ERP KIM "LES MISERABLES" OF OBILIC IN DESPAIR, JULY 1, 2003
July 01, 2003
ERP KIM Newsletter 01-07-03
WORDS OF SYMPATHY ARE NOT ENOUGH - STOLIC MURDER STILL UNRESOLVED - SERBS IN OBILIC DESPAIR
Michael Steiner with Jagoda, daughter of the murdered Stolices, in front of their burned family home in Obilic, June 03. Like other major post-war ethnic crimes targeting Serbs, e.g., the harvest massacre (July 99), the blowing up of the Nis Express bus (Feb 2001) and the destruction of 112 Serbian Orthodox churches, the massacre of the Stolic family in Obilic remains unresolved. The inability of UNMIK police and KFOR to establish the full rule of law and order in the Province remains the most important stumbling block to the implementation of UN Resolution 1244.
Exclusive report from Obilic:
NIN: WE ARE THE LAST WRETCHES - STORY OF THE REMAINING SERBS IN OBILIC
RADOSAVLJEVIC: ALBANIAN LEADERS AND INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TO BLAME FOR LOW RETURNS
SERB OWNED TRUCK DESTROYED IN A BOMB ATTACK IN KOSOVO
BETA: COUNTDOWN FOR STEINER'S DEPARTURE
UNMIK AND UNDP LAUNCH REPATRIATION PROJECT
THACI ARRESTED IN BUDAPEST (AND RELEASED IN THE MEANWHILE)
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WE ARE THE LAST WRETCHES
(STORY OF THE REMAINING SERBS IN OBILIC*)
They will demand collective departure from Serbia. Come what may, things cannot be worse than they already are. Even though Serbia does not enjoy the best reputation, either
NIN weekly, Belgrade
June 26, 2003
By Ivana Jankovic
They say the Stolic house is in the best location in Obilic. At the very entrance to the village, right next to the road. The yard is big, the house pulled back slightly; next to it is a garage and supporting buildings. Carefully tended flowers grow next to the pathways.
When the three Stolices were bludgeoned to death on the night of June 4 and their house set on fire, police were called by an Albanian neighbor who saw the fire. That's how the house was saved. The stolen car was found burned not far from the scene of the crime. The house remained intact with visible signs of fire on the inside: ashes, burned hardwood floors, broken windows, singed shutters.
The Pristina police will mention the fact that it is unusual that none of the neighbors heard anything. The murderers obviously spent a lot of time committing the crime; the weather is nice, the windows are kept open. It is even more unusual that the neighbors are Serbs.
"No one here keeps their window opens," the Serbs of Obilic will say. "There is one Serb house for every three Albanian ones so how are we supposed to rest during the night? As soon as dusk falls, we lock everything and pray that we wake up alive. When we go to bed, we cross ourselves and pray: Lord, grant that we wake up alive. And when we wake up we say: Lord, thank you for granting that we wake up alive. In Serbia you go out on the town at 10 o'clock at night; here we have to lock ourselves in at 8."
The house next to the Stolices is owned by Serbs but abandoned, as is the second. In the yard of the third house, there is a cow grazing grass. The man tending it doesn't know who the house belongs to but it isn't him. Finally he mutters: "The cow must eat, the grass is free." This house is also abandoned and the yard, truth to tell, is overgrown with grass.
The first inhabited neighboring house is owned by Albanians and is just near enough for its inhabitants to have been able to see the fire. They called the police. The Serb neighbors heard nothing and they are all the more angry because they have already been asked the same question by police and because two Serbs were detained: "They want to imply that Serbs are murdering Serbs; it's the mafia from Belgrade, they say. They took two men down to the station ten times for questioning, and passing through Obilic ten times is no easy matter. We heard nothing, we don't know how... At 4 o'clock our neighbor came and we all got up. There was a fire truck over there and they wouldn't let us in... You don't want to hear the stories of the people who dressed them later [for burial]..."
One hears various rumors about who killed the Stolices and why even before arriving in Pristina. "They probably sold their house," the Serbs who know everything will say. "Everyone must have known they had money from the sale and so they came to rob them."
In Obilic the embittered response is that any sale was out of the question. On the contrary, the Stolices were bound to the town where their son died ten years ago. "[Mrs. Stolic] didn't want to leave because her son is buried here. [Stolic] was here the night before it happened. We talked; he didn't mention any sale. But people will speculate. As far as why they were killed, just look at the house, the location, it's the very best. They didn't want to sell and then this happened..."
