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Kosovo Report: August 17, 1999

17 August 1999, Number 23, Volume 1

KOUCHNER SUSPENDS 'APARTHEID' LAWS. UN spokeswoman Nadia Younes told an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent in Prishtina on 16 August that UN Special Representative Bernard Kouchner has suspended "apartheid" legislation discriminating against individuals on ethnic or religious grounds. Kouchner issued the ruling at a 15 August meeting with some 50 judges and prosecutors from throughout Kosovo. He also appointed a 19-member working group, co-chaired by the ethnic Albanian Professor of Law Blerim Reka and UN legal experts, to review the existing laws. One of those laws likely to be abolished is that prohibiting Albanians from buying real estate from Serbs.

Reka told an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent that Kouchner suspended the discriminatory laws after several ethnic Albanian judges had criticized them. The professor noted that "there is confusion about which laws will be applied in Kosovo," pointing out that "the first decree that Bernard Kouchner signed says explicitly that those laws will be used in Kosovo that were in force until 24 March of this year. These were the laws of the Yugoslav occupiers." Reka added that most ethnic Albanians believe that "one cannot apply the laws of a regime that committed genocide on the territory of and toward the people who were the victims of that genocide."

IS THERE A BREAKTHROUGH IN MITROVICA? Bajram Rexhepi, who is the UCK-appointed mayor of Mitrovica, asked a group of ethnic Albanian protesters there on 16 August to disperse peacefully. He told them that Serbian and Albanian representatives found a compromise earlier that day--under UN mediation--to allow the return of ethnic Albanian displaced persons to the northern, Serb-dominated part of town. Rexhepi told an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent that "according to the agreement, 25 families will return to their homes in the north every day. It also provides for free access by students to the metallurgic faculty in the north.... We also agreed on the creation of a joint board of directors for the Trepca mines."

Rexhepi added that "we will try to implement that agreement in the coming days. If it brings concrete results it is fine, but if not the population will try to find other ways to end the [partition] of the city." An unidentified Western official, however, told Reuters that neither side has signed any agreement. He suggested that Rexhepi is misrepresenting the state of affairs by presenting his side's bargaining points as a done deal.

NEW MASS GRAVES FOUND NEAR GJAKOVA. UN war crimes investigators have begun to exhume newly found mass graves near Gjakova on 16 August. Ross Ardem, who is an investigator of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, said that investigators found three bodies in recent days, but that another 140 people are believed to have been killed and buried in that region.

CLINTON CALLS TO INVEST IN PEACE AFTER WINNING WAR. U.S. President Bill Clinton told a convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City that "We prevailed in Kosovo because our cause was just, our goals were clear, our lines were strong, and our strategy worked." Clinton added that "today after the victory in Kosovo and in Bosnia, we have an opportunity to invest in peace." He added that the international community must integrate the people in the Balkans and bring them into Europe. He made clear, however, that "whatever is done we must insist that our European partners carry most of the load and that the Balkan leaders themselves take responsibility for changing their policies."