A Letter from Gregor Gysi to Slobodan Milosevic

by Gregor Gysi

to Slobodan Milosevic

Gregor Gysi is the chair of the delegation of the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) in the German Bundestag.

Dear Mr. President,

Mindful of our conversation of April 14, 1999 I am writing you this letter.

Once again I stress my unequivocal rejection of NATO’s illegal and completely unequal war against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and express my great dismay at the dead and wounded, especially within the civilian population, and at the ever more cynical destruction of what increasingly turn out to be civilian installations in Yugoslavia, as well as my condemnation of any kind of violation of human rights in Kosovo.

I fear that the war will set back European integration and the relation of a number of European states to the Russian Federation for many years to come. This can only be in the interests of the U.S., as a way of hindering a political and economic competitor in Europe.

Once again I ask you to give your consent to a UN peace force according to the UN charter–without participation of the aggressor NATO nations.

If, in direct negotiations between the political leaderships of Yugoslavia and Kosovo, an accord should be reached with the participation of the United Nations, the return of hundreds of thousands of refugees must follow in a peaceful and secure manner.

However, these refugees–and I will come back to this below– understandably have no trust in the Yugoslav army and police. On the other hand, I understand that those who are now bombing Yugoslavia cannot secure peace. There are, however, other countries which would be more suited to securing that peace.

The deployment of a UN peace force after the retreat of your troops from Kosovo would not mean occupation; it would have a time-limit set, and due to UN sovereignty would be a completely different approach to a solution than that of NATO.

At the beginning of our conversation you rejected this suggestion; at the end, however, you assured me that you would think it over. I regard the results of your conversation with the Russian president’s envoy, Victor Chernomyrdin, and the statements of your Vice-Prime Minister, Vuk Draskovic, as showing that this reconsideration is continuing. I appeal to you once again to open up this path.

NATO would thus be forced to decide what is more important to it, the desire to be the sole factor in the Euro-Atlantic order, or the desire for peace. Such a peace would be difficult enough to put into practice, but it would have a real chance [of inhibiting] the current hegemonic strivings, especially those of the U.S.

In our conversation, as in others I had in Belgrade, we went on to speak of the fate of Kosovo-Albanians. You claimed that before NATO’s bombing of Kosovo there were–and this is incontrovertible–much fewer refugees from Kosovo. As causes for their flight in the period before the bombing, you pointed to KLA attacks and the civilian populations’s fear of falling victim to the battles between your army and police and the KLA. The dramatic rise in the number of refugees since the end of March 1999 is, in your opinion, solely attributable to the NATO bombing. To my counter-arguments you replied that news reporting in Germany is one-sided, that the refugees are coached by clan chiefs, and moreover that the refugees only have a chance of being received in a Western country if they criticize the Yugoslav army and police.

I told you that I wanted to travel to Albania and speak with refugees, and you thought that there I would see your account confirmed. But this in no way turned out to be the case.

At first I followed the advice of a top official in your Foreign Ministry, and I looked at the Germany Foreign Ministry’s status reports and the decisions of German high courts on deportation of Kosovo-Albanians during this year. I have to confirm that in these status reports and in the decisions of the high courts reaching through March 1999, expulsions and “ethnic cleansing” aimed at Kosovo-Albanians is expressly refuted.

In these reports and decisions, the battle between your army and police and the KLA was confirmed as the motivation for flight; that Kosovo-Albanians were persecuted due to their belonging to “an Albanian ethnicity” was expressly negated. On this basis and with reference to the relevant status reports of the Foreign Ministry, deportations to Yugoslavia, especially to Kosovo, were approved by the German High Courts. It is correct to say that the German administration’s current claims that expulsions and “ethnic cleansing” in Kosovo have been occurring for a long time, especially since December 1998/January 1999, and during the Rambouillet negotiations, is sharply contradicted by these reports and decisions.

During my trip to Albania, I visited the Spitalle refugee camp and spoke with several refugees from Kosovo. I myself determined the conditions, that is, I made the choice myself and did it randomly. I was alone with their families; I took along my own interpreter; media people were not present, and everything remained anonymous. I neither asked for names nor for personal information. Thus there could have been no understandable reason for one of these refugees not to tell me the truth. I also have no reason to doubt the truth of their statements, especially because those concerned clearly differentiated between their own experience and information they heard, and after they felt more confident, they also spared no criticism of the KLA.

