The Serb quarter
of Serb homes were burned by the KLA Kosovo Albanian extremists after
the war in NATO presence. More than 250.000 Serb refugees who had
to flee the war ravaged province still do not have possibility to
return to their homes, three years after.
and captions on this page are supplied by kosovo.net.
most dangerous place on Earth'
Secret guerrilla armies. Neighbours stoning schoolbuses. Two peoples
living in terror and hatred: Three years later, war-ravaged Kosovo
remains a powderkeg.
The Ottawa Citizen
June 22, 2002
text on the Web
On April 8 of this year, international police from the United Nations
Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) attempted to apprehend Slavoljub Jovic,
a Serb suspected of ethnic hate crimes. From the outset, the arrest
in the northern town of Mitrovica went awry. Believing him armed,
UNMIK police used force to subdue Mr. Jovic, prompting a large crowd
of Serbian onlookers to stone the 10 police officers.
As Mr. Jovic was dragged away and taken into custody, the outnumbered
UNMIK force fired tear gas and summoned a riot squad. Meanwhile, the
Serbs had mobilized their unofficial defence force, the Bridgewatchers.
Within hours, a full-scale confrontation had developed and several
Serbs were injured by rubber bullets. The clash escalated when the
Bridgewatchers fired rocket-propelled grenades and small arms after
the UN force attempted to rush the Serb barricade. The fusillade wounded
five UNMIK policemen, and the security force finally withdrew.
Although an uneasy calm has since been restored, Kosovo's destiny
remains hotly disputed. During NATO's entry into Kosovo in June 1999,
fleeing Serb refugees and local residents declared a Serbian territory
north of the Ibar River, which divides this small city. After the
1999 peace agreement came into effect, it was here that mobs of rock-throwing
Serbian civilians prevented Kosovar Albanian refugees from returning.
And in February 2000, Canadian and British troops barely managed to
quell a riot during which Albanians tried to storm the Serbian enclave.
Such clashes have become increasingly symbolic of the United Nations'
failure to resolve the Kosovo crisis.
"Ironically, the international community, including Canada, is
pumping millions of dollars into Kosovo, allegedly to help build a
democratic, multi-ethnic and civil society. Yet the opposite has happened,"
says James Bissett, a Balkan analyst and Canada's former ambassador
to Yugoslavia. "With the exception of several thousand Serbian
citizens who live in NATO-protected enclaves, Kosovo remains essentially
a lawless society, completely intolerant of ethnic minorities and
one of the most dangerous places on Earth."
One of the most overlooked aspects of NATO's proclaimed "liberation"
of Kosovo was the fact that the resolution of one humanitarian crisis
simply created another. As the 800,000 Albanian refugees who had fled
Kosovo when hostilities broke out swept back into their homeland on
the heels of the NATO troops, more than 200,000 Serbs and other indigenous
minorities fled to the north.
The majority of these refugees were Serbs who fled back into Yugoslavia
under the control of then-president Slobodan Milosevic, and the Western
media have been largely unaware of their plight. To this day, most
are still at crowded collection centres throughout Serbia. A report
in April 2002 by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)
noted that, while "the vast majority of Albanians who fled during
the Kosovo crisis have returned home and only few of them experienced
individual protection problems," things were not so well resolved
for minority groups. "Non-ethnic Albanian persons originally
from Kosovo continue to face severe security threats which place their
lives and fundamental freedoms at risk, and continue to compel some
to leave the province," the report stated.
Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Djakovica
Since the arrival of KFOR and UN Mission after the
war more than 100 Serb Orthodox holy sites were devastaded by Kosovo
Albanian extremists. (an unindentified K/Albanian in front of the
ruins of the Serb church)
In terms of rebuilding this war-ravaged province, the international
community has made incredible progress. When the first British tanks
rolled across the Kosovo border, thousands of smoke columns rose from
the already devastated landscape. Many homes had been destroyed during
the 1998 civil war between Albanian guerrillas and Yugoslav security
forces. This destruction escalated drastically during NATO's 78-day
bombing campaign and continued through the summer of 1999, when Albanian
extremists re-entered areas of the province formerly controlled by
the Serbs. The UNHCR estimates 120,000 houses have been rendered uninhabitable.
