Kosovo – KFOR-EULEX violence and a cover-up?

It seems clear that KFOR and EULEX were responsible for the initiation and escalation of violence in Jarinje in north Kosovo on September 27th, and an independent inquiry is urgently required to establish the facts.

By Gerard Gallucci

It is always difficult after the fact to know for sure what happened in a violent confrontation as happened in northern Kosovo on September 27. But despite EU and KFOR protestations of innocence and casting of blame on Serb “extremists,” it seems clear that they were responsible for the initiation and escalation of violence, as well as the use of live fire. There appears to be no evidence that they were fired upon – no gun injured soldiers offered up – and the essential fact remains that they used force to impose Pristina’s political blockade on the northern Serbs. Additionally, there may be a cover-up operation being conducted to hide the truth. An independent inquiry is required to established the facts and, until then, none of the Quint capitals should feel free to use the day’s events to justify further repression by KFOR and EULEX.

The EULEX report on the operation it called “Reinstating Gate 1” can be found below. It clearly shows that events started moving toward confrontation only when KFOR sought to close an alternate road used by Serbs to circumvent the barricaded official crossing. Angry Serbs threw rocks – David vs Goliath? – and KFOR responds with tear gas. A neutral international observer says that Serbs began gathering mid-morning at the secondary road near Gate 1 to protest the arrest of the person reported to have “attacked” an armed US soldier. When KFOR started using tear gas a while later, Serbs began throwing stones while retreating. Then KFOR started firing rubber bullets injuring at least one person. Things remained otherwise calm until afternoon when a large number of Serbs gathered again in front of the bypass as a local truck driver tried using his truck to push aside the barbwire placed by KFOR to block the road. German KFOR again used teargas and US combat soldiers emerged and pointed weapons at the civilians already trying to move away from the gas. At that point, there was gunfire – live ammo and rubber bullets – and the truck driver was shot. The Serbs then ran from the scene.

It was observed later in the day that KFOR prevented a UN military observer from visiting the scene and bulldozers appeared to be clearing the ground, removing evidence of the days events. Local Kosovo police who went to investigate the earlier events reportedly were ordered to leave and shot at by an American soldier as they were collecting spent ammunition that appeared of a type used by NATO.

The combined NATO/EU action to enforce Pristina’s political agenda was another blatant violation of their UN peacekeeping mandate. The EU/KFOR efforts to shift blame onto the Serbs suggests shameless cynicism and arrogance of a high order. Some Serbs may have reacted to the strong-arm tactics used against them by throwing stones and firecrackers used at sports events (as one admitted to me). Some may have even possessed weapons and fired them into the air. This can be investigated too. But the violence was provoked and escalated by those sent to Kosovo to keep the peace. The Quint countries – the US and Germany especially – have used their control of KFOR and EULEX to push the northern Serbs into a tight corner and are now trying to tighten the wire around them. As the local Serbs see it, they have no choice but to resist or flee. They will not flee their homes, though they could be driven off if that is what NATO seeks to do.  So far, EULEX says it remains determined to take down the remaining barricades and supports the actions by KFOR.  The situation created by NATO and the EU is very dangerous and, unless they stop their provocations and return to status neutral peacekeeping, it will only get more so.

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. 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.

To read other articles by Gerard for TransConflict, please click here.

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15 Responses

  1. nikshala

    Mr. Galluci,

    “Angry Serbs threw rocks – David vs Goliath? – and KFOR responds with tear gas”

    “Things remained otherwise calm until afternoon when a large number of Serbs gathered again in front of the bypass as a local truck driver tried using his truck to push aside the barbwire placed by KFOR to block the road.”

    Even by your own statements, its clear that the provocation came from the serbs and KFOR responded. A number of KFOR soliders were injured therefore obviously serbs were using more violence and heavier arsenal than your article suggests. KFOR is legally responsible and entitled to keep law and order in Kosovo even by UN resolution 1244 which Serbia accepts – regardless of the issue of independence. Local serbs blocking official roads/crossing and opening alternative routes is illegal and KFOR / Eulex were only doing what they are expected to do – keep law, order and peace.

