February 22, 2003

ERP KIM Newsletter 22-02-03

CONTENTS:

CHURCH WELCOMES READINES OF ITALIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENSE TO CONTINUE PROTECTING ORTHODOX CHURCHES IN KOSOVO AND METOHIJA

ANSA: Monasteries at risk without Italian soldiers
ANSA: Berselli - Italians will continue to protect monasteries in their area of responsibility, including Decani Monastery
BETA: Serbs reject declaration of independence
HRW: NATO arrests key step for justice in Kosovo

THE TIMES (UK): Serbs may back rebel republic in Kosovo

More News Available on our:
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CHURCH WELCOMES READINESS OF ITALIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENSE TO CONTINUE PROTECTING ORTHODOX CHURCHES IN KOSOVO AND METOHIJA
Italian soldiers and other members of KFOR forces in Kosovo and Metohija have the historic responsibility to preserve the most important Orthodox churches from barbaric destruction

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ERPKIM Info-Service
Gracanica, February 22, 2003

(Photo: KFOR commander General Fabio Mini receives icon of Christ from Fr. Sava of Decani Monastery as symbolic pledge for protection of Orthodox churches in Kosovo and Metohija)

The Diocese of Raska and Prizren welcomes the readiness of the Italian ministry of defense and the Italian Army to continue to protect Orthodox churches in its zone of responsibility, in Metohija. This important statement is encouraging to our Church, which during the past three years in Kosovo and Metohija together with its faithful people has been exposed to unbridled violence and destruction by Albanian extremists.

Recent statements by some UNMIK and KFOR officials regarding a supposed improvement in the security situation and hasty announcements regarding the removal of checkpoints near monasteries and churches have caused unrest among our monks, clergy and faithful people who have succeeded in preserving their Christian faith and Serbian heritage under almost impossible conditions. Reducing the degree of protection or transfer of security to the Albanian police would certainly represent a risk to our churches, and KFOR and UNMIK must be aware that it would to a great degree cause regression to the entire peace process.

Three and a half years after conflict it is completely apparent that the Kosovo Albanians and their institutions have not changed their negative and anti-civilizing attitude toward the Christian Orthodox spiritual and cultural legacy. Therefore, monasteries and churches regardless of other political solutions must remain under the strong protection of peacekeeping forces. In the near future it would be advisable to consider mixed Serb-international forces which would continue to secure these monuments of spirituality and culture in accordance with Resolution 1244.

The Diocese also appeals to security officials to bring to justice as soon as possible those who are responsible for the destruction of over 110 Orthodox churches and monasteries after the war. The destruction of valuable spiritual and cultural monuments was carried out with the goal of obliterating all traces of an entire people and must be punished. Unfortunately, those who organized and ordered this destruction are today sitting in Kosovo and Metohija institutions and using the institutions of the system to complete the destruction of the last remaining traces of Serbs in this region.

The Diocese of Raska and Prizren wishes to express its sincere gratitude to the Italian Army on its efforts to protect our Orthodox churches, especially the monasteries of the Pec Patriarchate and Visoki Decani.

The Italian Army and other members of KFOR in Kosovo and Metohija have the historic responsibility to preserve Orthodox churches from barbaric destruction. They should be proud of this role because they are at the same time protecting the cultural and spiritual foundations of European civilization.

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Church of Virgin Mary built in 1315, destroyed by Kosovo Albanians in 1999
 

ANSA: MONASTERIES AT RISK WITHOUT ITALIAN SOLDIERS

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ANSA

ROME, 19 FEB – The medieval Serbian Orthodox monasteries of Kosovo are at risk of disappearing if the protection of NATO (KFOR) soldiers present in the region since June of 1999 does not continue. This alarming news was published by the magazine '30 Giorni' in this week’s issue.

According to this periodical since 1999 Albanian extremists have used explosive to destroy 110 Orthodox churches and now the medieval jewel, Decani Monastery, is also at risk due to the announced withdrawal of Italian KFOR soldiers who have been protecting it for the past three years and who are scheduled to be transferred to a new Italian base near Pec as soon as it is completed.

'I have written to the KFOR command in Kosovo,' says Father Sava, one of the monks, 'and expressed by concern for the survival of the monastery. I still have not received an answer but I have confidence in the Italian soldiers, because already during the Second World War the Italian carabinieri saved the monastery from the Balli Kombetar, the paramilitary Albanian nationalists who fought on the side of the Nazis.'

An Italian colonel who wished to remain anonymous also told the periodical that 'the Albanian extremists are only waiting for us to leave so they can level the Serbian churches and monasteries with the ground because they believe that only by their complete destruction will they weaken the will of the Serbs to return.'

The magazine also published an interview with Vittorio Sgarbi who believes it is necessary to protect the Orthodox churches and monasteries which, built between the 13th and the 14th centuries, 'have made this part of the Balkans a real treasury of artistic masterpieces'. Sgarbi notes especially the frescoes 'decorated with so much vivacity and originality, which is extremely difficult considering the rigidity of the Byzantine style.' 'In some instances,' adds Sgarbi, 'it is as if we are looking at Giotto.'