These shattered dwellings remain scattered throughout the countryside,
but new houses and construction sites are now the predominant features
of the region. "Unfortunately, the rapid reconstruction of private
homes and shops gives a false impression of Kosovo's actual level
of recovery," said a senior European Union official, speaking
on condition of anonymity. "The international community has sunk
between 15 billion and 18 billion Euros (about $27 billion) into Kosovo
over the past three years and we haven't established a basic utility
infrastructure -- without which we cannot even contemplate initiating
the industrialization necessary to create a sustainable economy."
Power outages and water shutoffs are still a part of daily life and
foreign aid constitutes the major source of revenue. In addition to
direct humanitarian donations, Kosovo residents have become heavily
dependent on employment created by the presence of the nearly 40,000
NATO troops -- translation and service jobs as well as spin-off employment.
"We have created a completely false economy in Kosovo,"
said the EU official. "This was clearly shown by the economic
downturn which occurred here after Sept. 11, when the foreign aid
worker community suddenly plunged from 40,000 to 15,000 as everyone
here rushed off to Afghanistan." Few of those aid workers returned,
leaving a gaping hole in Kosovo's fragile new economy.
The housing program also illustrates the vast discrepancy between
the allocation of funds to Albanian Kosovars and other ethnic minorities.
Throughout the Albanian sectors "monster" homes -- many
larger than 7,000 square feet -- are being built. Along the main roads
are dozens of new hotels and service centres, complete with car washes,
supermarkets and cafés. By contrast, inside the isolated minority
enclaves there has been little reconstruction, and the residents buy
their gas from black marketeers who sell it in plastic bottles from
their car trunks.
Until mid-May, the majority of about 100,000 remaining non-Albanians
were clustered in 12 centres throughout Kosovo, protected by NATO
troops. In an effort to encourage their re-integration, UNMIK recently
replaced its barricades with roving patrols. But the psychological
the arrival of the NATO led peacekeepers, there have been more
than 5,800 ethnically motivated attacks against Serbs and other
non-Albanians in the province; 1,138 people have been murdered
and 1.077 have been kidnapped. Photo: a protest of Serb mothers.
"We are afraid to enter the Albanian areas -- with good reason,"
said Miroslav Kisic, the director of the small Serbian community centre
in Pristina. "We dare not speak in public or we will be identified
as Serbs and assaulted."
Mr. Kisic recounted a recent incident at his bank when he dropped
his cellphone and instinctively uttered a Serbian expletive. "I
was lucky that my NATO escort intervened to save me from the crowd,"
Before the 1999 conflict, an estimated 35,000 Serbs lived in the Kosovo
capital. Now there are only 170, living in a ghetto of two apartment
blocks. A mining engineer by trade, Mr. Kisic was a director at the
Trepca mines in northern Kosovo. Now he administers the few community
resources in the ghetto. "We have a gym, a billiard table, a
grocery store, and a tiny courtyard," said Mr. Kisic. "We
are escorted by soldiers everywhere we go in the city, and guarded
at the ghetto night and day. We live in a prison."
For the 30 Serbian children in the Pristina ghetto, life is even more
difficult. Every day they make their way by bus to a school eight
kilometres outside Pristina, in one of the larger enclaves. A detachment
of Greek soldiers rides with them, with an armoured vehicle escort.
Despite these measures, the bus is routinely pelted with stones by
Vukosava Cvetkovic works in the ghetto's only grocery store, but she
lives in a small apartment a few blocks away. NATO troops used to
pick her up and drive her home, but under the integration policy,
she is supposed to get to work on her own. Nevertheless, the British
guard commander sends a six-man foot patrol along to ensure her safety.
The 55-year-old widow has grown children and lives alone, yet she
won't consider leaving Kosovo because of inat (a Serbian word meaning
defiance). "I will not let the Albanians chase me away, even
if I could live a better life somewhere else," she said.
Police statistics show a marked decrease in ethnic violence since
NATO arrived (675 murders in 1999 compared with 136 last year), but
the numbers are misleading, said Derek Chappell, the local spokesman
for UNMIK and a former member of the Ottawa-Carleton police force.
"Over that period, the population has been polarized to the point
where interaction has become rare."
