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Update No. 98/10 on the activities of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in response to the crisis in Kosovo

22-12-1998 Operational Update

 General situation  

Ten weeks after the agreement between the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) was signed, the situation in Kosovo remains volatile. The month of December saw some of the most serious incidents since the cease-fire was established, including clashes along the border between the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Albania, as well as what appear to be the first deliberate attacks on public places in urban areas.

While there is still an expectation that the growing presence of the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) of the OSCE will contribute to a stabilization of the security situation, the lack of discernible progress in the political negotiations raises lasting concerns for the future.

Against this unstable background, and in view of the harsh winter conditions, humanitarian actors, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), have continued to address specific needs throughout Kosovo, as well as in other areas of Serbia and in Montenegro.

 ICRC response  

 Relief  

Since the end of October, the ICRC has chosen to focus its relief distributions on displaced persons and returning families in isolated communities, who are cut off from general distribution sites either because of security constraints or due to their remote location. This approach was designed to be complementary to the rel ief activities organized by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

At the end of November, the WFP announced that it faced a temporary shortfall in its pipeline and requested the ICRC's help in filling the gap. Following a constructive round of consultations between organizations in the field, and having established that its stock levels were sufficient, the ICRC began directing additional convoys to a variety of locations throughout Kosovo. In December, the ICRC delivered 420   MT of food in this way to people who had previously received assistance from WFP. The number of beneficiaries served by the ICRC thus increased from 30,000 in November to 76,000 in December. Since July, the ICRC has distributed a total of 1,200 MT of food and non-food assistance in Kosovo.

In addition, the ICRC and partner National Societies have provided the Montenegro Branch of the Yugoslav Red Cross with 750 MT of food and non-food assistance since July. The number of beneficiaries in Montenegro in December was 20,000.

 Protection  

Further progress was made in the ICRC's efforts to visit detainees. Since the end of October, some 400 persons held by the Serbian authorities in connection with the Kosovo conflict were visited, including persons still under investigation. In addition, the Serbian authorities have officially notified the ICRC of approximately another 420 detainees.

Although the ICRC has still not been able to reach a generalized access agreement with the Serbian authorities and must therefore continue to present requests for visits to detainees to investigating magistrates, the growing number of notifications and the more widespread access to persons under investigation represent a considerable impr ovement.

As for access to persons allegedly held by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), there has to date not been any significant development, in spite of the recent release of six persons by the KLA.

 Cooperation with OSCE Verification Mission  

As a result of consultations between the OSCE and the ICRC, which began within days of the signing of the OSCE-FRY agreement, delegates of the International Red Cross have, since the end of November, been taking part in the briefing sessions for KVM staff arriving in Kosovo.

The objective is to present the mandate and specific tasks of the ICRC and the broader International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. By the end of the year, the ICRC will have taken part and made presentations in ten such sessions.

This activity is undertaken in parallel to the institutional and operational dialogue established with the KVM and the OSCE in Pristina, Belgrade, Vienna and elsewhere.