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Wednesday, September 30, 1998 Published at 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK

Kosovo: Stopping the atrocities

The grave of a recent massacre victim, marked only by shoes

By Balkans Analyst Gabriel Partos

A renewed threat of action by Nato designed to stop Serbian security forces in Kosovo from shelling ethnic Albanian villages has so far had a mixed response.

Although the Serbian Prime Minister, Mirko Marjanovic, has announced that the fighting has stopped, a visiting British politician, Paddy Ashdown, came across Serbian security forces shortly afterwards shelling villages in the southern part of Kosovo.

In subsequent days, evidence has emerged of massacres of ethnic Albanian civilians in the province.

The Serbian forces have pursued their tactics in the knowledge that the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has been investigating reported atrocities in Kosovo on both sides.

Little to fear

Yet the Tribunal's activities appear to have had no deterrent effect. And the main reason for this is that those who might face indictment for war crimes in Kosovo have, at present, little reason to fear that they would ever be taken to The Hague Tribunal.

Yugoslavia is the only signatory state of the Dayton peace accords which is refusing to abide by its undertakings to extradite suspected war criminals over their activities in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia.

Indeed, three senior officers of the Yugoslav army, indicted for killing over 200 Croats after the capture of Vukovar in 1991, remain at liberty in Yugoslavia. This prompted the Tribunal in early September to ask the UN Security Council to take measures to persuade Belgrade to surrender the suspects.

Little the Hague Tribunal can do

But with various international sanctions already imposed on Yugoslavia due to the fighting in Kosovo, even if the United Nations took action, it is unlikely it would sway the Yugoslav authorities.

In the meantime, there is little the Hague Tribunal can do to act as a deterrent to possible war crimes in Kosovo.

What is more likely to work is the threat of possible Nato action - but only if that threat is credible.

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