November 11, 2003

ERP KiM Newsletter 11-12-03

Serb returnees barely escape lynching in attempt to return to their homes in Kosovo

According to Petko Pesic, one of the Serbs evacuated by KFOR from Klina, the Albanians laid a real siege to his home. "There were a few hundred of them and they were exceptionally aggressive," said Pesic. Seeing that the unprotected civilians were about to be lynched, KFOR responded quickly. According to eyewitnesses, KFOR and Kosovo police officers showed up on the scene to secure the evacuation of the house. As the Serbs were leaving the house the Albanians began to stone the Serbs and the KFOR vehicles. Under the shower of rocks one Serb man, Miodrag Mazic, sustained minor injuries. While the convoy of KFOR vehicles was leaving Klina they were also stoned on several locations but there were no injured.

CONTENTS:

Serb returnees barely escape lynching in attempt to return to their homes in Kosovo
Klina Albanians marked International Human Rights Day by expelling 11 Serb returnees who arrived into an empty Serb-owned house with the intent of returning to their native town and reclaiming their usurped property

National Post (Canada): Crime, terror flourish in "liberated" Kosovo - Ethnic cleansing, smuggling rampant under UN aegis

The violence continues despite an 18,000-strong NATO-led peacekeeping force and an international police force of more than 4,000. Serbs, who now make up 5% of the population of Kosovo, down from 10% before the NATO campaign, are the main targets of the paramilitary groups. "The whole process of rebuilding Kosovo-Metohija as a democratic, multi-ethnic society failed due to both the inability of the UN mission and [NATO] forces to protect Serbs and other non-Albanians from large-scale ethnic cleansing, this time primarily against Serbs," said Dusan Batakovic, a Serb diplomat and leading expert on Kosovo.

Human Rights Watch Report: End cruel limbo for Kosovo Roma refugees
The Human Rights Watch briefing paper argues that conditions are inappropriate for the return of most Kosovo Roma, because their property in Kosovo was destroyed when they were expelled and their security cannot be guaranteed there.


News from Kosovo and Metohija, December 8 INET

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Serb returnees barely escape lynching in attempt to return to their homes in Kosovo

Klina Albanians marked International Human Rights Day by expelling 11 Serb returnees who arrived into an empty Serb-owned house with the intent of returning to their native town and reclaiming their usurped property

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ERP KiM Info-Service
Gracanica, December 10, 2003

An attempt of a group of displaced Kosovo Serbs to return to their homes in Klina today ended in an attack of ethnic Albanian mob and their dramatic evacuation from the town with the assistance of KFOR. The Serbs were returned to the nearby Serbian village of Bicha where a group of 26 Serb men and women have been waiting for more than three weeks for permission of UNMIK and local Albanian authorities to return to their homes.

According to ERP KIM sources, this afternoon a group of 11 men out of 26 Serb returnees arrived by foot from Bicha to Klina town, 7 km away, and moved in an empty Serb house of Petko Pesic in order to prepare the house for the arrival of the others in the near future.
Petko Pesic, the leader of the group, explained to the ErP KiM info-Service that the arrival of Serb returnees this morning was not unannounced and that it had been previously agreed with the UNMIK office for returns and the local civil administrator. "However at the meeting which we had immediately upon our arrival they told us that they cannot guarantee our security and requested from us to return to Bicha village", said Mr. Pesic.

Soon after the arrival of Serb returnees several hundred angry Albanians encircled the house with the Serb returnees inside, using threats and curses to insist on the Serbs' immediate departure from the town.

According to Petko Pesic, one of the Serbs evacuated by KFOR from Klina, the Albanians laid a real siege to his home. "There were a few hundred of them and they were exceptionally aggressive," said Pesic. Seeing that the unprotected civilians were about to be lynched, KFOR responded quickly. According to eyewitnesses, KFOR and Kosovo police officers showed up on the scene to secure the evacuation of the house. As the Serbs were leaving the house the Albanians began to stone the Serbs and the KFOR vehicles. Under the shower of rocks one Serb man, Miodrag Mazic, sustained minor injuries. While the convoy of KFOR vehicles was leaving Klina they were also stoned on several locations but there were no injured.

Neither KFOR nor UNMIK police have still not issued an official statement on the event.
This is the first instance of a group return by Serbian returnees to an urban setting in Kosovo and Metohija since June 1999.

