February 18, 2003

ERP KIM Newsletter 18-02-03b
Second edition

CONTENTS:

ERP KIM Info-Service: SERB HOUSES IN BICHA VILLAGE STONED - Villagers request return of KFOR check point or they would leave the village

AFP: First war crimes trial of former ethnic Albanian rebels opens in Kosovo
AP: NATO detains three ethnic Albanians on war crimes
REUTERS: NATO nabs war crimes suspects
BETA: Frequent shooting in north part of Kosovska Mitrovica municipality
EPOKA E RE: AKSH Sent Petition to European Ministers' Council
SG: Human rights need to be improved in Kosovo: Coordinating Centre
 

PRESS REVIEW:


SERB HOUSES IN BICHA VILLAGE STONED
ERP KIM info service subarticle

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ERP KIM Info-Service
February 18, 2003

(photo: Bica (pr. Beecha, received first Serb returnees in summer 2002)

The inhabitants of Bica (pronounced as Beecha), a Serbian returnee village near Klina, informed the Diocese of Raska and Prizren of the latest stoning of their homes, which happened yesterday evening (Monday) around 10.20 PM.

Four days ago the Italian KFOR units deployed in protecting the village, removed the check-point protecting the houses which are some 1.5 km from the centre of the village. According to the statements of the villagers, from then on, these six distant homes have been under constant attacks and provocations by the local Albanians, coming in the night toward the Serbian houses, throwing stones and thus breaking windows and roof tiles. The local Serbs are obliged to fix new damages on their houses only shortly after they have managed to reconstruct them with a lot of hard work and painful efforts .

After yesterday's attack all the inhabitants from that part of the village gathered in one of the houses, spending night under the surveillance of the Italian soldiers who appeared on the spot immediately after the attack.

Men, women and children from these homes do not feel safe any more and say they will be compelled to take refuge once again if KFOR does not restitutes the check-point. Bica people are generally very satisfied with the presence of the soldiers of Italian KFOR who claim that the latest orders to secure the village is to shift from the system of fixed check-points to patrol system . But the villagers claim that it is not enough, being very well shown in the last few attacks on the houses, amoong which the last was the worst one. Bica people say that even the Italian soldiers are often being stoned by the Albanians during their night patrols in the village.

The Diocese of Raska and Prizren strongly appeals to KFOR command to revise the possibility of re-establishing fixed check-points, at least around villages and churces being under direct danger. Although the process of removing fixed check-points in some areas of the Province was not followed by rising of violence, the situation on the ground is not the same all over the province, and accordingly, it is not possible to implement the same standards in every situation. It is very clear that returnee villages would be the first under the extremists' attacks, and they must have adecquate protection, in order to encourage the others to come back to their homes.

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FIRST WAR CRIMES TRIAL OF FORMER ETHNIC ALBANIAN REBELS OPENS IN KOSOVO

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PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro, Feb 17 (AFP)

A former ethnic Albanian rebel leader and three of his aides went on trial for alleged war crimes in Kosovo's capital Pristina Monday amid heightened security.

The four, arrested last year by the UN police and NATO-led peacekeepers (KFOR), are suspected of murder and torture of fellow Albanians during the 1998-99 Kosovo war.

"The trial has started, but the indictment is not expected to be read out today," Andrea Angeli, spokesman for the UN mission in Kosovo, told AFP as the trial opened behind closed doors.

The trial, chaired by a panel of international judges, is the first local war crimes case against ethnic Albanians in the UN-administered Serbian province.

The four are charged with six counts of murder, eleven counts of unlawful arrest and detention as well as eight counts of kidnapping and torture.

The victims were ethnic Albanians accused by the rebels of collaborating with the Serb police during the conflict.

Among the four is Rrustem Mustafa, a former high-ranking officer in the now-disbanded ethnic Albanian guerrilla force the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

Known by his nome de guerre as Remi, Mustafa was in the KLA when it battled Belgrade forces during the 1998-99 war. He was regional KLA commander for the northern Kosovo area of Podujevo.

After NATO troops moved into Kosovo, Mustafa joined the province's civil emergency force, Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC), formed mainly from former KLA members. He was the regional commander of the Gnjilane region.

But last April, he was suspended from the KPC after being placed on a US blacklist of 22 ethnic Albanians believed "to pose a significant risk of committing acts of violence... threatening the peace... or security in the western Balkans regions."

Last year's arrests sparked a wave of unrest among ethnic Albanians, most of whom regard the former rebels as heroes for fighting an independence war from the former Yugoslavia.