Michael Steiner has offered an award of 50,000 euros for information leading to the solving of this murder. It hasn't helped, at least for now.
Before the war about 4,500 Serbs lived in the town of Obilic; approximately 400 remain. The majority left right after the war. Only some 50 households were left at the time; now there are only twenty. Everyone would like to sell their property and leave. Everyone has received offers but the prices, they say, are miserly: 10,000 German marks for 12 ares of land [approximately 1/3 of an acre] and a house. That's not enough to start a new life somewhere else.
"LES MISERABLES" OF OBILIC - FORGOTTEN BY EVERYONE
Obilic Serbs complaining of their hard life to the Serbian deputy premier Dr. Nebojsa Covic, June 2003
"Everyone gets a hand grenade. If you want to sell but don't like the offer, you get a grenade; if you don't want to sell, you get a grenade... Ljubica and Paja Matic didn't want to sell; they were beaten up, their property was set on fire and ultimately, they were forced to leave... Just like the Bojkovices, just like Milan and Draga...," says Olgica Subotic.
There is no phone service because, they say, KFOR broke the low-hanging cables upon entering Obilic and they were never repaired. There are only a few working phones in Obilic and the bills, say locals, are astronomical. Basic service is eight euros; if you make calls, the total can reach as much as 100 euros. "We're paying for their calls." Only those lucky enough to get cell phones as gifts from relatives have telephones.
The men don't like to give their names. "You can write that we are the last wretches; that's our name." Most of them worked in the electrical supply and distribution company recently renovated and now employing only Albanians. They get 45 euros per month from Belgrade. "We went to work and the British, UNMIK and KFOR showed up. They took our I.D. pictures and then nothing... Four years have passed and they haven't called us back or anything. And Serbia has forgotten us, too. And when they cut off the social assistance we're getting now, then it will really be over."
The municipal government consists of Albanians and Serbs. The Serb representative is rumored to have no authority and a brand new car...
"No one came to see until [the Stolic murders]; we do not know who our representatives are or what they do. We found out from the reporters who came here after this tragedy who they are and what they do. We can't ever find them, though, even if we take the risk of going to the municipality. 'Where is he?' 'He's not here. He's not here. He's not here.' He holds five or six posts and can't be bothered to visit the Serbs. The people here are being seriously manipulated and there is no possibility of life here anymore."
There are 40 pupils in the Serb school in Obilic. They are brought here by bus and they don't leave the building. Not for recess, not for physical education.
Verica Mladenovic has three children aged 4, 7 and 10. They go to school with a police escort, although their mother would feel more secure if it was an UNMIK one. The children will finish this school year and then she will think about the next one. "[International representatives] are demanding a multiethnic school but we don't have any children to waste... How long will these killing go on... They say it is safe in Obilic; you see how safe it is. They say there are no murders in Obilic; three people have just been killed..."
KFOR and UNMIK enjoy little confidence, the Kosovo Protection Corps even less. They add that their streets are not patrolled by members of the multiethnic police. They say that the policemen openly tell them they are working for money and to protect themselves.
"My grandson was attacked by seven others; heaven knows how he managed to defend himself," says Planinka Stevic. "Then they locked him up and let them walk away. The people from KFOR said, 'It's them that we came to protect.' "
Everyone would like to leave if they only had a place to go. They will demand collective departure from Serbia. Come what may, things cannot be worse than they already are. Even though Serbia does not enjoy the best reputation, either.
"We blame Serbia the most, then KFOR and UNMIK. Serbia abandoned us; they don't know that we exist. Why don't they come and see what things are like instead of believing false reports about how safe multiethnic Obilic is? Whenever someone asks me what life is like here, I tell them to come live with us for a month and see for themselves because it is just indescribable. I knew this Norwegian policeman. I told him, here, take my house and I'll go live in yours. Take my house and I don't have to go live in yours, just live here a little bit to see what it's like. He said, 'I don't want to. You people here are crazy.' "
"What's the point of restoring the house for the Coordinating Center, what's the point of anything when we aren't safe? We've been patrolling and guarding our houses for four years now and we're at the end of our rope. We're about to lose either our minds or our nerves completely."