Co-minister Todorovic: The Incident shows how illusory is the verbal support for returns by Albanian leaders

According to a Beta news agency report, repatriation co-minister in the Kosovo government Milorad Todorovic, a Serb, said that the Albanian mob that gathered around the house with the a group of Serb returnees "shows how illusory is the verbal support for returns by Albanian leaders". "[Invitations to return] have nothing to do with the situation on the ground, where the members of the same political parties as those leaders are obstructing returns in a very practical and effective way," Todorovic told Beta News Agency.

Reportedly the head of the UNMIK office for returns Peggy Hicks tried several times to influence local Albanian leaders through Kosovo premier Rexhepi (pronounced Rejepi) and president Rugova in order to stop the violence against the Serbs; however, the town was in a state of collective hysteria. According to the latest information from Klina, talks between UNMIK officials, and Albanian party leaders and local government officials are in progress and will be resumed tomorrow. Serb returnees have reiterated their firm intention to return to their homes and their right to protection in doing so.

According to local Serb sources from Bicha and eyewitness statements, the KFOR and UNMIK police presence throughout the Klina area has been visibly reinforced following today's incident.

Serbian Orthodox Church Condemns attack on Serb returnees

The Diocese of Raska and Prizren strongly condemns attack of Albanian mob on unprotected Serb returnees, which occurred (paradoxically) on International Human Rights Day. This unfortunate event, orchestrated by local representatives of institutions headed by the local ethnic Albanian mayor Mr. Manaj (LDK party), best demonstrates the lack of readiness on the part of Albanian leaders to implement in practice what they say in their public speeches.

In a statement for the ERP KIM Info Service, Bishop Artemije once again appealed to UNMIK and Albanian institutions to "stop manipulating the public and finally turn from words to actions". "These people have returned and they should be provided with basic human rights, including at the very least the right to move into their homes, from which they had to flee in 1999, and to be able to live a dignified, peaceful and secure life."

"Is it not indicative that on the first day of promotion of Kosovo Standards Implementation Plan Kosovo Albanians in practice show that they deny the basic human rights to their Serbian neighbors", Bishop concluded in his statement.

UNMIK requested KFOR not to get involved in return process

In this entire matter, the ERP KIM is especially concerned by information received from a source close to UNMIK according to which Peggy Hicks, the head of the UNMIK office for returns, has openly requested the KFOR commander general Kammerhoff for KFOR not get involved in Serb returns nor assist returnees without explicit consent from UNMIK HQ. It is a well-known fact that it is only through the engagement of KFOR and the Coordinating Center for Kosovo and Metohija that Serbs were able to return to Belo Polje near Pec this summer.

According to many displaced Serbs desiring to return, if it is solely up to UNMIK and Mrs. Hicks, Serbs will not return to their homes in Kosovo and Metohija for the next 200 years. Local Serbs say that they still have the most confidence in KFOR and request that KFOR provides their security and not succumb to political pressures of UNMIK and some individuals who obstruct the process of returns.

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National Post (Canada): Crime, terror flourish in "liberated" Kosovo - Ethnic cleansing, smuggling rampant under UN's aegis

The violence continues despite an 18,000-strong NATO-led peacekeeping force and an international police force of more than 4,000. Serbs, who now make up 5% of the population of Kosovo, down from 10% before the NATO campaign, are the main targets of the paramilitary groups. "The whole process of rebuilding Kosovo-Metohija as a democratic, multi-ethnic society failed due to both the inability of the UN mission and [NATO] forces to protect Serbs and other non-Albanians from large-scale ethnic cleansing, this time primarily against Serbs," said Dusan Batakovic, a Serb diplomat and leading expert on Kosovo.

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Four years after it was "liberated" by a NATO bombing campaign, Kosovo has deteriorated into a hotbed of organized crime, anti-Serb violence and al-Qaeda sympathizers, say security officials and Balkan experts.

Though nominally still under UN control, the southern province of Serbia is today dominated by a triumvirate of Albanian paramilitaries, mafiosi and terrorists. They control a host of smuggling operations and are implementing what many observers call their own brutal ethnic cleansing of minority groups, such as Serbs, Roma and Jews.

In recent weeks, UN officials ordered the construction of a fortified concrete barrier around the UN compound on the outskirts of the provincial capital Pristina. This is to protect against terrorist strikes by Muslim extremists who have set up bases of operation in what has become a largely outlaw province.

Minority Serbs, who were supposed to have been guaranteed protection by the international community after the 78-day NATO bombing campaign ended in the spring of 1999, have abandoned the province en masse. The last straw for many was the recent round of attacks by ethnic Albanian paramilitaries bent on gaining independence through violence.