They thus told of attacks and of accusations of collaboration leveled by the KLA whenever a Kosovo-Albanian cooperated with any Yugoslav authority, of the hiding of young men from rigorous recruiting, etc. In no way did they deny their fear of being hit by NATO bombs. However, this for them was not the reason for leaving Kosovo, no more than it is the bombing that makes most Serbs and other Yugoslavs leave Yugoslavia.

In all their stories, the reason given me was the expulsion on the part of the Yugoslav army and police, which, as is known, was instituted on a massive scale after the NATO bombings began. Expulsions seriously violate human rights. As an example, I will report only two stories I was told:

An exile who had to flee a city began his story with a criticism of Germany. He had lived there in the state of Schleswig-Holstein from 1995 to 1998. In 1998 his asylum petition was finally rejected, and he was deported to Kosovo. Immediately after his arrival the heavy fighting between the KLA and your army and police began. Yet he remained. After the beginning of the NATO bombing he was sought out by the Yugoslav police. They accused him of collaboration with the KLA and with OSCE observers. He denied both accusations. The accusation of cooperation with OSCE observers I find specially objectionable, since the latter were in Kosovo with your consent. He and his family were unambiguously ordered immediately to leave the country, because otherwise, as they were told, they would be shot. Thus began their sad journey as exiles. He also reported to me that intellectuals, especially medical doctors in his city, were supposed to have been shot, but in this case he only heard about this; he himself had not witnessed it.

Another exile came from a village. In this village only Kosovo- Albanians were living. Serbs lived in both neighboring villages. There was peaceful co-existence.

According to his account, after the bombing began, Yugoslav soldiers and police personnel came and herded the villagers together. They were given one hour to leave the village and Kosovo for good. No accusations of any kind were uttered. The Serb inhabitants of the neighboring villages had no part in the action. The refugee told me that the inhabitants of his village returned to their houses and simply stayed there. And then each night for a whole week the houses, especially the roofs, were shelled. Nobody ventured out of their house. After a week they were forcibly driven out of their houses and herded together. This time the soldiers’ and policemen’s faces were painted so as to be unrecognizable. When the villagers were told they would be shot if they did not leave the village, they left. On the road they were sent back as they were told that they could take along their tractors, cars, etc., but could never return. They then got their vehicles and other things. Then too their sad journey as exiles began.

These examples should suffice.

From this I get the following inescapable impression: until the beginning of NATO’s war against Yugoslavia there were refugees from the armed clashes between your army and police on the one side, and the KLA on the other, which affected the civilian population. There were excesses and provocations against the civilian population from both sides. One should also remember the accusation–by no means effectively countered–of the massacre in Racak, about which I had at the time written you a strong letter of protest. But at that point there was, as is known, still no “ethnic cleansing” or systematic expulsions in Kosovo. This is shown not only by the significantly lower numbers of refugees, but also by the status reports of the German Federal Republic’s Foreign Ministry and the decisions of German high courts.

The battle against the KLA is certainly constitutional and legal from the point of view of international law. But such armed troops [i.e. the KLA, ed.] do not arise if a population has not for many years been significantly disadvantaged, a state of affairs which began with the removal of Kosovo’s autonomy in 1989. This is true, despite the significant external support for the KLA.

However, here it is decisive that the end of the Rambouillet negotiations and the beginning of the bombing on the part of NATO were clearly used massively and systematically to expel Kosovo-Albanians. This is also shown by the trains that are sent, filled with Kosovo-Albanians, to Macedonia. These massive expulsions significantly violate the human rights of the people concerned. And the account you gave me is clearly false. Precisely the sudden transformation in the behavior of the Yugoslav army and police after the beginning of the bombing rules out the possibility that what is involved are only isolated excesses. Here direction had to come from the center. Indications of massacres are also becoming more frequent. In my view, these occurrences make the NATO bombardments even more insane and pernicious. However, the bombing in no way justifies the actions of the Yugoslav army and police against the Kosovo-Albanians.

As President you have a duty to care for and protect all Yugoslav citizens, including the Kosovo-Albanian population.

I can only appeal to you to prevent without delay any expulsion or worse in Kosovo. At the same time you must give credible signs of the possibility of a peaceful and secure return of refugees and exiles. I call your attention to the beginning of this letter. To the degree that you cooperate with these requests, the rejection of the illegal war of the U.S. and NATO against Yugoslavia will grow in Europe.

I would be grateful for your answer.


Dr. Gregor Gysi

Translation: Eric Canepa (Source: the PDS’s weekly press report, Pressedienst, No. 18, 1999 (May 7)


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