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One night erased the results of ten years

The massive air strikes against Yugoslavia do not only destroy army installations. They also take human lives and ruin the economic infrastructure of our impoverished country. In the long run, however, the biggest collateral damage will be the shattered possibilities for democracy in Serbia. We fear that the only durable result of the undeclared war will be a permanent state of emergency, legal and spiritual, this time with the support of the bewildered majority, which has always sided with the government in times of extreme adversity and danger.

Democratic and economic transition in Serbia is the only real cure for the Kosovo problem and hope for achieving stability in the Balkans.

Our long-standing criticism of the policies of the Serbian regime and especially its human rights record is well known. However, we regard the NATO's decision "to use violence for humanitarian reasons" as a sign of incompetence and impotence of the US and EU policies in regard to Kosovo, rather than an unavoidable move after all other efforts had failed. Air strikes signify the defeat of the international community's long-standing policy towards Serbia, which has been exclusively based on negotiating with Mr. Milosevic and pressuring him to deliver peace.

There will be no real peace and stability in the region and there will certainly be no peace in Yugoslavia unless Serbia embarks on the road to democracy and market economy. However, it appears that the international community has never seriously considered this option. There has been no real effort to promote and assist the position of those in Serbia that have been endeavouring to put their country on the road to democracy. On the contrary, economic and political isolation of FR Yugoslavia has been maintained although it has been clear that this immensely aids authoritarian and xenophobic extremists. In the atmosphere of war and national calamity these enemies of democracy will feel no inhibitions and will meet with little resistance.

Occasional maladroit attempts to "assist" democracy and human rights in Serbia by vague promises of money to individuals and groups have only exposed non-governmental organisations to accusations of cupidity and treacherous service to foreign enemies. A fresh and very unfortunate example is the introduction in the US Senate of a "Serbian Democratization Act" in the wake of the first night of bombings!

The air strikes erased in one night the results of ten years of hard work of groups of courageous people in the non-governmental organisations and in the democratic opposition, who have not tried to "topple" anyone but to develop the institutions of civil society, to promote liberal and civic values, to teach non violent conflict resolution. The emerging democracy in Montenegro is in peril and will be hard to maintain now. The Kosovo problem will remain unsolved and the future of democracy and human rights in Serbia uncertain for many years.

However, we still hope that it is not too late for all the parties involved to come to their senses and try to resolve this situation through negotiations and without further violence.

The Belgrade Centre for Human Rights


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