Attacks on Serbs in Kosovo, a province of two million people, have risen sharply.

According to statistics collected by the UN criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague, 1,192 Serbs have been killed, 1,303 kidnapped and 1,305 wounded in Kosovo (until) this year.

In June, 1999, just after the NATO bombing, 547 Serbs were killed and 932 were kidnapped.

Last summer, in one of the more grisly massacres, two Serb youths were killed and four others wounded by ethnic Albanian militants while swimming in the Bistrica River, near Pec.

The violence continues despite an 18,000-strong NATO-led peacekeeping force and an international police force of more than 4,000.

Serbs, who now make up 5% of the population of Kosovo, down from 10% before the NATO campaign, are the main targets of the paramilitary groups.

The bombing was partly launched by NATO countries to end the ethnic cleansing of Albanians by Serb security forces in the region. In its immediate aftermath, many Serbs left Kosovo to settle in other parts of Yugoslavia, now known as Serbia and Montenegro.

Last week, Harri Holkeri, the province's UN leader, suspended two generals and 10 other officers, all members of an ethnic Albanian offshoot of the Kosovo Liberation Army, an insurgent group that emerged in the late 1980s to fight Serb security forces.

Mr. Holkeri made his decision -- the strongest UN response to violence in the province so far -- after a UN inquiry into the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC). Although the civilian defence organization is supposed to help local residents, over the past four years, its mostly ethnic Albanian military officials have been involved in violent confrontations with Serbs.

The inquiry found last April's bomb attack on a Kosovo railway was the work of the KPC.

"The whole process of rebuilding Kosovo-Metohija as a democratic, multi-ethnic society failed due to both the inability of the UN mission and [NATO] forces to protect Serbs and other non-Albanians from large-scale ethnic cleansing, this time primarily against Serbs," said Dusan Batakovic, a Serb diplomat and leading expert on Kosovo.

Dr. Batakovic and other Balkan experts, who attended a conference in Toronto last month to discuss Kosovo's future, say the situation is deteriorating rapidly.

"NATO forces made a real mess of Kosovo," said James Bissett, a former Canadian ambassador to Yugoslavia. "The bombing of Yugoslavia was a dreadful failure on humanitarian grounds. It failed to stop ethnic cleansing, which has continued after the so-called peace treaty."

In addition, "Balkan Taliban" -- Muslim ethnic Albanian paramilitary groups -- have vandalized Serb cemeteries and destroyed many of the region's Orthodox Christian monasteries and churches.

"This is a strategy of cutting Kosovo Serbs off from their historical and religious traditions," said Dr. Batakovic in his report to the North American Society of Serbian Studies conference.

Moreover, Kosovo has turned into one of Europe's biggest hubs for drug trafficking and terrorism.

Al-Qaeda has set up bases in the province, which has become an important centre for heroin, cigarette, gasoline and people smuggling.

The Albanian mafia and paramilitary groups, which security officials say are closely tied to al-Qaeda militants in the region, also oversee smuggling. More than 80% of Western Europe's heroin comes through Kosovo, where several drug laboratories have been set up, Interpol officials say.

During the wars (1991-99) that led to the breakup of Yugoslavia, drugs and other commodities were smuggled through Bulgaria and Turkey to Western Europe.

Now, more than 5,000 tonnes of heroin pass directly through Kosovo every month. In a recent article in Serbia's Vreme magazine, Kosovo was referred to as the "republic of heroin."

"The Albanians have become the alpha and omega of the drugs trade in southeast Europe," said Marko Nicovic, chairman of the International Police Association for the Fight Against Drugs.

"There are two reasons for this. The first is the fact that Kosovo is now under the control of the Albanian mafia lobby and the criminal police do not operate there. This is literally a paradise for all kinds of crime, especially narcotics."

The Albanian mafia also control trafficking in cigarettes, weapons, gasoline and women. Dozens of young women from impoverished towns and villages in the region are forced into prostitution rings centred in Kosovo, security officials say. Many of the women are taken by mobsters to work in Western European countries.

There is little consensus on the way ahead.

Many Serbs and moderate ethnic Albanian politicians would like a decision on Kosovo's legal status -- should it remain a province of Serbia or become independent?

Many ethnic Albanians are calling for independence, but their more extremist elements would like to fold the province into a Greater Albania that would see ethnic Albanians take over the mostly Albanian regions of neighbouring Macedonia as well.

