A good friend asked me the other day if I should respond to the negative article that a Norwegian called Kristian Kahrs has published about my documentation concerning war crimes committed in Kosovo against civilian Albanians by the Milosevic regime in the period 1998-1999,-see: http://sorryserbia.com/2015/josef-martinsen-debunked .
I replied to my friend that statements and assertions by Kristian Kahrs have no libellous force. I was warned by friends both in Norway and in Serbia against him before I traveled to Belgrade in autumn of 2013. I was told that Kristian Kahrs has over time developed strong Serbian nationalist traits. People in his circle told me that he had close contacts with members of the nationalist and extremist organisation called “Obraz” which was banned in Serbia in 2012. My contact with Kristian Kahrs since the autumn of 2013 has convinced me that the characteristics of him, as reported to me before I left for Serbia have proved to be correct. In addition, I will mention that he is a heckler of a kind at meetings and seems to have a low degree of self-insight. My hope is that this article shall act as an adult education for Mr. Kahrs.
With the aforementioned background, I decided to give my answer below to Kristian Kahrs regarding his article about my documentation concerning war crimes committed in Kosovo from 1998 to 1999 by Serbian authorities under former President Slobodan Milosevic. These are confirmed in verdicts against Milosevic’s regime in ICTY in The Hague in 2009. This article may be useful for new readers and younger people who do not remember the abuses and atrocities committed during the years 1998-1999.
I am very pleased that through my contribution, crimes against the civilian Albanians, Serbs and Roma population have been put on the agenda in the exposure of war crimes committed in Kosovo from 1998 to 1999 – see www.kosovotrilogy.com . I have made no distinctions in my documentation between the different ethnic groups. To me, they are all my fellowmen. The abuses were committed in Kosovo and were mainly committed by Serbs during the Milosevic’s regime, and the current Serbian authorities have not yet acknowledged these abuses. It is important for the new generation to get the true version concerning the war crimes committed in Kosovo by the Milosevic’s regime. The Serbian soldiers, military officers, police officers and paramilitary forces who gave the orders or pulled the trigger in crimes against children, women and men, young and old, have not yet been held accountable for their atrocities. Still hundreds of civilian Albanians and a smaller number of civilian Serbs and Roma are missing.There is a high probability that these people are in mass graves in Kosovo or in Serbia. I pray that the Serbs and the Albanians who have participated in the atrocities will stand up and tell what they know about abuses and where the missing are buried. Perpetrators who have information about the aforementioned can contact me at this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. All information will be treated confidentially.
My engagement regarding the conflicts in Kosovo during the years 1998-1999 started with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) through Norwegian Church Aid in Norway (NCA) commissioning me to coordinate the efforts to remove dead people from water wells throughout Kosovo from July 1999 to March 2000. In 2005 I published in Norway the book “Dødsbrønnene i Kosovo” (Kosovo: The Wells of Death). I decided in the autumn of 2006, on personal initiative, to provide documentation of the findings of the four hundred mass graves that were reported to the UN Security Council of Chief Prosecutor in ICTY, Carla Del Ponte in November 1999. More than ten thousand civilian children, women and men found in mass graves deserves attention. Neither UNMIK nor other local authorities in Kosovo had made efforts to ensure documentation of these crimes.
When the armed conflict between Serbs and Kosovo Albanians came to an end (spring of 1999) mainly thanks to NATO’s intervention led by the US and Britain, many mass graves in Kosovo were reopened by Serbian authorities in an attempt to remove evidence concerning war crimes they had committed. Corpses from many mass graves were exhumed and transported by trucks into Serbia where they were reburied in new mass graves in at least five new different locations—the most renowned of these places are Batajnica, a few kilometres from the centre of Belgrade and Raška in Southern Serbia close to Kosovo.
Method and scope for collecting information about dead and missing.
There are normally three recognized methods to implement the collection of information on the matter:
1. Documentation and lists of names by UNMIK, UNHCR, ICTY and internationally recognised NGOs like the Red Cross on site working for the UN.
