NEWSLETTER No 18


News Report
Info Service ERP KIM, 20. January 2003
Uncertain fate of St. Eliah's church in Podujevo - Albanian extremists throw two grenades on a Serb house near Obilic - Seven Bosnian Moslems jailed for smuggling weapons to Kosovo

SERBIAN GOVERNMENT

Time is now for opening talks on Kosovo status

January 20, 2003

Belgrade, Jan 19, 2003 - Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic reiterated Sunday that the time is now for opening talks on the final status of Kosovo and dismissed international assessments that it is still premature to talk about the final status of the province.

The prime minister said the following in a statement: "I do not think that it is premature or hasty to warn of the unacceptable situation there [in Kosovo] and demand firm action towards the protection of the rights of the state of Serbia. Quite the opposite, now is the moment to openly discuss status issues because they are obviously being solved in silence behind the backs of local and international institutions".

On Thursday Djindjic said that the time is now for opening talks on the final status of Kosovo because the province is moving towards independence. International officials reacted to the prime minister's statement by saying that it is still too early for such talks.

The prime minister responded with the following: "There is no doubt that Kosovo is a de facto independent state today, just as it was three years ago. All this time, the state of Serbia has had no possibility of influencing any aspect of life in Kosovo-Metohija. Any link between Serbia and Kosovo-Metohija, from legislation, customs and tax systems, to managing state property and international representation is systematically being eliminated. It is obvious that international organisations aim to give Kosovo-Metohija bodies the state powers that were taken away from Serbia."

"Giving back certain authorities to Serbia has never been mentioned. You do not have to have ESP to figure out that this leads to the creation of an independent state on the territory of the Serbian province. Serbia does not have any powers or rights in Kosovo-Metohija, nor are they stipulated in the future. These are the facts and they are not acceptable to Serbia, and are in violation of the official international documents," said the prime minister.

Djindjic said that the international community invokes the UN Security Council Resolution 1244 to justify its activities in Kosovo, adding that the Resolution also guarantees the rights of the motherland, including the return of a certain number of Serbian police officers and Yugoslav Army members to Kosovo, as well as the return of expelled Serbs.

"However, nobody in the international community mentions the return of the army and the police, and it is mainly demagogy when they speak of the return of dispelled citizens," said the prime minister.

EDITORIAL
Fr. Sava Janjic - UNMIK'S "POTEMKIN VILLAGES"
January 16, 2003

Truly, in Kosovo and Metohija much has changed for the better in the last three years but only for Albanian community. Under UNMIK’s rule, however, changes are only slightly or not at all reflected in Serb areas where the 100,000 remaining Serbs are hard pressed to see any essential improvements since the end of the war. While it is true that many hospitals have been restored, Serbs cannot seek treatment in them; numerous roads have been paved but Serbs lack the freedom to travel on them; tens of thousands of houses have been renovated but only about one hundred of them are owned by Serbs. After the war, all mosques were repaired and many new ones built while over one hundred Serbian churches still lie in ruins and not one has been reconstructed; there are many new supermarkets, gas stations and restaurants but what use are they to Serbs when only Albanians and foreigners can safely enter them. In short, based on his first-hand experience, the average Serb feels that UNMIK has come to help only one community while Serbs appear fated to live as second-class citizens on the margins of society. FULL TEXT

OFFICIAL COMMUNIQUE OF SNC KIM AND SNC NK REGARDING ANNOUNCED RETURN OF RETURN COALITION TO KOSOVO PARLIAMENT

Gracanica - Kosovska Mitrovica, January 15, 2003.

After receiving information that Gojko Savic and Oliver Ivanovic, representatives of the Return (Povratak) Coalition in the Kosovo and Metohija presidency, have already discussed the return of Serb deputies to the parliament in the near future with Albanian representatives, the Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija and the Serb National Council of Northern Kosovo feel obliged and morally bound to acquaint the public with the consequences resulting from this unilateral and extremely dangerous decision.

