the legal battle:


The Defendants' List of Documents:

[the next step - 10 March]


Pogrom in Kosovo

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

The autonomous Yugoslav province of Kosovo is under virtual state of siege. Troops and tanks patrol the streets, hundreds of the majority Albanian population are under arrest, public protests are banned and there is speculation that a night curfew is about to be declared. The government clampdown in Kosovo follows a successful general strike by Albanian miners at the Trepca zinc mine, in protest at attempts by Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic to exercise greater control over Kosovo. The strike forced the resignation of three pro-Serbian officials from the local party leadership.

Ethnic Albanians have been accused of plotting an armed revolt in the province. Lazar Mojsov, a member of Yugoslavia's collective state presidency, claimed that a blueprint for the revolt was in government hands. Such claims have encouraged demonstrations by thousands of angry Serbs, demanding an end to alleged violence against Serbs in Kosovo, the reinstatement of the three party officials and an extension of Serbian rule over the province. The situation in Kosovo is one aspect of an explosion of nationalist tensions in Yugoslavia.


In common with the rest of Eastern Europe, economic decay is well advanced in the country. In 1987 the republics of Macedonia and Montenegro, as well as Kosovo province, declared themselves bankrupt. All are in the most backward southern part of the country. In the country as a whole inflation is rampant, foreign debt is out of control and over a million workers are unemployed. The pattern of economic decay follows a rough north-south divide, along which opposing nationalist camps in the Yugoslav bureaucracy now align themselves.

The more prosperous northern republics of Slovenia and Croatia, and the autonomous province of Vojvodina, enjoy living standards more akin to those of Western Europe. But in the poorest southern republics of Montenegro and Macedonia, and particularly in Kosovo, many workers earn only a third of the average northern wage. Here too, eight million Serbs, the largest group in a population of 23m, harbour longstanding grievances at being denied their dominant pre-war position.

Differences between north and south have crystallised around economic reform. There are few disagreements about the nature of the reforms needed: an end to government subsidies of consumer goods, an overhaul in the management of enterprises and an effort to attract foreign and domestic investment. The debate is about how the reforms should be implemented. Northerners want more decentralisation, while southerners led by Milosevic favour more old-style centralised planning. The north fears that Milosevic's plans will damage the prosperous areas by forcing them to subsidise the south. The south is concerned that decentralisation will mean more subsidy cuts, unemployment, ruin and upheaval.

Concerned to protect their own positions, bureaucrats north and south have channelled growing working class resentment in a nationalist direction. Milosevic has tried to harness the anger of Serbian workers in a nationalist movement to strengthen Serbia's position in the federation as well as his own challenge for the national leadership. An anti-Albanian pogrom atmosphere is growing in Serbia: Albanian workers have been forced to Serbianise their names to avoid persecution.

In Slovenia, nationalism finds another focus. Angry at having to subsidise Yugoslavia's poorer regions, Slovenians have become vocal in their criticism of the Serbian-dominated national army. A campaign against the military in the local party youth paper Mladina led to the trial of Slovenian activists in 1988. Milosevic's anti-Albanian campaign has encouraged reactionary secessionist tendencies among Slovenian nationalists.


Yugoslavia's two million ethnic Albanians have a long history of resistance to their subordination in the Yugoslav federation. In 1968 they were granted greater autonomy after years of terror. This only served to heighten national feeling and in 1981 the army was sent in to crush another round of nationalist demonstrations. The present unrest is tame by comparison. While objecting to the extension of Serbian rule over their province, demonstrators insist on their loyalty to a united Yugoslavia and even carry photographs of Tito.

As troops and tanks impose a Serbian region of terror in Kosovo, Slobodan Milosevic seems to have taken one more step towards a dominant position in the Yugoslav federation. The tragedy is that the working class should be venting its anger in chauvinist demagogy, rather than in hatred of the Stalinist bureaucracy which has monopolised power for 40 years.

Russell Osborne

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