Ending Repression in Kosovo

Article excerpt

After months of hesitation and indecision, there are clear signs that the Clinton administration is beginning to bring effective pressures to bear on the Serbian government of President Slobodan Milosevic to improve its treatment of the 2 million Albanian people of Kosovo. Having terminated the autonomy of Kosovo as a separate province of Serbia in 1989, the Serbian government has ruled with an iron hand since then and imposed Serbian minority rule on a suppressed Albanian majority.

Instead of rising in violent revolt, the Albanian majority has formed the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) and informally elected as their president Ibrahim Rugova, who recently visited the United States. Mr. Rugova has presided effectively over a disciplined passive resistance that he warns is the only alternative to more savage Serb repression. Schools and hospitals have been kept functioning on a volunteer basis but not without serious damage to both health and education.

As was perhaps eventually inevitable, Serbian oppression over time has tended to erode the influence of those Kosovars who have been willing to accept some form of autonomy within a Serbian federation. Early this month, Adem Demaci, Chief of the Kosovo Human Rights and Freedoms Committee, held a press conference in Pristina, the provincial capital. He declared, "The only solution is the independence of the Republic of Kosovo. Since no one is going to give freedom to the Albanian people as a gift, it must win it on its own." Referring to Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia, Mr. Demaci stated, "We have seen how other Slav states won their independence, even though they had thousands of reason to stay in former Yugoslavia."

In response, Mr. Rugova has warned that "there are people who are frustrated with the situation, but if they think twice they will realize the situation is imbued with danger because the Serbs would respond with impunity and without mercy." Further increasing the tensions, the government of Albania has issued a warning to Belgrade that moves to resettle Croatian Serb refugees in a region populated by ethnic Albanians could trigger open conflict and require Albania to respond. …