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In former Yugoslavia, and especially in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Western NGOs
have found a justifying role for themselves alongside NATO. They gain
funding and prestige from the situation. Local employees of Western NGOs
gain political and financial advantages over other local people, and
"democracy" is not the peoples choice but whatever meets with approval of
outside donors. This breeds arrogance. among the outside benefactors, and
cynicism among local people, who have the choice between opposing the
outsiders or seeking to manipulate them. It is an unhealthy situation, and
some of the most self-critical are aware of the dangers.

Perhaps the most effectively arrogant NGO in regard to former Yugoslavia
is the Vienna office of Human Rights Watch/Helsinki. On September 18,
1997, that organization issued a long statement announcing in advance that
the Serbian elections to be held three days later 'Will be neither free
nor fair." This astonishing intervention was followed by a long list of
measures that Serbia and Yugoslavia must carry- out or else", and that the
international community must take to discipline Serbia and Yugoslavia.
These demands indicated an extremely broad interpretation of obligatory
standards of "human rights" as applied to Serbia, although not, obviously,
to everybody else, since they included new media laws drafted "in full
consultation with the independent media in Yugoslavia" as well as
permission meanwhile to all "unlicensed but currently operating radio and
television stations to broadcast without interference."

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki concluded by calling on the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to "deny Yugoslavia readmission
to the OSCE until there are concrete improvements in the country's human
rights record, including respect for freedom of the press, independence of
the judiciary, and minority rights, as well as cooperation with the
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia".

As for the demand to "respect freedom of the press," one may wonder what
measures would satisfy HRW, in light of the fact that press freedom
already exists in Serbia to an extent well beyond that in many other
countries not being served with such an ultimatum. There exist in Serbia
quite a range of media devoted to attacking the government, not only in
SerboCroatian, but also in Albanian. As of one 1998, there were 2,319
print publications and 101 radio and television stations in Yugoslavia,
over twice the number that existed in 1992. Belgrade alone has 14 daily
newspapers. The state-supported national dailies have a joint circulation
of 180,000 compared to around 350,000 for seven leading opposition

Moreover, the judiciary in Serbia is certainly no less independent than in
Croatia or Muslim Bosnia, and most certainly much more so. As for "minority
rights," it would be hard to find a country anywhere in the world where
they are better protected in both theory and practice than in Yugoslavia.

For those who remember history the Human Rights Watch/Helsinki ultimatum
instantly brings to mind the ultimatum issued by Vienna to Belgrade after
the Sarajevo assassination in 1914 as a pretext for the Austrian invasion
which touched off World War I. The Serbian government gave in to all but
one of the Habsburg demands, but was invaded anyway.

The hostility of this new Vienna power, the International Helsinki
Federation for Human Rights, toward Serbia, is evident in all its
statements, and in those of its executive director Aaron Rhodes. In a
March 18, 1998, column for the International Herald Tribune, he wrote that
Albanians in Kosovo "have lived for years under conditions similar to
those suffered by Jews in Nazi-controlled parts of Europe just before
World War II. They have been ghettoized. They are not free but politically
disenfranchised and deprived of basic civil liberties."

The comparison could hardly be more incendiary, but the specific facts to
back it up are absent. They are necessarily absent, since the accusation
is totally false. Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo have never been "politically
disenfranchised," and even Western diplomats have at times urged them to
use their right to vote in order to deprive Milosevic of his electoral
majority. But nationalist leaders have called for a boycott of Serbian
elections since 1981 - well before Milosevic came on the scene -and ethnic
Albanians who dare take part in legal political life are subject to
intimidation and even murder by nationalist Albanian gunmenio.

Human Rights Watch, in contrast, by uncritically endorsing the most
extreme anti-Serb reports and ignoring Serbian sources, helps confirm
ethnic Albanians in their worst fantasies, while encouraging them to
demand international intervention on their behalf rather than seek
compromise and reconciliation with their Serbian neighbours. HRW therefore
contributes, deliberately or inadvertently, to a deepening cycle of
violence that eventually may justify, or require, outside intervention.

This is an approach which like its partner, economic globalization, breaks
down the defenses and authority of weaker States. It does not help to
enforce democratic institutions at the national level. The only democracy
it reorganizes is that of the "international community", which is summoned
to act according to the recommendations of Human Rights Watch. This
"international community", the IC, is in reality no democracy. Its
decisions are formally taken at NATO meetings. The IC is not even a
"community"; the initials could more accurately stand for "imperialist
condominium," a joint exercise of domination by the former imperialist
powers, torn apart and weakened by two World Wars, now brought together
under U.S. domination with NATO as their military arm. Certainly there are
frictions between the members of this condominium, but so long as their
rivalries can be played out within the IC, the price will be paid by
smaller and weaker countries.

