War Resisters' International, an international pacifist network with affiliates in over 30 countries, discussed the war and humanitarian crisis in Kosovo/a at its Triennial conference in Porec, Croatia, 20-26 September 1998.
- The conference criticised the handling of the situation by intergovernmental bodies and by individual states:
- their failure to provide space for negotiations during the prolonged period when the Albanians of Kosovo/a pursued a disciplined policy of nonviolent action
- their treatment of Milosevic as a guarantor of peace in the region rather than as the person most responsible for the criminal policies carried out in the name of Serbian people
- their insistence that the issue has to be settled in the framework of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
- the refusal of those states which turn away refugees from FRY and especially the callousness of those states sending Kosovars back to a war and draft evaders into the hands of the Yugoslav army
- the game of bluff played by the Contact Group at a time when what was needed was an explicit and transparent explanation of what actions it was prepared to contemplate in what circumstances -- this closed off wider exploration of peaceful options.
- The conference noted the catastrophic consequences of the violent strategy of the Kosova Liberation Army in the face of a ruthless regime.
- The urgent requirement today is to halt the bloodshed, to support the safe and voluntary return of displaced people, to create conditions for reconstruction, and to set in motion a process to achieve a long-term political solution and demilitarisation of the region.
- A long-term solution requires the recognition of the human and political rights of all the people of Kosovo/a. The Serbian government has claimed the right to retain sovereignty over the territory of Kosovo/a on the basis of the integrity of the territory. But according to international standards any state which wages war against a part of the population should forfeit its legitimacy and therefore its right to rule them or the territory they inhabit, and an ethnic group has the right to secede from a state under which it is systematically persecuted .
- We therefore call upon the UN and EU, and individual states, to apply a political sanction they have so far excluded and which we believe would make a more useful impact than economic sanctions: this sanction is that unless the Yugoslav government immediately ends its attacks on Kosovo/a towns and villages and allows full international monitoring of the situation in Kosovo/a, and unless they begin internationally mediated talks with the representatives of the Kosovo/a Albanians, the UN, the European Union and individual states should promptly
- withdraw recognition of the Serbian claim to territorial integrity in respect of Kosovo/a
- undertake a process to determine the wishes of all the people of Kosovo/a concerning the future of the territory.
- The conference considered a range of proposals for nonviolent action in response to the present situation
- In the immediate term,
- we call on WRI affiliates and peace groups in Europe to consider blockading the embassies or consulates of FRY, beginning on 21 October under the slogan "Stop the war in Kosovo/a"
- we recommend that a further target for protest actions should be sporting events involving teams representing FRY
- we urge better communication among all international NGOs working on the question of Kosovo/a
- we urge support for the anti-war initiatives of anti-militarist and pacifist groups in Serbia and for voices for nonviolence within Kosovo/a, including those among the Serb and other minorities who oppose the policies of Belgrade and wish to live in peace with Albanians
- we call on all states to recognise the right to asylum of refugees from Kosovo/a and for war resisters from FR Yugoslavia
- In the longer term:
- we call on WRI affiliates and peace groups for increased support of the work of the Balkan Peace Team for inter-ethnic dialogue and encouraging civil society initiatives--especially in helping find good volunteers, in spreading the public reports, and in strengthening BPT's financial base
- we ask WRI affiliates to examine other international initiatives for nonviolent intervention and support of local groups when these are based on requests from people in the situation and organised in close liaison with them.
The 22nd Triennial Conference of the international peace network WAR RESISTERS' INTERNATIONAL is taking place this week in Porec, Croatia. Three hundred representatives, coming from all continents of the world, are participating.
New strategies to strengthen justice in a post-war period and to strengthen peace are being discussed at the Conference. Many participants come from areas where wars are still in progress. We have discussed solidarity strategies against war, conscription, the arms trade, discrimination and violence -- especially against women -- and agreed on a strategy of resistance through means including conscientious objection, civil disobedience and war tax resistance. These discussions are an important contribution to the attempts to bring about reconciliation within and between post-Yugoslav countries.
We greatly regret that some internationally recognised peace activists from Serbia, Kosovo/a, Montenegro and Vojvodina are absent from the conference. The authorities of the Republic of Croatia have refused to issue visas to these activists, in contravention of promises given earlier, and despite the fact that the applications were made in good time. The participants of the Conference are of the opinion that this is not just an accident, rather, it is another example of the policy of the current Croatian Government not to support democratisation processes within the area of former Yugoslavia except by empty words. A country which does not allow freedom of association is not free.
It is symptomatic that this act of the Croatian Government comes at the same time that the Serbian Government is forbidding peace demonstrations against repression and war in Kosovo/a, planned and announced for September 19 in many cities in Serbia and Vojvodina -- could this really be just a coincidence? Obviously, democratisation, reconciliation and peace building in the region are perceived as a threat by the nationalist authoritarian regimes here.
The Croatian government also delayed visas to two of the African activists invited to this conference, to the point that they were not able to attend. We see this as a shameful act of discrimination.
One of our colleagues, a peace activist from Kosovo/a, is not able to join us because she was wounded by a land mine during a peace mission just a couple of days before our Conference. Although she was caught in the crossfire, she did manage to make it to the hospital where she is presently undergoing treatment.
The courage and persistence of the peace activists cooperating with the War Resisters' International network proves that every person has the possibility of resisting war and repression -- and that is always a valuable act. We will not allow current regimes to frustrate our efforts to achieve reconciliation and a lasting peace in the region of the former Yugoslavia.
Once again we call on the people of the world to choose peace together!Signed by participants of the conference, Friday 25 September 1998