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Essay: Kosovo Genocide: A Case of Humanitarian Intervention

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  • Subject area(s): Human rights essays
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  • Published: December 4, 2019*
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  • Kosovo Genocide: A Case of Humanitarian Intervention
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All human beings are born free and have equal rights. No one is allowed to violate take away these rights from any of the individual. The first and the foremost right of every person is “Right to Live”. No one shall be deprived of this right until he or she has not taking away this right from anyone else.

But when we look at the History of this world we see that this right has been violated several times on major level. Whether it is war or genocide, mass killing has been the motive of enemies.

Genocide is a Type of warfare. Genocide is actually a deliberate attempt often on the part of a state or groups of people acting on behalf of a state to completely wipe out a group of people from the face of the earth.It is a kind of ethnic cleansing. Kofi Annan describes it as

“Genocide begins with the killing of one man, not for what he has done but because of who he is.”

The crime of Genocide has occurred in many areas over the past few decades most recently in Somalia, Rwanda, East Timor, Kosovo, and Myanmar. All of these countries suffered because of the instability caused by 2nd world war. The countries which were previously part of colonial system were set free after Second World Warbut the inner conflicts of these states grew bigger and bigger with time, fight for power eventually resulted in mass killing of a particular ethnic group.

Here we will discuss the case of “Kosovo Genocide” and what role humanitarian intervention played in solving the issue.

Historical Background of Kosovo:

Kosovo was occupied by Ottoman Empire on June 28, 1389. After the Muslims took over the control of area christens living in that area, known as “Serbs” were dominated by “Albanian Muslims”. The area was named ‘Kosovo’ after the battlefield known as “Field of Blackbirds”.

The Serbs started independence movement .They revolted against Ottoman Empire in 1878 and the rule of Turks finally ended on 1912 in first Balkan War.The state of Albania was formed in the same year. But some of the ethnic Albanians were still living in nearby areas, such as Kosovo, Serbia and in western areas of republic of Yugoslavia.

After World War I Yugoslavia received the status of an independent state. The kingdom of Croats, Serbia, and some portion of Ottoman Empire also became part of Yugoslavia. Kosovo was also absorbed in Yugoslavia Republic. Marshal Josip Broz Tito became the Communist Leader of Yugoslavia. During the 35 years of his rule he gave rights to both of the ethnic groups living in Yugoslavia, and thus joined the diverse ethnic groups into a national brotherhood. Constitution 0f 1946 granted the status of autonomous region to Kosovo within the state of Serbia.

Tito gave opportunities to the leader of both communities in constitutional authority and political system in order to make sure that no one gets domination over the other. Due to his efforts coexistence of both Serbs and Albanians was made possible. But still Serbians were not happy with the benefits given to Albanians and Albanians were frustrated because they couldn’t get recognition as an independent republic. This created a potential for conflict upon dissolution of Yugoslav state.

In the constitution of 1974 Kosovo was given the status of autonomous province. They were allowed to adopt their own new constitution. Although by these Tito intended to provide more and more benefits to Albanians but he didn’t granted an official “Republic” because in that case Kosovo might have been separated from Serbia.

Slobodan Milosevic:

Josip Broz Tito died in 1980. Following his death the Serb government started oppressing Albanians because Serbs felt themselves in an uneasy position within Kosovo. The republic of Yugoslavia was already going through economic crisis after Tito’s death. Unemployment increase and GDP had been dropped.

In Kosovo some incidents of discrimination against Serbs by Albanians were also reported. In 1987 a member of communist party became the leader of Serbian socialist party. He tried to portray Albanians as terrorists who are endangering the lives of Serbs. In his speech on the anniversary of 1389 defeat addressing Serbs he said:

“Nobody, either now or in the future, has the right to beat you.”

He became the president of Serbiaand considered Albanians demand of an independent state as illegitimate and illegal. He wanted a full control of Serbian government over Kosovo.

