Kosovo – NATO's violation of its UN mandate

KFOR’s imposition of Pristina’s trade blockade and General Buhler’s role in ‘negotiating’ political agreements both exceed NATO’s UN mandate; a mandate that the Quint countries – led by the US and Germany – have chosen to disregard.

By Gerard Gallucci

It appears that KFOR may be trying to close-off the informal crossing points into northern Kosovo, as well as the two main ones already under blockade. If so, this would appear punitive as well as illegal, aimed at completely isolating the northern Serb population for purely political ends.

It may be useful to review the UN mandate for NATO’s presence in Kosovo. This comes entirely out of UN Security Resolution 1244 (99). The relevant parts of the Resolution are as follows:

  • Operative paragraph 5 – decides on the deployment in Kosovo, under United Nations auspices, of international civil and security presences;
  • Operative paragraph 7 – authorizes Member States and relevant international organizations to establish the international security presence in Kosovo as set out in point 4 of annex 2;
  • Operative paragraph 9 – decides that the responsibilities of the international security presence to be deployed and acting in Kosovo will include: Deterring renewed hostilities, maintaining and where necessary enforcing a ceasefire…Establishing a secure environment in which…the international civil presence can operate…Ensuring public safety and order until the international civil presence can take responsibility for this task…Supporting, as appropriate, and coordinating closely with the work of the international civil presence…Conducting border monitoring duties as required…Ensuring…freedom of movement;
  • Point 4 of Annex II – notes the international security presence will have a “substantial North Atlantic Treaty Organization participation.”
  • Operative paragraphs 10 & 11 – authorize “an international civil presence in Kosovo in order to provide an interim administration for Kosovo” with responsibility for (among others) promoting the establishment, pending a final settlement, of substantial autonomy and self-government in Kosovo, facilitating a political process designed to determine Kosovo’s future status, and maintaining civil law and order, including establishing local police forces and meanwhile through the deployment of international police personnel to serve in Kosovo.

UNSCR 1244 clearly divides the duties of the international presence in Kosovo in two – responsibility for political developments, negotiations, civil administration and rule of law to the UN mission, and for maintenance of a safe and secure environment to the force that became KFOR. According to UNSCR 1244, NATO has no political mandate; none whatsoever. This means that once order was secured at the northern Kosovo crossing points, responsibility there returned to the civil presence, in this case EULEX under the November 2008 agreement with the UN. Any law enforcement – whether of entry procedures, customs, whatever – would be performed by the local police and/or EULEX. There would be no KFOR – American – troops stopping vehicles and banning commercial shipping. Perhaps, stretching the KFOR mandate, it might have a role in searching vehicles for arms, but nothing more.

There can be no doubt that KFOR’s imposition of Pristina’s trade blockade is beyond NATO’s mandate, as is General Buhler’s “negotiating” political agreements. If any UN-mandated element played such a political role, it would be UNMIK or EULEX. Of course, UN resolutions do not self-enforce. Members either follow their UN commitments or not. In this case, the Quint countries – led by the US and Germany – have disregarded the UN mandate. If any effort were made at the Security Council to reprimand NATO or strip it of its Kosovo mandate, the US veto would prevent passage. The Quint can have its way. Russia is unlikely to strenuously resists as it will no doubt be glad to pocket the unfortunate precedent set by the Western powers for use elsewhere at its pleasure.

Gerard M. Gallucci is a retired US diplomat and UN peacekeeper. He worked as part of US efforts to resolve the conflicts in Angola, South Africa and Sudan and as Director for Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council. He served as UN Regional Representative in Mitrovica, Kosovo from July 2005 until October 2008 and as Chief of Staff for the UN mission in East Timor from November 2008 until June 2010. He is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Gerard is also a member of TransConflict’s advisory board. The views expressed in this piece are his own and do not represent the position of any organization.

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