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NATO war crimes and The Hague Tribunal:

Failure of Diplomacy:

OSCE human rights monitor offers a view from the ground in Kosovo

by Rollie Keith

The Democrat, May 1999 
www.globalresearch.ca 24 April 2005

The URL of this article is: http://globalresearch.ca/articles/KEI504A.html


We bring to the attention of our readers this important testimony of Rollie Keith, first published in 1999.

Rollie Keith, who was part of the OSCE observer mission in Kosovo in 1998-1999, has provided unequivocal evidence that the NATO sponsored war on Yugoslavia was criminal. The pretext to bomb Yugoslavia on humanitarian grounds had been fabricated. The war on Yugoslavia was a violation of the Nuremberg Charter.

Rollie Keith has stood by his testimony which he presented last September to The Hague ICTY Tribunal as a witness in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic.

His testimony is important for two reasons:

1) The Hague Tribunal is currently involved in Star Chamber procedures, judging Slobodan Milosevic In Absentia , denying him the rights to self defense. These have been documented in several Global research articles.

Moreover, the ICTY has ruled that issues pertaining to NATO's role (and NATO war crimes) are not relevant to the Milosevic case. Phony evidence has been fabricated and upheld by the court. Meanwhile, real evidence including that presented by Rollie Keith has been dismissed or thrown out.

2) Rollie Keith was candidate for the New Democratic Party (NDP) in the British Columbia riding of Chilliwack-Kent. He quit the B.C. election campaign following media reports regarding his role as witness in the Milosevic trial. The fact of the matter is that Rollie Keith is saying the truth and the ICTY Tribunal is involved in a derogation of the basic tenets of international law.

Is the derogation of international law a matter for political debate in Canada?  The answer is yes.

The war on Yugoslavia was illegal and so are the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq. Yes, this an election issue in Canada at federal and provincial levels, because it implies taking a stance on the US-led war agenda. And Rollie Keith has taken that stance.

 

Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, 24 April 2005 


Canada is currently participating in the NATO coalition [1999] air bombardment of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, ostensibly to force compliance with the terms of the Rambouillet and subsequent Paris "Interim Agreement for Peace and Self-Government in Kosovo". The justification for this aggressive action was to force Yugoslavian compliance and acceptance to the so-called "agreement" and to end the alleged humanitarian and human rights abuses being perpetrated on the ethnic majority Kosovar Albanian residents of the Serbi an province of Kosovo. The bombardment then is rationalized on the basis of the UN Declaration of Human Rights taking precedence over the UN Charter that states the inviolability of national sovereignty. While I am concerned with human rights abuse, I also believe many nations, if not all, would clearly be vulnerable to this criticism; therefore, we require a better mechanism to counter national human rights violations than bombing.

What, however, was the situation within Kosovo before March 20, and are we now being misled with biased media information? Is this aggressive war really justified to counter alleged humanitarian violations, or are there problematical premises being applied to justify the hostilities? Either way, diplomacy has failed and the ongoing air bombardment has greatly exacerbated an internal humanitarian problem into a disaster. There were no international refugees over the last five months of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's (OSCE) presence within Kosovo and Internal Displaced Persons only numbered a few thousand in the weeks before the air bombardment commenced.

As an OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) monitor during February and March of this year, I was assigned as the Director of the Kosovo Polje Field Office, just west of the provincial capital of Pristina. The role of the 1380 monitors of the KVM, from some 38 of the OSCE's 55 nations, including 64 Canadians, was authorized under UN Security Council Resolution 1199 to monitor and verify cease-fire compliance, or non-compliance, investigate cease-fire violations and unwarranted road blocks, assist humanitarian agencies in facilitating the resettlement of displaced persons and assist in democratization measures eventually leading to elections. The agreement which was the basis of the KVM (I refer to it as the "Holbrooke-Milosevic agreement") was signed on October 16, 1998, ending the previous eight months of internal conflict. Given its international composition, the KVM was organized and deployed quite slowly and was not fully operational on a partial basis until early in 1999. By the time I arrived, vehicles and other resources along with the majority of international monitors were arriving, but the cease-fire situation was deteriorating with an increasing incidence of Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) provocative attacks on the Yugoslavian security forces.