The SNC KIM and the SNC NK were among the first to support the entry of Serb deputies in the Kosovo and Metohija parliament at the end of 2001 in order to essentially improve the position of the Serb people, enable the return of expelled Serbs to their home and stop the process of secession of Kosovo and Metohija from Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia by working through public institutions and under the auspices of UNMIK. Unfortunately, after a year of participating in the work of the parliament not one of these three fundamental goals has even begun to be realized. The Serb people continue to be exposed to unbridled discrimination, violence and repression. The Return Coalition has failed to justify its own name since the strategy for return of expelled Serbs has basically been a failure and the Province is increasingly getting the contours of an independent Albanian state.

It is for this very reason that the members of the Coalition made the completely justified decision to withdraw from the Kosovo and Metohija parliament in November of last year. Therefore, the reason for this decision was not only the discriminatory attitude of the Albanian deputies and personal insults but the absence of basic, functional mechanisms through which the Serbs can realize their vital interests through public institutions. The parliament and municipal institutions, in the absence of real mechanisms for the protection of the interests of all citizens regardless of their ethnicity, have become open instruments of institutional repression which is being carried out against the Serbs, sadly, with the full tolerance of UNMIK. Despite their personal efforts, for a year our deputies represented only a window dressing of non-existent multiethnicity and democracy. As such they unwittingly served to enable Albanian political forces to present Kosovo institutions as their great success. What is more, thanks to the presence of Serb deputies in the parliament, senior Albanian representatives have used public institutions as a springboard for complete secession of the Province from Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in violation of all provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 1244. We claim with full authority that no Serb representative has the mandate to support such a narrowly nationalist strategy leading ultimately to the disappearance of the Serb people from this region.

As representatives of the Serb people who have fought for Serb interests for years, we feel morally obliged to acquaint our people with the fact that under these conditions the return of Serb deputies to the parliament would mean direct support for Albanian separatism and the secession of Kosovo and Metohija from Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Those who have made this decision will inescapably face direct moral responsibility for it before their people and before the judgment of history. Reaching such an decision without broad-based support among the people, the representatives of the Church in this region and the most significant political forces representing the people will finally result in the end of the Return Coalition which will no longer represent anyone with the exception of a handful of people who believe they can make fateful decisions on their own and in the name of the people.

BISHOP ARTEMIJE, chairman of the SNC of Kosovo and Metohija
MILAN IVANOVIC, chairman of the SNC North Kosovo


FOURTH CHRISTMAS BEHIND THE WIRE

BBC - SPECIAL REPORT - Dec 20th, 2002
Christmas in Kosovo Under Siege
Transcript

BBC Web Site
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2594851.stm

FOURTH CHRISTMAS BEHIND THE WIRE
Kosovo in Christmas time: Christian holy sites and cemeteries still under threat of Albanian extremists

In the time when Christmas is celebrated throughout Europe as a feasday of peace, tolerance and hope, in the UN administered province of Kosovo Christian Orthodox communities still live under virtual siege, surrounded by unabated hostility of local Moslem Albanians. Despite official claims that situation in Kosovo has greatly improved since the deployment of UN Mission and the peacekeeping troops, the reality for everyday Serbs, especially isolated monasteries, is essentially unchanged. Kosovo is still a society in which Orthodox Christian Serbs do not enjoy the minimum of freedom and live in their besieged tiny enclaves in constant fear of Albanian extremist attacks. In the latest series of attacks, last month, one church was blown up and another seriously damaged by local Albanians. More than 100 Serbian churches, demolished after the war, still lie in ruins and no one dares rebuild them because there is a fear that they would be blown up next day. While destruction and desecration of Christian chruches and cemeteries continues, Orthodox clergymen fear that Kosovo is drifting more and more apart from the tradition on which Western civilization is based. For them a society in which Christian values and culture are targeted on a daily basis can hardly hope of normal integration in the European sturctures and gaining credibility of the democratic world.

