Confessions and Lamentations

Last month marked the 10th anniversary of NATO’s attack on Serbia, which resulted in the occupation of the province of Kosovo. In February 2008, the provisional Albanian government set up by the occupiers declared Kosovo an independent state. So far, the "Republic of Kosovo" has been recognized by 58 governments, the latest being Saudi Arabia. Serbia, ruled by a government more at home in Brussels than in Belgrade, has done remarkably little to contest the province’s illegal separation.

The extent of Belgrade’s actions has been to request a ruling from the International Court of Justice whether the Albanians’ declaration of independence was legal. Proceedings in the case began last week, but the "Kosovars" are confident that things will turn out in their favor. Their delegation is led by a British lawyer and armed with amicus briefs from the U.S. and, reportedly, a score of other countries. It has also been reported by Albanian media that most of the judges in the case come from countries that have recognized Kosovo. It appears that even this feeble Serbian initiative may actually backfire and provide the Albanian separatists a veneer of legitimacy that neither NATO’s bombs nor the UN "elections" could not.

BBC’s Breaking Story

One would think this would be the worst possible time for revelations of KLA atrocities to see the light of day. And yet, it was on April 9 that the BBC radio aired a report by investigative journalist Michael Montgomery in which eight former KLA members testified about the prison camps in Albania where captive Serbs (and some Albanians) were held, tortured, and carved up for body parts. The very same evening, BBC’s Newsnight ran a 12-minute TV segment by correspondent Nick Thorpe, referencing Montgomery’s research.

Even more interestingly, Montgomery’s findings were also publicized by Balkan Insight, a project of the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), which has been a major propaganda ingredient in the Balkans soup since 1999.

As Montgomery explained, the KLA who testified were haunted by the atrocities they witnessed at the camps. They still believe in the KLA’s cause, but they have become embittered at the KLA commanders who ordered and condoned the atrocities and today hold positions of power and behave equally brutally toward fellow Albanians. Today, when Kosovo’s "independence" seems to be a done deal, they believe bringing this evidence forth would not endanger the cause, but rather help "build a real state."

The Horror and the Spin

During NATO’s 1999 onslaught, the British toed the official line more eagerly than even the American media. Mark Laity, BBC’s correspondent at the NATO headquarters, actually resigned after the war to take a job under the infamous Jamie Shea. Those who think Montgomery’s revelations indicate that the BBC has somehow turned around are likely to be disappointed, though.

Thorpe’s Newsnight clip repeated all the salient points of mainstream propaganda: Serbs oppressed Albanian "freedom fighters," killing civilians; NATO "intervened" to save the 800,000 refugees; Albanians took "revenge." By the time Thorpe had finished setting up the context, the KLA atrocities appeared as nothing more than unfortunate excesses. The online presentation for the segment went even further:

"A further 1,500 Kosovo Albanians are still missing from wartime, when Serb security forces carried out many, well-documented atrocities against the majority Albanian population. … KLA fighters, too, were guilty of serious human rights abuses." (Emphasis added.)

In other words, the new revelations should not be seen in any way as a challenge to the accepted narrative (of the evil Serbs and their Albanian victims), but merely an all-too-human wrinkle in the Albanian character. Never mind that the KLA were actually terrorists who had murdered hundreds of Albanians in addition to Serbs and others, or that holding people captive for their body parts is anything but human.

It Came From the ICTY

For years, nothing was known about the Serbs who disappeared in Kosovo during and after the NATO/KLA war. It was Carla Del Ponte, former chief prosecutor at the ICTY, who first broke the story of the organ harvesting operation, in her memoir The Hunt. Del Ponte, by then a Swiss diplomat, was censured by her government, and the ICTY has maintained a wall of silence about the subject. Montgomery’s report and Thorpe’s segment reveal why: the ICTY destroyed the evidence collected by investigators at the locations in northern Albania and Kosovo.

Perhaps Del Ponte got carried away and came to believe the Tribunal really existed to go after all alleged war criminals, as opposed to being a kangaroo court whose purpose was to blame Serbia and the Serbs for everything that happened in the Balkans since 1991. She certainly wasn’t too pleased when the UN sabotaged the trials of KLA members accused of atrocities against the Serbs, ensuring that people like Ramush Haradinaj were acquitted after witnesses against them suffered fatal "accidents."


Could it be that the revelations of KLA atrocities are intended to give the Empire some kind of leverage over the "government of Kosovo," leverage which disappeared last year following the "declaration of independence"? A similar approach was adopted toward Croatia, formerly Washington’s "junkyard dog" in the Bosnian War. Though Washington had armed and instructed Croatian troops in spite of the UN embargo, culminating in a 1995 operation that ethnically cleansed the country’s Serbs, the ICTY has since prosecuted several Croatian generals for "human rights violations."

That explanation is more likely than a leap of faith that the Empire has somehow changed its mind and is abandoning its Albanian "allies" to the tender mercies of reality.

Following the BBC’s revelations, James Dancer, the former second secretary at the UK embassy in Belgrade, made an entirely reasonable argument in a letter to the Financial Times: "Kosovo should consider independence to be provisional: diplomatic recognition can be withdrawn as quickly as it can be given." The chances of this actually happening, however, are on par with the odds that the U.S. would withdraw from Iraq and issue a public apology for misleading the world about the WMDs. Or, for that matter, withdraw from the Balkans and admit that the Official Truth about what happened there since 1991 has been manufactured with malice aforethought.

Author: Nebojsa Malic

Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia, and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for debuted in November 2000.