First anniversary of Serb withdrawal
On Monday, Kosovar Albanians celebrated the one-year anniversary of Serbia's withdrawal from Kosovo ahead of NATO troops, which brought an end to ethnic cleansing and long-term oppression by Slobodan Milošević's regime.
A rock and folk concert was held on Mother Teresa Street in central Priština (Prishtinë), with thousands of Kosovars walking along the boulevard.
United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) head Bernard Kouchner noted some of the successes of the international community's governing of the province - no emergency despite the refugees' return and a harsh 1999-2000 winter, demilitarisation of the former Kosova Liberation Army (UÇK), the institution of an administration to govern the province and steps toward rebuilding a modern, democratic society.
"For UN people, the Kosovo mission is a success, technically and politically. [But] we need a significant number of years to achieve results and we need patience," Kouchner added.
The UN Security Council had earlier revised UNMIK's mandate, but Kosovo's future status remains shrouded in mist and could yet cause serious problems of which Kouchner says he is fully aware.
"I just have to obey. We are not all satisfied. We have to improvise and work, together with the Kosovo people," said Kouchner, adding, "I don't think the future of Kosovo will be determined only here in Kosovo. It depends on the regional situation. Changes in Belgrade will be a very important step."
UNMIK has made significant headway in its operations, but the task of building a society based on tolerance and democracy will take years to complete. "We are telling people not to love each other but not to kill each other," he said.
More than 3000 missing and at least 1000 imprisoned Albanians pose a significant obstacle to relations between the international community and Kosovar Albanians. In addition, recent ethnically motivated incidents against the province's Serb minority has caused Serb leaders to boycott joint institutions, speaking of a still precarious security situation for non-Albanian people.
Meanwhile, in a boost to help the still flagging justice system, a new anonymous telephone hotline has been established to gather complaints and tips from callers.
Senior UN and KFOR officials marked the anniversary by sending messages couched in carefully worded encouragement and warnings. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said that the international community's continued support for Kosovo was conditional on the full cooperation of all Kosovar political parties. Gen Juan Ortuno, the head of the NATO-led KFOR, was more optimistic and reiterated KFOR's commitment to Kosovo.
"I am confident that the people of Kosovo will learn to put the past behind them and accept that the only way forward is through tolerance, co-operation and co-existence," he said.
"KFOR is determined to provide a safe and secure environment for all, but this can only be achieved if you, the people of Kosovo, seize the opportunity and renounce the politics of violence and hate."
"KFOR will remain in Kosovo for as long as it is necessary," Ortuno concluded.Meanwhile, in a boost to help the still flagging justice system, a news anonymous telephone hotline has been established to gather complaints ang tips from callers
Kouchner bans Berisha visit
UNMIK boss Kouchner blocked a planned visit to Kosovo by former Albanian President Sali Berisha, who had been scheduled to arrive in Kosovo on 14 June for meetings with local ethnic Albanian leaders.
"Mr Kouchner sent a letter to Berisha Tuesday, telling him that because of the volatile situation in Kosovo at the moment, this is the not the time to come," said UNMIK spokeswoman Susan Manuel.
Unofficial sources said that Kouchner feared Berisha could destabilize the still-fragile Kosovo Albanian political spectrum.
Two Albanians killed, two wounded
In a continuation of recent ethnically-motivated incidents, two Albanians were killed and two others wounded on Sunday by allegedly Serb attackers, local media reported.
The murders of Xhafer Behrami, 46, and his eldest son Bakiu, 18, occurred in the village of Kotorr in Srbica (Skenderaj) commune, west of Priština. The elder Behrami, headmaster of the local school in Qubrel, and his three companions were returning home after having loaded wood on their tractor.
One of the injured, Jetullah Behrami, 42, said the assailants were three Serbs, adding that he could identify one of them.
KFOR and UNMIK police declined to comment on the identity of the attackers, saying that the investigation was ongoing.