In order to justify attacks on churches, Kosovo Albanian leaders keep unjustly accusing the Church of supporting the nationalism. But the reality was quite different. The Church was in the front row of opposition against the former Milosevic's regime and gave constant support to the democratic opposition. It is true that Church forstered traditions and culture of the Serbian people but this has been a legitimate role of the Church throughout the centuries, especially during the Ottoman (Turkish) occupation when the Church preserved Christian identity of Serbs despite prevailing islamization. Such was the role during the communist period too, especially in Kosovo where communist authorities did not allow a single new church to be built and branded Christianity as the enemy of state. With more than 90% of cultural treasures in Kosovo belonging to the Orthodox Christian tradition, Serbian Orthodox Church will always have special role in guarding these values which are the heritage of Europe and the cultured world. Clergymen like Bishop Artemije, always knew to make a clear difference between Milosevic's ateist-nationalism and genuine Christian Orthodox tradition.

The Church hopes that the world will finally hear the cry of the oppressed Christians and make additional pressures on Albanians and their leaders to stop with their attacks and acts of intolerance. These words may serve just as a humble reminder to all those who will celebrate the Christmas in the peace and safety of their families that there is one place in Europe of the 21st century in which Christmas can be celebrated only under the military guard and in which Christmas hymns will not be heard in many ruined churches and villages. Thousands of Orthodox Serb children will spend this Christmas again in refugee camps, far away from their homes in Kosovo to which they cannot return.

Despite the bleak reality, for Orthodox Christians Christmas will nevertheless be the feastday of spiritual renewal and hope in the Lord. As always in times of sufferring the Church experiences spirital vigor and intensity of faith which are much stronger and genuine than in times of ease and comfort. This is exactly what the Lord told us by chosing to be born in a humble cave of Bethlehem rather than in a palace of Rome or Alexandria.

Fr. Sava (Janjic)
ERP KIM Info-Service
(We are enclosing a report by BBC)


Orthodox Bishops from US and Canada Condemn
Violence against Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo and Metohija
photo: Hierarchs of the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in Americas, S.C.O.B.A

Text of the S.C.O.B.A. Resolution

SCOBA urgently requests the United Nations authorities and NATO peacekeeping forces in Kosovo to strengthen measures to protect all vulnerable religious property and shrines in Kosovo, and not only those of historical importance.


This is not way towards civilized Europe!
Ruins of a Serbian Orthodox Church destroyed by Kosovo Albanian extremists after the arrival of KFOR and UN Mission

BETA - BELGRADE
MINI - ONLY MULTIETHNIC KOSOVO CAN BE PART OF EUROPE

Pristina, December 23, 2002

KFOR Commander, Italian general Fabio Mini said today that only multiethnic Kosovo can become a part of Europe and that return of displaced persons will be priority for international institutions in the next year.

"Multiethnic Kosovo is the key for European integrations. Believe me, there is no Government in Europe which would like to see here monoethnic society", said Mini on the New Year's meeting with journalists in Pristina.

In Kosovo, added KFOR Commander, there is not progress which we wanted to see because there is a high level of crime. He said that for many politicians personal interest is more important than interest of Kosovo. According to the Blue Sky Radio from Pristina, Mini said that in this year there were 60 murders in Kosovo, many attacks on UNMIK personnel and Kosovo police and that around 2.000 persons were arrested for illegal possesion of weapons.

In cities there are hardly any members of minority communities, and those who remained live isolated under KFOR protection, said Mini adding that since 1999 around 3.500 persons had returned to Kosovo, mostly to enclaves. In this way members of minority communities remain marginalized, he said.

Mini emphasised that out of 32.000 Serbs which had lived in the region of Pec prior to the conflict only a little bit more than 1.000 remained. At the moment there are 200 Serbs in Pristina, 275 in Gnjilane, 90 in Prizren, 17 in Urosevac, 10 in Djakovica. They are all under KFOR protection.

KFOR Commander sent his message to the Kosovo institutions and citizens that return of the displaced persons is the priority for the international community in year 2003.

"If this society does not take responsibility for such a small number of minority community members, that means that it is not ready for Europe", said the Italian general.

