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Balkan Report: July 28, 2000

28 July 2000, Volume 4, Number 56

A Checklist For Kosova. The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights has just issued a set of recommendations for Kosova. They are to the point and worth careful consideration.

First and foremost: "The Serbs and other minorities as citizens of Kosova should recognize, accept, and support the fact that Kosovo is currently a self-standing entity as an internationally mandated protectorate. The Kosovo Albanians--as the overwhelming majority in Kosovo--should recognize and implement their principal political, moral, and ethical responsibility for supporting a system providing peace, security, human rights, and order for all citizens of Kosovo, irrespective of their ethnic, religious, racial, or political affiliation, while the internationals--i.e. KFOR and UNMIK--are the only legally mandated factor for establishing and guaranteeing security and law enforcement in Kosovo.

"The conflicts in Kosovo have to be de-ethnicized. All residents must work together and cooperate in building a system of justice that protects individual rights."

The second point calls for the arrest of war criminals and their extradition to The Hague. Point three specifies that international judges should head local courts dealing with war crimes trials. Fourth comes a call for more police for the UNMIK force.

The fifth point calls for blind justice. It stresses that "UNMIK police should not be hindered in doing their job by political considerations" and that even prominent personalities must be arrested and tried if they have committed crimes. The text warns that "if certain people are unpunished for their crimes because of their affiliation, it is not only a major blow against the rule of law, democracy, and indeed against the future of Kosovo, but also encourages the continuation of attacks and ethnic violence that could lead to further ethnic antagonism and criminalization of the entire society."

Last but not least, the IHF appeals for a stronger, impartial, and better functioning legal and judicial system. It notes that now crimes can be "committed, especially against minorities, with a large degree of impunity. There must be more courage on the side of Kosovar judges, belonging to all ethnicities, to deal also with cases against high-ranking former or actual prominent personalities, including members belonging to former armed formations."

The goal here is not to create--as one observer recently put it--"a multi-ethnic nirvana," but to set down the bare minimum conditions necessary for a normal European state based on the rule of law. To this end, the international community must redouble efforts to find qualified judges and other legal personnel for the province and must make good on its pledges to supply more police. The IHF's other recommendations apply to all of Kosova, but some of them are clearly directed toward one community more than to others.

Probably the key problems will be to persuade the Serbs to accept the protectorate and the Albanians to recognize that they have Augean stables in sore need of cleaning. The Serbs have an opportunity to help govern themselves without the heavy hand of Milosevic and his corrupt oligarchy. The Albanians have a chance to show that the can run what could one day be their own state. Proving that they can do so should certainly be a prerequisite before the international community can seriously consider independence for Kosova, lest it turn into a European version of Sierra Leone. (Patrick Moore)

Serbian Opposition Activists At RFE/RL. Local pro-democracy groups in Yugoslavia increasingly are working together to mount a challenge to Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, leading Yugoslav democratic activists told an RFE/RL briefing in Washington on 26 July.

Branislav Canak, founder and chairman of the Independent Journalists' Union of Serbia and president of the UGS Nezavisnost independent trade union confederation, said that the Yugoslav people overwhelmingly want political change. He added, however, that their ability to cooperate with one another is limited because most people there no longer are prepared to trust groups that have failed to deliver in the past.

To overcome this skepticism, which contributes to divisions within the political opposition and which is being exploited by Milosevic and his allies, Canak and his colleague Gordana Mitic said that the confederation's "Partnership for Democratic Change in Serbia" program is seeking to promote "small islands of civil society" across Yugoslavia. Where these show real and immediate results, the program seeks to build bridges among these groups and between them and the political parties.

Canak pointed to both renewed activism at the local level, as well as recent agreements by opposition parties to field common candidate slates in small cities and albeit limited progress towards creating joint slates in larger cities for the upcoming parliamentary elections, as evidence that the democratic aspirations of the people will ultimately succeed in displacing Milosevic.

At the same time, Canak and his colleagues--including Mitic, Darko Marinkovic, Cedanka Andric, and Nenad Simovic--said there is no time for complacency. On the one hand, they noted, many Yugoslavs continue to mistrust virtually everyone beyond their immediate circles and have come to accept the current situation as beyond their ability to change.

On the other hand, they pointed out, no one should discount the willingness of Milosevic and his regime to use force and other measures to maintain themselves in power for as long as possible. Canak cited the regime's willingness to assassinate its opponents and to harass those who try to speak out and organize against it as evidence of this willingness.

Canak noted that the 26 July visit to the RFE/RL bureau in Belgrade by federal tax police represented the kind of intimidation Yugoslav opposition groups have long experienced. Expressing his personal surprise that Milosevic had not moved earlier against RFE/RL "because of the way you are doing your job," Canak expressed his confidence that RFE/RL will find a way to continue broadcasts that he said are so "useful" for the Yugoslav people. (RFE/RL)

RFE/RL Journalists: 'We Will Continue To Work.' Several correspondents for RFE/RL's South Slavic Service told a press conference in Nis that they will continue to do their jobs despite recent threats from Yugoslav Information Minister Goran Matic against them (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 July 2000). Belgrade bureau chief Milica Lucic-Cavic stressed that the real reason that the government opposes the station is that it is the foreign broadcaster with the largest audience in Serbia, namely 14 percent of the total population, "Danas" reported. She rejected Matic's charges that the station is a "propaganda arm" of U.S. foreign policy, adding that she and her colleagues do not consider themselves propagandists for anyone. (Patrick Moore)

