The first U.N. humanitarian mission to Kosovo reported today that it found indisputable evidence in the rebellious Serbian province of "organized, well-planned violence against civilians aimed at displacing and permanently deporting them."
The leader of the team, Undersecretary General Sergio Vieira de Mello, said in an oral report to the Security Council that this calls for "urgent independent investigation" of what has happened since Yugoslav troops moved beginning in March to crush a secessionist revolt and drive out the ethnic Albanians who formed a population base for the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army.
Vieira de Mello dismissed the Yugoslav government's explanations for violence in Kosovo, saying all the arguments "cannot account for, explain or justify the extent and magnitude of the brutal treatment of civilian populations." Yugoslav authorities have said much of the brutality came from out-of-control militia groups.
"Even allowing for spontaneous uncontrolled brutality, the team collected indisputable evidence of organized, well-planned violence against civilians, aimed at displacing and permanently deporting them," he said, according to his speaking notes. He said the accounts of witnesses are consistent that the period from March 24 -- when NATO air attacks on Yugoslavia began -- to April 10 "saw a rampage of killing, burning, looting, forced expulsions, violence, vendetta and terror."
Vieira de Mello, whose team recently returned from visiting several areas of Yugoslavia, said the mission's freedom of movement in Kosovo was "more than expected but less than requested." He said the mission, which included representatives from a dozen U.N. humanitarian agencies, was able to make random stops and unscheduled spot checks.