Today Mini condemned the murder of Trajan Trifunovic from Cernica village, near Gnjilane. Trifunovic was killed near his house yesterday by machine gun fire.


Serb National Council Meeting, Gracanica, Dec 21, 2002
from left (Marko Jaksic, Dr. Rada Trajkovic, Dr. Milan Ivanovic, Bishop Artemije)

SERB NATIONAL COUNCIL COMMUNIQUE
Proclamation against participation in the
Kosovo Protection Corps

Serb National Council KM admits with regret that the security situation for KM/Serbs is still very grave. Instead of improvement and calming of the situation, attacks on the Serb community continue. In the recent period more than 20 attacks on members of the Serb community occurred and several churches and cemeteries were destroyed or desecrated. The Council condemns criminal behavior of K/Albanian extremists and requests from the UN Security Council and NATO to make an urgent plan for security of the Serbian community in Kosovo and Metohija, including the return of the part of Yugoslav army and police, which is granted by the UN SC Resolution 1244 (Annex 2.6) and Kumanovo agreement (I.4). The SNC appeals on the Governments of Yugoslavia and Serbia to support this initiative.

Serb National Council KM will not accept independence of Kosovo and Metohija and is against any change of borders. Beside Belgrade authorities it is also necessary to include representatives of KM/Serbs and the Orthodox Church in the process of resolution of the final status of Kosovo and Metohija.

Serb National Council KM supports decision of the POVRATAK Coalition not to participate in the work of Kosovo Parliament because of discriminatory policy against KM/Serbs. We request that the Parliament and other institutions in Kosovo and Metohija should return within the framework of the UN SC Resolution 1244. Serb representatives do not have a mandate from their constituency to support institutions which work on independence of the Province.

FULL TEXT:

THE LATEST PLAN FOR TRANSFORMATION OF KOSOVO PROTECTION CORPS LEADS TO FORMATION OF KOSOVO NATIONAL ARMY

Kosovo Protection Corps is nothing but continuation of the KLA
and is incompatible with the standards of democratic society - SNC KIM

Extract from the SNC Report:

1. International community has finally recongized that the Kosovo Protection Corps which was created from the former KLA (UCK) and placed under direct control and funding of NATO and UN is directly responsible for many post-conflict crimes aganist Serbs, Roma and moderate Albanians and that it is necessary that perpertrators of these crimes should be punished. The report mentions involvement of KPC structures in extremist attacks in South Serbia and Macedonia as well as its connections with organized crime. At the same time when this happened the Corps received ample international funding and NATO training. First "cleaning" of the former KLA was achieved by its "transformation" into the Kosovo Protection Corps in Sep 1999. Now when this organization has been deeply compromized in a series of post-war crimes there is a plan for a new "cleaning" which should give credibilty to an organization which in its core has always remained on the positions of ethnic Albanian nationalism and extremism. After many attempts to hide this truth from public and futile attempts to attract some Kosovo Serbs to its ranks in order to present it as multiethnic structure, it is finally evident that this expensive internatinal undertaking has completely failed. It is now quite evident who is responsible for crimes and violence in Kosovo after the conflict in 1999 and this can no longer be ignored.

2. The idea of transformation and building of new moral credibility for the KPC by creating of "Kosovo Safety and Security Council" is directly opposite to the basic requirement of UN SC Resolution 1244 because the issues of territorial security and border protection which are presently under authority of KFOR and UN Mission are planned to be gradually given into the hands of local Albanian led forces which would be armed by military weapons (long guns). At the same time another important requirement from the Resolution 1244 is ignored and that is the return of a contingent of Yugoslav army and police to the borders and around the most important patrimonial sites. It is quite obvious that this plan is nothing but an attempt of creation of Kosovo National Army which is one of the main prerogatives for independence of the Province.

