International Papers

Chamber of Horrors

Most British newspapers led Friday with the discovery of a “medieval torture chamber” beneath a Serb police station in Pristina and on an official British estimate that more than 10,000 ethnic Albanians died in Serb atrocities. The Guardian carried front-page photographs of some of the instruments of torture found inside the police interrogation center–knuckle-dusters, knives, a hangman’s noose, and a chainsaw. Although, according to local Albanians, the Serbs spent three days burning documents before the British arrived, the Guardian quoted an official of the Hague war crimes tribunal as saying that scraps of paper left behind might be useful in establishing a “paper chain” between President Slobodan Milosevic and the massacres carried out in Kosovo. “There is correspondence going between here and Belgrade about numbers of ‘terrorist suspects’ picked up,” the official said. “It tells us a lot about how much Belgrade knew was going on.” The discovery prompted a hard-line editorial in the Times of London calling on NATO to stand firm against any deviations from the Kosovo peace deal. It asked in particular for rejection of a request by some Kosovo-born Serb policemen to be allowed to discard their uniforms and return to civilian life in the province. “To backpedal in any way would result in more demands from all sides for more renegotiation, put the deal as a whole in jeopardy, and must not be countenanced,” it said.

In Paris Friday, Le Monde strongly attacked French Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevènement for his apparent indifference to the sufferings of the Albanian Kosovars. It described as “shocking” the minister’s public declaration of concern about what might now happen to the Serbs in Kosovo “without a word about the violence and deportations endured for long weeks by the Kosovars, without a thought for the victims of the massacres carried out by the Serbs.” Le Monde’s editorial also deplored the timing of the minister’s statement, coming just as NATO is discovering that its worst fears about Serb atrocities were justified and that the accounts by Kosovar refugees were not exaggerated.

The Independent reported the reappearance of Veton Surroi, the publisher of the Kosovo Albanian daily Koha Ditore, which had its offices and printing plant destroyed by the Serbs during the war but which started publishing again in exile in Macedonia. The Independent, which described Surroi as a possible future leader of the province, said it reached him by telephone and was told that he is fine and will soon be coming out of hiding. The Guardian ran an article by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev about the environmental consequences of the Kosovo air campaign. Writing in his capacity as president of Green Cross International, a nongovernmental environmental organization, Gorbachev called for a ban on weapons containing depleted uranium such as NATO used in Yugoslavia. Although their external radiation levels are quite low, he said, “the internal radiation source damages various types of cells in the human body, destroys chromosomes and affects the reproductive system.” Gorbachev also wants the bombing of nuclear power stations and of some chemical and petrochemical plants to be prohibited by international law. “The human drama and the drama of nature should be of equal concern to us,” he wrote.

In an editorial on the G-8 summit in Cologne, Germany, the Times said world leaders “should stick to the hard stuff,” such as the Balkans and Third World debt relief, rather than introduce a new topic, education–“an interloper that risks distracting leaders from urgent matters and perverts the purpose of these summits”–to their discussions. “The G8 should concentrate on issues that only they can solve,” it said. “Tony Blair and his fellow leaders may hope that by endorsing this charter [for lifelong learning] they will make the summit seem more relevant to people’s lives. Yet few voters are likely to be impressed by a wedge of motherhood and apple pie, served with a topping of Third Way jargon.”

In Tokyo, Asahi Shimbun highlighted anticipated summit differences between Japan and the West over the postwar reconstruction of Yugoslavia. It said that while President Bill Clinton and French President Jacques Chirac had agreed to deny all but humanitarian aid to Yugoslavia while Milosevic remains in power, Japan opposes such a condition and has already pledged $200 million toward reconstruction.

In Germany, both Die Welt and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung led Friday on a clash over abortion between Pope John Paul II and the German Roman Catholic bishops. Under German law, women get free abortions within the first three months of pregnancy, provided they have first discussed their situations with a group of consultants comprising social workers, psychologists, doctors, and representatives of the churches. Of the 1,700 such groups, 270 are organized by the Catholic Church. But in an “outspoken” letter to the German Bishops’ Conference, the gist of which was leaked Thursday to Frankfurter Allgemeine, the pope ordered the German church to stop participating in the state consultancy system. The paper said he had thus put himself in opposition to about 70 percent of the bishops in Germany.

The scandal, originating in Belgium, of contaminated Coca-Cola continued to make front pages around Europe Friday. In Rome, La Repubblica said this was an “annus horribilis” for Coca-Cola, that “the sun is setting on the empire of Atlanta,” and that “the gods have turned against the fizzy drink.” The company is suffering from “a credibility crisis which could prove devastating,” it said.

Le Monde’s front page included an exposé of the famous French underwater explorer, Commander Jacques-Yves Cousteau, as a rabid anti-Semite. It quoted a letter written by Cousteau in 1941, when he was working for French naval intelligence in Marseilles, complaining about the lack of decent accommodation. “There won’t be a suitable apartment until they have thrown out those vile ’youtres’ [an abusive term for Jews] who encumber us,” he wrote to a fellow naval officer. Cousteau died two years ago this month.