the legal battle:


The Defendants' List of Documents:

[the next step - 7 April 1989]


The legal documents so far:

The original letter from ITN's solicitors

Statement of Claim from ITN

The Defence

Two-Ten Statement in Open Court

The Reply

>The Defendants' List of Documents

Serbia celebrates as Kosovo erupts: Russell Osborne reports on the bloody uprisings in the Yugoslav province

Scores of people have died in fierce clashes between ethnic Albanians and Serbian riot police in the southern Yugoslav province of Kosovo. The region is now cut off from the outside world with a dusk-to-dawn curfew, military roadblocks, random identity checks and a ban on gatherings of more that three people. The majority Albanian population are in revolt over the ending of their autonomous status in the Yugoslav federation, after local Communist Party officials voted for constitutional changes giving control of Kosovo back to Serbia.

Downtrodden nationalities 

It is a time of triumph for Serbians. In the capital city of Belgrade, street celebrations marked the ending of Kosovo's autonomy and the reunification of Serbia. When he created the federal system, Yugoslavia's post-war president Josef Tito divided Serbia to end its dominant role in the region. For Serbian nationalists and their demagogic leader Slobodan Milosevic, the reassertion of Serbian control in Kosovo has finally put an end to Tito's three-way split of the republic. The autonomous province of Vojvodina has already been forced back under Serbian control.

It is time of mourning for Albanians, who have suffered grievously as the most downtrodden of Yugoslav's nationalities, and who are now burying their dead.

As the military imposes an iron-fist policy to deal with the ethnic unrest, Albanians fear a return to the dark days of the fifties and sixties, when the Serbian-dominated secret police under Aleksander Rankovic conducted a reign of terror against Albanian nationalists. This harsh regime was instituted after Yugoslavia split from the Soviet Cominform in 1948, when Tito feared that anti-Yugoslav propaganda emanating from Albania might appeal to Kosovo's Albanian majority.

Things got so bad that even the Communist Party was later forced to admit that the scale of the terror had been a mistake. This state of affairs only changed with the end of Rankovic's rule in 1966 and the restoration of a degree of autonomy to the province. But because Kosovo only had provincial status in a federation of republics, it was also under-represented at a national level. In 1968 students at Pristina University demonstrated in favour of republic status and ran riot through the town.

Humiliating rule

Tito Albanianised the province in 1974 in an attempt to defuse local resentment at the lowly status of the majority population, but he held out against giving Kosovo republic status. Albanians were granted control over the judiciary, security and economic planning, as well as a veto over any future constitutional changes. But resentment rumbled on and exploded in 1981, when student demonstrations over low living standards became the catalyst for an uprising which was brutally suppressed.

Now they have been forced back under direct rule by Serbia, Albanians live in fear of a return to the martial law conditions imposed after the crushing of the 1981 revolt.

Yugoslavia is on the brink of economic disaster, with weekly inflation running at six per cent. For Albanians the humiliating reimposition of Serbian rule can only make matters worse in a province where unemployment and poverty are rampant. In the provincial capital of Pristina, more than half the population is unemployed, and things are even worse in the countryside. Those Albanians who try to leave the province to seek work encounter vicious discrimination. Commonly referred to by the derogatory term 'Siptari', Albanians suffer social ostracism and ghettoisation. Outside Kosovo they are offered only the lowest-status, lowest-paying jobs.

Although they make up more than 20 per cent of the population of the republic of Macedonia, Albanians face discrimination there too. The capital of Skopje has undergone a process of Lebanonisation in the past two years. A district locally known as 'the wild colony' is inhabited by 12,000 newcomers of Albanian origin. Another 13,000 families who migrated from the countryside are homeless and living in makeshift shelters or with relatives. Macedonia's Albanians are routinely scapegoated for the collapse of social services in the republic as well as being blamed for a local crime wave. Their traditional farming methods have been attacked for 'impeding progress'.

Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic hopes to take advantage of anti-Albanian feeling among Serbs to build his own power base at a federal level. His chauvinist tirades have unleashed a pogrom against Albanians. In March a Serbian nationalist shot dead two Turkish workers whom he mistook for Albanians, and many Albanians have been forced to Serbianise their names to avoid trouble.

Going underground

On top of these accumulated indignities the capitulation of the Kosovo Party to the restoration of Serbian control was the last straw for many Albanians. Miners stayed underground for eight days in protest and forced the Kosovo leadership to resign. When the federal government refused to accept the resignations, Albanian protesters took to the streets. The bloody uprising that is now sweeping the province is the result.

The implications of the Kosovo uprising go far beyond Kosovo itself. The strengthening of Milosevic's position at the head of a reunified Serbia seriously worries the other republics in the Yugoslav federation. Croats and Slovenes fear that Milosevic is intent on creating a greater Serbia which would dominate the Yugoslav federation.

As the country's economic decline continues unabated, growing political and ethnic tensions could blow Tito's carefully constructed post-war federation apart.

The last shots have not yet been fired in what has been the most bloody uprising in the history of modern Yugoslavia. However the current violence ends, Albanian resistance will continue. Albanians have until now demanded equal rights with the federation, but after all the bloodshed their demands could well become more extreme. Whatever form future Albanian resistance takes, it is clear that their demands for equal rights in the Yugoslav federation are justified. It is equally clear that the Serbian bureaucracy led by Slobodan Milosevic is to blame for the bloodshed in Kosovo. The right of Albanians to full autonomy must be defended.

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