FULL TEXT:


POVRATAK Coalition: No participation in institutions which promote
ethnic intolerance and the idea of ethno-centric Albanian state in Kosovo

Info-Service ERP KIM

HIGHEST KOSOVO INSTITUTIONS WITHOUT SERB REPRESENTATIVES

SERB DEPUTIES IN THE PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION FOR AGRICULTURE AND FORESTRY LEFT KOSOVO PARLIAMENT
Serb representatives in Municipal Assembly of Lipljan say that they will not attend sessions because of ethnic discrimination

Gracanica, December 16, 2002

Information Service ERP KIM received today information from the chief of the POVRATAK coalition Dr. Rada Trajkovic that Sokol Djordjevic and Bogoljub Milosevic, Serb deputies in the commission for agriculture and forestry, left Kosovo Parliament and said that they would not attend Parliament sessions as long as discrimination of Serb deputies by the Kosovo Albanian majority continues.

After the decision of the POVRATAK coalition that they would boycott Parliament sessions because of intolerance and discrimination demonstrated by the Parliament speaker Nezhad Daci and other Albanian representatives, the last two members of the Coalition who attended sessions of parliamentary commissions demonstratively left the Parliament today. Before them the same incident occurred when Randjel Nojkic, Serbian representative in the commission for transport and communications, left Parliament after his request written in Cyrillic script was rudely rejected by the Commission chairwoman Edita Tahiri (K/Albanian). In solidarity with his colleagues the only Serb minister in the Kosovo Government Mr. Bogdanovic left the Government, which is now without any Serb representative.

Djordjevic and Milosevic left the session of the parliamentary commission because the chairman of the Commission Tom Hajdaraj (K/Albanian) refused to accept their request with amendments only because it was written in Cyrillic script and because the Province is referred as Kosovo and Metohija (traditional Serbian name of the Province). Sources in the POVRATAK Coalition claim that such behavior is absolutely unacceptable and that it is an example of open violation of the right of Serb deputies to use their own language and script, which is granted by the Constitutional Framework.

At the same time it was confirmed by the ERP KIM Info -Service sources in Lipljan that newly elected Serb representatives in the Municipal Assembly decided not to attend Assembly sessions as long as they are exposed to systematic humiliations and discriminations by K/Albanian representatives.

Both news come in the time when a two-days conference on Integration of ethnic communities in Kosovo is held at Brezovica in organization of the Foundation for the open society.

On the question of ERP KIM Info Service to comment the statement by the Kosovo Prime Minister Rexhepi that "the future of Kosovo depends on integration of ethnic communities in Kosovo society", Dr. Rada Trajkovic said that: "such statement is diametrically opposite to Albanian behavior in Kosovo and Metohija Parliament and municipal assemblies in which prevails spirit of intolerance and ethnic exclusivity. Serb community is even more discouraged to integrate in Kosovo society as long as Kosovo Albanians have such a narrow and ethno-centric vision of future. Representatives of the Security Council quite rightly said after their visit to the Province that Kosovo and Metohija would "face a bleak future and self-isolation as long as minorities are oppressed". That repression is visible in the recent time primarily in Kosovo institutions which become stages for display of ethnic Albanian nationalism and are far from becoming forums for normal and democratic exchange of opinions and views", concluded Dr. Trajkovic.


KLA terrorists with bombs against women and children of Pristina
KLA (UCK) is still operating in Kosovo through organized crime and terrorist groups - Investigation of the bomb attakc close to finding links with KLA terrorists, claims K/Albanian press in Pristina

KOHA DITORE - Kosovo Albanian Daily, Dec. 16, 2002
SUPPOSED TARGET OF ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT AFRAID OF FORMER UCK
read text

The leading Albanian daily in Pristina reveals that the latest bomb attack in Pristina, in which 30 people were injured, might be an action by the mebers of the UCK who try to intimidate witnessess in the trial to the former UCK commander Rrustem Mustafa "Remi". The story reveals that UCK still illegaly exists despite its alleged transformation into the Kosovo Protection Corps and official UNMIK denials that Albanian extremism and terrorism exist at all. (ERP KIM)