The Serb government in Belgrade wants Kosovo to continue as part of Serbia.

Although it is four years since the NATO bombing, talks on Kosovo's future began only recently. Serb and ethnic Albanian leaders met in Vienna in October to discuss transportation and the return of Serb refugees to Kosovo.

"At this point, the chances for Kosovo remaining in Serbia are pretty slim," Mr. Bissett said. "There is a powerful Albanian lobby in the United States that is determined to make Kosovo independent."

Moreover, many Serb leaders know that to attract the much-needed aid and investment, they will need to give way on Kosovo, experts say.

In the meantime, the situation is expected to get worse, with renewed threats of violence against both the United Nations and Serbs in the province.

"It's a terrible situation," said Mr. Bissett. "If the United Nations and other organizations can't handle Kosovo, you wonder how they are going to do with something like Iraq."


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HRW: Macedonia - End Cruel Limbo for Kosovo Roma Refugees  

The Human Rights Watch briefing paper argues that conditions are inappropriate for the return of most Kosovo Roma, because their property in Kosovo was destroyed when they were expelled and their security cannot be guaranteed there.

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http://www.hrw.org/press/2003/12/macedonia121003.htm

Human Rights Watch

Macedonia: End Cruel Limbo for Kosovo Roma Refugees

(New York, December 10, 2003) - More should be done to address the plight of Kosovo Roma refugees in Macedonia, Human Rights Watch said in a briefing paper released today. The Macedonian government, its Western counterparts, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) should redouble efforts to ensure them dignified living conditions.

The briefing paper, "Out of Limbo? Addressing the Plight of Kosovo Roma Refugees in Macedonia," describes the dismal conditions that Kosovo Roma refugees face in Macedonia. Human Rights Watch urges the Macedonian government to make stronger efforts to improve their status in the country, and calls on Western governments and the UNHCR to seriously consider resettlement for those refugees who are in a particularly difficult situation.

"These refugees are in a cruel limbo," said Rachel Denber, acting executive director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia Division. "Most of them clearly can't return to Kosovo while their prospects for integration in Macedonia remain dim. It's high time that the Macedonian government and its Western European counterparts end this untenable situation."

Macedonia is currently hosting some 2,500 Roma refugees displaced from Kosovo as a result of the 1999 war. In May, Macedonian authorities and UNHCR closed Shuto Orizari, the largest camp hosting Roma refugees, due to unacceptable health and sanitary conditions. To draw attention to their desperate situation, the 700 Roma who had lived in the camp then occupied an area in the immediate vicinity of the Macedonian-Greek border, near the village of Medzitlija.

On August 9, exhausted and frustrated by the lack of visible achievements after 80 days of protest, the Roma refugees abandoned Medzitlija for several other locations within Macedonia.

"While the Medzitlija crisis has passed, a viable long-term solution for the Kosovo Roma refugees in Macedonia continues to elude the Macedonian government and relevant international actors," said Denber.

The Human Rights Watch briefing paper argues that conditions are inappropriate for the return of most Kosovo Roma, because their property in Kosovo was destroyed when they were expelled and their security cannot be guaranteed there.

Relocation to other parts of Serbia and Montenegro is also not an option, because the Kosovo Roma already displaced to these areas face undue hardship in meeting what UNHCR terms as their basic social, cultural and economic needs. The Serbia and Montenegro government itself acknowledges that living conditions for displaced Roma in Serbia are "extremely poor."

For the time being, the only two practical options for the refugees appear to be resettlement to third countries or integration in Macedonia. But the latter option is feasible only if the Macedonian government and relevant international agencies significantly improve the legal, economic and social situation of the affected Roma.

Most of the Kosovo Roma refugees favor resettlement in third countries, but EU member states appear to be unwilling to accept them.

"Resettlement should not be excluded when countries of refuge are coping with a protracted refugee crisis of this kind," said Denber. "For more than four years now, the Macedonian government has failed to provide these refugees with a sustainable existence, making the prospect of integration ring hollow."

Human Rights Watch argues that third countries with resettlement policies, working with the UNHCR, should give serious consideration to accepting those individuals whose prospects for safe voluntary return to Kosovo and integration in Macedonia are particularly dim.

At the same time, and as long as conditions for safe return to Kosovo are not in place, the Macedonian government, with the assistance of international institutions, should strengthen efforts to recognize the status of Roma refugees, and enable them to fully enjoy their rights under the Refugee Convention as well as other human rights treaties.

