Monday, October 10, 2005

Serbia “failing to protect minorities

BELGRADE -- Monday – Human Rights Watch has accused the Serbian government of failing to protect minority communities, including Hungarians in Vojvodina, from ethnically-based attacks.

The international lobby group, in a report released on the eve of EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn’s visit to Belgrade to kick off accession talks with Serbia-Montenegro, warns that violence against minorities is on the rise in Serbia.

HRW’s Europe and Central Asia director Holly Cartner said that Belgrade should not count on integration into the EU if it didn’t take a more serious approach to the problem.

A number of attacks are cited, including physical assault, vandalism of religious and cultural buildings and the desecration of graves.

In addition to the Hungarian minority community in the northern province of Vojvodina, Slovaks, Croats and Muslims, inclusding Albanians, have also been targeted, according to the report.

Complaints made by members of minority communities include delays in police responses to incidents and, in some cases, allowing attackers to flee or even openly supporting them.

The lack of legislation against ethnically-motivated acts and light sentences imposed for such crimes also signal that the Serbian government does not take the issue seriously, says HRW.

Serbia has been accusing the Kosovo government, in recent years, of not doing enough to protect minorities in Kosovo. Now it finds itself being accused of the same things by the most respected human rights organization. There has been no reaction yet from the Kosovo government. F.F

B92,RTK and AP.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kosovo: Standards by the wayside

In what appeared to be a coordinated blitzkrieg of Serbian diplomacy last month, none stands out the most as the tour of the West by Serbian President Boris Tadic. Tadic's editorial that appeared in the Wall Street Journal Europe edition seems patented message to his hosts in Washington with whom he had talks and the editorial is, in many respects, the indicator as to what his message was.
"Since my election more than 15 months ago, I have devoted considerable resources reforging a strategic partnership based on common democratic and market principles and interests among Serbia, the United States and Europe" wrote Tadic, then bluntly said that time has come for these partners to whom he delivered Serbia to return some of the favor back. He was talking about the upcoming talks on Kosovo's status. Tadic's bluntness was anticipatory of the UN report on the implementation of standards in the Kosovo province submitted by Kai Eide as a meaningless diplomatic formality so that Washington can finally rid itself of the issue.
"We must all act responsibly in this time of opportunity, and this means that all of us must together formulate the rules that define the approach to a solution. And should Serbia's strategic partners fail to take seriously my country's legitimate interests, such a path would in the end secure no one's liberty."
Tadic was long on libertarian rhetoric but kept a tight lip on what Washington demands in return for a favor. Judging from the recent statement by Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus, however, Serbia's position in the upcoming Kosovo status talks is linked to the delivery of General Ratko Mladic to the Hague court.
"The sooner we wrap up [Mladic] case, the better our position will be in the talks on future status of Kosovo," Labus declared. "Those two things are connected."
Party of the Deputy Prime Minister, G17, also holds the Finance Ministry in the Serbian government and Labus' Minister of Finance, Mladjan Dinkic, recently visited Washington for talks with bankers and investors - another forum where Washington could have driven the point that case of Ratko Mladic determines Serbian position in the negotiation process.
It's About the Process - Stupid!
The emerging delinking of Karadzic with the process of status talks on Kosovo is peculiar and may imply that Karadzic may be linked to the issue of Kosovo at some future date.
"It is true that certain international circles would like to make [Serbia and Montenegro] responsible for Karadzic as well," said Serbian chairman of the National Council for Cooperation with Hague Tribunal, Rasim Ljajic. "However, at this point this is not a dominant view."
Ljajic said that the precondition for Serbia and Montenegro's integration into European institutions is no longer Radovan Karadzic, but only Ratko Mladic.
Not affirming nor denying this particular assertion, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, who plans a trip to the Balkans, said that until "Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic are captured and turned over to the tribunal, the United States similarly will block any move toward NATO membership for Serbia."
The caution here is on semantics because, technically, NATO can be considered a "trans-Atlantic" and not strictly a European institution.
Nevertheless, that the relevant powers from the Contact Group count on Serbia to be engaged in the process of talks and not so much at the outcome of it has been amply publicized as much as Tadic's declarative "not acceptable" phrase regarding possibility of independence of Kosovo.
"In an ideal world, both sides should be sitting around the same table, they would find a common solution on the future status," said Jessen-Petersen, the UN administrator of Kosovo province. "From what I have heard in Belgrade and Pristina, there is no readiness for such thing. For this reason, the special envoy will travel in Belgrade, Pristina and capitals of the Contact Group member states and, based on his discussion with different delegations, he will try to determine the common project agreement on the status."
The choice of the process coordinator then is the place where the negotiating parties seem interested influencing.
The speculation that the choice of a "shuttle" negotiator may fall on the former Finnish president, Martti Ahtisaari, who brokered the end of the 1999 Kosovo war, prompted Serbia to recently warmly welcome Finish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja for talks with Serbia-Montenegro politicians. Finland then signed some economic agreements with Serbia, but driven by concern, the meeting was probably the place to "feel" the position of Finland on the Ahtisaari's views on the Balkans.
On the Kosovo Albanian side, the choice of Ahtisaari is viewed with delight because Martti Ahtisaari is the Chairman Emeritus of the International Crisis Group (ICG), a Brussels advocacy outfit that demands independence for Kosovo and shares similar views with the Organization of the Islamic Conference that "calls upon the United Nations to uphold the right of the Kosovars to self-determination and to ensure the preservation of their cultural heritage and Islamic identity."