Even with the recent reduction in reported crime, the figures for
Kosovo remain shockingly high given its relatively small population
of barely two million. "Let's be honest. Law and order simply
do not exist in Kosovo," said ex-ambassador Mr. Bissett. "There
are 40,000 troops, 5,000 international police and 5,000 local police,
yet the UN and NATO have proven totally unable to prevent murder,
assassination, rape, robbery and intimidation from happening on a
UCK/KLA was first labelled as a terrorist organization by
CIA in 1998.
During and after the war KLA committed many ethnic crimes against
Serbs, Roma and dissenting Albanians in Kosovo
One of the methods used by Albanians to intimidate minorities is through
the constant commemoration of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), recognized
in 1998 as a terrorist organization by the CIA. As part of the 1999
peace agreement, this guerrilla army was to have been disbanded within
two months. Although most of the KLA fighters then enrolled in either
the new Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC) or the Kosovo police service,
unofficially the KLA remains in existence. It was this cadre of veteran
terrorists who first mounted incursions from Albania into southern
Serbia in November 2000, and then launched the offensives into northern
Macedonia during the summer of 2001.
On June 6, in the western Kosovo town of Klina, ex-KLA soldier Nusrat
Kadriu and his comrades organized a three-day music festival to honour
their former commander, Muje Krasnigi, who was killed by Yugoslav
security forces while attempting to smuggle guns into Kosovo in 1998.
Mr. Kadriu explained that his festival might serve "to remind
Serbs of their crimes against Albanians."
Albanian Kosovars have also renamed landmarks and built tributes to
the NATO leaders who led the 1999 military action. The road to Racak,
for example, has been renamed William Walker Way in honour of the
American special envoy who proclaimed this village a massacre site
in January 1999. Although the allegation was eventually disproved
by a UN forensic team, the Racak massacre was nevertheless the galvanizing
event that prompted NATO to intervene.
As well, a high school in Pristina has been renamed after former U.S.
secretary of state Madeleine Albright and a local construction firm
is now known as Bill Clinton Marble Works. Later this summer, Albanian
officials are to unveil a full-size statue of British Prime Minister
Tony Blair in downtown Pristina. "These people are in our hearts
as heroes," said Asem Sahiti, a 47-year-old former immigrant
who has returned to Kosovo from Germany.
While such gestures can be dismissed as petty provocation, the continued
covert military support of the U.S. for the Albanians remains disturbing.
Under the peace pact, the KLA was to be demilitarized into the TMK,
a civilian emergency assistance organization with generous funding
from U.S. sources: One Kosovo-based official at a non-governmental
organization admitted his agency had forwarded $14 million U.S. to
the TMK under a program deceptively titled Information Counseling
Referral Service, administered through an umbrella group, the International
Organization for Migration.
But under former KLA commander Gen. Agim Ceku, the TMK remains an
armed force, using much of its foreign-aid funding to buy weapons
and bankroll military training.
And much of the military aid provided to the UN-supervised TMK has
ended up in the hands of the unofficial KLA guerrillas. At the height
of last summer's KLA offensives in Macedonia, Gen. Ceku dismissed
-- but did not arrest -- nine of his senior officers for collaboration
with the guerrillas.
In addition to his authorized strength of 600 full-time personnel,
Gen. Ceku has resisted pressure from UNMIK to release the nearly 3,000
TMK reservists he has permanently mobilized. In a recent interview
with local media, he was quoted as saying, "I'm not here to please
the international community. Ultimately, I'm responsible for the protection
of my people."
Mazlom Kumnova, a former KLA commander who returned to Kosovo to become
the mayor of the southern town of Djakovica, has since been accused
of attempted extortion by several international aid agencies.
While the UNMIK police are cracking down on terrorism and organized
crime, the perception remains that a pro-Albanian agenda is being
orchestrated at senior international political levels.
the terrorist attack on a Serb civilian bus (Feb 17, 2001) in
which 11 people were killed (two of them children) and 40 wounded
a few Kosovo Albanian suspects have been arrested by UN police.
The main suspect Florim Ejupi is direcly linked to the circles
of Kosovo Albanian organized crime, close to the former KLA
and its successor UN/NATO sponosred Kosovo Protection Corps.
