Central Europe Review The International OSI Policy Fellowships (IPF) program
Vol 2, No 25
26 June 2000
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News from Kosovo
All the important news
since 19 June 2000

Llazar Semini

KFOR discovers large weapon cache

In a major search and cordon operation last Friday, KFOR soldiers confiscated their largest haul of illegal weapons since they entered Kosovo a year ago.

The cache, found in the village of Klecka, contained hundreds of weapons in two bunkers, approximately 20 miles southwest of Priština (Prishtinë) in the Drenica area.

Among the weapons confiscated were machine guns, boxes of ammunition of all calibres, mortar barrels, mortar rounds, rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), explosives, electronic scanners and receivers.

The yield of the first two bunkers was estimated to be large enough to fully outfit two heavy-infantry companies, eliminate the entire population of Priština and destroy 900 to 1000 tanks. The weapons and ammunition originated from a number of source countries, including Albania, Yugoslavia, China and the United States.

Brigadier Richard Shirreff, Commander of the Multinational Brigade Centre, was satisfied with the success of this operation. "The discovery of this cache of weapons has removed dangerous tools of aggression from the hands of extremists. This is one more step that we are taking in attempting to stop violent activity by any ethnic group operating in Kosovo," the British commander said.

This operation is part of a wider series of searches being conducted by KFOR that have discovered a significant number of weapons around the province.

Peacekeepers said they did not know who the weapons belonged to, but suggested the find could be linked to anti-Serb extremists.

The Klecka cache discovery was part of an exhaustive search for weapons which began Thursday and involved hundreds of peacekeepers who covered about 40 square miles of the Drenica Valley region of central Kosovo.

Klecka was one of the strongholds of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UÇK) during its battle against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević's forces that ended last year with the arrival of NATO forces into Kosovo.

The UÇK was formally disbanded last fall as part of the demilitarization of Kosovo, but rumors persist that it continues clandestine operations.


22 parties and a coalition apply for elections

Twenty-two political parties and one coalition of six parties are preparing to run in the planned municipal elections this autumn, according to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the international body responsible for registration.

Parties are running in all of the 30 Kosovo municipalities. Presently, there are a total of 248 applications which OSCE staff need to verify. They are checking to ensure that the 100 signatures each party collected in order to receive certification are valid, and will then submit applications to the Central Election Commission for certification.

Carla del Ponte, chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), spoke out this week in opposition to any amnesty deal for Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević.

"The stability of the Balkans will be best served if Milošević is brought to justice at The Hague," Del Ponte said at her press briefing in Priština on Wednesday.

The chief prosecutor, in Kosovo on a fact-finding mission, indicated that she was also investigating Milošević's responsibility for crimes committed in Bosnia and Croatia. Del Ponte said that the Tribunal continues to investigate UÇK activities during the conflict as well.


Kosovo administration passes media law

On 16 June, the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) signed into law an act that will regulate the province's media.

The OSCE prepared the law following the murder of Petar Topoljski, a UN worker of Serb ethnicity. Two weeks prior to his murder, the Albanian daily Dita published an article alleging Topoljski was a member of a Serb paramilitary unit.

Two regulations which fundamentally affect Kosovo's media have been signed by the Special Representative of the Secretary General, Dr Bernard Kouchner. One provision deals with licensing the broadcast media, while the second regulates the conduct of the print media.

"This, and the temporary code of conduct developed for print media, will do much to shape the development of Kosovo's media,"said Douglas Davidson, Director of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo's media affairs department.

Under the provisions, a Temporary Media Commissioner (TMC) will establish the criteria and the procedures for issuing broadcast licenses. The TM will be in the post until an Interim Media Commission, consisting of a majority of Kosovar members, is established.

In applying for and receiving a license, broadcasters agree to abide by a Broadcast Code of Conduct which will set standards for Kosovo's television and radio.

Provisions for the conduct of the print media are specific measures aimed to deal with the unique situation in Kosovo, and will serve as temporary measures until effective self-regulation takes root in the print sector.

The TMC will issue a temporary code of conduct demanding that Kosovo's journalists behave responsibly and act in a way consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.

In both sets of regulations, media are barred from publishing identifying details that would pose a threat to a person's life.

Violators who breach the terms and conditions of the codes of conduct could face sanctions which range in severity from the forced retraction of the offending material, to fines of up to DEM 100,000 [USD 48,000] and, ultimately, to the closing down of the violator's operation.


Aid workers indicted for fraud

A major international relief agency helping resettle refugees returning to Kosovo said on Friday that two of its former employees in Priština have been indicted for alleged embezzlement and fraud.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that the Angolan and Kenyan employees had manipulated an IOM financial database to issue two checks in fictitious names, including one for DEM 190,000 (USD 93,040), which was cashed.

The two men, identified as Manuel Ribeiro and Moses Omweno, are in custody in Priština, awaiting trial by a tribunal of the UNMIK provisional government, IOM spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy told a news briefing in Geneva.

The scheme was uncovered during an internal audit last month.


Gunmen slay LDK moderate

This week, two masked men wearing uniforms of the officially disbanded UÇK shot and killed moderate ethnic Albanian politician Halil Dreshaj, a member of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK).

Dreshaj's father was also wounded in the attack when two men forced their way into his home in the western village of Nabrdje.

UN officials quoted the victim's wife as saying the attackers wore uniforms with the red-and-black emblem of the UÇK, which was supposed to have been disbanded last year under an agreement with the NATO-led KFOR.


Italy wins Kosovo-Macedonia highway project

The construction of a road linking Kosovo's capital city of Priština with Macedonia was awarded to an Italian construction firm, according to Bodo Hombach, coordinator of the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe. Hombach said that construction on the road will begin soon.


Campaign against trafficking of women

The IOM has announced the launch of a zero-tolerance information campaign on the trafficking of women into and out of Kosovo.

The IOM has recently launched similar campaigns in Bulgaria and Hungary, highlighting that the sexual exploitation of women is a growing problem in Central Europe and the Balkans.

According to IOM, there is a mushrooming sex trade in Kosovo in which criminal gangs are forcing young girls and women from other Eastern European countries into prostitution. The aim of the IOM campaign is to work together with international and local institutions to create a climate in which the trafficking of women is not tolerated in Kosovo.

Llazar Semini, 24 June 2000



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