In response the security forces of the Ministry of Internal Security police supported by the army were establishing random roadblocks that resulted in some harassment of movement of the majority Albanian Kosovars. The general situation was, though, that the bulk of the population had settled down after the previous year's hostilities, but the KLA was building its strength and was attempting to reorganize in preparation for a military solution, hopeful of NATO or western military support.

Consequently the October Holbrooke-Milosevic agreement restraining the Internal Security police and army was not strictly adhered to, as unauthorized forces were deployed to maintain security within the major communities and internal lines of communication. In my estimation, however, the KLA was left in control of much of the hinterland unchallenged, comprising at least some fifty per cent of the province. In addition the parallel Albanian government of the Kosovo Democratic League (KDL) continued to provide some leadership to the majority of the Albanian Kosovars.

This low intensity war since the end of 1998 had resulted in a series of incidents against the security forces, which in turn led to some heavy-handed security operations, one being the alleged "massacre" at Racak of some 45 Albanian Kosovars in mid-January. [NOTE; the "Racak massacre" was so identified by William Walker, an Ameican diplomat leading an OSCE war crimes verification team. Walker's sordid career, described in the APPENDIX to the present article, throws considerable doubt on the veracity of his account of this event, which Javier Solana himself identifies as a turning point in the development of the Kosovo crisis. ]

Upon my arrival the war increasingly evolved into a mid intensity conflict as ambushes, the encroachment of critical lines of communication and the kidnapping of security forces resulted in a significant increase in government casualties which in turn led to major Yugoslavian reprisal security operations that included armour, mechanized forces and artillery to secure there same lines of communication. By the beginning of March these terror and counter-terror operations led to the inhabitants of numerous villages fleeing, or being dispersed to either other villages, cities or the hills to seek refuge. As monitors we attempted to follow and report on these cease-fire violations, but I and my fellow monitors also continued to work with both Kosovo factions and the internally-displaced population to promote the other aspects of our mission. In particular within our field office area of responsibility, we were making progress to facilitate the resettlement of an unoccupied village from the previous summer, while six other villages were about to be abandoned due to the increasing hostilities. As an example of this humanitarian work, we had conducted some dozen negotiating sessions with both belligerents as well as displaced villagers.

Our objective was to create conditions of confidence and stability and commence the resettlement of the village of Donje Grabovac. This village of some 700 former inhabitants sits next to a major coal mine guarded by security forces, which fuels an adjacent thermal generating plant. On the other side of the village, less than a kilometre away, the KLA also occupied another village. Donje Grobovac was the scene of daily shooting incidents and in this case most were probably initiated by the mine guards. Regardless, tensions were high and fatal casualties and kidnapping of mine and security forces by the KLA had occurred prior to our arrival. After our lengthy series of negotiations, all participants agreed not to provoke their opponents and we were about to escort former village delegations back to commence resettlement. If this kind of program could have been expanded and built upon throughout Kosovo, perhaps supported by an enlarged international monitoring mission to better reduce the cease-fire violations, I believe both the international air bombardment and intensified civil war would have been avoided. But western diplomacy would have to be more flexible for this to occur.

The situation was clearly that KLA provocations, as personally witnessed in ambushes of security patrols which inflicted fatal and other casualties, were clear violations of the previous October's agreement. The security forces responded and the consequent security harassment and counter-operations led to an intensified insurrectionary war, but as I have stated elsewhere, I did not witness, nor did I have knowledge of any incidents of so-called "ethnic cleansing" and there certainly were no occurrences of "genocidal policies" while I was with the KVM in Kosovo. What has transpired since the OSCE monitors were evacuated on March 20, in order to deliver the penultimate warning to force Yugoslavian compliance with the Rambouillet and subsequent Paris documents and the commencement of the NATO air bombardment of March 24, obviously has resulted in human rights abuses and a very significant humanitarian disaster as some 600,000 Albanian Kosovars have fled or been expelled from the province. This did not occur, though, before March 20, so I would attribute the humanitarian disaster directly or indirectly to the NATO air bombardment and resulting anti-terrorist campaign.