NATO 'Sends Signal' From Macedonia. NATO's Supreme Commander Europe U.S. General Joseph Ralston visited three Macedonian army barracks on the border with Serbia on 25 July, dpa reported. He said that "it is important to send the signal to neighboring countries that Macedonia is tied to the [Atlantic] alliance." After meeting with President Boris Trajkovski and Defense Minister Nikola Kljusev, he pledged that NATO will do all it can to secure the border between Macedonia and Kosova, where there have been several incidents since the beginning of 2000. Ralston added that he expects "the Macedonian military to do the same" as NATO in guarding the frontier. (Patrick Moore)

Croatian Lottery Chief Ousted. The government sacked Franjo Valjak as head of the state lottery after Finance Minister Mato Crkvenac charged that the lottery "served individual [rather than public] interests," "Jutarnji list" reported on 26 July. Valjak has been under investigation for corruption since early 1999, i.e. even before the change in government. Valjak told reporters that the Tudjman-era authorities "interfered" in his work and even sent him to auctions to bid on paintings for the trust fund run by Tudjman's wife, Ankica. (Patrick Moore)

Albania's Most Dangerous Job And Other Tales. Looking for excitement? Spencer Freeman from Britain took office as the director of the EU Customs Assistance Mission on 24 July. His position is probably the most dangerous office a foreigner can hold in Albania, "Albanian Daily News" noted on 25 July.

Freeman's predecessor was Natalia Cea, an Italian citizen. She resigned in the first week of February after receiving numerous death threats against herself and individual family members. After quitting, Cea told the Italian upper house of parliament that one of the callers "knew where all my close family lives. He knew my address in Rome. He knew where my sister lives."

She also claimed that Finance Minister Anastas Angjeli has a personal interest in three out of Albania's 15 oil companies, implying that there is a conflict of interest. Prime Minister Ilir Meta, however, dismissed her charges as baseless. In any event, among Cea's successes was the seizure of two ships with contraband cigarettes following the establishment of more efficient maritime controls.

For his part, Freeman now faces a difficult task. The EU Customs Assistance Mission has been giving advice, training, and logistical support to Albanian officials since 1997 and seeks to build up a self-sustaining and transparent customs structure. At least in theory, Freeman should thus be able to count on the political support of the government and the broader Albanian public. But he is unlikely to always encounter smooth cooperation from government officials.

On the one hand, the Albanian government is eager to overcome the country's image as a free zone for smugglers, who are mostly taking drugs into the EU or bringing cigarettes, fuel, and other highly taxed imports into Albania. But on the other hand, "Albanian Daily News" expressed a "strong suspicion that several top government and Socialist Party officials are involved in a bribery scheme with companies that trade in [such] goods."

Elsewhere, in the southern port of Vlora, Italian coast guard representatives of the Guardia di Finanza put a new patrol ship on public display. They did so in the presence of Italian Interior Minister Enzo Bianco and local authorities on 21 July. The ship was built last year and is equipped with state-of-the-art radar. Observers regarded the demonstration as a warning to local smugglers. Bianco called for "the uprooting" of traffic in illegal immigrants and drugs from Albania to Italy. Since the beginning of the year, the Guardia di Finanza has intercepted more than 250 speedboats with illegal immigrants in the Straits of Otranto.

Vlora police officials said that within the same timeframe they detained over 200 would-be immigrants waiting to board along the coast. These people included 146 Kurds with Turkish or Iraqi citizenship, about 50 Chinese citizens, 10 Romanians, and 10 persons from Moldova.

Meanwhile, Italian and German police have been successful against yet another type of organized crime. They have uncovered an Albanian racket in which a gang sold the babies of prostitutes to mostly British childless couples. The story emerged when a 17-year-old Albanian prostitute escaped from her pimp near Naples and went to the police. The girl said that the gang paid her the equivalent of $1,500 to become pregnant and brought her to Germany to give birth there. Then she signed adoption papers on the spot. The girl has since received a new identity under a witness protection program.

A spokesman for the German prosecutor's office described the racket as "particularly cruel and heartless." The investigators believe that several clinics and at least one hospital were involved, and that the total number of cases may be as high as three dozen. The prostitutes were mostly street children from East European and Balkan countries.

Italian anti-Mafia prosecutor Piero Luigi Vigna said that some Albanian gangs--often linked to Albanian regional clans--are competing with old, established Sicilian gangs for influence in this dirty business in Italy. He added, however, that they favor Germany for the prostitutes to give birth because there is an established black market in children there. (Fabian Schmidt)

Quotations Of The Week. "If Milosevic, the aggressor, ignites another war, we will have to state clearly which side we are on: that of passive observers and therefore [his] accomplices, or [NATO] allies helping promote long-lasting stability in this part of Europe." - Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov, in presenting his National Security Report to the parliament on 25 July. Quoted by Reuters.

"Anything is fair game in Serbia these days. There are plenty of people after a few thousand dollars, and in Balkan terms it is nothing new to betray your compatriots." - Unnamed "source close to the case" of NATO's alleged use of Bosnian Serb mercenaries to arrest an indicted Bosnian Serb war criminal in Serbia. Quoted in the "Sunday Times" on 23 July.

"In a separate incident, Bosnian Radio said that unknown arsonists burned down an outhouse in Brcko belonging to the Muslim deputy speaker of the Bosnian Serb parliament, Munib Jusufovic." - Reuters report on violence facing returning refugees, on 21 July.