The lack of hope, the anger and the lack of anything to do wear on the nerves. "Leave those cigarette butts alone. You don't have to collect them. It will give us something to do when you leave." And the conversation ends, the conversation that was so difficult to convince them to have in the first place. What's the point, they say. Everyone showed up after what happened but they trust no one anymore. "It's not that we don't trust reporters, Serbia or UNMIK; we don't trust our own fathers and mothers anymore."
"By fall I'll be gone from here. I don't know where yet, anywhere. But I won't go to Serbia... I'll go anywhere else, stretch out my hand and beg for something to eat... I would even go to Sarajevo to beg; at least everyone there speaks my language. Some say they speak Bosniac, others say Croatian; they are argue about it but that's their problem. Here we stick out; we speak differently... No, I won't go to Serbia. If I go to Vojvodina, they'll call me a newcomer; if I go to central Serbia, they'll call me Shiptar [Albanian]!"
The latest news from Obilic is that the house of the Pecelj family, the last Serb family in their street, was set on fire. The Peceljs left Obilic the day before the murder of the Stolices.
RADOSAVLJEVIC: ALBANIAN LEADERS AND INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TO BLAME FOR LOW RETURNS
Nenad Radosavljevic, the advisor to UNMIK chief Michael Steiner, drew a lot of attention at a conference organized by the PER Institute in Pristina last week by assessing that the representatives of the international administration in Kosovo and Albanian political leaders are directly responsible for the extremely poor results with respect to returns.
June 29, 2003
(photo: Nenad Radosavljevic and Rada Trajkovic)
Pristina - Nenad Radosavljevic, the advisor to UNMIK chief Michael Steiner, drew a lot of attention at a conference organized by the PER Institute in Pristina last week by assessing that the representatives of the international administration in Kosovo and Albanian political leaders are directly responsible for the extremely poor results with respect to returns. UNMIK radio journalist Zoran Culafic reported that one of the main topics of the conference, which brought together all Kosovo Albanian political leaders and representatives of minority communities, was the return of displaced persons to Kosovo.
"The obstruction of returns is primarily carried out by Albanian political leaders, who have promised the Albanian population independence as the only possible, and who came to power by manipulating the uneducated populace. They cannot change this policy now out of fear that they will lose the support of the voters," said Radosavljevic. "A second reason for obstruction is the fact that primarily the Albanian population has illegally occupied the property of displaced persons. For the last four years they have behaved as if this property was theirs, and they want to hold on to the property in the future as well," said Radosavljevic.
Radosavljevic indicated that a third factor for obstruction or even blocking of the return of displaced persons to Kosovo is the inadequate behavior of representatives of the international administration in the Province. "Some representatives of the international administration are willing to participate in obstruction or to passively observe what is happening out of fear of the reaction of the majority Albanian population or because they are indoctrinated or even, in individual cases, because they are corrupt," said Radosavljevic.
Radosavljevic consequently addressed an open invitation to Kosovo president Ibrahim Rugova and Democratic Party of Kosovo leader Hashim Thaci to unblock the return process in two concrete instances in locations where representatives of their respective parties hold local
power: in southern Kosovska Mitrovica and in Novo Selo near Vucitrn. "By doing this they will demonstrate their sincere desire to see returns actually occur in these two concrete cases." The municipal assembly of southern Mitrovica, where Rugova's party holds the majority, has decided to built a recreational center in a location where 700 Roma families lived before the conflict. I think Rugova should use this example to demonstrate that he respects the human rights and standards he claims to support," said Radosavljevic.
Radosavljevic also said that two assemblymen from Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosovo are categorically opposing the return of 71 Serb families to Novo Selo near Vucitrn and that they have completely blocked the return process. "I think Hashim Thaci should go out in the field and clearly express his intent to build a multiethnic society there, meaning that all displaced persons should return," said Radosavljevic.
SERB OWNED TRUCK DESTROYED IN A BOMB ATTACK IN KOSOVO
A bomb has been thrown on a truck, the property of the MARKO-TRANS firm from Paracin, a town in central Serbia, on the Pristina -Skopje road, near Urosevac, reported regional TV station MOST from Zvecan
30 JUNE, 2003
A bomb has been thrown on a truck, the property of the MARKO-TRANS firm from Paracin, a town in central Serbia, on the Pristina -Skopje road, near Urosevac, reported regional TV station MOST from Zvecan.