So what led to this breakdown of the peace process and the air bombardment? The Rambouillet and subsequent amended Paris ultimatum "Interim Agreement for Peace and Self-Government in Kosovo" was divided into both political and military implementation accords. The political accord called for a return of political, cultural and judicial autonomy for Kosovo Province as previously provided in the 1974 constitution and was generally acceptable to both factions. The stumbling block was that the Serbian delegation insisted on the long-term territorial integrity of Yugoslavia and the supremacy of federal law.

With the KLA desiring total independence, however, and American compliance, the Albanian Kosovars were given the incentive of a referendum in three years time to determine the ultimate political future of Yugoslavia. On the military accord, the Contact Group, less Russia, and the Ambassador Chris Hill's demand that a NATO force be employed to secure the Kosovo Implementation Mission of the proposed plan was also completely unacceptable to Yugoslavia, since it constituted foreign occupation of their sovereign territory by the western alliance. In turn, the acceptance by the KLA of their supervised disarmament was only accepted after American political inducements of obvious independence were offered. The result then is that proposed agreements were in fact ultimatums, unacceptable to Russia as well as Yugoslavia, as they left that nation with the clear alternative of surrender or bombardment.

Was there a diplomatic alternative? I believe there always has to be political alternatives to war, although I an not a pacifist and I do believe that defensive hostilities may be justifiable for the right cause. The western members of the Contact Group, the European Union and the United States and the Russian Federation could have worked within the United Nations and kept the Russians on side. As an inducement to an enhanced OSCE or UN monitoring presence within Kosovo, Yugoslavia could have had its 1991 economic sanctions cancelled and economic restructuring funds offered to promote its integration within the new Europe, with a guarantee, in return, to eliminate human rights concerns within Kosovo.

This proposed enhanced OSCE presence, perhaps supported by a limited armed UN presence, may well have been acceptable to the western power, in order to monitor a fair and genuine Kosovo agreement. However, the NATO bombardment has been counterproductive, as it has created a significant European humanitarian problem of more than 600,000 external refugees that threaten to destablize the surrounding vulnerable nations, exacerbating regional security. Another estimated 600,000 plus internally-displaced Kosovars are also being subjected to the deprivations of the full-scale civil war. Then in the end the international community will also have to rebuild not only Kosovo, but the rest of Yugoslavian to ensure their future participation in the new Europe of the 21st century, This is what the failure of diplomacy with its consequent ill-prepared and ill-conceived air bombardment has accomplished.

What is crucial to have happen then, is that the unjustified moral certitude that that has resulted in the demonization and vilification of Yugoslavia and its nationalist President Milosevic cease, and be replaced by a rational discourse to enable a fair and just solution to be agreed to.

NATO has gone to war to prevent the humanitarian expulsion of an ethnic minority and has caused the catastrophic Kosovo population displacement to occur. The western government, led by inept diplomats and politicians, have failed to provide a rational and diplomatic alternative, and instead have incited an irresponsible public opinion, whose conscience has led it to demand actions to solve problems that it does not comprehend. NATO is now in a war that it cannot win. Its objective of liberating the Kosovo Albanians from Serbian misrule has been counterproductive, and has resulted in their expulsion. The war has broken international law, disregarded the UN Charter, and violated the NATO mandate. This has arguably irrevocably damaged the dreams and aspirations for rational diplomacy and the rule of law, meant to establish an international system with limits on great power ambitions.

There were political alternatives to thiswar, but we also should have known what would happen. And it did happen. The pointless and degrading bombing must stop and rational international negotiations must commence. The alternative is incomprehensible.