Despite all security measures Ejupi ran away from the American
detention facility in Camp Bondsteel. British Sunday Times reveals
in its article by Bob Graham (July 29: British troops' error
led to bus bomb) that "UN sources believe that Florim Ejupi
had been working for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
His trial would have been a serious embarrassment, they claim".
Sunday Times, British Troops' Error Led to Bus Bomb, July 29
On Feb. 16, 2001, Albanian terrorists detonated a remote-controlled
bomb directly beneath a Serbian bus on the Nis-Gracanica route. The
blast killed 11 and injured 40. The UNMIK criminal investigation unit
handled the case. "Although we were accused of being too slow,
the Nis bus was actually an excellent bit of police work," said
Mr. Chappell. "We collected DNA samples from the crime scene
and compiled enough evidence to secure a conviction."
Although four men were arrested -- two of them officers in the TMK
-- only one, Florim Ejupi, was detained. Fearing militant Albanians
might try to force his release, UNMIK police transferred Mr. Ejupi
from the Pristina Detention Centre to Camp Bondsteel, the American
military base in Kosovo.
Located atop a low ridge, the massive installation -- 40 square kilometres
in size -- is a virtual fortress. Ringed by three rows of barbed wire,
the perimeter defences are formidable, complete with observation towers
and floodlights. Yet Florim Ejupi managed to escape last May before
his trial. He remains at large.
"We were told by the Americans that Ejupi had received a metal
file hidden inside a spinach pie, and that was how he effected his
escape," said Mr. Chappell, adding, "I'm not making this
Gorica Scepanovic, a 25-year-old journalist who survived the bus attack,
was angry but not surprised at the news of Mr. Ejupi's escape. "How
does a prisoner wearing a fluorescent orange jumpsuit escape from
5,000 American soldiers, unless they let him go?"
- - -
Meanwhile, the fate of the roughly 231,000 refugees from Kosovo within
Yugoslavia remains an explosive issue, and the failure of Belgrade
to negotiate their return has undermined support for President Vojislav
Before last November's parliamentary elections in Kosovo, which were
seen by some as the first step toward independence, UNMIK officials
negotiated a trial project with Nebojsa Covic, Yugoslavia's special
envoy for Kosovo affairs. About 100 Serbian families were to be allowed
to rebuild homes in the western Kosovo valley of Osojane. In exchange,
it was hoped Mr. Covic and Mr. Kostunica could convince Kosovar Serbs
to participate in a UN-sponsored election. The result was a disaster
for the Serbian refugees.
Beginning construction in late August, they had no way of completing
even rudimentary shelters before winter. With minimal aid from international
agencies and Belgrade, the families spent the winter in tents donated
by the UNHCR. The Spanish infantry unit assigned to protect them endured
the harsh conditions -- temperatures often dipped below -20 C -- alongside
the returnees and earned the Serbians' lasting respect. "If it
wasn't for the Spanish soldiers, none of us could have stayed in Osojane,"
said Vlastimir Vukovic, spokesman for the community. "As it turned
out, not one Serb family gave up and quit."
Serb refugees at
Osojane. Many spent their first winter in UNHCR tents
Conditions in the enclave remain among of the worst in Kosovo. Surrounded
by extremely hostile Albanian neighbours, these Serbs live in tiny
three-metre by two-metre plywood shacks, waiting until more permanent
dwellings can be constructed.
They can expect little help from the local administration: The Albanian-dominated
parliament of Kosovo has made its position on returning Serbs very
clear. Earlier this year, Ethem Ceku, a cousin of the TMK commander
and minister for the environment and spatial planning, warned that
"Serbs attempting to return to Kosovo (without UN authority)
will be repelled by force of arms if necessary."
As for the future, Mr. Vukovic is under no illusions. "When we
left in 1999, they came in here and destroyed everything we have and
poisoned the wells to prevent our return," said the 64-year-old
former teacher. "If the international protection force ever leaves
Kosovo, then we will have to leave with them."
Everett Erlandson, a retired Chicago police officer serving with UNMIK
in Pristina for the past 27 months, shares Mr. Vukovic's concern.
"When the internationals leave here, they're going to kill everybody
who's left," Mr. Erlandson said. "That's not something that
(the Albanians) say in anger, they just state it as a fact."
