U.N. investigation criticizes March Kosovo raid

U.N. police and NATO troops raided the U.N. court in the town of Mitrovica on March 17 to retake it from Serbs who had forcibly occupied the building three days earlier in protest at Kosovo's independence.

U.N. investigation criticizes March Kosovo raid
A United Nations investigation into the March storming of a courthouse by U.N. and NATO troops in northern Kosovo criticizes the force for rushing in, diplomats briefed on its contents said on Friday.

U.N. police and NATO troops raided the U.N. court in the town of Mitrovica on March 17 to retake it from Serbs who had forcibly occupied the building three days earlier in protest at Kosovo declaring independence.

The violence during those clashes was the worst since Kosovo's 90-percent Albanian majority declared independence from Serbia in February. A 25-year-old Ukrainian U.N. policeman was killed by a grenade and a Serb protester was shot in the head and gravely wounded.

Russia backed Serbia in protest at Kosovo's secession and Western support for Kosovo's independence.

Russia's U.N. ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who has repeatedly criticized both the raid and Western support for Kosovo's secession, told reporters that the U.N. probe had concluded that the use of force against Kosovo Serbs at the time was "absolutely unwarranted."

Western diplomats who attended the same briefing on the investigation characterized it differently.

They confirmed that the investigation took a critical view of the actions of the forces, and that it showed that they had ignored advice from U.N. headquarters. But they said the probe had concluded that the troops and police had acted within their mandate.

A U.N. spokeswoman said on Friday that the report had not been released and did not know when it would be circulated.

NATO said at the time that its troops came under automatic gunfire as Serbs converged on the court in the predominantly Kosovo Serb town following the dawn raid. It said Serb hard-liners fired automatic weapons and threw grenades and Molotov cocktails during the clash.

But Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica accused NATO peacekeepers and U.N. police of using "snipers and banned ammunition" to quell the riot.

Serbia and its ally Russia opposed Kosovo's independence and have refused to recognize Europe's youngest country.

Reuters
Last Mod: 03 Ağustos 2008, 11:30
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