An Appeal

To our Governments and to the Secretary-General of the United Nations

The world must take action to bring the war in former Yugoslavia to an end. Two and a half million people have been driven from their homes in a program of “ethnic cleansing.” Thousands of civilians have been massacred. This winter, a far greater number may die of starvation and exposure.

We condemn the rulers of Serbia (and of other successor states of former Yugoslavia to the extent that they condone such policies) for the destruction of countless communities, for ordering mass executions, for running detention camps where people are tortured and wantonly killed, for resorting to rape and unspeakable violence in pursuit of territorial gains.

We must not acquiesce in this outbreak of barbarism. Well-articulated principles of human rights have been widely recognized by public opinion in the past two decades. They became an effective instrument of policy in international relations. In signing the Helsinki Accords, governments in Europe agreed to circumscribe their sovereign rights in the name of human rights. For the sake of the future—for the sake of our own safety as well as that of others—we cannot now stand idly by while armed gangs arrogate to themselves the freedom to violate these rights in the name of religious or ethnic exclusivism.

The war in former Yugoslavia must be brought to an end, but in the meantime safe havens must be created for refugees, delivery of humanitarian aid to communities in need must be secured, and borders must be effectively policed to deny paramilitary groups ever more weapons.

We support civic groups that oppose “ethnic cleansing” and work for peace in former Yugoslavia. We support mayors who want to keep different communities in their towns together. We support students who have been occupying Belgrade University in protest against the war and the policies of the Milosevic government. We support groups of women who have organized peace demonstrations against the forcible conscription of their husbands and sons. However, the international community has its own direct responsibility for bringing peace to the region.

We appeal to governments to greatly increase their human and financial commitments in carrying out this task. For the cost of inaction, in human lives as well as in human values, will be incomparably greater than the cost of assistance. If democracies acquiesce in violations of human rights on such a massive scale as this, they will undermine their ability to protect these rights anywhere in the post–cold war world. And then, when, as has happened many times before, an armed hoodlum kicks our own doors ajar, there will be no one to lift a finger in our defense or to raise a voice.

Please join the list of signatories and send or fax your name and profession or institutional affiliation to East and Central Europe Program, New School for Social Research, 65 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10003; fax (212) 229-5894.

Timothy Garton Ash, Writer, Great Britain
Ivo Banac, Professor of…

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