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Advocacy Project Blogs - 2008 Fellow: Nicole Slezak

The Advocacy Project Blogs

 
08/22/08

Obstacles Civil Society Groups Face in Kosova

Posted By: Nicole

As a civil society group in Kosova it is hard to gain and maintain ground among the myriad of government and international agencies. Local groups must constantly battle various roadblocks—the first and foremost for a Non-governmental Organization (NGO) being funding. NGOs (especially smaller ones) need funding in order to execute their programs and research projects. Project proposals are written each year, formulated to the donor foundation’s specifications and to fulfill their overall objectives. Various NGOs battle each other for funding and compete in terms of creativity in order to win the donor contract. Therefore, NGOs are perpetually scrambling to obtain funding for their projects. This is tough—but it is the essence of NGO sustenance.
Secondly, civil society groups, including KWN, face obstacles from various groups in power. Often the ability of civil society to participate and contribute to national plans depends immensely on the people and personalities in the government. These range from the power-hungry and exclusive—who do not invite civil society to partake—to those who are inclusive and wish to obtain all relevant viewpoints on a subject.
For example, the Kosovar government (in connection with the United Nations Development Program UNDP, OSCE and other international organizations) has been drafting a National Action Plan against Trafficking in Human Persons since the old National Action Plan expired in 2007. Last year a few large organizations were invited to participate in the drafting conference, while KWN and other civil society groups were excluded. The result was a plan without strong implementation methods or preventative measures, and large portions focused solely on awareness raising. The plan was not passed and this summer groups met once again to draft an appropriate and effective National Action Plan against Trafficking in Human Persons.
This summer KWN was invited to participate and its recommendations were included in the National Action Plan. KWN is very pleased with this breakthrough and the inclusion of viewpoints from within Kosova’s civil society. KWN is working closely with the Agency for Gender Equality and the Women’s Safety and Security Initiative (WSSI) on the issue of human trafficking and development of the Anti-Trafficking Plan. The continued inclusion of KWN and civil society can provide significant contributions to the development of laws and action plans. Hence, if government and international agencies in Kosova can recognize that groups like KWN have much to contribute, and are included rather than excluded from decision-making, it will be a large step toward the well-being of Kosovar society as a whole.

07/31/08

Karadzic Used False Identity to Escape Detection

Posted By: Nicole

After the 21 July 2008 arrest of Serb war criminal, Radovan Karadzic, interesting news has been revealed. Karadzic used a false identity--complete with a long white beard and large glasses to hide his existence in Serbia. Karadzic used false documents and the name 'Dragan Dabic' so that he could move freely within Serbia. His disguise was so convincing that he was not detected and worked as a doctor in alternative medicine, even attending conferences throughout Serbia ("Karadzic lived in Belgrade under false identity," Voice of America, 22 July 2008).

Serbia handed Karadzic over to the UN war crimes tribunal on Tuesday, 29 July, where he nows awaits trial in the Hague. Karadzic stated that he will defend himself and that he denies the charges of genocide leveled against him. Due to the complexity of the trial and the need for both sides to prepare their arguments, the trial will not begin for some months ("Karadzic handed over to UN," News 24, 30 July 2008).

Meanwhile, in Belgrade, nationalists held a rally on Tuesday protesting the arrest of Karadzic and thousands of Karadzic supporters were bused in from throughout Serbia and Bosnia. The rally ended in riots, as protesters threw rocks and fireworks at police. Police responded by firing tear gas and rubber bullets. About 45 individuals have been treated for light injuries ("Karadzic supporters clash with police in Belgrade," National Post, 29 July 2008).

07/29/08

Upcoming Report Publication on Domestic Violence in Kosova

Posted By: Nicole

KWN recently completed a research report regarding domestic violence in Kosova. Here is some information regarding the report:

KWN was contracted by the UNDP Women’s Safety and Security Initiative (WSSI) in close cooperation with the Agency for Gender Equality to conduct research on domestic violence in Kosova. The research findings will be used to draft the first Kosova National Action Plan against Domestic Violence in fall 2008.

The research goal is to provide a comprehensive understanding of domestic violence in Kosova. The ambitious three-month research project aimed to address the following objectives requested by WSSI:

1. Identify the range of forms of violence commonly occurring in the family.
2. Gain insights into citizens perceptions about what behaviours are abusive and in what circumstances.
3. Explore what methods citizens use to end violence or reduce its circumstances.
4. Document the consequences of family violence on women, the family, children, and society as whole.
5. Identify society’s attitudes towards abusers and abusive relationships.
6. Determine the social constraints that deprive particular demographic and geographic groups in the private or public sphere.
7. Identify legal and institutional gaps for domestic violence outface.

