To the Editors:
It appears that sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro are beginning to have an impact, although fighting continues in Bosnia-Herzegovina (and in Croatia). However, as with the Gulf war, we are still left with the bitter feeling that the whole tragedy could have been avoided had the West read the obvious signs at an-early stage. The failure to respond to Saddam Hussein’s genocidal attacks on the Kurdish population in the late 1980s led him to believe that he could act with impunity when he had larger prey in mind; and the failure to challenge Miloević’s imposition of an apartheid state in Kosova sent a similar message.
Our fear is now that sanctions will be lifted immediately the situation improves in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The world has watched as the withdrawal of the Yugoslav Army from Slovenia preceded its attack on Croatia; and the withdrawal from Croatia preceded the attack on Bosnia-Herzegovina. Thus it should not be beyond our imagination to realize that the current withdrawal from this republic may well be the prelude to a situation as horrifying as that which occurred in Kurdistan last year and as that which continues in Bosnia-Herzegovina at the present moment. It may also be the beginning of a conflagration that could involve Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Greece, if the West does not use the opportunity that it has to act preemptively to prevent further bloodshed.
We suggest that the following steps be performed urgently:
- That national governments and international institutions (UN, CSCE) recognize the legitimate representatives of Kosova elected on May 24, 1992, as partners in negotiations.
- That the Serbian government be requested to enter a process of negotiations with these representatives in order to achieve a mutually agreeable solution concerning the formal status of Kosova, through a peace process under the auspices of the UN.
- That international recognition of Serbia be conditional on, firstly, this peace process having reached a satisfactory stage for all parties; secondly, on the guarantees of equal rights for all non-Serbs living in Serbia; and thirdly, on the dismantling of the Yugoslav army whose resources and apparatus should ideally be destroyed but, if not, divided among all legal heirs of Yugoslavia.
That sanctions be extended to deal with the abuse of human rights in Serbia.
The UN can no longer duck this issue by calling it intervention in the internal affairs of another state. Surely we have learned after two years of hot war that an abuse of human rights or threat to democracy in any part of the world, if left unchallenged, can grow to threaten us all. The Kosovars are people without representation in a state without recognition. They need UN protection.
Professor Ivo Banac
Dr. Tomaz Mastnak
Professor Silva Meznarić
Professor Vesna Pusić
Professor Iván Selényi
July 16, 1992