A recent ICG report supports "Kosovar" self-determination by advocating its independence so that to safeguard peace now is to, effectively, assure Kosovo's Islamic character because Kosvo Albanians who are predominantly Muslim have burned down virtually every Church across Kosovo.
However, a slightly streamlined position of a "conditional" independence for the Kosovo province has been circulated in the media by the newly elected Prime Minister of Albania, Sali Berisha, and in all likelihood on the insistence of the ICG whose proximity to the Brussels provides a first hand take at the sentiments of fear among European diplomats at the certainty that Kosovo will join Albania and politically probably absorb it if approved independence.
Apparently accused for advancing the conditional independence idea, Albania's Foreign Minister Besnik Mustafaj went on the defensive declaring that "Conditional independence is not a formula invented by us, but a term received from the International Crises Group. It is the best form to guarantee the Albanians that they will attain independence and, at the same time, to guarantee the Serbs that they will be in their place and will enjoy all the rights in accordance with the international charters," he said.

Kai's Dark Spots
UN's report on Kosovo is now being examined by the Contact Group members but according to the Serbian independent news agency FoNet, the report written by a Norwegian Kai Eide, sees "dark" spots in Kosovo where inter ethnic crimes and violence are not made public.
Eide, who worked with and has a friendly relationship with Nicholas Burns, allegedly said that the unreported violence is frightening Serbs and preventing their freedom of movement. Drawing on a Swiss Security Watch report and independently of FoNet, Kosovo Information Service says that Eide proposed that protected areas be set up around Serbian Orthodox religious buildings and institutions in the province, and that these buildings be placed "under some form of international protection".
Eide emphasized that the Albanian leaders had to stop their "efforts to rewrite the history of Kosovo and erase all traces of its Orthodox [Christian] institutions".
Visiting Strasbourg, Kosovo ombudsman Marek Antoni Nowicki said in a similar vein that he will leave Kosovo at the end of this year dissatisfied because after five years basic human rights have still not been achieved in the province. "Some of the standards from the list would be difficult to achieve in such a short time even in some European country," Nowicki said.
To the dissatisfaction of Kosovo Albanians, the probability that a "pre-final" status on Kosovo may be achieved as a result of the "independence talks" is then rapidly emerging. "Starting the process of the future status does not mean entry into a final stage, but rather only the next step in the process," Kai Eide assessed.
If so, Kosovo Albanian negotiating delegation appears to have diplomatically cornered itself. "The only compromise and optimal solution for all Albanians in the region is independence for Kosovo," said Kosovo Albanian President Rugova whose mandate may expire prematurely due to a diagnosed lung cancer. Moreover, Kosovo's negotiating team is comprised of rivals: Rugova, Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi, parliament speaker Nexhat Daci, prominent publisher Veton Surroi and former guerrilla leader Hashim Thaci, both now opposition leaders.
We are yet to see whether Washington will appoint its own team of advisors to tutor and guide this disparate Kosovo Albanian negotiating team as it did during the Rambouillet talks where Madame Albright was "pleased that [Albanians] had accepted the help of a small team of outside advisors, including former U.S. Ambassador Morton Abramowitz..."
The fact that Washington hasn't done that yet indicates that negotiations may be more of an evenhand with a focus on the process.
For Serbia, the title of this process is of paramount importance. Any official terminology of these talks that includes the word "independence" should be considered a defeat.