From investigations so far, we are more than satisfied that this bombing was not linked to the visit of the UN Security Council to Kosovo, but linked to elements of organised crime. Such attacks have no place in a modern democratic society. - UNMIK Police Report, Dec. 16, 2002

Truth revealing about the KLA crimes against Serb civilians

K/ALBANIAN IBRAHIM SPAHIU SENCENCED ON SIX YEARS OF PRISON
for kidnapping and maltreating of Serb civilians in Gnjilane in 1999

Pristina, December 16, 2002 - BETA
Kosovo Albanian Ibrahim Spahiu was sentenced by the Regional Court in Gnjilane on 6 years of prison for kidnapping and illegal detention of Serb civilians after the war in Kosovo in 1999. UNMIK officials confirmed to BETA news agency that Spahiu was arrested in Gnjilane in 1999.

Associated Press, December 16, 2002
TWO ETHNIC ALBANIANS CHARGED WITH TERRORISM IN KOSOVO

PRISTINA -- Monday (December 16) --Two ethnic Albanians were indicted today by an international prosecutor for "terrorism" and inciting racial hatred, a UN official said. Naser Azemi, 43, and Gazmend Beqiri, 19, were specifically charged with "terrorism and recruitment of terrorist group members," said Andrea Angeli, a UN spokesman.

The two were also charged with illegal possession and procurement of ammunitions and weapons as well as racial hatred.

They were arrested this summer in two separate operations in the eastern US military-controlled zone on suspicion of being members of the Albanian National Army, an ethnic Albanian splinter group which operated in neighboring Macedonia.

The group, which runs a Web site, took responsibility for several attacks in Macedonia.

Last year, ethnic Albanian rebels fought for six months to win more rights for their minority before a Western-brokered peace deal ended the insurgency.
Angeli said the two indicted men - considered a serious threats to public order - were active in Kosovo, but their intention was to stir up trouble in Macedonia.
No date has been set for the trial which is expected to be presided over by an international judge, Angeli said.


UN Security Council Delegation in discussion with representatives of the Kosovo Parliament in Pristina, December 14, 2002

ERP KIM Info-Service
UNSC DELEGATION: KOSOVO FAR AWAY FROM DEMOCRACY

UN Security Council warns: a bleak future and self-isolation awaits Kosovo where minorities are being oppressed.

Gracanica, December 16, 2002

Multi-ethnicity, integration of minorities and standards before status were the most often words of UN SC 15-member delegation during two-day visit in Kosovo. "Kosovo will face self-isolation if it does not meet the standards," was the message of the Norway Ambassador Ole Peter Kolby who asked Albanians "to take on responsibility of security of minorities and asked minorities to integrate themselves into Kosovo society. "Kosovo still does not have its true functional democratic institutions" and "a society where minorities would completely participate.""A Kosovo where members of minorities are oppressed will face a lonely future of self-isolation," said Norwegian Ambassador Ole Peter Kolby. The leaders of the Kosovo institutions requested that standards and status go in a parallel way and asked for more competencies.

On the second day of its visit to Kosovo, the UNSC 15-member delegation being accompanied by the SRSG Michael Steiner visited Mitrovica on 15 December. After two-hour talks with Serb representatives in the northern part of Mitrovica, Colby told journalists that he had "a constructive meeting with Serb representatives. Everybody in Kosovo must have its place and part and everybody should integrate into the new civilised multiethnic society. Everybody will be better off in it because everybody will be able to work and live normally. A multiethnic society would lead to the strengthening of this region and to economic prosperity," said the Norwegian ambassador

THREE YEARS OF SYSTEMATIC
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS

December 14, 2002

Bishop Artemije addressed in his letter the Special Delegation of the United Nations Security council which is visiting Kosovo and Metohija requesting urgent measures to stop discrimination and violence against Serbs and non-Albanians in the UN administered province of Kosovo

Rada Trajkovic: Kosovo is an epicenter of terrorism in the Balkans


After the most recent terrorist attack in Pristina, December 14, 2002

ERP KIM Info-Service

SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH STRONGLY CONDEMNS TERRORIST ATTACK IN PRISTINA
The latest bomb attack in Pristina is directed against peace and stability in Kosovo

Gracanica, December 14, 2002

Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo and Metohija strongly condemns yesterday's terrorist attack in Pristina in which at least 25 persons were injured. This is attack against peace and tolerance between communities in Kosovo and Metohija and is directed to create political instability in the Province and the region. Serbian Orthodox Church appeals on KFOR and UNMIK to bring the perpertrators of this crime to justice and prays for the recovery of the wounded.