The research team employed a mixed method methodology that included 1) collection and analysis of statistics from relevant institutions; 2) a review of existing law, legislation and social services available to persons experiencing domestic violence; 3) a statistically representative Kosova-wide survey of 1,256 women and men; 4) surveying representatives of institutions and organizations responsible for dealing with
domestic violence; and 5) a focus group with experts from relevant institutions to discuss findings and clarify report recommendations.

The report is expected to be released in September 2008 in three languages, after which time it will be available on the KWN website. For more information, please contact info@womensnetwork.org.

07/22/08

War Criminal Radovan Karadzic Arrested in Serbia

Posted By: Nicole

After over 10 years of living as a fugitive, Radovan Karadzic has been captured and arrested. Karadzic was arrested Monday night near Belgrade after a tip from foreign intelligence officials led to the location of Karadzic's safehouse. The police then surveilled Karadzic for weeks prior to his arrest. This marks an important milestone for both Serbia and family members of the victims killed during the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Coming 11 days after the 13th memorial of the Srebrenica massacre, many Bosnians celebrated in the streets at the news of Karadzic's arrest.

Munira Subasic, a mother who lost two sons in the Srebrenica massacre, was overcome with emotion as she watched the news on television.

"After 13 years, we finally reached the moment of truth," she told AP Television News. If Karadzic is extradited to the tribunal in The Hague, he would be the 44th Serb suspect sent there. The others include former President Slobodan Milosevic, who was ousted in 2000 and died in 2006 while on trial on war crimes charges, ("Top War Crimes Fugitive Radovan Karadzic Arrested in Serbia," FOX News, 22 July 2008).

The White House commented on the arrest, stating, "There is no better tribute to the victims of the war's atrocities than bringing their perpetrators to justice," ("Top War Crimes Fugitive Radovan Karadzic Arrested in Serbia," FOX News, 22 July 2008).

Richard Holbrooke, the negotiator of the Dayton Accords that ended the Bosnian War, spoke on Karadzic's arrest, stating, “This is a historic event. Of the three most evil men of the Balkans, Milosevic, Karadzic and Mladic, I thought Karadzic was the worst. The reason was that Karadzic was a real racist believer. Karadzic really enjoyed ordering the killing of Muslims, whereas Milosevic was an opportunist,” ("Bosnian Serb Under Arrest in War Crimes," The New York Times, 22 July 2008).

Karadzic was indicted in 1995, however, he has been hiding throughout the Balkans--usuing caves in Bosnia and various disguises. It is believed that he remained unarrested due to the Nationalist Party's power within Serbia and radical members' view of Karadzic as a hero. The current pro-Western coalition government in Serbia--installed a month ago--removed the nationalist official who was in control of the office of the secret police--the branch of police in charge of arresting war criminals. This internal change of personnel made the arrest of Karadzic possible.

The shift in attitude and policy is generally connected with Serbia's aim to enter the European Union. The European Union has put intense pressure on the Serbian government to turn over war criminals to the Hague prior to moving forward with EU accession. Hence, the arrest of Karadzic and Mladic are viewed as a precondition for membership within the EU. The arrest of Karadzic was a large step toward entry within the European body.

However, Karadzic's arrest is not only a requirement for Serbia to move forward with EU accession, but also a requisite for transitional justice. Justice for the family members of victims killed, tortured or raped during the Bosnian war is necessary before they can begin to heal the wounds of the past.

Munira Subasic, head of a Srebrenica widow's association, illustrates the importance of attaining justice even a decade after conflict. "The arrest of Radovan Karadzic is confirmation that every criminal will eventually face justice," ("Top Bosnian Serb war crimes fugitive Karadzic arrested," Reuters, 22 July 2008).

Karadzic

Karadzic in Disguise as Dragan Dabic

07/21/08

Kosova--A Newborn State

Posted By: Nicole

On 17 February 2008, Kosova declared independence. To symbolize this independence a monument was unveiled in front of the youth center in Prishtina. It spells out NEWBORN in large yellow letters and was signed by Kosovars on independence day. The New Kosova Report talks with Fisnik Ismaili, who was part of the team that designed the Newborn monument.