 

Rollie Keith lives in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada. He is a 32-year career military officer in the Canadian military. He's a former director of the Kosovo Polje Field Office of the Kosovo Verification Mission. He has spoken out against the war from the very beginning, and has been part of the press conferences and public meetings organized by the Ad Hoc Committee to Stop Canada's Participation in the War on Yugoslavia


APPENDIX: William Walker's Background

According to various newspaper reports, Walker began his diplomatic career in 1961 in Peru. He then reportedly spent most of his long career in the foreign service in Central and South America, including a highly controversial posting as Deputy Chief of Mission in Honduras in the early 1980s, exactly the time and place where the Contra rebel force was formed. The Contra force was the cornerstone of then-CIA Director William Casey's hardline anti-Communist directive, and Honduras was considered, along with El Salvador, the front line in the war with the Soviet Union. From there, Walker was promoted, in 1985, to the post of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Central America. This promotion made him a special assistant to Assistant Secretary of State Elliot Abrams, a figure whose name would soon be making its way into the headlines on a daily basis in connection with a new scandal the press was calling the "Iran-Contra" affair.

Walker would soon briefly join his boss under the public microscope. According to information contained in Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh's lengthy indictment of Abrams and Oliver North, Walker was responsible for setting up a phony humanitarian operation at an airbase in Ilopango, El Salvador. This shell organization was used to funnel guns, ammunition and supplies to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua.

Despite having been named in Walsh's indictment (although he was never charged himself) and outed in the international press as a gunrunner, Walker's diplomatic career did not, as one one might have expected, take a turn for the worse. Oddly enough, it kept on advancing. In 1988, he was named ambassador to El Salvador, a state which at the time was still in the grip of U.S.-sponsored state terror.

Walker's record as Ambassador to El Salvador is startling upon review today, in light of his recent re-emergence into the world spotlight as an outraged documenter of racist hate-crimes. His current posture of moral disgust toward Serbian ethnic cleansing may seem convincing today, but it is hard to square with the almost comically callous indifference he consistently exhibited toward exactly the same kinds of hate crimes while serving in El Salvador.

In late 1989, when Salvadoran soldiers executed six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her 15 year-old daughter, blowing their heads off with shotguns, Walker scarecely batted an eyelid. When asked at a press conference about evidence linking the killings to the Salvadoran High Command, he went out of his way to apologize for chief of staff Rene Emilio Ponce, dismissing the murders as a sort of forgiveable corporate glitch, like running out of Xerox toner. "Management control problems can exist in these kinds of situations," he said.

In discussing the wider problem of state violence and repression --which in El Salvador then was at least no less widespread than in the Serbia he monitored from October of last year until March of this year --Walker was remarkably circumspect. "I'm not condoning it, but in times like this of great emotion and great anger, things like this happen," he said, apparently having not yet decided to audition for the OSCE job.

Finally, in what may be the most amazing statement of all, given his current occupation, Walker questioned the ability of any person or organization to assign blame in hate crime cases. Shrugging off news of eyewitness reports that the Jesuit murders had been committed by men in Salvadoran army uniforms, Walker told Massachusetts congressman Joe Moakley that "anyone can get uniforms. The fact that they were dressed in military uniforms was not proof that they were military."

Later, Walker would recommend to Secretary of State James Baker that the United States "not jeopardize" its relationship with El Salvador by investigating "past deaths, however heinous."

This is certainly an ironic comment, coming from a man who would later recommend that the United States go to war over...heinous deaths.

One final intriguing biographical note: Walker in 1996 hosted a ceremony in Washington held in honor of 5,000 American soldiers who fought secretly in El Salvador. While Walker was Ambassador of El Salvador, the U.S. government's official story was that there were only 50 military advisors in the country (Washington Post, May 6, 1996).

A Spooky Choice

With a background like this, it seems implausible that Walker would be chosen by the United States to head the Kosovar verification team on the basis of any established commitment to the cause of human rights. What seems more likely, given Walker's background, is that he was chosen because of his proven willingness to say whatever his government wants him to say, and to keep quiet when he is told to keep quiet-- about things like a gunrunning operation, or the presence of 4,950 undercover mercenaries (whose existence he regularly denied with a straight face) in the banana republic where you are Ambassador.