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BERSELLI - ITALIANS WILL CONTINUE TO PROTECT MONASTERIES IN THEIR AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY, INCLUDING DECANI MONASTERY

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ANSA

ROME, FEB. 20 - "Italian soldiers will continue to protect Serbian Orthodox monasteries in their zone of responsibility, including the beautiful Decani Monastery." This assurance comes from the Italian deputy minister of defense Filippo Berselli. This response followed alarming news published in the magazine "30 Giorni" that since 1999 Albanian extremists have used explosive to destroy 110 Orthodox churches.

According to the magazine, now the medieval jewel, Decani Monastery, is also at risk due to the announced withdrawal of Italian KFOR soldiers who have been protecting it for the past three years. One of the monks, Father Sava, has also written to the KFOR command expressing his concern.

Deputy minister Berselli neverthless assures: "The unit protecting the monastery will remain as assigned. Italian soldiers will continue to control their zone of responsibility, to protect this church and to guarantee security for the monks there. I completely assure that they will not be abandoned."

Berselli personally visited Kosovo not long ago and also visited Decani Monastery. "This church," he adds, "represents an important part of the historical and artistic heritage of Kosovo which absolutely must be protected".

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SERBS REJECT DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

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BETA

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, February 20, 2003 - At a meeting of associated Serb municipalities and settlements in Kosovo and Metohija to be held on Tuesday, a document will be adopted completely rejecting the Albanian declaration of Kosovo independence, said the chairman of the Serb National Council (SNC) of Northern Kosovo Milan Ivanovic today.

At a press conference in Kosovska Mitrovica, Ivanovic said that invitations to the meeting were sent to Serb representatives duly elected in the Kosovo elections as well as assemblymen and assemblywomen in municipal assemblies, members of the Return (Povratak) Coalition and representatives of the international community.

"We will show that any attempt to undermine state sovereignty and integrity can only end in our legitimate right to defend our country. We will call on our officials to successfully defend our territorial integrity in accordance with UN Resolution 1244 if anyone attempts to proclaim the existence of another state in the area inhabited by Serbs," said Ivanovic.

Regarding the arrest of members of the disbanded Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army, the vice-chairwoman of the Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija Rada Trajkovic stated that "prosecutors of the Hague tribunal are already in the apartment of Democratic Party of Kosovo leader Hashim Thaci".

"It's only a question of political judgment when they will enter his bedroom and arrest him," said Trajkovic.

She expressed the expectation that destabilization in Kosovo provisional institutions would ensure as well as cooling of relations between international officials and Albanians because the latter view the arrest of their leaders as the arrest of liberators.

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NATO ARRESTS KEY STEP FOR JUSTICE IN KOSOVO
New York, February 19, 2003) NATO's arrest of three Kosovar Albanians indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) is an important step for the cause of justice in the Balkans, Human Rights Watch said today.

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HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH (U.S.A)
February 8, 2003

"There is still a huge justice gap relating to Kosovo. The Tribunal should hold the most senior alleged war criminals of all sides accountable, but accountability for lower-level war criminals is also vital to long-term hopes of reconciliation."

Elizabeth Andersen
Executive Director
Europe and Central Asia Division

On Monday, February 17, troops of the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) arrested three former Kosovo Liberation Army members on war crimes charges. According to the ICTY indictment, the three served as wartime "commanders/guards" at a prison camp in the Glogovac/Gllogofc area and are charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity against Kosovo Serb and Albanian civilians in mid-1998.

Haradin Bala, Isak Musliu and Agim Murtezi are the first Kosovo Albanians publicly indicted by the ICTY. Authorities in Serbia have argued that the absence of indictments of Kosovo Albanians is evidence of the tribunal's bias against Serbs.

"These indictments defeat the claims of the Tribunal's critics that it was ignoring abuses committed by Kosovo Albanian rebels," said Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of the Europe and Central Asia Division of Human Rights Watch. "It is clear that the Tribunal prosecutor will issue indictments against alleged war criminals on all sides, if and when she gathers compelling evidence. Authorities in the region should do more to assist the tribunal in that effort."

The Tribunal had also issued a fourth arrest warrant for Fatmir Limaj, a former member of the KLA general staff. According to some press reports on Tuesday evening, Limaj was taken into custody outside Kosovo earlier that day and was about to be transferred to The Hague. The indictment against the four contains nine counts of unlawful imprisonment, torture, murder and the cruel treatment of Kosovo Serb and Albanian civilians held at the Lapusnik/Llapushnik Prison Camp of the KLA. According to the indictment, Limaj was "responsible for the operation" of the prison camp.

Human Rights Watch welcomed the recent arrests but cautioned that they are only one step on the long road to a full accounting of crimes committed in Kosovo. Human Rights Watch urged the authorities in Serbia and Montenegro and U.N.-administered Kosovo to step up efforts to prosecute persons implicated in war crimes.