Kosovo has been under United Nations and NATO control since the end of the 1998-99 war between ethnic Albanian rebels and Yugoslav forces under former president Slobodan Milosevic.


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NATO DETAINS TRHEE ETHNIC ALBANIANS ON WAR CRIMES

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Associated Press, February 17, 2003

by Fisnik Abrashi

(photo: Karla del Ponte - investigations of war crimes in Kosovo continuing)

GORNJA KORETICA, Serbia-Montenegro - Marking the first time the U.N. war crimes tribunal has acted against ethnic Albanian suspects, NATO (news - web sites)-led peacekeepers on Monday detained three former rebels wanted for atrocities committed during the Kosovo war.

In a statement released hours after the operation, NATO said its peacekeepers had detained three men indicted for crimes committed against Serb and ethnic Albanian civilians in May and July 1998.

The three were commanders or guards serving with the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army at the Llapushnik prison camp in Glogovac, in central Kosovo, NATO said.

"During this period, they committed, or otherwise aided and abetted the execution of, the crimes of imprisonment and cruel treatment of both Serb and Albanian civilians," the statement said.

NATO also said the suspects - identified as Haradin Balaj, Isak Musliu and Agim Murtezi - had been transferred to secure locations and that the operations Monday had not resulted in any casualties.

Balaj, 46, was detained by NATO-led peacekeepers who broke into his house at 3 a.m. (0200 GMT) in the central village of Gornja Koretica, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of the province's capital, Pristina, the suspect's brother, Fatmir Balaj, told The Associated Press.

"Armed soldiers, some with face masks, broke into our house and burst into the bedroom where Haradin was sleeping," the brother said.

"People in civilian clothes, accompanying soldiers, told us they were from The Hague (news - web sites) Tribunal," he said, referring to the U.N. court, which is based in The Hague, Netherlands.

Balaj's wife, Shefkije, said she asked the armed soldiers why they were arresting her husband.

"They took pictures of him, whisked him away and then started searching the house," she said. "I shouted and cried and asked them why was my husband arrested by masked men in the middle of the night. They told me he was wanted for war crimes."

The door of Balaj's house was smashed and several armored personnel carriers and other military vehicles were still stationed in the yard hours after the operation.

Balaj's seven children wept and said that masked men entered their room and told them to remain silent.

Balaj was a low-ranking former fighter for the Kosovo Liberation Army, the rebel group that fought Serb forces during their brutal repression of ethnic Albanians in the 1998-1999 conflict. He joined a unit in central Kosovo at the beginning of that war.

The U.N. war crimes tribunal has been harshly criticized by some Serb officials for allegedly showing anti-Serb bias. No ethnic Albanians had so far been arrested, and most of those who have been indicted for crimes in the Balkan wars of the 1990s have been Serbs.

Kosovo, legally a part of Serbia-Montenegro - the loose union that recently replaced Yugoslavia - has been administered by the United Nations (news - web sites) and NATO since June 1999.

Those organizations began running the province following an alliance air war that halted a crackdown by Serb forces on separatist ethnic Albanians. An estimated 10,000 people were killed in the war, the majority of them ethnic Albanians.

NATO's Secretary-General George Robertson said Monday's arrests serve "as a warning" to all the remaining war crimes suspects indicted by the international court. He called on the two top Serb war crimes suspects still at large - Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic - to surrender.

"Let me be crystal clear to those with guilty consciences," Robertson said. "You have only two choices: turn yourself in with dignity or justice will be brought to you. The net is closing."

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NATO NABS WAR CRIMES SUSPECTS

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Reuters:
Mon February 17, 2003 04:24 PM ET
By Shaban Buza

(photo: Kosovo Liberation Army rebels suspected of war crimes)


PRISTINA, Serbia and Montenegro (Reuters) - NATO-led troops have detained three ex-Kosovo Albanian guerrillas accused by the U.N. tribunal in The Hague of war crimes against both Serb and Albanian civilians.

It was the first time ex-members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) were held on charges filed by the U.N. war crimes court, which has been criticised by Belgrade for indicting only Serbs for atrocities during the 1998-99 Kosovo conflict.

"Today's action represents a significant new step in NATO's drive to detain war crime indictees throughout the region," Secretary General George Robertson said in a statement on Monday.

The three former members of the guerrilla force that battled Slobodan Milosevic's Serbian forces are accused of war crimes while they were commanders and guards at a prison camp in central Kosovo in mid-1998, NATO said.

