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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
BISHOP ARTEMIJE RECEIVES FUTURE OMBUDSMAN FOR KOSOVO AND METOHIJA
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
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.
POLITICAL DEPUTY OF UNMIK CHIEF VISITS GRACANICA
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.
REPRESENTATIVES OF OFFICE OF HAGUE TRIBUNAL TALK WITH REPRESENTATIVES OF
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.
ORTHODOX CHURCH OF ST. ELIJAH IN VUCITRN DESTROYED
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.
SPC OFFICE IN WASHINGTON REQUESTS PROTECTION OF ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS AND
SERB HOLY SITES IN KOSOVO AND METOHIJA
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.
SNC SECURITY REPRESENTATIVE INTRODUCED
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.
SNC CONDEMNS ROCKET ATTACK ON BUILDING HOUSING CENTER FOR PEACE AND TOLERANCE
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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