "we are interested even more" in the fate of Serbs and other non-Albanians.

Some 12,000 Albanians were killed in the war and 800,000 were deported or fled to Albania and Macedonia as Serbia poured up to 44,000 troops and police into the province of two million. NATO bombed Yugoslavia for 78 days in 1999 until Milosevic gave in and agreed to withdraw his forces. Up to 600 Serbs were killed by NATO bombs, according to Amnesty International, and 180,000 Serbs fled Kosovo fearing Albanian revenge attacks.

The site appeared as Serbia awaits a decision from Brussels in the coming days on its acceptability as a candidate for membership of the European Union, which insists that Belgrade comply with the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

The site says it aims to help "discovery of the truth about the time of war and crimes that are behind us."

Additional reporting by Matt Robinson

Reuters 2005

Note: Here is a "collection" of crimes the web site denies. This is from the University of West of England, Bristol. These images are graphic and may not be appropriate for minors.


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