Human Rights Review

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 57–71 | Cite as

Genocide in Kosovo

  • Peter Ronayne


That Kosovo exploded with genocidal violence in 1999 and ultimately prompted outside intervention surprised few—it was a long-festering hotspot but one that fell low on the world politics priority lists, despite the brutal “wars of Yugoslav” succession that engulfed Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia. But for a relatively small scale conflict in a rather unknown corner of the world, Kosovo’s crisis of 1998–1999 brought with it a host of complex issues that challenge the international community to this day. As with any issue or case in the area of genocide studies, attention and understanding must first go to the dramatic human suffering inflicted upon one group by another. The macro-level political, legal, and ethical discussion and debates swirling about Kosovo should not and must not obscure the powerful and provocative human element at play. First and foremost, the Kosovo issue revolves around how best to save lives following an explosion of genocidal violence. Simultaneously, however, Kosovo in 1999 exploded with ramifications for the future of state sovereignty, the United Nations, and understanding the causes of genocide, nation building, and humanitarianism in the twenty-first century.


United Nations Security Council International Criminal Court North Atlantic Treaty Organization Genocide Convention 
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Annotated Bibliography

  1. Abrams, Jason (2001). The atrocities in Cambodia and Kosovo: Observations on the codification of genocide. New England Law Review, 35(2), 303–309. A short response piece to Schabas (2001). (See the annotation of Schabas' piece below.) Abrams draws attention to the distinction between intent and motive vis-à-vis genocide and describes a scenario under which genocide is in essence a tool for a larger motive of ethnic cleansing.Google Scholar
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  3. American Society of International Law (1999). Editorial comments: NATO's Kosovo intervention. American Journal of International Law, 73(4), 824–878. A group of prominent scholars including Louis Henkin, Ruth Wedgewood, Richard A. Falk, and Thomas Franck provides various insights on the ultimate “meaning” of Kosovo. The extensively footnoted editorials provide focused insight even if they ultimately raise more questions than they answer.Google Scholar
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  19. Moorman, William (2002). Humanitarian intervention and international law in the case of Kosovo. New England Journal of International Law, 36(4), 775–784. This piece by Moorman, who at the time of writing was the judge advocate general of the United States Air Force, appeals to what he calls “fact based analysis” which reveals the unique environment that compelled an “exceptional” (as is not the rule), albeit problematic, intervention by NATO.Google Scholar
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  21. Schabas, William A. (2001). Problems of international codification—Were the atrocities in Cambodia and Kosovo genocide? New England Law Review, 35(2), 287–302. Schabas argues forcefully that the crimes in Kosovo should not be minimized but were not genocide. He also marks a careful, if ultimately uncovincing, distinction between “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” and notes the relationship to “cultural genocide.” Followed by a companion/response piece by Jason Abrams (see above).Google Scholar
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  25. Simma, Bruno (1999). NATO, the UN, and the use of force: Legal aspects. European Journal of International Law, 10(1), 1–22. Expresses grave concern for international law if the Allied Force exception (illegal action for just cause) becomes the rule, although doesn't make a compelling case that this is likely to happen.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Staub, Ervin (1989). The Roots of Evil: The Origins of Genocide and Other Group Violence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 336 pp. While not a book about Kosovo specifically (it obviously predates all of the Balkan crises of the 1990s), the overlay of his approach to understanding genocide (psychological, cultural, economic factors) onto the Kosovo crisis in enlightening and provocative.Google Scholar
  27. United Nations (1999). Secretary-General Presents His Annual Report to the General Assembly. New York: UN Department of Public Information. Press Release UN Doc. SG/SM/7136 GA/9596.6 pp. Available through the Internet at: A wide-ranging, highly conceptual speech delivered by Kofi Annan to the final meeting of the UN General Assembly in the twentieth century. Very strong emphasis on the challenges of resolving the UN's persistent schizophrenia—a foundation of state sovereignty coupled with constant evolution in the direction of individual/human rights and intervention to stop massive violations of those rights.Google Scholar
  28. Vickers, Miranda (1998). Between Serb and Albanian: A History of Kosovo. New York: Columbia University Press. 328 pp. From one of Britain's leading authorities on the Kosovo issue, this book makes its mark with emphasis on the parallel history of difficulty between Kosovo Albanians and the Albanians in Albania proper and tracing the evolution of the Kosovar Albanian independence movement.Google Scholar
  29. Woodward, Susan L (1995). Balkan Tragedy: Chaos and Dissolution after the Cold War: Washington, DC: Brookings Institution. 536 pp. Detailed description and analysis of the broader Balkan breakdown in the early to mid 1990s. Provides relevant background/context for later events in Kosovo.Google Scholar
  30. Zimmermann, Warren (1996). Origins of a Catastrophe: Yugoslavia and its Destroyers—America's Last Ambassador Tells What Happened and Why. New York: Times Books. 269 pp. An insider perspective on Milosevic and his hypernationalist leadership style related from the perspective of the last U.S. ambassador to Yugoslavia.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2004

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  • Peter Ronayne

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