Kosovo, “1998 – 1999”

The Kosovo War brought to an end a long and tragic period during which boundaries and cultural identities were redefined in the Balkans, a process that began in the wake of the dissolution of former Yugoslavia.

The Kosovo, where 90% of the inhabitants were of Albanian origin and the remaining 10% ethnic Serbs, was given a broad margin of self-government in 1946, as part of Tito’s Yugoslavia, but in 1989 the yearnings of those who want an independent Kosovo are repressed by the nationalist regime of Slobodan Miloševic, which controls the region.

The dream of an independent republic fades away, and the tensions between the two ethnic groups explode. After an initial attempt at passive resistance on the part of the Albanians, under the leader of the LDK party, Ibrahim Rugova, the situation begins to unravel. Between 1996 and 1998, Albanian separatists of the UÇK, the Kosovo Liberation Army, clash with Serbian military outposts, setting of a harsh wave of repression on the part of the police, and later the Serbian paramilitary forces as well.

The persecution is dramatic: Albanians are forced to leave schools, universities and all jobs in the public sector. All elected institutions are eliminated. Violence is used in ruthless fashion. Many seek refuge in the neighbouring counties of Albania and Macedonia.

In early 1999, the United States, in an attempt to put an end to the savage operations of ethnic cleansing, urges Belgrade to sign a document guaranteeing the independence of the Kosovo and accepting the presence of 30,000 men of the NATO with complete freedom to move throughout Yugoslavian territory. Serbia refuses, and just a few hours later it is attacked in military operations by the Kosovo Force (NATO).

After three months of bombing that strikes infrastructures and causes numerous deaths among civilians, the Kosovo becomes a protectorate of the UN, though, under the law, it remains a part of Serbia.

It is calculated that more than 10 thousand people died, there were over 700 thousand displaced persons and approximately 20 thousand Albanian women were barbarously raped by Serbian soldiers, while at least 250 Albanian villages were destroyed, bombed or burned. On 25 May 1993 the UN established an international tribunal at the Hague to prosecute war crimes committed in former Yugoslavia starting from 1991.