Monday, January 17, 2005

Human rights group accuses secret service of harassment

A prominent human rights group that accuses Serbian security forces of hiding evidence of war crimes committed during the Kosovo war said Monday its associates are being harassed.

The Humanitarian Law Fund said secret service and police officials in southern Serbia are trying to intimidate anyone with ties to the group to prevent them from speaking out about atrocities committed by Serb forces in the 1999 war.

The Belgrade-based group recently accused Serbian security forces of burning the bodies of ethnic Albanian victims during the conflict to cover up evidence of mass killings.

"The local state security service and police have been interrogating people, threatening them and organizing terrorist acts in order to discover our sources and prevent the people from speaking out," the group said in a statement.

In one example cited by the group, Anita Nikolic, a customs officer who is represented by the fund in a sexual harassment case, received death threats and her car was set on fire.

A senior police official said investigators would look into the allegations of threats against the group's associates in southern Serbia.

The Humanitarian Law Fund claimed last month that Serbian security forces during the war burned bodies of slain ethnic Albanian civilians in Serbian factories and mines.

The authorities have promised to investigate the case but so far have not confirmed the fund's claims.

The war in Kosovo pitted Serbian security troops against ethnic Albanian separatists during the rule of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

The brutality of the Serb crackdown led to 78 days of NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 which forced Milosevic to pull out his troops from the province and hand over control to the United Nations and NATO.

Following Milosevic's ouster in 2000, the new, pro-Western authorities revealed the existence of at least three mass graves in central Serbia containing bodies of slain Kosovo ethnic Albanians.

Milosevic is currently standing trial at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, for the atrocities committed by the Serbs in Kosovo, Croatia and Bosnia.

No comments: