Promoting Dialogue and Preventing Atrocities: The UK Government Approach













“Promoting Dialogue and Preventing Atrocities:

The UK Government Approach”





Written evidence submitted by Dr Aidan Hehir, University of Westminster,

17th January 2022













I have published widely on the issue of humanitarian intervention and the Responsibility to Protect, with a specific focus on the former Yugoslavia, especially Kosovo; I am the author/editor of the following books:




Dr Aidan Hehir


Reader in International Relations

School of Social Sciences

University of Westminster



I present the following in relation to the topic:


Lessons learned in atrocity prevention from Bosnia and other contexts since the 1990s (particularly lessons for the UN system and relevant international law)


I wish to highlight that peace and security in the Balkans is threatened by Serbia. Any conflict in the region caused by Serbia runs the risk of precipitating atrocity crimes. 


Serbia’s determination to provoke instability has manifest most obviously in Bosnia and Herzegovina but also in Kosovo.


While the presence of KFOR limits the prospects of violence in Kosovo, the situation could suddenly degenerate quickly in the near future, owing to Serbia’s increasingly aggressive behaviour and inflammatory rhetoric, the rising sense of anger and hopelessness amongst Kosovo’s majority Albanian population, and the persistence of antipathy between the Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo.


One of the primary lessons learned from the international community’s response to the collapse of Yugoslavia is that appeasing aggressive nationalists may lead to short-term peace but will inevitably precipitate conflict.


The UK should, therefore, act to counter the threat posed by Serbia to regional peace and security by:




The Threat Posed by Serbia


The Situation in Kosovo


Beyond Appeasement







[1] Russia was allegedly behind an attempted coup in Montenegro in 2016 and tried to dash a treaty between North Macedonia and Greece in 2018.


[3] In 2018 Freedom House reduced Serbia’s status from “Free” to “Partly Free”; in the period since, Serbia’s score has decreased further and in its most recent report Freedom House noted that the Serbian government ‘has steadily eroded political rights and civil liberties’ ( The Economist Intelligence Unit’s “Democracy Index” for 2020 listed Serbia within the “flawed democracies” group giving it an average grade of 6.22, its lowest since the index began in 2006 ( A recent report from the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia warned that the Serbian government ‘is inciting the nazification of its politics and the society as a whole’ (Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia (2021) ‘The Rise of Political Violence’, 3 December, p. 1).

[4] President Vučić has praised Milosevic as ‘a great Serbian leader who undoubtedly had the best intentions’ and denied that massacres occurred in Kosovo. Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić has also denied that genocide took place in Srebrenica in 1995 (


[6] Illustratively, in September 2021 Serbs in northern Kosovo blocked roads and burned down checkpoints in protest at a change in licence plate regulations. The Kosovo government sent special police units to halt the violence which prompted the Serbian government to send artillery units and fighter jets to the border zone. That same month tensions erupted in Montenegro when the Serbian Orthodox Church appointed a new leader in the country thereby angering Montenegrins who viewed this as Serbia undermining Montenegro’s sovereignty.

[7] This policy has been successful in the four northern Serb-majority municipalities Leposavić, Zvečan, Zubin Potok and North Mitrovica – though less so amongst Serbs living throughout the rest of Kosovo.  

[8] Some, 25% of Kosovo’s labour force are unemployed ( The European Commission’s most recent report noted that youth unemployment stands at ‘an alarming rate’ of 49.1% ( Between 2015 and 2019 there was a ‘continuously negative’ migration balance of over 210,000 people which is estimated to have caused an annual loss in GDP of €519 million. Between 2008 and 2018 a fifth of the entire population tried to leave Kosovo; 2015 was the single worst year, with an exodus of 122,520 people ( The European Commission described corruption in Kosovo as ‘widespread’ and ‘an issue of serious concern’ (

[9] The 2014 general election led to period of prolonged political instability as the incumbent party of government – the PDK – fought to hold on to power, which they eventually succeeded in doing. During the term of the new PDK/LDK coalition government, parliament was suspended a number of times when opposition parties set off tear gas inside the assembly in protest at both the border deal with Montenegro and the establishment of the Specialist Chambers. Following the 2017 general election a “war coalition” was formed comprising parties linked to the KLA; the Prime Minster Ramush Haradinaj eventually stood down after he was summoned for questioning by the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office in The Hague in connection with allegations of war crimes. Following the subsequent election in 2019 a coalition government was formed by Vetëvendosje and the LDK; this government only lasted a matter of months, however, when the LDK – allegedly at the behest of the US – pulled out of the coalition and formed an alternative government. In November 2020 Hashim Thaci resigned as President of Kosovo when the Specialist Prosecutor's Office in The Hague issued an indictment against him for crimes against humanity and war crimes. In December 2020 the formation of the LDK-led government was judged to have been unconstitutional by Kosovo’s Constitutional Court and new elections were held in February 2021 which saw Vetëvendosje emerge victorious

[10] Kosovo’s attempts to join UNESCO in 2015 and INTERPOL 2018 both failed because of Serbia and Russia’s counter campaign, with some states that recognise Kosovo even voting against its application to join. In recent years the number of states that recognise Kosovo has in fact declined due to the success of a campaign by both Serbia and Russia to convince recognising states to rescind recognition.


[12] Kosovo’s Prime Minister recently described the lack of visas as ‘a great injustice’ ( ).

[13] These include the creation of the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities in 2013, the establishment of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutors Office in 2015, and the border deal with Montenegro in 2018.

[14] It is worth remembering that the deadly riots which consumed Kosovo in March 2004 started as the result of a lie, namely that three Albanian children had drowned fleeing from Serbs.

[15] Of particular importance are the UK’s status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, membership of NATO’s North Atlantic Council, and position within “The Quint” (with the US, France, Germany, and Italy).

[16] KFOR is a NATO-led peace support mission that was deployed to Kosovo under the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 1244, on 12th June 1999.

[17] This could take the form of exercises similar to the US’ joint military exercises ‘Joint Defender 21’ which took place in May 2021 with members of the Kosovo Security Force.

[18] Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Spain, Slovakia do not recognise Kosovo.