KFOR detains Yugoslav presidential candidate
On 6 September, Kosovo peacekeepers temporarily detained Tomislav Nikolić, a Serb presidential candidate, at a checkpoint near Zvecan in the northern region of the province. Sources said that French peacekeepers confiscated weapons from a security guard in Nikolić's entourage.
Nikolić was campaigning in the northern Kosovo town of Mitrovica.
Kosovo's moderate Serb leadership will play no part in Yugoslavia's federal elections this month, just as they will play no part in a rival UN-organized poll a month later, a leading Serb figure said.
Speaking two days after Kosovo's UN administrator Bernard Kouchner announced he could not ban Yugoslavia from opening polling booths in the province, Randel Rojkić, member of the Serb National Council (SNV), an umbrella political body representing Serb interests in Kosovo, said security conditions were not in place for a fair poll.
Serbs have refused to register to vote in municipal elections to be held on October 28 by Kouchner's UN administration.
The announcement by Yugoslav Vice Prime Minister Nikola Sainović in Belgrade last week that polling in Yugoslavia's September 24 federal and presidential elections would be carried out in Kosovo has been condemned by Kouchner as a "provocation" and an attempt to destabilize the later poll.
Kouchner's October poll is seen as the next step in accomplishing his mandate, according to UN Resolution 1244, of giving Kosovo "substantial autonomy" and Serbs fear it will encourage ethnic Albanian aspirations for independence.
More violence at all levels
After a relatively calm month of July, August saw an escalation of both inter- and intra-ethnic violence, including normal crime cases as well as ethnically motivated cases, the Kosovar Council for the Defence of Human Rights and Freedoms said in its monthly report.
It added that detainees accused of war crimes and genocide are still in prison and, with their trials long delayed, are increasingly given opportunities to plan prison breaks (See "Serb genocide suspects in mass jailbreak" in this news review).
There were 25 ethnically-related murders in August, of which 15 were Albanians (one in a mine strike), three Serbs (including one child), three Hashkalinj, two Roma and two unidentified. Meanwhile, six Albanians and two Roma were killed by members of their own ethnic group.
In addition to those killed in violent attacks, 37 people were injured in attacks and mine strikes, including: 21 Albanians (nine from mines, three of whom were children), 13 Serbs (including 12 children), one Turk and two KFOR soldiers from the United Arab Emirates.
Moderate Serbs in Kosovo have been threatened with violence by Serb hardliners, the report says.
Three Albanians and two Serbs have been reported as disappeared this month.
The report also documented an explosion at the local offices of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) in Malisheve; the murder of an LDK party leader in Istog; an attack on an LDK leader in Skenderaj; and attempts against former senior commanders of the ex-Kosovo Liberation Army (UÇK). The result, the report said, was "the creation of an atmosphere of insecurity for political personalities".
The Council says that life and free movement in ethnic enclaves of Albanians in North Mitrovica and Serbs, Roma, Hashkalinnj, Egyptians in other Kosovar locations continue to be threatened. The report urged that the NGO Medecins sans frontieres stop its activities in the affected enclaves.
Leaders campaign against violence
Leaders of Kosovo Albanian and Serbian political parties, the signatories of the Airlie House Declaration, signed in July in Washington, met in Kosovo in late August under US auspices to launch a campaign against violence in the province and to declare 9 September a day of protest against violence.
"The campaign against violence begins today," said Christopher Dell, head of the US mission in Priština.
Father Sava Janić, spokesperson for the Serbian National Council (SNV), said the day of protest would include demonstrations by both Serbs and ethnic Albanians and joint media appearances by leaders of the communities.
Ibrahim Rugova, the ethnic Albanian leader who heads the province's largest political party, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), also attended the meeting. But the absence of several other important political players in Kosovo may raise concerns about the clout of the decisions made at the meeting.
Hashim Thaci and Ramush Haradinaj, leaders of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) respectively, did not attend the meetings but sent representatives.
Oliver Ivanović, leader of the Serb community in North Mitrovica, was another notable holdout.
Serb genocide suspects in mass jailbreak
The UN's attempts to prosecute war criminals in Kosovo suffered a major setback following the escape of 15 Serb prisoners from a UN-run detention centre in North Mitrovica.
The fugitives, two of whom have been recaptured, are accused of crimes including genocide and mass murder.
UN officials say the prisoners managed to escape after a gun was smuggled into the prison. The two recaptured inmates were arrested after they returned to one of the cells to collect their belongings.
The escape is the second involving Serbs accused of war crimes in less than two months and is a major embarrassment to the UN. As the UN announced an internal investigation, it emerged that police had failed to increase security at the detention centre following the escape of three Serbs in July.
The head of the UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Bernard Kouchner, suspended the UN police official in charge of prisons.
Elections and political crime
The census of Kosovo's population above the age of 16 was the most significant phase in preparing the October municipal elections in Kosovo. The census was successful in the statistical, but not completely in the political, sense. About twenty parties and coalitions have registered to participate in the elections, along with a few citizens' initiatives and a number of independent candidates. They come from all ethnic communities except Serbian ones.
Meanwhile, a struggle for political primacy goes on under the surface and has never ceased.
Attacks on political representatives throughout Kosovo could be politically motivated, but no one can truly confirm that yet. Kosovar parties and their memberships have no experience in a multi-party struggle for votes and frequently take politics on a personal level.
The result has been a climate of great concern to representatives of the international community in Kosovo, who fear a possibility of political violence and crime in general flaring-up, which would jeopardise not only the election process but the international mission's efforts in general.
Llazar Semini, 8 September 2000
Based in Priština, Llazar Semini is Kosova Project Manager for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.
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