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Argument: Serbian abuses invalidate their sovereignty over Kosovo

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Supporting evidence

  • Anthony Loyd. "Kosovo deserves its independence." Times Online. December 12, 2007 - "The argument of the critics of Kosovan independence rests on two bogus tenets of denial. First, they state that Serbia was not responsible for the widescale massacre of Albanian civilians between 1998 and 1999, and propose instead that Serb security forces were somehow tricked into killing thousands of innocents by the provocation of the Kosovo Liberation Army. Secondly, they advance the theory that the 800,000 Albanian refugees who fled their homes during Nato's 79-day air campaign did so as they were frightened of the bombing rather than Serb military units.
Were these claims true then the fundamental case for Kosovo's independence, in the spotlight since the expiry on Monday of a UN deadline for Pristina and Belgrade to reach agreement on the province's future status, would be fatally flawed.
But they are untrue. I know this not as an assumption, but as a fact. I have many memories of Kosovo acquired during the time I spent reporting there between 1998 and 2000. Among the images of mass graves, burnt villages and swelling bodies that spring to mind is one of particular significance. In the fields outside the town of Istinic in southwestern Kosovo one summer day I watched some 40,000 Kosovans corralled together by rings of Serb police. The young, the old; man, woman, child, they stared in abject fear to the horizon where smoke from their villages, torched in a Serb purge from which they fled, gathered thickly in the skies. [...]
After a day or two the Serb police pushed them back into the hinterland, driving them with stinging switches and robotic threats broadcast from tannoys mounted on the sides of armoured personnel carriers. These people had not fled from fear of Nato bombing.[...]
The memory is pertinent to Kosovo's case for independence now as it revealed the absolute complicity of the Serbian authorities in human rights abuses in Kosovo and proved them then, as later, a cruel and unjust power from which the oppressed Kosovo Albanian majority thoroughly deserved to be independent."
  • Matthew Wood Herbert. "Who Deserves Kosovo? An Argument from Social Contract Theory". Southeast European Politics. Vol. VI, No. 1, pp. 29-43. July 2005 - "There is a strong theoretical case to be made that a state’s rights are contingent on the state’s fulfilling its constitutive obligations. Simply put, there are no state’s rights if the sovereign power has withdrawn its commitment to the very obligations that underwrite the state’s existence. Any evaluation of Serbia’s legal argument for retaining Kosovo must begin with an assessment of its commitment to the state’s constitutive obligations throughout the whole of its territory, including Kosovo. There is a strong empirical case to be made that Serbia has alienated its right to rule Kosovo through willful, protracted abuse of such obligations. It is also evident that post-Milošević Serbia cannot or will not take the necessary steps to cultivate trust among its Albanian citizens in Kosovo, undermining the possibility of Belgrade’s renewed governance there.
[...]Conclusions The current competition for legitimacy in Kosovo has been aptly described as a race to project the sort of trust necessary for fair governance: 'A final status process should move the sovereignty issue between the Kosovo Albanians and Serbia entirely to this question: which of the two projects greater capacity and will to govern and protect all Kosovo’s inhabitants?'(ICG 2005: 7). The Government of Serbia has, by its continued, explicit commitment to ethnic clientelism, disqualified itself from the competition. It does not deserve to govern Kosovo, even nominally. The social contract that underwrote Serbia’s authority in Kosovo has been ruptured, and the government’s failure even to begin to restore trust has made the rupture permanent. That Kosovo’s inhabitants will be able to formulate a civic contract on their own and base fair governance on its principles does not, however, follow from the conclusion that Belgrade cannot. Kosovo will need international mentoring, and perhaps the continued exercise of international sovereignty in certain areas, for decades to come. This is not an obstacle in principle. Kosovo’s leading officials have uniformly committed to the partial transfer of sovereignty to Brussels entailed by Euro-Atlantic integration. It may be objected that my theses ignore the 'Albanian' side of the Kosovo situation, particularly whether Kosovo’s citizens and institutions can pass the same social contract test that Belgrade has so clearly failed. In short, can Kosovo rule itself fairly? My aim has not been to explore that question—which does demand serious attention—but only to argue that official Belgrade does not deserve a role in formulating it. The final formula for apportioning sovereignty in Kosovo will balance Pristina’s interests not with Belgrade’s, but with the imperatives of the international community. The balance to be achieved by that apportionment is still an open question."

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