This incident shows that situation in Kosovo is still not stable and that extremists continue with attacks on peaceful citizens, Christian holy sites and other values which have special meaning for the future of Kosovo. The sad truth is that after the war many residents of Kosovo still possess weapons and disarmament of paramilitary groups, primarily those affiliated to former KLA, has not been fully completed.

Increase of violence in the Province in the last several months requests urgent reassessment of security situation and maintainance of stronger KFOR military presence in the area.

Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija on its today's session has strongly condemned this most recent bomb attack which seriously threatened the fragile peace in the Province.



SERBS STILL AT THE MARGINS OF SOCIETY IN KOSOVO

Info Service ERP KIM

OFFICIAL COMMUNIQUE OF THE DIOCESE

ON OCCASION OF THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF HUMAN RIGHTS - DECEMBER 10th
Serbian population in Kosovo still exposed to severe ethnic and religious discrimination despite international presence

Gracanica, December 09, 2002

On occasion of the International Day of Human Rights - December 10 - Serbian Orthodox Diocese in Kosovo and Metohija would like to draw once again public attention on extremely difficult position in which Serbian population in the UN administered Yugoslav province of Kosovo lives more than three years after the end of the war and the beginning of the peace mission. Despite international presence majority of Kosovo Serbs experience severe discrimination and lack of basic human rights on the daily basis. Kosovo Albanian extremists still continue with intimidation, desecrations and pressures on the remaining non-Albanian population in order to create an ethnically clean Albanian society.

1. Kosovo Serbs, who fled the province in front of Kosovo Albanian paramilitaries after the war, are not free to return to their homes and use their private property. More than 200.000 Serbs still live as refugees in their own country (Serbia & Montenegro) in extremely difficult conditions and poverty. Although UN Security Council Resolution 1244 grants all refugees and displaced persons free return to their homes, UN Mission and NATO led peacekeepers have not managed to create elementary security conditions for normal returns so far. Those few Serb returnees who returned to Albanian dominated areas are forced to live in total isolation without basic freedom of movement and security outside of their tiny rural enclaves. Major Kosovo's cities remain almost completely ethnically clean Albanian areas while thousands of Serb homes and apartments are still occupied illegally and it is uncertain when their owners would be able to enjoy their private property safely. Kosovo is still far away from multiethnic and democratic society, rule of law and order.

2. Serbs in most parts of Kosovo Province do not have normal access to medical, educational and social institutions which remain mostly dominated by ethnic Albanians. Kosovo Serbs depend on poorly equipped village clinics and cannot safely get medical protection in major Kosovo's hospitals in which no Serb personnel can freely and safely work (except in North Mitrovica). Kosovo Serb children cannot have normal education in their own language and Cyrillic script in any urban elementary or secondary school in Albanian dominated areas and attend classes in village schools which lack proper conditions for modern education. After recent restriction of KFOR escorts for Serb students many Serb children do not attend their classes at all or are forced to leave Kosovo and continue their education out of the Province.

3. New Kosovo institutions are becoming more and more tools for institutional repression of ethnic Albanians against Serbs and other minorities. Offensive and non collegial behavior of Kosovo Albanian parliamentarians and absence of proper mechanisms which would protect Serb representatives in Kosovo institutions from ethnic discrimination and overvoting are most important reasons why Kosovo Serb parliamentarians and members of Government rightly refuse to participate in such institutions. While everywhere in the democratic world democracy is understood as just rule of majority with full respect of minority rights, in Kosovo ethnic Albanians develop a special kind of "dem(on)ocracy" which is rather a terror of majority against minorities and their legitimate interests. Kosovo Serbs are ready to work in institutions which would work on full implementation of the Security Council Resolution 1244 but are not ready to act as a decoration for non-existent multiethnicity and democracy.

