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Daily press briefing of the Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija

Gracanica, August 18, 2000

  • Bishop Artemije receives future Ombudsman for Kosovo and Metohija
  • Political deputy of UNMIK chief, Jock Covey, visits Gracanica
  • Representatives of office of Hague tribunal talk with representatives of SNC
  • Orthodox Church of St. Elijah in Vucitrn destroyed
  • SPC office in Washington requests protection of Orthodox Christians and Serb holy sites in Kosovo and Metohija
  • SNC security representative introduced
  • SNC condemns rocket attack on building housing Center for Peace and Tolerance

    Today in Gracanica Monastery Episcope Artemije, the president of the SNC, received Marek Nowicki, the Polish diplomat named by the international community to the function of Ombudsman for Kosovo and Metohija. This is the first visit by Mr. Nowicki to Gracanica upon his arrival in Kosovo. Discussed at this meeting was the proposal of the SNC that Mr. Ljubinko Todorovic of Gracanica be nominated as one of the deputy Ombudsman, who is due to be appointed from the Serb community. Mr. Todorovic enjoys great confidence among the Serb people as a man of integrity and a good Christian. In addition to this, Mr. Todorovic has remained in Kosovo with his family during the entire post-war period and is well-acquainted with the state of human rights in the Serb and Romany communities in the Province, emphasized Bishop Artemije.

    Mr. Nowicki expressed the hope that the office of the Ombudsman, which will concern itself with the protection of human rights, will be able to work as closely as possible with the SNC and the entire Serb community. Bishop Artemije specifically stressed that he personally had proposed the function of Ombudsman even prior to the war within the framework of the proposal of the All-Serb Church and People's Assembly for the democratic resolution of the Kosovo crisis. This is yet another reason in favor of the most intensive cooperation possible with the office of the Ombudsman in these extremely difficult times for the Serb people in Kosovo and Metohija. Dr. Rada Trajkovic expressed satisfaction that this function was being assumed by Mr. Nowicki who is well-know from the Council of Europe as a man of high moral integrity and objective positions.


    Today Gracanica Monastery was also visited by the political deputy of the UN mission chief, Mr. Jock Covey, who spoke with Bishop Artemije, Dr. Rada Trajkovic, Randjel Nojkic and Dusan Ristic regarding general issues of security and implementation of the Joint Understanding. Special detailed consideration was given to the issue of opening of additional local offices of Serbs as well as other current issues. Bishop Artemije emphasized that it was necessary to speed up the processing of opening these offices. Also separately discussed were problems in the region of Lipljan where it is necessary to create better life and working conditions for the Serbs as quickly as possible.


    In the afternoon hours in the residence hall of Gracanica monastery a meeting was held between representatives of the office of the Hague tribunal in Pristina and members of the leadership of SNC, Randjel Nojkic and Dusan Ristic. Special consideration was given to the issue of expanding the mandate of the tribunal to include the post-war period as it is during this period that numerous ethnically motivated crimes were committed which are subject to very serious court prosecution. The SNC is actively working on the preparation of material, testimonials as well as organization of interviews with people able to direct testify about crimes committed against the Serb population, especially during the war, which is now the subject of investigation by the office of the tribunal. Significant evidence exists linking some figures from the former KLA to crimes committed in the regions of Orahovac, Radonjic Jezero, the Belacevac mine and several other locations where Serbs were massacred. Representatives of the SNC again affirmed the clear position of the Council that it is in the best interests of the Serb community to cooperate with the Hague tribunal whose task is to bring those responsible for crimes to justice.

    Mr. Nojkic specifically requested that Serb families related to missing Serbs be enabled the greatest possible access to clothing and personal objects of the 600 corpses found during the post-war period which remain unidentified. There exist strong suspicions among members of the SNC that among these unidentified bodies are some of the Serbs who were kidnapped by the KLA either during the war or in the post-war period.


    The Diocese of Raska and Prizren received word today that the Serbian Orthodox church of the Holy Prophet Elijah (Sv. Proroka Ilije) in Vucitrn has been destroyed. This church was built in 1834 in the eastern part of the town of Vucitrn in a place where an older Serbian Orthodox church previously existed which had been built during the Middle Ages. The Church was decorated by frescoes in 1871 by Blaza Damjanovic of Debar. In June of 1999 the church and the nearby parochial residence was looted by local Albanians.

    The church was secured by troops belonging to the contingent of the United Arab Emirates in whose zone of responsibility the church of St. Nicholas (Sv. Nikola) in the nearby Vucitrn village of Banjska was also destroyed on January 30.

    The Diocese of Raska and Prizren and the SNC most strongly condemn this newest barbaric act by Albanian extremists and request that KFOR conduct an investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice.


    On August 15 of this year, the office of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) in Washington which is headed by Archmonk Irinej Dobrijevic sent a letter to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom in Washington and to the State Department requesting that they urgently undertake measures to protect the Serbian Orthodox Church in the region of Kosovo and Metohija, and that life freedoms and freedom of religion in this region be secured for the faithful.

    "In Kosovo, nearly 90 Serbian Orthodox churches, monasteries and sacred monuments have been destroyed or damaged during the course of the KFOR protectorate. This is clearly an attempt to eradicate both the historical and physical presence of Serbian Orthodox Christianity. Today, under an internationally brokered "peace", we are witnessing systematic and organized terror waged against the Serbian people and their Orthodox Christian faith," it is said in the statement of the SPC office.

    "His Grace Bishop Artemije of Raska-Prizren, whose diocese encompasses Kosovo, in addition to the above, remains without a diocesan see; two-thirds of his diocesan faithful are displaced; his remaining flock ghettoized; innocent women killed on their way to church for Christmas; monks abducted; clergy put on public hit lists and falsely accused of blessing paramilitaries; nuns raped and/or intimidated; Orthodox Christian cemeteries vandalized and desecrated; grenades hurled at Decani Monastery, whose lands are being unilaterally expropriated by the UNMIK administration; etc. Additionally, the delivery of international humanitarian aid commodities has been stopped as the trucks of Orthodox Christian philanthropic organizations are pelted and drivers harassed because of the presence of Orthodox crosses on their logos. Are these not overt violations of religious freedom in Kosovo?" continues Archmonk Irinej Dobrijevic in his letter.

    At the end of this moving letter, the representative of the SPC in Washington requests that the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom that the persecution of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo and Metohija be included in the report of the Commission and that concrete measures be undertaken to defend the Orthodox Christians in Kosovo and Metohija and their holy monuments. "Religious freedom is truly an integral component of essential human rights and must be respected as such," it is said in the letter of the SPC office.


    Today Zivojin Zika Mihajlovic, an attorney residing in Dobrotin, municipality of Pristina, was introduced to the political deputy of Bernard Kouchner, Jock Covey, in the capacity of SNC representative for the department of security. Mihajlovic will actively coordinate the work of the SNC with the UNMIK police and KFOR with the goal of improving protection and security for the Serb community in the Province.


    Today unknown attackers used a hand-held rocket launcher to attack the building housing the Center for Peace and Tolerance, a Serb institution which throughout the post-war period has played an important role in assisting the Serb community in the city of Pristina. The missile missed the offices of the Center and hit a nearby office in which one person was lightly injured. This is the second instance to date of hand-held rocket launchers being used to attack offices in Pristina which employ Serbs. During the spring the offices of Radio Kontakt, which is directed by Sonja Nikolic, was attacked in a similar manner.

    The Serb National Council of Kosovo and Metohija most strongly condemns this act of terrorism as an attempt to frighten and pressure the remaining Serb community in the capital of the Province.

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