NKR: For those that don't know about it, what is NEWBORN?

Ismaili: NEWBORN is a typographic sculpture spelling the word "newborn", which was unveiled on the Day of Kosovo's Declaration of Independence. During the celebrations, people expressed themselves by writing on the sculpture with permanent markers. It was first signed by the Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci, and the President, Fatmir Sejdiu, followed by the rest of the people who attended the manifestation on 17 February 2008. This included ordinary citizens as well as prominent Kosovor individuals. NEWBORN is made of metal, weighs 9 tons, it is 3 meters high, 24 meters long and 1 meter deep. NEWBORN is now the only monument that marks the Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Kosovo.

NKR: Why "newborn"? Why yellow?

Ismaili: NEWBORN, intentionally in English, was the single word that could describe that special day: A birth of a new country, and the connotations of this word imply only positive things (birth, innocence, sincerity, love...). We were aware that all the foreign media will be present on the day, so we wanted to give them an image that could be understood and mark that day. Words "New" and "Born" are easily understood by people whose English is not perfect, too. The idea was to present Kosovo as a new, contemporary, trendy country, ready to be embraced by the world. The yellow colour, was intentionally used in combination with blue banners and supporting slogans, to represent both new Kosovor flag's colours as well as EU colours. The supporting slogans were: "NEW life is BORN", "NEW hope is BORN", "NEW future is BORN" and "NEW country is BORN", all presented in blue and yellow colours. In addition, yellow is a colour that represents the sunrise - birth of a new day, new hope... end of darkness.

"NEWBORN, the Symbol of Kosovo Independence", New Kosova Report, 4 July 2008.

My pictures of the NEWBORN monument:




07/14/08

Whereabouts of Serb War Criminals

Posted By: Nicole

Two of the most wanted Serb war criminals, Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, are believed to be in Serbia. John Clint Williamson, US Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues, stated the following in an interview on Monday,

"The latest information about their whereabouts tells us that Mladic was in Serbia and that there are strong indications that Karadzic was in that state too" ("US Diplomat: Karadzic and Mladic in Serbia," Balkan Insight, 14 July 2008).

General Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic were leading figures in the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina between 1992 and 1995. Karadzic founded the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) in Bosnia-Hercegovina and was President of the Republika Srpska from 17 December 1992 until his resignation on 19 July 1996. Radovan Karadzic is held responsible for the shelling of Sarajevo and both men are held responsbile for the massacre at Srebrenica, where 7500 men and boys were murdered in July 1995 (Profile of Karadzic, Profile of Mladic). They have been indicted twice for genocide and charged with crimes against humanity, however, they have not yet been brought to justice.

Their indictments state,

"Mr Karadzic and Mr Mladic are responsible for the unlawful confinement, murder, rape and inhumane treatment of the civilian population in Bosnia-Hercegovina," ("Karadzic and Mladic: The Charges," BBC News, 9 June 2005).

Furthermore, Karadzic and Mladic detained Bosnian Muslims and Croats in camps such as Omarska, Keraterm and Luka, where they were tortured or murdered. Women in camps were often raped repeatedly. However, sexual violence against women was not included in Karadzic and Mladic's indictments until the International Criminal Tribunal for [the former] Yugoslavia (ICTY) produced subsequent amended versions--such as the following:

In the detention facilities, Bosnian Muslim, Bosnian Croat and other non-Serb males and females suffered egregious, inhumane conditions on a daily basis. Detainees were deprived of adequate nutrition, adequate medical care, hygienic sanitation facilities, and were forced to endure inhumane accommodations. The detainees subsisted in an atmosphere of constant terror fostered by random brutality. Physical violence, mental suffering, sexual violence and other degrading and humiliating circumstances that constituted fundamental attacks on their humanity were repeatedly inflicted upon the detainees; (COUNT 7 (Persecutions), Amended Indictment of Karadzic, 31 May 2000).

For many, the anger and wounds of the past cannot be cleansed until transitional justice is attained. This requires Karadzic and Mladic to be put on trial in the Hague.

Ratko Mladic

Radovan Karadzic
07/09/08

Kosovo to Issue Passports

Posted By: Nicole

The Republic of Kosovo will issue passports beginning 18 August 2008. These passports differ from UNMIK passports issued during the interim administration of Kosovo by the United Nations. Unidenitified sources states that countries which do not recognize Kosovo's independence (such as Montenegro and Macedonia) will accept these passports.

