Civil unrest in Gračanica
In the most recent in a series of violent attacks against Kosovar Serbs, three people were slightly injured Tuesday when a hand grenade was thrown towards a crowd that had gathered to wait for public transportation near the town square in Gračanica (Gracanicë).
Following the grenade attack, a larger crowd became agitated and began beating Albanian occupants of cars that had driven into the town, injuring six. Approximately six Albanian vehicles were set on fire.
Earlier that morning, some Serb had thrown stones at KFOR troops.
In Gračanica to help restore order, British Brigadier Richard Shirreff was meeting with local community leaders when some elements of the crowd became threatening towards him and his escort. Approximately 500 people surged forward as unknown gunmen opened fire. Believing their lives were in imminent danger, Shirreff's escort fired aimed shots at an armed individual, wounding him in the shoulder.
In the wake of the unrest, Kosovar Serbs erected roadblocks to bring attention to the ongoing problem of violence against Serbs living in the province. Serb leaders have said the roadblocks would continue until 12 June, when the UN Security Council is scheduled to hold talks on the situation in Kosovo one-year after the arrival of NATO peacekeepers.
Bernard Kouchner, head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), and Kosovar leaders have denounced the recent spate of violence "in the strongest possible terms."
"We anticipated a possible increase in tension at this particular period, which coincides with the anniversary of our arrival in Kosovo. Yet we cannot let this throw us off course," Kouchner said, calling on Kosovo's inhabitants to distance themselves from the extremists on both sides.
The Serb National Council (SNC), which normally participates as an observer in Kosovo's governing bodies and advisory councils, boycotted the week's meetings in protest of the violence.
Kouchner said he regretted the SNC's decision, but added "we understand the decision as a protest and a sign of outrage over the recent violence, which has caused a high degree of anger and distress among the Serbs and within the international community."
"We will make every possible effort to end this spate of violence and bring the perpetrators to justice. To this end, we have greatly increased KFOR and UNMIK joint security operations in those two regions, and vigorous investigations are ongoing," Kouchner added.
KFOR commander General Juan Ortuno said, "While I understand the outrage of the Serb community, I also believe strongly in the need for continued constructive engagement in the face of such acts of terror."
"KFOR has responded robustly to the recent upsurge in violence directed at the Serb communities in Kosovo."
Meanwhile, SNC representatives are traveling to New York together with Kouchner, who was scheduled to address the Security Council on Friday, which marked the first anniversary of UN Resolution 1244 establishing UNMIK.
The Serb delegation will get the chance to meet with members of the Security Council.
Finally, the SNC's boycott of the week's political meetings in Kosovo prompted European Union Political Affairs and Security chief Javier Solana to visit Kosovo on Wednesday and Thursday. He met Albanian and Serb leaders and urged them to "speak up, publicly and at the level of community, to condemn the violence."
"We want to see changes of the situation," he concluded.
Dita shuttered following slay of Serb UN worker
The Kosovar Albanian newspaper Dita was shuttered by UNMIK police for a period of eight days on Saturday 3 June at around 7:30am. The move came after Kouchner issued an executive order closing Dita offices at the Priština Media House, saying a 27 April Dita article, claiming Serb UNMIK employee Petar Topoljski had committed war crimes in Kosovo, had recklessly exposed Topoljski to vigilante violence.
The article included details of Topoljski's place of work, movements, family details, address and photograph.
Topoljski was killed soon after the article's publication.
UNMIK officials also reported they are preparing a temporary media "code of conduct" geared toward preventing the publication of any information that would place someone at risk of vigilante justice.
Dita publisher Behlul Beqaj condemned the temporary closure as an "illegal act," saying the paper would continue to publish the names of former Serb paramilitary members who, instead of being sent to court, are "employed at international institutions and organizations" in Kosovo.
Beqaj also added he planned to sue Kouchner.
The Kosovo Journalists' Association and Human Rights Forum appealed to Kouchner, asking that the UN chief review his decision. The journalists' association said the move represented "a dangerous precedent" in oppressing free media in Kosovo.
Incident on Macedonian border
Two Macedonian border guards were injured on Monday by rounds fired from the Kosovo side of the frontier. The incident happened near the Blace (Bllacë) border crossing. The Macedonian defense ministry said the shots may have been fired by two persons who were trying to illegally enter Macedonia.
EP delegation condemns "politics of revenge"
A delegation from the European Parliament told Kosovar leaders this week that every citizen has the right to live in peace and harmony, irrespective of religion or ethnicity, and added that the politics of revenge are not acceptable.
The delegation, on a monitoring mission that will report on the situation in Kosovo before the EP's upcoming budgetary debate, heard Serb complaints on the recent flare up of the violence, as well as from Albanian groups concerned about the fate of both individuals missing from last year's Serbian offensive and about others thought to be held as political prisoners in Serbia.
Mitrovica war crimes trial suspended
Kosovo's first war crimes trial was suspended on 6 June due to a language dispute. Lawyers for a Serb man charged with genocide would not take part in the trial unless the ethnic Albanian judge, who is working in conjunction with a Swedish judge, appointed simultaneous translators.
The defendant, Miroslav Vučković, is accused of setting fire to a house in which an elderly woman was trapped and killed.
Delegations visit Roma communities
A delegation made up of UNHCR Kosovo head Dennis McNamara, OSCE Kosovo ambassador Daan Everts and Albanian leaders this week visited the Roma communities in the towns of Prizren and Uroševac (Ferizaj). The visits came at the start of international efforts to return some 30,000 Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians who fled the province after NATO troops arrived last year.
30,000 Kosovar Albanians returned this yearSome 30,000 Kosovar Albanians returned between January and May 2000, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Of that number, 1500 were forced returns, almost all of them from Germany, UNHCR spokesman Peter Kessler said.
Kessler added that the number of organized returns was expected to rise to between 12,000 and 15,000 per month.
UNMIK has appealed to host countries to ensure that returns of Kosovars are orderly, gradual and humane, but Kessler said the returns have so far not caused major problems in terms of shelter.
28 political parties register for fall elections
Some 28 political parties have registered their intention to run in the upcoming autumn municipal elections, the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reported. The OSCE is responsible for the UNMIK section charged with democratization and institution building in Kosovo.
Other parties not intending to field candidates in the municipal elections may register at any time.
Llazar Semini, 10 June 2000