The truck trailer was completely destroyed in the attack, while the driver was unharmed. The incident occurred over the weekend when a bomb thrown a passing car hit the truck, driven by Marko Predragic. KFOR American members from the Bondsteel Camp carried out investigations, whereas all other trucks of the Paracin firm were kept at the base for safety reasons.
COUNTDOWN TO STEINER'S DEPARTURE
UNMIK governor Michael Steiner is to submit a report of his 18 months as Kosovo mission chief to the UN Security Council on 3 July, as he prepares to end his term in the troubled province
Beta News Agency, Belgrade
June 30, 2003
NEW YORK -- Monday -- UNMIK governor Michael Steiner is to submit a report of his 18 months as Kosovo mission chief to the UN Security Council on 3 July, as he prepares to end his term in the troubled province.
The Security Council will hold a regular session on the situation in Kosovo at the beginning of the month. The state union will be represented at the session by Ambassador Dejan Sahovic, head of the Serbia-Montenegro mission to the UN.
The Security Council last met to debate Kosovo in early June, following the triple murder of a Serb family in Obilic.
Steiner is due to leave Kosovo on 6 July and the Security Council are expected to use their July session to announce the appointment of Steiner's successor.
Beta News Agency, Belgrade
June 30, 2003
BELGRADE -- Monday -- UNMIK and UNDEP today presented a joint project aimed at providing urgent repatriation assistance to smaller groups of displaced persons from Kosovo.
At the promotional launch in Belgrade, Peggy Hicks, director of the UNMIK Office of Returns and Communities, explained that the new Rapid Response Returns Facility (RRRF) will assist hundreds of displaced families return to their homes.
The RRRF project is currently being financed by the UNDP (100,000 EUR), the US Government (500,000 USD) and the Norwegian Government (1,500,000 EUR), but Hicks expressed her hope that the future success of the project will attract more donors.
Hicks insisted that inadequate security and freedom of movement are still major obstacles to repatriation, adding that greater progress achieved in these areas would equate to greater success on the issue of repatriation.
The UNMIK official insisted that the whole of the province was not in the same situation, pointing out that the Prizren and Gnjilane municipalities have achieved "considerable changes for the better", which have reduced the risks for returnees and should be applied to other areas of the province.
Hicks said that safety is not the only problem facing Kosovo, with massive unemployment and under-development needing to be addressed so that returnees can find the jobs they need.
THACI ARRESTED IN BUDAPEST
Pristina sources have confirmed to agency Beta that Hungarian authorities in Budapest this afternoon arrested Kosovo-Albanian Hasim Thaqi, leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo and former senior commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army.
B92, Beta News Agency, Belgrade
June 30, 2003
BUDAPEST -- Monday -- Pristina sources have confirmed to agency Beta that Hungarian authorities in Budapest this afternoon arrested Kosovo-Albanian Hasim Thaqi, leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo and former senior commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army.
According to B92, Thaqi was arrested under an indictment issued by the former Yugoslav Prosecution Service in 1993 and unofficial information claims that the Kosovo-Albanian was quickly released.
However, according to this evening's bulletin of Radio Television Kosovo, Hungarian police are set to extradite Thaqi to Belgrade, where he could face charges relating to the 1997 deaths of three policemen in Glogovac.
The Albanian-language broadcast said that UNMIK have declined to comment on the arrest, saying only that it was Hungary's affair and the affair of its authorities.
UNMIK: Thaqi may have been released
This evening, uncertainty still surrounds the reported arrest of Thaqi.
According to UNMIK's PR chief Simon Haselock, the Kosovo-Albanian politician may have been released, but he cannot confirm or deny anything because this case lies under the jurisdiction of the Hungarian authorities.
Haselock did add that he'd been unofficially informed that Thaqi had continued his foreign visit and was currently on his way to Paris.
Hague Tribunal representative Florence Hartmann could shed no light on the subject, other than that Thaqi was not detained at the request of the tribunal.
Hartman repeatedly insisted that the arrest had nothing to do with The Hague, saying only: "He was not arrested at our orders, but apparently under some old indictment from Milosevic's times".
ERP KIM Info-Service is the official Information Service of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren and works with the blessing of His Grace Bishop Artemije.
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