FOR the first time, the international community has officially denounced ethnic persecution in Kosovo, the once-autonomous province in Serbia that has since 1989 felt the brunt of a Serb crackdown.
The UN Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, a branch of the UN Human Rights Commission, in its 45th annual session here this month, passed a resolution citing a long list of abuses against Kosovo's ethnic Albanians, who make up about 90 percent of the population.
Diplomats and Balkans watchers worry that Serbia could launch a campaign of "ethnic cleansing" against Albanians in the province, which gained autonomy under Communist leader Marshal Tito.
The resolution "vigorously condemns" the ethnic abuses, and urges the Yugoslav authorities to curtail them, reestablish democratic institutions, and allow back monitors from the Council on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE).
In August 1992, the UN appointed a special rapporteur on human rights for the former Yugoslavia, and before that, the CSCE sent monitors to Kosovo. But the UN rapporteur has been repeatedly blocked from carrying out his mission, and the CSCE observers were summarily expelled at the beginning of July.
"Most of those who lodged CSCE staff in their homes have been arrested, beaten, and tortured," charges Xhafer Shatri, minister of information for the Kosovo government-in-exile. "The authorities then taunt these people, telling them to go to their foreign friends if they have any complaints."
According to Mr. Shatri, about 5,000 people have been beaten, tortured, and terrorized since the CSCE officials were forced out.
The sub-commission also passed a resolution deploring the "growth of ultranationalist ideologies in Serbia," with their resulting ethnic and religious hatred. That resolution recalls that the 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights stated that the "abhorrent policy of ethnic cleansing was a form of genocide." A third sub-commission resolution condemned "the crime of genocide," explicitly mentioning the former Yugoslavia.
Other resolutions - pertaining to the rights of minorities; to detention or imprisonment; to population transfers; and to forced evictions - all touch on the Balkans crisis.
"I am not aware of any rule that has not been violated," said sub-commission president Awm Shawkat Al-Khasawneh, from Jordan.