According to a leaked copy of the design obtained by Balkan Insight, the cover of the new Kosovo passport will be dark blue, with the official coat of arms and the word “passport” written in the Albanian, Serbian and English languages ("Kosovo to Issue Passports from July 18," Balkan Insight, 9 July 2008).

07/03/08

The Rise and Fall of Yugoslavia

Posted By: Nicole

Yugoslavia--as it was from 1929-1991

The seperate republics that constituted Yugoslavia--the provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina were given autonomy in 1974 by Tito.

Slovenia declared independence in 1991, followed by Macedonia and Croatia. Bosnia was soon to follow--but as Bosnia and Croatia possessed large Serb enclaves, war broke out in 1992. The Dayton Accords brokered a peace deal and Bosnia was divided into the Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation.

Yugoslavia was wiped off the face of the map and replaced with the loose union of Serbia and Montenegro. Montenegro voted for independence in 2006. Kosovo has been an autonomous province of Serbia since 1974 (except for the period after 1989 when Milosevic revoked its autonomy). On 17 February 2008 Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia.

Pictures taken from BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7251376.stm

07/02/08

Article on the Illicit Market in Travel Documents

Posted By: Nicole

The following is an excerpt from BIRN (Balkan Investigative Reporting Network) Kosovo article regarding the market in travel documents. This is a follow-up to the prior post on UNMIK travel documents and the restricted freedom of movement that Kosovar citizens face. Many Kosovars seek Serbian (still issued as Yugoslavian) passports, however, the process is long and Kosovars are often denied Yugoslav travel documents. Hence, in this investigation by BIRN, it was found that there is a thriving market in Serbian travel documents and the hub it centered in the Montenegrin town of Rozaje with important links to the Kosovo Police Service.

INVESTIGATION: Ex-Policemen Run Kosovo Passport Scam
01 12 2006 While it is hard for most Kosovars to get papers to travel abroad, racketeers can solve everything for a fee.

By Krenar Gashi in Pristina and BIRN teams in Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro (Balkan Insight, 1 Dec 06)

"For 300 euro I can get you all the documents in one day," said Sajo, a former policeman in Kosovo and now based in Rozaje, in Montenegro. "All at once - birth certificate, citizenship papers, ID and passport."

Sajo sells new identity papers to Kosovars. There are many like him in Montenegro and Kosovo, where a lucrative trade in falsely obtained passports and other documents is booming.

In an undercover investigation by BIRN, we can reveal the large amounts of money Kosovars routinely pay to people like Sajo to obtain new versions of the old Yugoslav passport.

Yugoslav documents are still valid in the region and indeed continue to be issued in Serbia, which has not yet updated its issuing authorities to take account of the dissolution of the former federation.

We examined the market that the racketeers have set up, posing as mediators between ordinary people and complex government institutions in the region and found out that the newly independent republic of Montenegro forms a vital link in the passport and document scam.

Most extraordinarily of all, we discovered that former policemen, like Sajo, are a crucial link in the chain.

Although Serbian law stipulates that people can only apply for documents in person, these mediators can, in fact, accomplish this task for other people.

They can also do it - as Sajo says - in the space of a day, even though Serbian regulations say at least one week is needed.

Balkan Insight approached Serbia's ministry of interior but they refused to comment on this matter.

LINK TO FULL ARTICLE: http://kosovo.birn.eu.com/en/1/50/

07/01/08

KWN Voter's Initiative Project

Posted By: Nicole

The KWN is currently working on a “Voter’s Voice” Project that will hold politicians accountable for promises made while campaigning for election. The project is especially relevant, as the implementation of Kosova’s Constitution officially transitions UN responsibilities to the government of Kosova. Furthermore, since the creation of the open list election system in 2007, voters select individual candidates rather than political parties. Therefore, politicians can be held directly accountable for broken promises and lack of government services.

To get the project running, the KWN will open a telephone hotline so citizens can call to voice their complaints and concerns regarding government actions or services. All telephone calls will be free of charge and will be recorded without individual names or identifying information. This will allow KWN to track the most common grievances held by voters and determine which politicians are fulfilling their campaign promises. KWN will then issue a report regarding these concerns in order to notify politicians of citizens’ needs. The KWN believes this initiative will also hold politicians responsible for their promises because the report will reveal which officials are not satisfying their previous promises and will advocate that voters punish those officials by not voting for them in re-elections.

