EARLY IN THE Kosovo war, the packing of civilians into railroad cattle cars reminded the world of the kind of crime that many had thought could never be repeated. Now comes another malevolent echo: the incineration of human bodies. Across Kosovo, according to the accounts of intelligence officials and Kosovars forced out of their country, Serbian forces have been burning bodies in an effort to destroy evidence of the massacres they have conducted.
Halit Elizi, 43, a farmer forced from his home, told reporters from Newsday newspaper that he saw Serbian troops burn 30 to 50 bodies, which he believed to be the remains of elderly villagers who had refused or been unable to leave when Slobodan Milosevic's soldiers earlier "cleansed" their village. The fire burned for four hours, Mr. Elizi said. Then Serb paramilitaries returned to the scene, this time wearing white gloves up to their shoulders, scooped the remains into sacks and carried the sacks away. "I think they were collecting bones and hard objects," he said.
Meanwhile, even as NATO talks peace, Serbian forces continue and even intensify their terrorizing of civilians. Soldiers are still forcing people to leave at gunpoint, looting and burning houses. They are laying mines and booby-trapping homes and villages. They continue to shell unarmed civilians who have been forced into the hills. In prisons, men are still being beaten and shot.
All of this calls into question certain aspects of the peace agreement the U.S. has now accepted. The earlier Rambouillet accords called for a test of popular will in Kosovo three years from now to determine the political future; that is no longer ensured. Instead, the U.N. Security Council will decide; that is a victory for the indicted war criminal, since he can look to Russia and China for support. The agreement recognizes Yugoslav sovereignty over Kosovo and gives Mr. Milosevic the right to station some hundreds of troops there.
Given the criminal activities that continue even now, it is hard to imagine what legitimate role such troops could possibly play beyond turning themselves in for trial at the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.