In 1989 Milosevic declared a state of emergency in Yugoslavia and deployed Serbian security forces in Kosovo. The forces started crackdown against marches and strikes killing 60 people during 1990. Federal government was politically marginalizing the Kosovo Albanians.

Milosevic resisted the movement of multiparty elections. He wanted to extend his period of presidency. He was again elected as president of Serbia in 1992. Due to the bad policies of Milosevic Serbs faced a strong backlash in other countries. And his policies of resistance against political and economic reforms resulted in break-up of Yugoslav republic. He was held responsible for the Fights and genocides in Bosnia and Kosovo.

KLA and LDK:

In the reaction of suppression of Muslimsby Serbians, Albanians declared Kosovo as an independent republic within the territory of Yugoslavia in July 1990. Ibrahim Rugova was elected as the President of self-declared state of Yugoslavia by the Political organization of Albanians named as “The Democratic League of Kosovo”. The parliament was also elected by LDK in 1992.

Due to Military dominance in Kosovo Ibrahim Rugova felt a threat that may be Albanians start violence in the area so he convinced his people for peaceful opposition against Serbs. LDK reclaimed for independence and a status of Republic. Albanians formed their owngovernment system in Kosovo. They built their own economic infrastructure. In 1992, Serbian government invited Albanian leaders to Belgrade in order to have a debate on Kosovo’s conflict. Rugova insisted that talks must be in presence of international administrators or UN correspondence. But Serbians had a stance that issue is internal one so they didn’t support the involvement of international actors. European community once in August set up International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia (ICFY) to focus on Kosovo issue. But the war of Bosnia during 1992 to 1995 diverted the attention from the issue.

In December 1992 George Bush U.S president gave warning to Milosevic against the increased internal military pressure in Kosovo. The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) was the first international organization to report the situation of human rights in Kosovo. But still the Serbs Army continued to Oppress Albanians.

By 1996 Albanians considered that Rugova’s policy of non-violent opposition, in order to get international support, is no more applicable. They put Pressure on LDK leadership.

Albanians perceived that Rugova has failed to achieve any goalfor the Albanians, so they began to call for a more aggressive approach. The acts of violence against Serbs became increasingly frequent and systematic. The 1stdeliberate attack by Kosovo Albanians took place in April 1996 when four interlinked attacks were carried out in separate sites, Stimlje, Pec, and Kosovska Mitrovica. Two police officers who belonged to Serbs community were killed in these attacks.

At this stage an armed group emerged out named as “Kosovo Liberation Army”. They started attacking not only Serbian police Officers but also the Albanians who were loyal to Serbians administration. KLA was developing in well organized and systematic manner and they took control of a few of rural areas of Kosovo in 1997.

Start of War:

The Serbian government considered KLA as a Terrorist Organization. In February 1998 Serbs started operation against KLA. They sent their troops in occupied areas killing Albanians and destroying property. In the name of Counter-Terror they killed a good number of people in Kosovo. Serbs army was fighting in a more violent way that was condemned by international community.

In this conflict over 1500 Kosovar Albanians died and 40000 were forced out of their homes.

Humanitarian Intervention in Kosovo:

Humanitarian intervention refers to the act of crossing the border and using military force in a country in order to save lives of people there. The main objective of humanitarian intervention is to protect the rights of people in a country. There are 4 basic conditions for humanitarian intervention.

• Basic Human Good

• Large scale Suffering (it must rescue more lives than it endangers.)

• Deliberate Abuse (There must be evidences that who is responsible)

• Imminent or Ongoing Human suffering (Humanitarian intervention must occur while tensions  are still present)

In Kosovo Human rights of Albanian Muslims were being violated and so in order to save Albanians from ethnic cleansing NATO(North Atlantic Treaty Organization) intervened in Kosovo on 24 March 1999. NATO started 78 days Air campaign against the Former Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY).

The launch of Operation Allied Force by NATO was without the authorization of UN Security Council.

