By Scott Taylor
Posted in The Halifax Herald, The Windsor Star and The Pembroke Observer during the week of June 2, 2003
Pristina, Kosovo – In their small office at the UN police headquarters in Kosovo, former Ottawa policeman Derek Chappell and his partner, Barry Fletcher, an ex-New Orleans cop, explained to me their frustrated efforts to control the ongoing inter-ethnic violence in this war-ravaged Balkan province. Since NATO forces first entered Kosovo and Serbian security forces withdrew in June 1999, the majority of the terror attacks have been committed by Albanian extremists against Serbs and other ethnic minorities. The result has been the expulsion of nearly 240,000 non-Albanians from Kosovo, with those few remaining minorities polarized into isolated enclaves. This wholesale ethnic cleansing of Kosovo has taken place over the past few years, despite the presence of some 27,000 NATO troops and 4400 international police. "One of the UN’s biggest obstacles to overcome has been the well-entrenched Albanian mafia who use the banner of Kosovar nationalism when it suits their purpose," explained Barry Fletcher. "Whenever we arrest a gangster leader, he wraps himself in the Albanian flag, and the streets become filled with protestors. This is not a society affected by organized crime, it is a society based on organized crime." Since mid-November 2000, various Albanian extremist groups – based on the original Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA, UCK in Albanian) – have begun expanding their area of operations into neighbouring south Serbia and northern Macedonia. In these areas, which are populated by a large percentage of ethnic Albanians, the extremists have ignited separatist movements by launching attacks against the Serbian and Macedonian security forces. Although it is widely known that the Albanians are using Kosovo as a safe haven from which to conduct these destabilising operations, the political interference of the UN and NATO have prevented the international police from cracking down on the culprits. In accordance with the 1999 peace agreement, the KLA was to be demilitarized and converted into a humanitarian assistance organization known as the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC). The wartime leader of the KLA, General Agim Ceku, remains employed under UN direction as the head of the "new" KPC. Of course, the KLA never did turn in their arsenal of heavy weapons and, under he guidance of Ceku, has remained a military formation numbering 2000 regular forces and 3000 reservists. Although he and his soldiers are paid by the UN authorities, Ceku remains openly defiant of Kosovo’s interim civil administration. "Whether [the UN] wants to admit it or not, the KPC are the army of Kosovo and I’m their commander," Ceku told the local Albanian media. Despite public denials, the UN police are also aware of the fact that Ceku’s KPC are directly involved with the acts of terrorism being conducted throughout the region. "At any one time, there are at least 15 per cent of the KPC soldiers that cannot be accounted for by their commanders," said Fletcher. "The NATO troops responsible for the KPC know this is because these absent soldiers are somewhere in the Presevo valley (in south Serbia), or in Tetovo (Macedonia)." In recent weeks, NATO has applied direct pressure by ordering Ceku to voluntarily turn over all of the extremists who nominally serve in the ranks of his KPC. "[NATO] has a list of suspects, but they did not supply these names to Ceku," said Fletcher. "He is to come up with his own list and it is hoped that these individuals will match." Unfortunately, even this latest demand on Ceku to cut his ties with the terrorists is seen as another hollow gesture. "There is no ‘or else’ attached to the ultimatum and no definitive timeline," said Fletcher. When asked why the UN, to date, has not removed Ceku from his post and sent him to The Hague for his previous war crimes, the American policeman just shrugs and says "politics." This double standard of justice exemplified by the UN authorities in Kosovo will no doubt not sit well with those Canadian soldiers who bore witness to the terrible atrocities committed by Agim Ceku. The first occasion our peacekeepers encountered his bloody handiwork was during the September 1993 Medak Pocket operation. Then serving in the Croatian army, Ceku led a short offensive and captured four Serbian villages. When the soldiers of the Second Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry reoccupied the contested area, they discovered that the Croat forces had perpetrated a violent orgy of rape and murder. Despite the careful cataloguing of the atrocities and the lodging of formal complaints against his conduct, Agim Ceku was promoted to general and put in charge of the Croatian artillery. It was in this capacity in 1995 that, during a major offensive in southern Croatia, Ceku’s gunners deliberately engaged fleeing columns of refugees in the city of Knin. Once more, Canadian officers and soldiers observed this deliberate terror attack and demands were again made for Ceku’s indictment at The Hague tribunal. Last year, the Canadian government bestowed upon the soldiers of 2PPCLI a special unit commendation for their bravery in the Medak Pocket. While this honour was long overdue, such recognition seems somewhat meaningless given that the criminal responsible for this massacre not only remains at large, but also continues to wage a terror campaign in the Balkans while collecting a UN paycheque.