"During this period, they committed, or otherwise aided and abetted the execution of, the crimes of imprisonment and cruel treatment of both Serb and Albanian civilians," it said.

It named the suspects as Haradin Bala, Isak Musliu and Agim Murtezi. None of them were part of the senior KLA leadership.

"This should...send a message that we will act against any person indicted for war crimes, regardless of their ethnicity," Robertson said.

The three will be moved to The Hague, NATO said.

PRE-DAWN RAID

In the village of Gornja Koretica, Shefkije Balaj said peacekeepers came for her 45-year-old husband as the family of two adults and seven children were sleeping early on Monday.

"Masked soldiers broke the window and entered our bedroom. They took Haradin without saying anything," she said, spelling the family name differently from NATO's statement.

"He hasn't done anything wrong," she said, adding the children were told to leave their room while it was being searched. "My husband was a KLA soldier and fought for the freedom of his people. He was only an ordinary soldier."

Chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said last year that three former guerrillas were under investigation.

Western officials in Kosovo insist they will crack down on former rebels guilty of crimes, despite the risk of protest.

The arrest reports coincided with the start on Monday of a war crimes trial in Pristina against four other KLA members.

An international prosecutor in Kosovo had charged well-known ex-commander "Remi" and the others with torturing fellow ethnic Albanians suspected of collaborating with Serb officials in the 1998-99 conflict. Three are also accused of murdering civilians.

Many Kosovans regard former guerrillas as heroes in a war of liberation against harsh Serb rule when Milosevic was in power in Belgrade. Kosovo came under U.N.-led rule in mid-1999 after 11 weeks of NATO bombing drove out his forces.

The U.N. court last September wrapped up the Kosovo chapter of the case against the former Yugoslav president, blamed by prosecutors for atrocities committed by Serb military and police as they battled Albanian insurgents.


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FREQUENT SHOOTING IN NORTH PART OF KOSOVSKA MITROVICA MUNICIPALITY

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BETA
Kosovska Mitrovica, February 17, 2003

(photo: Is ANA acitve in Kosovo?)

In the area of the village of Vidomiric in the north part of Kosovska Mitrovica municipality, inhabited exclusively by Albanians, during the last few days there has been frequent shooting from firearms, which is causing unrest among residents of nearby villages in the Zvecan area.

Chairman of the Serb National Council (SNC) of Northern Kosovo and Metohija Milan Ivanovic told reporters today that UNMIK and KFOR have been advised and that two days ago members of international forces discovered a group of Albanians with rifles in this area who said they were going to hunting for fowl.

Their weapons were confiscated and during this KFOR mission a clash occurred between local Albanians and Danish troops. According to Ivanovic's sources, at least two soldiers were injured.

The SNC chairman believes that "this shooting is target practice" and that it is "preparation for the hot spring being forecast for Kosovo".

According to Vucitrn coordinator Misko Popovic in the area of Priluzje, a nearby Serb village, one can also see men in black uniforms. Popovic claims they wear the emblems of the Albanian National Army (ANA) on their sleeves.

Popovic stated that they are restoring shelters, bunkers and trenches and bringing in food and medical supplies, as well as that members of international peacekeeping forces have been advised and that their officers, according to the Vucitrn coordinator, are visiting the area, surveying and filming the terrain.

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AKSH SENT PETITION TO EUROPEAN MINISTERS COUNCIL
Albanian nation asks for reunification of Albanian ethnic lands

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Epoka e Re
February 17, 2003

(photo: So called reunification of Albanian ethnic lands whould request changing of borders of Serbia-Montenegro, Macedonia and Greece)

The Front for Albanian National Union (FBKSH) organized a protest in Brussels. A lot of Albanians with flags and slogans were gathered at “Shuman” square in order to request the unification of Albanian lands. Many Albanians from Germany, Nederland and France participated in the protest.

Talking in front of the protestors, Idajet Beqiri said that the only option for the solution of the Albanian problem is reunification of ethnic lands. “Albanians are joining the FBKSH massively because this movement has decided to work, fight and sacrifice for a final solution of Albanian problems in order to unite all Albanians and their ethnic lands in one Albanian democratic and pro-western country in the Balkans. That would be the only accepted solution that could guarantee peace, stability and prosperity in the Balkan Peninsula,” said Beqiri.

