Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Statement of Hon. Christopher H. Smith
Chairman - Helsinki Commission

Print

Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Hearing on: "Kosovo's Displaced and Imprisoned"

February 28, 2000

STATEMENT OF

REP. CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, CHAIRMAN

Today, the Helsinki Commission is returning its focus to the Balkans, a region which has dominated
our agenda. More specifically, we will look at the current situation in Kosovo, and the prospects for
addressing outstanding human rights issues. People from all ethnic groups in Kosovo, continue to
be displaced. Large numbers of Serbs and Roma in particular have had to flee Kosovo. Most
Albanians have returned after their forced displacement last year, but some cannot return to their
own towns and villages, or have to contend with survival on property that was destroyed during the
conflict. Finally, many Kosovar Albanians languish in Serbian prisons, seemingly for no reason other
than the Milosevic regime's well documented desire to inflict pain on as many innocent people as
possible.

Much of our discussion today will be on the situation in Kosovo itself. But we know all too well that
few efforts to build democratic and tolerant societies in Kosovo or anywhere in the region can
succeed without addressing the role of Slobodan Milosevic and the need for democratic change in
Serbia itself. Until that occurs, the international community will continue to be challenged in the
region. There will continue to be friction, spilling over into violence. Here in Washington, and in other
capitals across Europe, there will be differing views on how to respond, especially in the
deployment of our own forces and the rules for their engagement. Mitrovica is only the most recent
hot spot. We heard in our hearing a few weeks ago that Montenegro might be next on the list.

Clearly, we have an active interest in addressing the source of Balkan instability, for the sake of our
national interests and for the well-being of the people - all people - who live in the region.

We have many distinguished witnesses today, and we look forward to hearing their views. Our first
panel consist of Ambassador John Menzies, Deputy Special Advisor to the President and
Secretary of State for Kosovo Implementation. He will present the views of the Department of State.
We know Ambassador Menzies well here at the Commission, going back to his days at the U.S.
Embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria, to his work on humanitarian questions and then as U.S. Ambassador in
Sarajevo during the Bosnian conflict, his post-Dayton work at the U.S. Institute for Peace, and in his
current position. Welcome, Ambassador.

The next panel will consist of five experts. First, we have Bill Frelick of the U.S. Committee for
Refugees, a well known advocate of people in need, who will give us a quantitative and qualitative
overview of the situation for the displaced of Kosovo. Next we have His Grace, Bishop Artemije of
the Serbian Orthodox Church, who will present his views on what can be done to help the Serb
community from Kosovo. We then have Andrzej Mirga, currently a Visiting Professor at Rutgers
University and an expert for the Council of Europe and the Project on Ethnic Relations, who will
address the current situation regarding Kosovo's Roma population. Finally, we have Susan
Blaustein of the International Crisis Group and Ylber Bajraktari, a student from Kosovo, who will
address the issue of those Albanians imprisoned in Serbia and highlight the importance of
resolving this issue.

I welcome you all here and look forward to your testimony.