In order to raise awareness about the project and encourage voters to call the hotline, KWN will hold a training session for advocacy groups on 28 June 2008. Advocacy groups from ten municipalities will then distribute leaflets and meet with citizens. There the groups will give instruction on methods available to keep politicians responsible for the promises they made during campaigns.

Regional Women’s Lobby for Justice, Peace and Security

Posted By: Nicole

The Regional Women’s Lobby for Justice, Peace and Security in South East Europe (SEE) met in Istanbul, Turkey from 17-19 May 2008. The Regional Women’s Lobby is comprised of women leaders from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosova, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

The charter states that members of the Regional Women’s Lobby “share a commitment to seeing their countries achieve full recovery from the devastation of the wars of the 1990s through advancement of justice and reconciliation leading to lasting peace, security and prosperity for future generations.” Members are committed to fighting violence, as well as political and religious extremism, which can destroy tolerance and threaten human security.

The meeting focused on creating a structure for the Regional Women’s Lobby. The structure consists of a Steering Committee, with a representative from each of the seven countries. The responsibilities of the Steering Committee will be to identify strategic priorities for action within each country, as well as other initiatives that arise. The Chair of the Steering Committee is Edita Tahiri, a politician from Kosova.

The Regional Women’s Lobby will also be supported by a Secretariat made up of three representatives from UNIFEM and will coordinate communication, fundraising and other events. Lastly, the Regional Women’s Lobby will establish an Advisory Board of peace advocates and politicians who can help advise the RWL on particular issues. From the meeting, the Regional Women’s Lobby also sent an open letter to the governments of Serbia and Macedonia regarding elections.

Women's Network Meeting in Jordan

Posted By: Nicole

From the 20-22 May 2008, women’s groups from Israel and Palestine gathered for a conference. The meeting was organized by Kvinna till Kvinna and held in Jordan. Jordan was chosen as the location because Israeli groups could not travel into Palestinian territory and Palestinian groups could not travel into Israel from Gaza or the West Bank. The meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian groups served to open discussion on issues that women face in both societies. The subjects included discrimination, militarism and sexual violence. The groups are partner organizations with Kvinna till Kvinna, an NGO that funds women’s groups in post-conflict countries.

Kvinna till Kvinna works in the Western Balkans, the Middle East and the South Caucuses and collaborates with partner organizations to invest in peace. Kvinna till Kvinna “regards gender equality, sustainable peace and progress as inseparable.”

KWN’s Executive Director Igballe Rogova was invited by Kvinna till Kvinna to attended the conference and speak about the activities of the KWN. Igo spoke about the methods KWN used to monitor the implementation of Resolution 1325 and on the development of the Women’s Peace Coalition.

“In the week leading up to 8 March, representatives of KWN and Kosovo Women’s Lobby (KWL) appeared in more than fifteen electronic and print media (e.g., televised talk shows, news articles) with Kosovo-wide audiences where they increased citizens’ awareness about UNSCR 1325 and its importance for including more women in decision-making, especially during negotiations concerning Kosovo’s final political status.”
On the second day of the conference, a video documenting the Women’s Peace Coalition was shown. The video was moving and empowering, as the Israeli and Palestinian women’s groups are trying to establish a similar coalition and are working toward similar goals in the Middle East.

06/20/08

UNSC Resolution 1820

Posted By: Nicole

Yesterday, 19 June, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1820 regarding sexual violence in conflict. The resolution makes some important breakthroughs and goes further than prior resolutions (1325, 1612 and 1674) to protect women and girls in conflict situations.

Important parts of the resolution include the recognition that women and girls are particularly targeted during war, and sexual violence is used as a weapon to instil fear and humiliation. The resolution states that it has a "zero-tolerance policy" for sexual violence perpetrated by UN Peacekepers and states that it is the responsibility for parties to armed conflict to protect the security of civilians and to train troops on the "categorical prohibition" of sexual violence. The resolution also notes the necessity of including women in post-conflict negotiations and conflict resolution in order to create durable peace, security and reconciliation.

However, issues of implementation exist within the resolution. For example, the resolution states:

Demands that all parties to armed conflict immediately take appropriate measures to protect civilians, including women and girls, from all forms of sexual violence, which could include, inter alia, enforcing appropriate military disciplinary measures and upholding the principle of command responsibility, training troops on the categorical prohibition of all forms of sexual violence against civilians...(Resolution 1820, OP 3).