    Your support for serbs in ‘north’ of Kosovo is and has always been blatant and your reasoning for their actions is irrational and unconvicing. The alternative to independent and sovreign Kosovo including all its territory is partition along ethnic lines of Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia and possibly Montenegro – is that what you hope for?

  2. Mike

    It’s obvious that the previous comment was based on yet another hardcore bias from the Albanian contingent. The Serbs in Kosovo are quite simply expressing their independence as well! They on the other hand, do not and did not initiate a tense environment unlike KFOR, EULEX, NATO and their puppets in Pristina.
    After living in Kosovo Serbia for forty years and travelling into and out of the boundary lines without any so-called check point, how can anyone expect these people to simply rollover and accept rule from criminals and occupiers? Yes, you are occupiers. The fact that Kosovo has hundreds of ancient Serbian chruches and monasteries speaks volumes to anyone with half a brain. However the outright land grab from Serbia has more political value since Western powers are planting the seeds of more army bases. Also, resolution 1244… Kosovo is Serbia’s.

  3. Mr. Nikshala,

    please read this part of the text again:

    “A neutral international observer says that Serbs began gathering mid-morning at the secondary road near Gate 1 to protest the arrest of the person reported to have “attacked” an armed US soldier. When KFOR started using tear gas a while later, Serbs began throwing stones while retreating. Then KFOR started firing rubber bullets injuring at least one person.”

    There is no law, order and peace when you shooting at the unarmed civilians. If they were there to keep law, order and peace why they did not stop violence on 17. march 2004? One more thing that didn’t mantion in this post, few bullets hit the ambulance car.

  4. Nikshala: I believe your understanding of the facts is in error and that NATO used disproportionate force. I’d say that in the least, they need further training in crowd control. But obviously, you are convinced of your view. This is why there needs to be an independent investigation. Meanwhile, everyone should take a deep breath and avoid further provocative actions.

    By the way, I have never supported either side in this ethnic conflict. When I arrived in Mitrovica, the Albanians hailed me as a hero because I was American. The Serbs distrusted me for the same reason. I always sought to be balanced and fair and those Kosovars I worked with know this to be true. But being fair and balanced usually means you cannot satisfy everybody and sometimes no one. If I appear biased these past months, it is because the Quint has been trying to settle the question of the north through force. I know that will not work so therefore I have tried to support status-neutral peacekeeping. In this regard, I should also say that the threat of “ethnic partition” elsewhere in the region if Kosovo Albanians don’t get 100% of what they want borders on threatening violence. This won’t help Kosovo either.

  5. Mike

    Bravo Mr. Gallucci, it takes a brave soul to tell the truth,and yes telling the truth will score you no points from either side.That is because there is two sides to every story.With victims and perpetrators abound on both sides of the fence.The West happens to see things from the Albanian point of view. Therefore they get the monopoly on sympathy and victim status in our media regardless of what they do. Nikshala can save the whole “seperate along ethnic lines” ramble for someone else! Kosovo was seperated from Serbia exactly along ethnic lines.What do you call 90% of the population being Albanian? Multiethnic? I don’t think so. Regards.

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  8. Navi

    Mr. Gallucci, I can only do as much, and give you my support in what you are trying to do, I can say that I’v read several of your texts and, well lets just say that if any one thinks that you are bias let them, I can only see someone who is not built under the same pattern as most of International representatives and by pattern I mean the idea, what ever you do don’t rock the boat.

    Please continue, as I see your work as a light at the end of a long dark tunnel.

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  10. Rada

    Mr. Gallucci,

    I salute you for expressed objective views. Your courage to reveal the reality and point to logical, obvious conclusions in spite of the fact that many people do not want to hear the truth,is incouriging and gives hope to this troubled World.
    You are a true Peace Keeper and World would be a better place with more people like yourself.

    Best

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