Media attention to conflicts in Yugoslavia is sporadic, dictated by Great
Power interests, lobbies, and the institutional ambitions of
"non-governmental organizations" - often linked to powerful governments
whose competition with each other for financial support provides
motivation for exaggerating the abuses they specialize in denouncing.

Yugoslavia, a country once known for its independent approach to socialism
and international relations, economically and politically by far the most
liberal country in Eastern Central Europe, has already been torn apart by
Western support to secessionist movements: What is left is being further
reduced to an ungovernable chaos by a continuation of the same process.
The emerging result is not a charming bouquet of independent little ethnic
democracies, but rather a new type of joint colonial rule by the IC
enforced by NATO. ("CovertAction Quarterly', Wachington D.C., Fall 1998.)

<snip of most notes>
5 The role of the Washington public relations firm, Ruder Finn, is by now
well-known, but seems to have raised few doubts as to the accuracy of the
anti-Serb propaganda it successfully diffused.

6 No one denies that many rapes occurred during the civil war in Croatia
and Bosnia-Herzegovina, or that rape is a serious violation of human
rights. So is war, for that matter. From the start, however, inquiry into
rape in Bosnia-Herzegovina focused exclusively on accusations that Serbs
were raping Muslim women as part of a deliberate strategy. The most
inflated figures, freely extricated by multiplying the number of known
cases by large factors, were readily accepted by the media and
international organizations. No interest was shown in detailed and
documented reports of rapes of Serbian women by Muslims or Croats.

The late Nora Beloff, former chief political correspondent of the "London
Observer", described her own search in verification of the rape charges in
a letter to"The Daily Telegraph" (January 19, 1993). The British Foreign
Office conceded that the rape figures being handled about were really
uncorroborated and referred her to the Danish government, then chairing
the European Union. Copenhagen agreed that the reports were
unsubstantiated, but kept repeating them. Both said that the EU has taken
up the "rape atrocity" issue at Its December 1992 Edinburgh Summit
exclusively on the basis of a German initiative. In turn, Fran Wild, in
charge of the Bosnian Desk in the German Foreign Ministry, told Ms. Beloff
that the material on Serb rapes came partly from the Izetbegovic
government and partly from the Catholic charity Caritas in Croatia. No
effort had been made to seek corroboration from more impartial sources.

9 Serbia is constitutionally defined as the nation of all its citizens,
and not "of the Serbs" (in contrast to constitutional provisions of
Croatia and Macedonia, for instance). In addition, the 1992 Constitution
of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) as well as
the Serbian Constitution guarantee extensive rights to national
minorities, notably the right to education in their own mother tongue, the
right to information media in their own language, and the right to use
their own language in proceedings before a tribunal of other authority.
These rights are not merely formal, but are effectively respected as is
shown by, for instance, the satisfaction of the 400,000-strong Hungarian
minority and the large number of newspapers published by national
minorities in Albanian, Hungarian and other languages. Romani (Gypsies)
are by all accounts better treated in Yugoslavia than elsewhere in the
Balkans. Serbia has a large Muslim population of varied nationalities,
including refugees from Bosnia and a native Serb population of converts to
Islam in Southeastern Kosovo, known as Goranci, whose religious rights are
fully respected, and who have no desire to leave Serbia. 

11 In March 1990, during a regular official vaccination program, rumours
were spread that Serb health workers had poisoned over 7,000 Albanian
children by injecting them with nerve gas. There was never any proof of
this, as no child was ever shown to suffer from anything more serious than
mass hysteria. This was the signal for a boycott of the Serbian public
health system. Ethnic Albanian doctors and other health workers left the
official institutions to set up a parallel system, so vastly inferior that
preventable childhood diseases reached epidemic proportions. In September
1996, WHO and UNICEF undertook to assist the main Kosovar parallel health
system, named "Mother Theresa" after the world's most famous ethnic
Albanian, a native of Macedonia, in vaccinating 300,000 children against
polio. The worldwide publicity campaign around this large-scale
immunization program failed to point out that the same service has long
been available to those children from the official health service of
Serbia, systematically boycotted by Albanian parents. Currently, the
parallel Kosovar system employs 239 general practitioners and 140
specialists, compared to around 2,000 physicians employed by the Serbian
public health system there. Serbs point out that many ethnic Albanians are
sensible enough to turn to the government health system when they are
seriously ill. According to official figures, 64% of the official Serb
system health workers and 80% of the patients in Kosovo are ethnic Albanians.

It is characteristic of the current age of privatization that the
"international community" is ready to ignore a functional government
service and even contribute to a politically inspired effort to bypass and
ultimately destroy it. But then, Kosovo-Albanian separatists aware of the
taste of the times, like to speak of Kosovo itself as a "non-governmental

"The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands
what will sell. " - Confucious.

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