However, in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo--where woman are being raped on a daily basis and rule of law does not exist—-it is not likely this resolution will be enforced. Therefore, the question remains: how will parties to armed conflict be punished for violating the resolution?

Aside issues of punishment for non-compliance, the resolution offers a means toward justice for women who have experienced sexual violence in periods of armed conflict.

Notes that rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute a war crime, a crime against humanity, or a constitutive act with respect to genocide, stresses the need for the exclusion of sexual violence crimes from amnesty provisions in the context of conflict resolution processes, and calls upon Member States to comply with their obligations for prosecuting persons responsible for such acts, to ensure that all victims of sexual violence, particularly women and girls, have equal protection under the law and equal access to justice, and stresses the importance of ending impunity for such acts as part of a comprehensive approach to seeking sustainable peace, justice, truth, and national reconciliation (Resolution 1820, OP 4).

This is a critcal element of Resolution 1820 and is pertinent to the post-conflict situation in Kosova. The issue of transitional justice and sexual violence committed against women has not been resolved. This resolution must be used to prevent war criminals who committed sexual violence from gaining amnesty. Furthermore, the ICTY must issue more than indictments against criminals who committed mass rape in order to restore justice and end impunity for sexual violence perpetrated against women during the war in 1999.

06/19/08

Republic of Kosovo to Open Nine Embassies

Posted By: Nicole

According to Balkan Insight, Kosovo's President Fatimir Sejdiu issued a decree on 18 June which declares that the Republic of Kosovo will open embassies in nine countries. These countries include: Albania, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States.

The Flags of Kosovo, the U.S. and Albania

06/18/08

(Restricted) Freedom of Movement

Posted By: Nicole

Flying into Kosovo is an interesting affair. It is not a simple matter. While the direct route is the fastest route, it is not the one travelled. As I was flying from Vienna to Prishtina the pilot came on the intercom and announced, "Today our route from Vienna will take us through Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Macedonia, whereupon we will enter Kosovo."

Air traffic has followed these procedures since 1999, when NATO and UNMIK began administering Kosovo. Serbia does not recognize UNMIK's interim administration of Kosovo and continues to consider Kosovo a province of Serbia. Therefore, it does not recognize the Prishtina Airport and states that it is closed.

This situation is not merely an inconvenience. An incident that occurred on 3 of May had potentially life-threatening consequences. A plane bound for Prishtina International Airport declared an emergency and asked for clearance to divert through Serbian airspace in order to land at the Sofia Airport.

Balkan Insight sources within Pristina Airport confirmed the information. “The airplane had problems with gears and needed a longer runway for secure landing,” a source said. “That’s why they diverted the flight to Sofia,” ("Exclusive: Serbia, UN in Emergency Plane Row", Balkan Insight, 18 May 2008).

However, Belgrade air traffic controllers refused to allow the plane to enter Serbian airspace. In response to the situation, Joachim Ruecker (head of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo), sent a letter to the outgoing Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, expressing his concern regarding the endangerment of human lives.

"I must protest in the strongest terms the danger posed to human life by Belgrade ACC in contravention of internationally applicable norms."

The Full Text of the Letter from Joachim Ruecker to Vojislav Kostunica

Both Serbia and Montenegro's Area Control Centers (ACC) have special instructions regarding Kosovo airspace. The following information regarding procedures for Kosovo's airspace is taken from the Serbia and Montenegro vitual Area Control Center:

About Kosovo province

It is very important to understand that since 1999 the airspace of Kosovo province is not under direct supervision of ACC Beograd. This is the area NATO-UNMIK protectorate, so all ATC operations are provided by NATO Controllers. Only traffic originating from or arriving to Pristina (LYPR / PRN) may enter airspace of Kosovo province. Other traffic, which is on enroute flight, should always avoid this province, except NATO flights, flying in Lower airspace.

Traffic arriving to or originating from Pristina should always enter/exit airspace of Kosovo from/to the south, via Skopje FIR (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia-FYROM). Enter point is XAXAN, exit point is SARAX intersection (XAXAN can also be exit point but only with ATC authorization). Entering/exiting airspace of Kosovo from/to Beograd ACC is not approved.

Flight Plan to Enter and Exit Kosovo

The issue of UNMIK's administration does not end merely with flight plans. Since 1999 UNMIK has issued travel documents to Kosovar citizens. However, Serbia does not recognize passports or travel documents issued by UNMIK and Kosovar citizens with these documents cannot enter into Serbia.