In the short term, however, it is becoming increasingly clear that
Michael Steiner, the special representative heading UNMIK, is intent
on breaking the continued defiance of the Serbs in Mitrovica who are
still blocking the return of Albanian refugees. Although the number
of Albanians displaced from the north is relatively small (some 5,000
villagers), UNMIK and the Albanian-dominated administration have made
their safe return the top priority.
In support of Mr. Steiner's position is a new report tabled on June
3 by the International Crisis Group (ICG), chaired by Martti Ahtisaari,
former president of Finland. The group includes such high-profile
players as Gen. Wesley Clark (NATO commander during the crisis) and
Canada's Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour, who is also the former
prosecutor for The Hague War Crimes Tribunal. The ICG concluded that
Mitrovica's "continuing de facto partition, with parallel structures
run by Belgrade operating north of the River Ibar, is a black mark
on the international community's record in Kosovo."
The ICG recommended that "UNMIK and NATO-led KFOR troops must
act vigorously to establish their jurisdiction in Mitrovica,"
and called the Mitrovica Serbs "pawns in the nationalist game
... (and) hostages to organized crime." The ICG said the Bridgewatchers'
defiance "unites and strengthens Serb extremists" and has
contributed to the continuing crisis in the city.
Father Sava, a well-known Orthodox priest, has become a central figure
in the Kosovo Serbs. "We have always emphasized that the Serbs
of Mitrovica and north Kosovo have the full right not to allow the
same thing that happened to them that happened to Serbs in other areas
of the province," he said.
only under KFOR escort in Italian military vehicles
Three years after the war Serb Orthodox monks in Kosovo can travel
only in armoured KFOR vehicles.
Based at the monastery in Decani, Kosovo, Father Sava has been dubbed
the "cyber monk" for his prolific Internet messages. In
1999, he won international acclaim as a humanitarian when he offered
sanctuary to hundreds of Albanians fleeing Yugoslav security forces.
labelled a radical is something new for me," says Father Sava.
"I'm certainly not advocating violence. I simply believe people
have the right to defend their lives."
Michael Steiner and the UNMIK police have already warned that more
arrests of Serbs in Mitrovica are "imminent." Only this
time, UNMIK will not just be targeting the individual perpetrators
of the April 8 riot, they intend to seize the senior leadership of
the Bridgewatchers as well. While obviously no specific timetable
can be released, Barry Fletcher, a New Orleans police officer serving
as a press officer with UNMIK, advised that the "individuals
involved should carry a toothbrush with them at all times."
"Of course, we know their intentions," said Milan Ovanovic,
the 47-year-old leader of the Bridgewatchers. Knowing he is UNMIK's
primary target does not stop him from attending his regular day job:
A cardiovascular specialist, Dr. Ovanovic is also the deputy director
of the Mitrovica hospital.
"We (the Bridgewatchers) have established a 24-hour security
vigil and our top personnel take the precaution to sleep in different
houses every night," says Dr. Ovanovic. "However, we are
not so naïve to think we will not eventually be seized, and when
we are, our people will react."
Oliver Ivanovic was one of the Bridgewatchers' founders, and has since
been elected to Kosovo's parliament. To bring attention to the plight
of the Serbs in the enclaves, he has begun organizing a series of
demonstrations in Serbia "to remind the Belgrade government and
the international community that the Serb (refugee) situation has
never been resolved."
He also believes any wave of arrests in Mitrovica prior to an agreement
on the future of Serbian municipalities will spark a violent reaction.
"The people will not accept this. They will force UNMIK completely
out of the north with whatever means are necessary," he warned.
As a showdown looms, Serbs are looking ahead to June 28, the Serbian
national holiday of Vidovdan. It was here in 1389 that the Serbs fought
a valiant but one-sided battle against a superior Turkish invasion
force, and first lost their claim to Kosovo.
Many here are wondering whether history is set to repeat itself.
© Copyright 2002 The Ottawa Citizen
demonstrations in Mitrovica
Although Albanians do not allow return of Serbs
in South Mitrovica and the rest of Kosovo they nevertheless make pressure
to occupy the Serb inhabited North. So far the French KFOR did not
allow this problem to be resolved only from one side.