The FRY forces acts exhibited a well-planned fight which killed and forced Kosovar-Albanian out of Kosovo. In reaction NATO intervened to stop the ferocity, it is often argued that NATO’s bombing increased Serbian violence against the Kosovo Albanians. The period of NATO’s bombing practiced a hostile response against the civilians forcing more than 850, 000 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo. It is also argued that despite arguments that indicate the indirect impact of NATO’s action. NATO was not responsible for the ethnic cleansing campaign conducted by the Serbian forces. Violation of humanitarian law was present even before NATO launched its air campaign.

FRY: s government campaign started four days before NATO’s intervention. Moreover it is argued that the number of killings and displaced people were not an indirect effect of NATO’s intervention. It is argued that the outcome was linked to the systematic ethnic cleansing campaign, and that critics of the intervention had failed to consider that crimes committed by Serbs might have been covered up by Serbian forces committed prior to NATO’s intervention.

However some condemn NATO and not the Milosevic regime for the ’ethnic cleansing’ campaign. And assert that such human rights violation prior to NATO’s bombing did not exit and that the Serbian government was pursuing a counter-insurgency campaign against the KLA. The Milosevic regime stressed that the fighting was concentrated solely against the KLA; however evidence shows that they were violating areas with little or no evidence ties with the KLA. They were using KLA as an excuse to liquidate and expel everyone with a non-Serb background.

Human Rights Watch concludes that the primary responsibility for the tragedy was addressed on the former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and the then Serbian and Yugoslav leadership. Operation Allied Force (OAF) was introduced as a last resort after diplomatic efforts had been exhausted. As the February, 1999Rambouilett talks in France have failed, there was no other option to consider but to act, as NATO acted. Yugoslav forces were violating every previous commitment the Serbian government had made to the International community. There was an understanding that the UN Security Council would veto any further involvement despite the reality of ongoing humanitarian catastrophe. NATO was not left with another option and chose to act. There is a sense that the repeatedly failure to develop a unified position for resolving the conflict, led to be in favor of Milosevic with which he bought time of completing his campaign in Kosovo.

Conclusion:

The standards for humanitarian intervention state that intervention is essential when the level of violence threats human security.The result shows that human insecurity caused by an armed conflict was present during the Kosovo conflict, which justifies NATO’s intervention. The criteria of large- scale human suffering, indicates that humanitarian intervention shall be permitted when suffering involve a large number of people and when it rescues more live than in endangers. The conflict in Kosovo caused thousands of hundred people suffering. People were killed, raped tortured, expelled from their homes forcing them to flee the country. In accordance with the argument of saving lives, the findings suggest that that NATO’s air campaign did not meet the criterion. OAF failed to prevent the killing carried out by Serbian forces, during the air campaign. The criterion evaluating if suffering is caused by deliberate abuse justifies NATO’s use of force. The abuses carried out in Kosovo was part of a deliberate plan of ethnic cleansing, the responsible agent was Slobodan Milosevic and its military forces. The fourth criterion that evaluates if suffering of the conflict were imminent and ongoing justifies NATO’s intervention in Kosovo; humanitarian intervention took place while abuses were still present.

Although critics argue that intervention of NATO forces in Kosovo caused much destruction in the area. But it also succeeded in rescuing the Albanian Muslims.

Current Status:

Kosovo finally became an independent state on 17th February 2008. The state of Kosovo constitutes of 92% Albanian Muslims and several minorities, mainly Serbs. Kosovo is recognized as an independent state by a few of UN members. Among the member states of European Union 5 of the states don’t recognize Kosovo yet. Over the past years the country has been struggling with its official status, its relation with Serbia and integration with the EU. Tensions and incidents remain in Kosovo, especially in the north, were the ethic Serb majority does not recognize the authority and presence of the government in Pristina. On 19 April 2013 the EU brokered “First agreement of principles governing the normalization of relations” was signed by Pristina and Belgrade and on 25 August 2015 another important agreement was reached between the two sides that is a “landmark achievement in the normalization process.”

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