"There is still a huge justice gap relating to Kosovo," Andersen said. "The Tribunal should hold the most senior alleged war criminals of all sides accountable, but accountability for lower-level war criminals is also vital to long-term hopes of reconciliation."

Human Rights Watch said that the local authorities who must bring lower-level perpetrators to justice have to date not risen to the task.

Serbian courts have opened only three war crimes cases so far arising from the 1998-99 events in Kosovo, although the number of perpetrators within their jurisdiction is in the hundreds. At the same time, the ICTY and the Kosovo courts have a huge task to prosecute crimes against non-Albanians during and after the war. After three and a half years of international administration, the Kosovo judiciary has failed to indict anyone for war crimes against non-Albanians, and only a handful of people have been successfully prosecuted for war crimes against Kosovo Albanians.

The ICTY indictments confirm credible reports that Kosovo Albanian rebels are responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law in multiple incidents during the 1998-1999 armed conflict with the Belgrade forces. In that same conflict, Serbian forces waged a campaign of massive killings, expulsions and destruction against Kosovo's ethnic Albanian population.

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SERBS MAY BACK REBEL REPUBLIC IN KOSOVO

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The Times (UK)
February 22, 2003

By John Phillips

BELGRADE will sponsor a breakaway Serbian mini-state in Kosovo if the West prevents Serbian troops returning to the province to guarantee Serb rights, Zoran Djindjic, the Serbian Prime Minister, said yesterday. In an interview with The Times, Dr Djindjic dismissed the American contention that it is too early to discuss Kosovo, saying that its hard-won democracy could be at risk.

This month, the United States issued a statement saying that it was concerned with developments in Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo and said that any attempt to force the pace of change could lead to instability.

Dr Djindjic said nationalist extremists could regain power in Belgrade in elections next year if the international community did not stop Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority obtaining independence, which, he argued, the UN was already fostering.

'What is going on is the transfer of all sovereignty to the Kosovar institutions,' he said. 'This didn’t just happen. It was planned. International institutions are creating a fully independent Kosovo. By passing laws in Kosovo’s parliament they don’t care what happens in Serbia.'

Dr Djindjic, a formidable opponent of Slobodan Milosevic, received Western support after the former Yugoslav President was overthrown in 2000.

Recently, however, his increasingly patriotic stance has alarmed Western diplomats. But Dr Djindjic is now concerned about a nationalist backlash.

He said that the powers of Kosovo’s parliament, elected under the auspices of the UN interim administration, exceeded the 'substantial autonomy', envisaged under UN Resolution 1244.

According to Dr Djindjic, this outrages Serb refugees from Kosovo in Serbia, who make up about 15 per cent of the electorate.

'They would explode if Kosovo became fully independent. People would say my Government was not defending them,' he said.
'It is time to put our cards on the table. The international community should say how it imagines the future. I don’t think that democratic government can survive if we don’t do enough now.
'Next year we have elections. Kosovo will be the issue. We can’t say it is not time now. We can offer a solution from Belgrade’s side but, if we say we are unable to do that, nationalistic forces will say: ‘We have a solution’.'

Dr Djindjic said that 'a thousand or a few hundred' Serb troops should be deployed in Kosovo to enable Serb refugees to return.

'None of the promises have been implemented. All the promises to the Albanian side have been implemented but nothing on the Serbian side.'

'I can leave office and say: ‘OK, I can’t handle this’. But what will come after this Government? In the 2002 elections, the extreme nationalists, led by (Radical Party leader Vojislav) Seselj, got 30 per cent.'

Dr Djindjic denies courting nationalist votes, saying he is entrenched politically because he has outmanoeuvred his rival, Vojislav Kostunica.

Mr Kostunica became Yugoslav President after Milosevic’s downfall but was marginalised when Yugoslavia became the Union of Serbia and Montenegro.
'Some people say this is an attempt to get support. I don’t need that now. Kostunica is not competition,' he said.

'My proposal is to give the Kosovo Serbs constitutional rights and the institutional tools to protect their interests. As a first step it would be enough for the Serbs to be recognised like the Croats in the Bosnian federation. The Croats were 17 per cent and they got a third of representation. In 1999, Kosovo’s Serbs were 18 per cent.

'The people say: ‘Why do Albanians in Macedonia come into the constitution and why do Croats in Bosnia? Why South Tyrol? Why ten other situations?’ What should I answer?' Without a Western-brokered compromise, he said Belgrade would not shrink from partition; with the Serb majority in northern Kosovo, next to Serbia proper, forming a breakaway mini-state similar to the Republic of Srpska in Bosnia.

Ethnic Albanian leaders would oppose that since the province’s mineral wealth is in the north around the city of Mitrovica and war could erupt again in Kosovo threatening Nato peacekeepers.

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ERP KIM Info-Service is the official Information Service of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren and works with the blessing of His Grace Bishop Artemije.
Our Information Service is distributing news on Kosovo related issues. The main focus of the Info-Service is the life of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Serbian community in the Province of Kosovo and Metohija. ERP KIM Info Service works in cooperation with www.serbian-translation.com as well as the Kosovo Daily News (KDN) News List

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