Protesters were cheering, “AKSH,” “One nation, one country,” “Çameria  is Albanian land!” “We want the Albanian unified country,” etc.  (remark: Cameria is today's North Greece)

The President of the Patriotic Association, “Çameria,” Festim Lulaj said, “Çameria is a national bad wound. Çameria is part of ethnic Albania. We, sons of Çameria, appeal to European Union to heal our bad wound, this wound of more than 300,000 Cams is caused by Greece, which is a member of the European Union and NATO.

In the end, a delegation, led by Idaet Beqiri, Festim Lulaj, Shaban Shkupi, Bajram Selmani and Kadri Veselaj, was accepted in offices of European Ministers’ Council. In that case they delivered petition on behalf of FBKSH.

FBKSH and Patriotic Association “Çameria” were the organizers of this manifestation

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HUMAN RIGHTS NEED TO BE IMPROVED IN KOSOVO - COORDINATING CENTER

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SERBIAN GOVERNMENT
Belgrade, Feb 17, 2003

(photo: Vladimir Bozovic - No real progress in the Balkans if human rights are not improved in Kosovo and Metohija)

After meeting with several US congressmen and senators on Monday, head of the Coordinating Centre for Kosovo-Metohija's justice department Vladimir Bozovic said that they agreed there can be no real progress in the Balkans if human rights are not improved in Kosovo-Metohija.

After his 10-day visit to the United States, Bozovic said that the Kosovo issue needs to be looked at from the point of view of the region, which was also agreed by other parties on a visit to the US Congress. "The delegation from Albania, representatives of Congress and our [Serbia's] delegation all supported the same thing - respect for UN Security Council Resolution 1244," Bozovic said.

He said that the destruction of cultural heritage sites in Kosovo-Metohija was also discussed at the talks with congressmen.

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PRESS REVIEW - February 18, 2003


KOSOVO AND METOHIJA IN FOCUS
Today's press revies (POLITIKA and BORBA)

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Today several Yugoslav dailies publish comments and interviews on the occasion of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic’s initiative to resolve the issue of the final status of Kosovo-Metohija. More in the Press Review.

The knot of Kosmet, as history has shown, cannot be cut by any kind of unilateral effort. It’s resolving is possible only through patient and unremitting effort, today’s daily POLITIKA, writes. The daily adds that the prime minister’s suggestion endorses this, for Djindjic referred to the international community with a proposal to start a political dialogue on the resolving of the status of this Serbian province. The response from Kosmet arrived in the form of a declaration of independence. In turn, the MPs of leading Albanian parties in the Kosovan parliament tried to have this document adopted in a misleading manner. However, they faced a unified condemnation on the part of Europe and the US, and had to do with its declarative adopting, without any voting, in order to avoid a direct conflict with the international community. Thus this document has been suspended for a while, in order to open the issue of independence again, in a more opportune moment.

Official US representatives have warned that such attempts may lead to a destabilizing of the Balkans and that the knot of Kosmet can be resolved only with UN Resolution 1244, which means only through a political dialogue of all interested parties. The prerequisite of any kind of talks on the further destiny of this Serbian province, is without doubt the creating of democratic institutions, as well as the building of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-confessional society, as a basis for any additional talks on the future status, POLITIKA concludes.

Under the heading, WE CANNOT WAIT FOREVER, today’s BORBA published the interview with political analyst Zoran Lutovac on the resolving of the final status of Kosovo-Metohija. He is of the opinion that the policy of UNMIK head Michael Steiner is a policy according to which standards should first be fulfilled, and then the status of the province resolved, or in other words, a policy of delaying to confront the problem, with the aim to marginalize the role of Belgrade and to advance the status of Kosmet to an independent option.

The recurring activities of guerilla groups in Kosovo-Metohija and the south of Serbia are not unexpected, for whenever the issue of the status of Kosovo is opened, there are armed provocations on the part of the extremists, which is in accordance with the general strategy of the Albanians, and in the aim of the independence of Kosovo, analyst Lutovac points out. The same strategy means that the south of Serbia is to be transformed into some kind of territorial and ethnic autonomy, later to be joined to an independent Kosovo. On the occasion of the Serbian prime minister’s proposal to urgently resolve the final status of Kosmet, Lutovac points out that the Serbian authorities have opened this issue, in order to secure an fitting role in its resolving. Without the protection of Serbian interests in the province, the solution could not be long-term, but would become a source of constant conflicts. Only the solution which would comply with the interests of all the national communities can lead to stability, Lutovac considers, and is quoted by today’s BORBA.

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