OSCE: 500,000 have registered to vote
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) spokesman Roland Bless said that half a million people have added their names to civil registries throughout Kosovo.
Once registered, local residents may obtain a United Nations identity card and can apply for travel documents. Registration also ensures that citizens are included on the electoral roll for the upcoming autumn municipal elections. Those who have not registered by the 15 July deadline will be ineligible to vote in the fall round.
According to Bless, some 18,000 people are registering daily. He noted, "we see that rural areas are registering at a higher speed than urban areas, and Pristina is particularly lagging behind."
Deadline extended for independents in fall elections
Independent candidates and citizens' initiatives interested in running in this fall's municipal elections have an extra week to apply for OSCE certification. The independent candidates and citizens' initiatives -groups of people uniting over one political issue- have until 19 June to apply for recognition provided they can collect 100 signatures from eligible voters in the municipality in which they will be standing and provide a DEM 100 deposit. The deposit is refundable if they win a seat.
Kosovo Law Center opens in Priština
A non-partisan, non-political forum for Kosovo lawyers opened its doors in Priština this week. The Kosovo Law Center, developed with the assistance of the OSCE, will provide a focal point for legal research in the region, and will also help develop laws, regulations and decrees.
The Kosovo Law Center has already published a compilation of applicable criminal laws, and will run a library of legal and human rights documents in addition to providing assistance to the Kosovar legal community.
The United States government, has allocated DEM 5 million to the Kosovar judicial system, with most of the funding earmarked to the development of a legal infrastructure.
World health groups honour two Kosovar doctors
Doctors Vjosa Dobruna and Flora Brovina are to be the recipients of the USD 20,000 Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights.
"Doctors Brovina and Dobruna sacrificed their freedom and risked their lives for the sake of health and human rights, while the rest of the world waited," Dr Nils Daulaire, president of the Global Health Council, said in a statement released Wednesday.
The award is named for a former Harvard AIDS specialist who died with his wife, Mary Lou Clements-Mann of Johns Hopkins University, in the crash of Swissair Flight 111 off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada, in 1998. Jonathan Mann, founder of the World Health Organization's Global Program on AIDS and later of the Harvard AIDS Institute, was a pioneer in linking disease eradication with the promotion of human rights.
Brovina languishes in a Serbian prison following her conviction last fall on charges of terrorism. Her offense was the alleged provision of medicine and knitting wool to women who were claimed to be aiding the Kosova Liberation Army (UÇK).
The Kosovar doctors are the second winners of the Mann Award. Last year, Jimmy Carter presented the inagural award to Dr Cynthia Maung, who established a clinic on the Burma-Thai border to care for those fleeing the Burmese military.
Dita reappears after ban
Dita, an Albanian language newspaper temporarily banned by Kosovo's chief UN administrator, reappeared on Tuesday carrying the same article that led to the ban - a piece UNMIK says contributed to the murder of a Serb employee.
The paper said it would continue publishing similar articles, and accused unnamed international officials of theft and involvement in prostitution. In April, a Dita article accused Serb UN translator Petar Topoljski of membership in a Serb paramilitary unit that had beaten, robbed and expelled ethnic Albanians during last year's ethnic cleansing offensive. Two weeks later, he was found stabbed to death.
Chief UN administrator Bernard Kouchner imposed an eight-day ban on publication last week, leading to widespread debate on whether the move was justified or represented was a curb on the free press.
Chief editor Blerim Savileci said that Dita has started court proceedings against the UN administration, seeking USD 489,000 in damages for the period the paper was forced to suspend publication.
19 released from Serbian jails
On Tuesday, nineteen Kosovar Albanians held in Serbian jails were returned to Kosovo by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Seventeen were released from jail in Požarevac, while two had been held in Niš. They bring to 951 the total number of ethnic Albanians who have been released from Serbian jails, but more than 1000 still languish in Serbian detention, most on now-illegal expired detention warrants.
Llazar Semini, 17 June 2000