Albanian Daily News - Nov 02

UNMIK, OSCE Condemn "Shameful" Violence

Albanian Economic Tribune

PRISHTINA - International organisations administering Kosovo have condemned the "shameful" acts of violence against non-Albanians in Kosovo, which, in recent days have targeted elderly people who have been forced to abandon their homes or have even been killed.

Human rights teams from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is responsible for the human rights mandate within the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said it is investigating an increasing number of murders, attacks and harassments.

"Elderly Serbs, in particular, are the victims," OSCE said in a press release issued on Thursday.

A pattern is emerging of elderly people who provide necessary food and supplies to their housebound friends being targeted and others who have been singled out for property eviction, the statement said.

"The OSCE and UNMIK strongly condemn this deplorable pattern of violence and harassment. They called on political and community leaders to use their influence and step up their efforts "to actively discourage, stop and prevent this shameful behaviour," the two organisations, effectively, holding power in Kosovo, said a joint press declaration.

OSCE said that threats of eviction are not limited to Serbs, as elderly Kosovo Albanians report that young men and sometimes children bang on their doors and tell them to leave. These victims believe they are being evicted so that larger Kosovo Albanian families whose houses have been destroyed may move into their property.

Many elderly Serbs tell human rights teams they are too afraid to leave their homes for fear of being attacked or evicted while they are out. Others told the OSCE that local Albanian food shops are refusing to sell food unless customers speak Albanian.

"These attacks and intimidations are particularly deplorable in a society that traditionally respects and protects the elderly," the OSCE said. "Equally disturbing is the reluctance of witnesses, again because of fear, to assist in the investigation of these crimes by UNMIK Police and KFOR. The OSCE urges all citizens to cooperate with the policing and security efforts of UNMIK Police and KFOR in solving and preventing such harassment and crime," it said.

Meantime the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Knut Vollebaek, "strongly" condemned Wednesday’s brutal attack on a United Nations High Commission for Refugees-organised convoy of ethnic Serbs leaving Rahovec (Orahovec) for Montenegro under KFOR protection.

"Such acts of violence are totally unacceptable and cannot be tolerated," Vollebaek said, in a press release. "All people of Kosovo... must realize that progress and sustainable development in Kosovo cannot be achieved through revenge and hostile acts against other ethnic groups, but only through reconciliation and peaceful co-existence."

Some 18 Serbs were injured by a mob of Albanians in the city of Peja after being separated from the convoy and straying into the centre of town. By all accounts the angry reaction of the crowd was spontaneous, and the violence flared extraordinarily quickly. "It came as a total surprise; it could not have been planned," said Maj. Ole Irgens, the peacekeepers’ chief spokesman.