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

Llazar Semini

Serbs storm UN office

Some 400 Serbs attacked a UN office in the town of Strpce, 25 miles south of Priština (Prishtine), breaking windows, setting fire to computers and a UN flag as well as stoning UN vehicles.

The villagers were apparently dissatisfied with the response to their request for a search for a missing elderly villager. The missing man, a shepherd, was discovered dead a week later. NATO peacekeepers had organized a search, and the body was found on Tuesday.

NATO officials said he appeared to have "died under suspicious circumstances."

The situation was further inflamed when US and Polish peacekeepers removed a roadblock set up by the Serbs and established their own checkpoint on another road to prevent additional Serbs from entering the area.

In a statement, United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) head Bernard Kouchner said the events in Strpce were "well coordinated and organized by persons not from the area."

These acts of vandalism, he said, were "unacceptable and must stop."


Russian TV crew attacked

A Russian television crew was assaulted this week in the village of Musutiste, on their way to the town of Peć (Peja). Escorted by Russian KFOR troops, the crew had been working with Kosovar Serb monks on a film about local Orthodox churches and monasteries.

Kosovar Albanians demanded that the Serbian monks be handed over to them as they alleged that one of their numbers was a war criminal.

Local residents were also concerned that KFOR was moving Serbs back into the area and immediately began to barricade the road.


Serbs return to joint institutions

UNMIK head Bernard Kouchner welcomed a decision by the Serb National Council (SNC) to rejoin the Interim Administrative Council (IAC) and the Kosovo Transitional Council (KTC) as observers after temporarily suspending participation two weeks ago.

"This courageous action will allow the Kosovo Serb representatives once again to play their rightful role in building a democratic, peaceful and tolerant Kosovo," he said.

Kouchner and Serbian Bishop Artemije also signed a "Letter of Understanding" outlining concrete steps designed to improve the life of the Serb community.

The SNC's decision to rejoin the IAC and KTC is dependent on the implementation of a written UN commitment to send anti-terrorist police to Serb areas being targeted by ethnic Albanian extremists and the admission of more Serbs into the Albanian-dominated Kosovo police force.


Mitrovica operations suspended

Following renewed attacks against international humanitarian staff and vehicles in Kosovo's divided town of Mitrovica (Mitrovice), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) temporarily suspended all humanitarian activities in the northern part of the town this week.

"Over the past months, the level and frequency of attacks on humanitarian staff, damage to vehicles and threat to humanitarian operations in north Mitrovica has been totally unacceptable," UNHCR Special Envoy Dennis McNamara said in a statement released in Priština.

"As we made clear last month, we are not prepared to continue to have the safety of our own staff and our agency partners put in constant jeopardy."

Following talks with Oliver Ivanović, self-proclaimed leader of northern Mitrovica, who offered his support for normal operations, UN personnel resumed work some days later.


Global anti-torture day

The global launch of the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture was held in Priština this week.

Representatives of Kosovo's civil and political life united to accept a shared responsibility to end the cycle of revenge, to prevent acts of torture and other human rights violations and to promote tolerance at every level in society.

"The Priština Declaration on National Psychosocial Rehabilitation, Peaceful Co-Existence and Prevention of Torture'' accepts the shared obligation to prevent acts of torture and other gross human rights violations, and identifies measures required to "promote tolerance and peaceful co-existence."


Warning letter to Dita

The Temporary Media Commissioner, established by UNMIK chief Bernard Kouchner, has issued a warning to the Priština-based newspaper Dita.

The Commissioner, Douglas Davidson, Director of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo's Department of Media Affairs, has written to Dita's publisher following the publication of a front page article on 26 June that gave personal details of two individuals.

The Davidson's office flagged this as a violation of section 4.1 of the Regulation on the Conduct of the Print Media.

Under the section the Commissioner cited, owners, operators, publishers and editors must refrain from publishing personal details that could threaten the life, safety or security of an identified individual. The Temporary Media Commissioner believes that the publication of the names of individuals in the 26 June article was a clear breach of this section and could put individuals' security at risk.

Dita's publication was suspended earlier this month after it published the personal details of a Serb UN employee who was later found murdered.

This is the first time the Temporary Media Commissioner has taken action under the regulation, which was promulgated ten days ago.

The commissioner may impose a variety of sanctions ranging from the requirement to publish a reply, correction or apology, to a fine of up to DEM 100,000 or, ultimately, to cessation of publication.


Proportional voting system?

The Central Election Commission (CEC) has recommended that a proportional representation system should be used in Kosovo's first municipal elections, due this coming October.

Proportional systems tend to allow a wide range of parties and individuals to be elected, and this could play a role in strengthening a young democracy in which nearly all the political groupings are very new.

A proportional system will also be more easily manageable within the Kosovo context than a first past the post system. Currently, it is unknown how many people are living where in the territory and more information on population distribution would be required to establish the smaller constituencies required by majority systems.

The main parties in Kosovo have all expressed opposition to a proportional system.

In order to ensure the credibility of the upcoming elections, observers will be present at all polling sites and counting centres.


IAC discusses municipality regs

Kosovo's Interim Administrative Council this week discussed an important draft regulation on municipalities which will affect local elections to be held this autumn.

The regulation lays out the number of municipalities and assembly members and their competencies, as well as those of president and chief executive officer.

The regulation also spells out the competencies of the Special Representative of the Secretary General and the municipal administrators as his representatives.

Based on wide consultations with international organizations, the draft regulation may develop into a permanent legal framework.

Llazar Semini, 30 June 2000

The author:

Based in Priština, Llazar Semini is Kosova Project Manager for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.

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