3. Serb population is almost completely unemployed and only a small percent of Kosovo Serbs work in private sector or UNMIK/KFOR administration. Living conditions for majority Kosovo Serbs remain desperate and most of the people depend on humanitarian aid. Even in distribution of international humanitarian aid Serbs are discriminated and have received proportionally far less assistance and aid than ethnic Albanians. This is a reason why even those Serbs who managed to stay in their homes despite appalling security situation are thinking of leaving the Province and finding better living conditions out of the UN administered province. Foreign investment in Serb enclaves is very inadequate which is an additional pressure on already impoverished Kosovo Serb population.


Old Serb in his home after the terrorist attack in Klokot, July 31, 2002

4. Kosovo Serbs are deprived of their basic religious rights. They cannot normally visit their holy sites, cemeteries and attend Christian ceremonies. With 112 destroyed or seriously damaged churches after the war, in the NATO presence, Kosovo has become a region in which Christianity is exposed to destruction and persecution. Kosovo is a part of Europe in which medieval and recently built Christian churches can be demolished with impunity because so far not a single perpetrator of these desecrations has been brought to justice nor any investigation has been fully completed despite the presence of thousands of international and local police officers. Almost all Serbian Orthodox Monasteries are isolated and surrounded by hostility of the local Moslem Albanian population who mercilessly destroy remaining Christian monuments in their vicinity. Serb cemeteries in Albanian dominated areas are either desecrated or turned into garbage lots, which unfortunately happens with full knowledge of UNMIK and KFOR. The most important Serbian Orthodox holy sites: Patriarchate of Pec, Decani Monastery, Holy Archangels and Devic depend on constant KFOR presence and would be turned to ashes by ethnic Albanian extremist without military protection. Recent announcements of KFOR troops reduction are creating great uneasiness among Serb Orthodox clergy because in most of cases no security improvement has been achieved in the last three years.

5. Kosovo Province still remains a safe haven for ethnic Albanian extremist and organized crime. After the war and deployment of KFOR peacekeepers KLA/UCK led extremists killed more than 800 Kosovo Serbs, and probably twice more "dissenting Albanians". More than 1300 Kosovo Serbs were kidnapped or abducted despite NATO presence. At the moment dozens of mutilated bodies of Serbs killed in the after the war are being recovered from mass graves around Kosovo whereas not a single Kosovo Albanian has been indicted for crimes against Serb civilians. The most important reasons for this remain: absence of witnesses who dare testify in front of courts as well as fears of the Mission that extremist might target international personnel in revange. So far only several KLA extremists were indicted for murdering other Kosovo Albanians which once again brings to the surface the truth about the ethnic Albanian extremists of KLA and their terrorist actions against Serbs and their own people.

Although Kosovo province is under UN protectorate with more than 30.000 best armed NATO led peacekeepers ethnic repression and violations of human and religious rights still continue. In the recent months security situation has significantly deteriorated despite official reports which tend to present Kosovo as UNMIK's success story. The Province still remains a black spot on the human rights map of the world. Despite of all aforementioned facts the leading international human rights organizations remain stubbornly deaf to the plight of Kosovo Serb population and uninterested to do anything in order to bring this truth to the public attention.

The voice of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo which consistently opposed any kind of ethnic violence before, during and after the conflict in 1999 is "a voice of the crying one in the wilderness" (Mt. 3:3). Although many will keep ignoring our appeals, the Church will continue to bear witness of truth with hope that eventually the truth will prevail and that all Kosovo's inhabitants, regardless of their ethnicity and religion, will be able to live in peace and security.


Moslem Albanian vandalism against Christian Orthodox holy sites is continuing, Smac, summer 2002

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