The Iran-Contra incident isn't the only thing in Walker's background which gives reason for pause. Another is his curious ability to remain in Central and South America throughout virtually his entire diplomatic career.

Not since before the fall of China has the State Department allowed its career people to remain in one place for any significant length of time.

After the Chinese Revolution, the State Department enacted what has come to be known as the Wriston reform, which dictated that Department employees be rotated out of their posts every few years. With this reform, the government was hoping to put an end to a problem which they termed "quiet-itis"--the development of "excessive" sympathies towards the culture of one's host countries.

With the Wriston act, the U.S. government eventually got exactly what it wanted--a State Department characterized by fortress-like embassy compounds, in or around which Americans live amongst themselves in monolingual, isolationist bliss, counting the hours until they're rotated out to their next job in Liberia, or Peru, or wherever. As a result, most State employees see three or four different posts in different corners of he world every ten years. It is well-known among career foreign service people, though, that one of the few exceptions to this rule are the CIA agents in the embassies. Our intelligence people take longer to develop their contacts, and in order to preserve these "personal relationships" (bribe-takers don't like to change bagmen), they tend to hang around longer.

Walker was in Latin America virtually throughout his entire career, until he arrived in Kosovo. He had no experience in the region which qualified him to head the verification team in Yugoslavia. Furthermore, he spent the entire 1980s occupying high-level State positions in Central America, under the Reagan and Bush White Houses, when the region was the source of more East-West tension than in any other place in the world, and Central American embassies were the most notoriously CIA-penetrated embassies we had. You can draw your own conclusions.

Nonetheless, one need not prove that Walker is a CIA agent to make the case that the United States made a serious error in judgement in appointing him. Whether or not he was sent to Kosovo to guarantee that evidence of ethnic cleansing would be "discovered", and whether there even exists a covert plan, of which Walker might be part, to install a semi-permanent U.S. military force in the Balkans, it is bad enough that other countries might identify Walker according to their own criteria and assume the worst. And assume they will, according to political analysts familiar with the story.

"Ambassador Walker's record in El Salvador does not a priori invalidate his testimony on the massacres in Kosovo, but it certainly does compromise his reliability as an objective witness," said James Morrell, research director for the Washington-based Center for International Policy.

There is a widespread belief not only in Russia, but in other countries, that Walker's role in Racak was to assist the KLA in fabricating a Serb massacre that could be used as an excuse for military action. Already, two major mainstream French newspapers--Le Monde and Le Figaro-- as well as French national television have run exposes on the Racak incident. These stories cited a number of inconsistencies in Walker's version of events, including an absence of shell casings and blood in the trench where the bodies were found, and the absence of eyewitnesses despite the presence of journalists and observers in the town during the KLA-Serb fighting.

Eventually, even the Los Angeles Times joined in, running a story entitled "Racak Massacre Questions: Were Atrocities Faked?" The theory behind all these exposes was that the KLA had gathered their own dead after the battle, removed their uniforms, put them in civilian clothes, and then called in the observers. Walker, significantly, did not see the bodies until 12 hours after Serb police had left the town. As Walker knows, not only can "anybody have uniforms", but anyone can have them taken off, too.


Related Global Research articles:

Beyond the Star Chamber: Shutting Down the Milosevic Defense in The Hague by Tiphaine Dickson,  20 February 2005,  http://globalresearch.ca/articles/DIC502A.html

The Hague ICTY Tribunal: Star Chamber it Is! by Tiphaine Dickson, 6 September 2004,  http://globalresearch.ca/articles/DIC409A.html

Hague Tribunal Violates International Law: Imposition of In Absentia Proceedings Against Slobodan Milosevic, ca 24 April 2005, http://globalresearch.ca/articles/ICD504A.html

 


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