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Kosovo | Serb Attack on Civilians Becomes Human Rights Calamity
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Serb Attack on Civilians Becomes Human Rights Calamity
In Feb. 1998, the Yugoslav army and Serbian police began fighting against the Kosovo Liberation Army, but their scorched-earth tactics were concentrated on ethnic Albanian civilians. More than 900 Kosovars were killed in the fighting, and the hundreds of thousands forced to flee their homes were without adequate food and shelter.
NATO was reluctant to intervene because Kosovo—unlike Bosnia in 1992—was legally a province of Yugoslavia. The proof of civilian massacres finally gave NATO the impetus to intervene for the first time ever in the dealings of a sovereign nation with its own people. NATO's reason for involvement in Kosovo changed from avoiding a wider Balkan war to preventing a human rights catastrophy. On March 24, 1999, NATO began launching air strikes. Weeks of daily bombings destroyed significant Serbian military targets, yet Serb president Milosevic showed no signs of relenting. In fact, Serbian militia stepped up civilian massacres and deportations in Kosovo, and by the end of the conflict, the UN high commissioner for refugees estimated that at least 850,000 people had fled Kosovo. Serbia finally agreed to sign the UN-approved peace agreement with NATO on June 3, ending the 11-week war. NATO peacekeeping forces were deployed to Kosovo, and the UN assumed administration of the province.
On March 17, 2004, Mitrovica, a city in northern Kosovo, experienced the worst ethnic violence in the region since the 1999 war. At least 19 people were killed, another 500 were injured, and about 4,000 Serbs lost their homes. NATO sent in an extra 1,000 troops to restore order.