Still no freedom for Orthodox Serbs In Kosovo

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Orthodoc:
2002.12.09 Diocese of Raska and Prizren:

Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija

Information Service

Official Communique of the Diocese
On Occasion of the International Day of Human Rights -
December 10th

Serbian population in Kosovo still exposed to severe ethnic and
religious discrimination despite international presence

Gracanica, December 09, 2002

On occasion of the International Day of Human Rights - December
10 - Serbian Orthodox Diocese in Kosovo and Metohija would
like to draw once again public attention on extremely difficult
position in which Serbian population in the UN administered
Yugoslav province of Kosovo lives more than three years after the
end of the war and the beginning of the peace mission. Despite
international presence majority of Kosovo Serbs experience severe
discrimination and lack of basic human rights on the daily basis.
Kosovo Albanian extremists still continue with intimidation,
desecrations and pressures on the remaining non-Albanian
population in order to create an ethnically clean Albanian society.

1. Kosovo Serbs, who fled the province in front of Kosovo
Albanian paramilitaries after the war, are not free to return to their
homes and use their private property. More than 200.000 Serbs
still live as refugees in their own country (Serbia & Montenegro)
in extremely difficult conditions and poverty. Although UN
Security Council Resolution 1244 grants all refugees and displaced
persons free return to their homes, UN Mission and NATO led
peacekeepers have not managed to create elementary security
conditions for normal returns so far. Those few Serb returnees who
returned to Albanian dominated areas are forced to live in total
isolation without basic freedom of movement and security outside
of their tiny rural enclaves. Major Kosovo's cities remain almost
completely ethnically clean Albanian areas while thousands of
Serb homes and apartments are still occupied illegally and it is
uncertain when their owners would be able to enjoy their private
property safely. Kosovo is still far away from multiethnic and
democratic society, rule of law and order.

2. Serbs in most parts of Kosovo Province do not have normal
access to medical, educational and social institutions which remain
mostly dominated by ethnic Albanians. Kosovo Serbs depend on
poorly equipped village clinics and cannot safely get medical
protection in major Kosovo's hospitals in which no Serb personnel
can freely and safely work (except in North Mitrovica). Kosovo
Serb children cannot have normal education in their own language
and Cyrillic script in any urban elementary or secondary school in
Albanian dominated areas and attend classes in village schools
which lack proper conditions for modern education. After recent
restriction of KFOR escorts for Serb students many Serb children
do not attend their classes at all or are forced to leave Kosovo and
continue their education out of the Province.

3. New Kosovo institutions are becoming more and more tools for
institutional repression of ethnic Albanians against Serbs and other
minorities. Offensive and non collegial behavior of Kosovo
Albanian parliamentarians and absence of proper mechanisms
which would protect Serb representatives in Kosovo institutions
from ethnic discrimination and overvoting are most important
reasons why Kosovo Serb parliamentarians and members of
Government rightly refuse to participate in such institutions. While
everywhere in the democratic world democracy is understood as
just rule of majority with full respect of minority rights, in Kosovo
ethnic Albanians develop a special kind of "dem(on)ocracy" which
is rather a terror of majority against minorities and their legitimate
interests. Kosovo Serbs are ready to work in institutions which
would work on full implementation of the Security Council
Resolution 1244 but are not ready to act as a decoration for
non-existent multiethnicity and democracy.

3. Serb population is almost completely unemployed and only a
small percent of Kosovo Serbs work in private sector or
UNMIK/KFOR administration. Living conditions for majority
Kosovo Serbs remain desperate and most of the people depend on
humanitarian aid. Even in distribution of international
humanitarian aid Serbs are discriminated and have received
proportionally far less assistance and aid than ethnic Albanians.
This is a reason why even those Serbs who managed to stay in
their homes despite appalling security situation are thinking of
leaving the Province and finding better living conditions out of the
UN administered province. Foreign investment in Serb enclaves is
very inadequate which is an additional pressure on already
impoverished Kosovo Serb population.

4. Kosovo Serbs are deprived of their basic religious rights. They
cannot normally visit their holy sites, cemeteries and attend
Christian ceremonies. With 112 destroyed or seriously damaged
churches after the war, in the NATO presence, Kosovo has
become a region in which Christianity is exposed to destruction
and persecution. Kosovo is a part of Europe in which medieval
and recently built Christian churches can be demolished with
impunity because so far not a single perpetrator of these
desecrations has been brought to justice nor any investigation has
been fully completed despite the presence of thousands of
international and local police officers. Almost all Serbian
Orthodox Monasteries are isolated and surrounded by hostility of
the local Moslem Albanian population who mercilessly destroy
remaining Christian monuments in their vicinity. Serb cemeteries
in Albanian dominated areas are either desecrated or turned into
garbage lots, which unfortunately happens with full knowledge of
UNMIK and KFOR. The most important Serbian Orthodox holy
sites: Patriarchate of Pec, Decani Monastery, Holy Archangels and
Devic depend on constant KFOR presence and would be turned to
ashes by ethnic Albanian extremist without military protection.
Recent announcements of KFOR troops reduction are creating
great uneasiness among Serb Orthodox clergy because in most of
cases no security improvement has been achieved in the last three
years.

5. Kosovo Province still remains a safe haven for ethnic Albanian
extremist and organized crime. After the war and deployment of
KFOR peacekeepers KLA/UCK led extremists killed more than
800 Kosovo Serbs, and probably twice more "dissenting
Albanians". More than 1300 Kosovo Serbs were kidnapped or
abducted despite NATO presence. At the moment dozens of
mutilated bodies of Serbs killed in the after the war are being
recovered from mass graves around Kosovo whereas not a single
Kosovo Albanian has been indicted for crimes against Serb
civilians. The most important reasons for this remain: absence of
witnesses who dare testify in front of courts as well as fears of the
Mission that extremist might target international personnel in
revange. So far only several KLA extremists were indicted for
murdering other Kosovo Albanians which once again brings to the
surface the truth about the ethnic Albanian extremists of KLA and
their terrorist actions against Serbs and their own people.

Although Kosovo province is under UN protectorate with more
than 30.000 best armed NATO led peacekeepers ethnic repression
and violations of human and religious rights still continue. In the
recent months security situation has significantly deteriorated
despite official reports which tend to present Kosovo as UNMIK's
success story. The Province still remains a black spot on the
human rights map of the world. Despite of all aforementioned
facts the leading international human rights organizations remain
stubbornly deaf to the plight of Kosovo Serb population and
uninterested to do anything in order to bring this truth to the public
attention.

The voice of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo which
consistently opposed any kind of ethnic violence before, during
and after the conflict in 1999 is "a voice of the crying one in the
wilderness" (Mt. 3:3). Although many will keep ignoring our
appeals, the Church will continue to bear witness of truth with
hope that eventually the truth will prevail and that all Kosovo's
inhabitants, regardless of their ethnicity and religion, will be able
to live in peace and security.

======================
Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren
Kosovo and Metohija, Information Service ERP KIM

erpkim@gmx.net
http://www.kosovo.com

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