2. Physical information collected on site during interviews (requires a large organisation behind the people and resources).
3. Combination of methods 1 and 2 (requires a large organisation behind the people and resources)
My choice of method for collecting was Method 1. I became aware in 2006 that the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) created in June 1999, had not taken any steps to ensure information regarding the abovementioned four hundred mass graves. To ensure that as much as possible of information concerning dead and missing civilians was reported by Red Cross and other NGOs, I received copies of these lists to use in my documentation. Since I operated alone and without any financial support, it was important to use the documentation that already existed and that described firsthand the situation at the time regarding the registration of dead and missing civilians. In my book “What Happened in Kosovo 1998-1999” I have stated where I had obtained documentation concerning dead and missing.
Scope and form of the collection is normally determined before work starts up and can be done in at least two ways:
1. Collection of data on dead and missing people that is valid for a limited goal—in my case four hundred mass graves where only civilians were buried.
2. Collection of data on dead and missing that applied to all involved on site; military, police, paramilitary and civilian.
I chose no.1, since I had a limited objective, namely four hundred mass graves that the ICTY in November 1999 reported to the UN Security Council. UNMIK failed to address the circumstances surrounding the mass graves and failed to provide funds for institutions within the administration established in Kosovo after the conflict that easily could have taken action to retrieve the relevant information.
Others who have collected data on dead and missing had chosen solution No. 2–see list below.
The following have released documentation on dead and missing in Kosovo:
1. Jusuf Osmani, Kosovo “Serbian crimes in Kosovo”
2. Josef Martinsen, Norway “The Kosovo Trilogy” containing two books, “What Happened in Kosovo from 1998 to 1999”, “Kosovo: The Wells of Death” and a documentary “The Process After a War”.
3. Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms, Kosovo
4. LDK, Kosovo “The Consequences of the War in Kosovo 1998-1999.”
5. Humanitarian Law Centre, Belgrade / Pristina “Kosovo Memory Book”.
When the Serbian authorities withdrew from Kosovo in June 1999, they had previously seized all documentation and archives that existed on federal and municipal levels. When UNMIK took over control of Kosovo they had no records of the population or archives that could facilitate the work of setting up lists of dead and missing. Authorities and others who worked with dead and missing people were very dependent on the lists that were created by international organisations such as the Red Cross, the ICTY and other NGOs. Because three different languages were used, (English, Albanian and Serbian), the lists were to some extent deficient. Many who came and reported could not document who they were and whom they represented. Serb military, police and paramilitary forces who participated in the forced expulsion of more than half of the civilian Albanian population, took by force all forms of personal and other documentation from the population that could prove they belonged in Kosovo. In addition, most people were robbed of their valuables before they were thrown out of Kosovo.
This situation created major difficulties when people came back and they could not identify themselves properly for the new international administration who recorded information about the population, related to both those who came back from abroad and the dead and missing after the conflict.
Discrepancies in the abovementioned documentation about dead and missing civilians will eventually only be decided when historians go through all the documentation held by the various organisations and individuals who have contributed to the collection of data.
A very important point in my work was to screen out people killed and missing belonging to military, police, paramilitary and civilian armed Serb militias from my registration. Members of the aforementioned entities were registered by their employers and thus in my estimation were taken very good care of by the relevant authorities they worked for during the conflict in case they were killed or reported missing. The civilian children, women and men who are listed in my documentation are those who were exposed to war crimes and placed in approximately four hundred mass graves in Kosovo and Serbia. See also court documents and judgments towards Milosevic regime by ICTY in Hague in 2009.
I have, in the book “What Happened in Kosovo from 1998-99”, taken into account that there may be mistakes in my documentation and regret it. However, it is important that as many as possible help to shed light on the atrocities that were committed in Kosovo against the civilian population.
It is then up to historians in due time to shed the final judgment on the documentation that exists and the motives behind the various presentations.