BACKGROUND:

Most Roma refugees in Macedonia owned property in Kosovo, had regular employment and attended schools. Their conditions in Macedonia, in contrast, continue to be dreadful.

Roma families who live in refugee camps are packed in small rooms housing many family members. Those living in private accommodation can afford to rent only small, suffocating rooms, and have been forced to move up to 10 times during their three or four years of living in refuge.

Most Roma refugee children in Macedonia do not attend school or do so irregularly. Many Roma parents are too poor to buy clothes and books needed for school; those children who do attend face harassment by non-Roma students. Human Rights Watch found that Macedonian authorities have not taken adequate measures to protect Roma children from harassment and ensure their equal access to education.

A formal ban on employment on "temporarily humanitarian assisted persons," in effect until July 2003, prevented the Roma refugees from working legally in Macedonia. Some managed to find temporary seasonal jobs-such as construction work and canal digging-in the "black economy."

Recently adopted legislation authorizes their employment under certain conditions. However, having been removed from the labor market for four years, and divested of most of their assets and the means needed to launch private enterprises, Roma continue to find it exceptionally difficult to find any employment. The high unemployment rate in Macedonia, compounded by discrimination against Roma in employment, is another impeding factor. The general unemployment rate in Macedonia is between 30 and 35 percent, while in the municipality of Shuto Orizari, where most of the Roma live, it is approaching 90 percent.

Information gathered by Human Rights Watch indicates the Macedonian government will grant the status of persons under humanitarian protection in Macedonia to most of the Kosovo Roma in the coming months. As such, they would have fewer rights in Macedonia regarding employment and social security than would be the case if the government recognized them as refugees.

To date, the Macedonian administrative bodies and courts have generally denied Roma asylum on the grounds that Kosovo Roma could relocate to another part of their country of origin, or that their physical integrity in Kosovo was not endangered. The Human Rights Watch briefing paper calls on the Macedonian authorities to refrain from resorting to these clearly unjustified rationales in the decision-making on asylum claims based on the new Law on Asylum and Temporary Protection, adopted in July.


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News form Kosovo and Metohija, Dec 08

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I*Net News, Belgrade

Monday 08 December 2003

21:00 International forces in Kosovo are preparing a "drastic reduction" in numbers of troops, writes the "Berliner Zeitung" daily, citing military sources following the visit of German defense minister Peter Struck to Kosovo.

20:40 Unknown attackers opened fire on a police checkpoint in Konculj near Bujanovac, southern Serbia, on Sunday. Due to the intensity of the gunfire, police responded in kind. No one was injured.

20:20 UNMIK chief Harri Holkeri and Kosovo premier Bajram Rexhepi departed for Brussels to attend Tuesday's meeting of the foreign ministers of the European Union and countries of the western Balkans.

20:00 Coordinating Center for Kosovo and Metohija head Nebojsa Covic met in Belgrade with representatives of provisional institutions from Kosovo and Metohija, representatives of local self-government and the Coordinating Center management team.

19:40 The Serbian Government on Monday rejected as "unacceptable" the plan for implementation of standards that Kosovo needs to fulfill prior to resolution of its status, which UNMIK is to be presented on December 10 in Brussels.

15:40 Democratic Alternative president Nebojsa Covic stated that Serbia is currently faced with a multitude of state and national problems whose resolution must be a priority for anyone responsibly engaged in politics. "For the DA the territory of Serbia is everything that is today within her marked borders. Certain representatives of the international community are currently offering us standards in exchange for the sovereignty of Kosovo and Metohija; however, neither I nor any DA representative will ever accept this position," emphasized Covic during a pre-election speech.

15:00 A meeting between UNMIK chief advisor Carney Ross and representatives of the Return Coalition (Povratak) scheduled to take place on Monday comes too late, said Kosovo parliament presidency member Oliver Ivanovic. "We have already cautioned that the text on standards standards will be unacceptable to us unless we receive it with enough time to lodge our comments and objections."

14:40 UNMIK has accused the members of the Kosovo Protection Corps who were suspended against the will of Kosovo premier Bajram Rexhepi for extortion, human trafficking and cooperation with the so-called Albanian National Army, defined as a terrorist organization, writes the "Frankfurter Rundschau", adding that a major problem in an investigation of this sort are witnesses.

10:20 If Kosovo and Metohija is the price of our integration into Europe, our answer is an immediate "No", said Democratic Alternative president Nebojsa Covic. He assessed that at this point in time an independent Serbia means Serbia without Kosovo and Metohija.

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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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