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JUNE 3, 1999  4:15 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT:
American Friends Service Committee
215-241-7000
afscinfo@afsc.org
AFSC Plans Civil Disobedience To Protest The War In Yugoslavia
 
WASHINGTON - June 3 - The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is moved to commit civil disobedience to signal our anguish over the massive destruction and dislocation caused by the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, as well as the forced removal of civilians, executions, and property destruction carried out by the Yugoslav government. We believe we must act now because we fear that our leaders may be preparing to launch an escalation of this war.

The AFSC has supported nongovernmental organizations striving for peace in Yugoslavia since 1993. We have provided relief to victims of the Balkan wars regardless of ethnicity or religion, and we currently have staff working in Kosovar refugee camps in Macedonia. We are also assisting others who have fled the bombing and found safe haven at the AFSC office in Budapest, Hungary. The AFSC has provided relief to victims of war in many countries since our founding in 1917 and is dedicated to nonviolent resolution of conflicts at the community, national and international levels.

We view the war in Yugoslavia as a powerful example of how violence begets violence. The situation has reached a critical juncture in which the choices made over the coming days will either drastically increase the death toll and the damage to human health and the environment or will set the stage for a slow, steady building toward a just peace. Military action may seem like the only decisive response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Kosovo. In reality, however, it has served not only to deepen human suffering on all sides but also to undermine the possibility of a diplomatic resolution. While it may seem that the people of Yugoslavia are further removed than ever from living in ethnic harmony, we know that there are forces within that society that can, with the support of the international community, create a sustainable peace. The time is NOW for the U.S. government and the world community to devote their full resources and imagination to the task of enabling those forces to prevail.

In this spirit, we call upon the U.S. government to:

  • End the NATO bombing in Yugoslavia in order to create the conditions for negotiations;
  • Halt ongoing preparation for an invasion by ground troops and publicly rule out this option;
  • Pursue negotiations involving regional powers (such as Russia) that can play a constructive role in forging a just peace;
  • Facilitate the deployment of a substantial peace keeping force under the auspices of the United Nations;
  • Join with other NATO members in providing adequate funds for the repatriation and relief of refugees and for the reconstruction of Yugoslavia;
  • Work constructively to strengthen the UN and the rule of law between nations so that world peace and effective solutions to outbreaks of mass violence can be achieved through careful, lawful actions;
  • Refocus our national budgetary priorities away from the military and toward meeting social needs, both here at home and around the world.

We also call upon the Yugoslav government to:

  • Effect an immediate halt to the violence, intimidation and expulsion directed at ethnic Albanian Kosovars;
  • Agree to re-start negotiations which will involve third parties;
  • Permit a United Nations peace keeping force into Kosovo;
  • Make an unwavering commitment in word and deed to a multi-ethnic Yugoslavia;
  • Restore the freedom of operation of opposition forces and civil society within Yugoslavia, particularly their ability to communicate freely with each other and the outside world.

Recognizing that bringing a lasting peace to this region is a process that will take time, the AFSC urges the U.S government to encourage links between nongovernmental organizations in Yugoslavia and similar groups in the U.S. and other countries who are committed to working for peace in the region. The United States should use its influence within the context of the United Nations to develop international mechanisms for resolving ethnic conflicts as they begin, in ways that do not perpetuate violence.

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