In order to enter Serbia (or travel into Montenegro, Macedonia or Bulgaria from Serbian borders) Kosovars have begun to exchange their UNMIK documents for Serbian passports (which maintain the name Yugoslavia).

UNMIK and Serbian Passport

The travel documents issued by UNMIK do not merely cause problems for Kosovars. The UNMIK stamp issued by customs when flying into Prishtina Airport also causes problems for visitors. Travelers who enter Kosovo prior to travelling elsewhere in Serbia cannot enter through any border that Kosovo shares with Serbia. Travellers must first exit Kosovo through Macedonia, and then re-enter Serbia through the border that Macedonia shares with Serbia.

Vuko Antonijevic, the president of the Serbian government's Coordination Center for Kosovo, says that the government has every right to refuse to recognize UNMIK documents.

"UNMIK has no right to introduce any kind of travel document. Unfortunately the [Serbian] government was initially caught off guard, given that one set of officials should have remained in Kosovo to issue travel documents," Antonijevic says. "Freedom of movement is certainly a problem, but what can I do?" ("Kosovo: Trouble at the Border", Radio Free Europe, 11 September 2007).

One of the new responsibilities of the Kosovo government will be to issue Republic of Kosova travel documents. While this is another sign of statehood, it does not change the fact that Serbia will not recognize the documents. This political reality will continue to restrict Kosovar freedom of movement--unless one has a Serbian passport.

06/16/08

Kosovo's Constitution and the Political Situation

Posted By: Nicole

Yesterday, the 15th of June, Kosovo's Constitution entered into effect. Although this was a large step toward statehood, it can be interpeted as mainly symbolic, since many issues have yet to be decided. The implementation of the Constitution means that the duties of the UN will be transferred to the government, while the EU mission to Kosovo (EULEX) will serve law and order functions. KFOR will remain to provide security at the borders, but it is understood that the UN must leave in order to provide room for the transition to EULEX.

However, the UN has stated that because of tensions in Mitrovica (the divided part of northern Kosovo) the UN will not yet leave, fearing a security vaccuum will develop. This is partially due to the fact that the Serb enclaves in Mitrovica and Gracanica do not recognize Albanian authority and state they will form their own assembly to govern Serb majority areas. This situation aggravates ethnic tensions and bodes ill for the Kosovo government's administration of the territory. Furthermore, Kosovar Serbs are boycotting or abandoning the Kosovo Police Force (originally the Kosovo Police Service), which is one of the few multi-ethnic institutions in Kosovo.

Peter Feith, the EU's envoy to Kosovo stated, "There could be a problem in implementing our plans if we do not have acceptance in Serb communities in Kosovo. Much will depend on whether we have a new government in Belgrade that is EU-friendly," ("Tension Mounts as Kosovo Constitution Takes Effect", International Herald Tribune, 15 June 2008).

These complications are futher exacerbated by the fact that Russia and Serbia deem the EU Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) illegal, as neither Serbia or Russia have recognized Kosovo's independence. Serbia and Russia further claim that the deployment of EULEX is illegal because the mission has not been approved by the UN Security Council, unlike UNSCR 1244--which provides the mandate for UNMIK's (the United Nation's Mission in Kosovo) administration of Kosovo.

Serbia and Russian have attempted to block EULEX's deployment to Kosovo, while UN Secretary General (Ban Ki Moon) offered a plan in which the EU Mission would deploy underneath the UN mandate. Serbia and Russia reject Ban Ki Moon's plan and therefore UNMIK must remain in place until the issue is resolved. However, UNMIK's presence causes problems as well, since Kosovo's Constitution states that the UN will turn over its duties to the Kosovo government.

"We now have a situation with one lame-duck authority and its successor unable to take over," said Alex Anderson, Kosovo project director at the Pristina branch of the International Crisis Group, an independent, nonprofit organization. "This risks unraveling key institutions like the police and judiciary and undermining a fragile democracy," ("Tension Mounts as Kosovo Constitution Takes Effect", International Herald Tribune, 15 June 2008).

Currently, only one in seven of EU personnel is currently in place. It is believed that the 2,200 EU personnel involved in the judicial mission will be deployed by October.

BBC News Coverage, Kosovo

06/13/08

News from Kosovo

Posted By: Nicole

This week an english newspaper, the Kosov@ Press, made its debut in Prishtina. This is the first english newspaper of Kosova and it even has its own website. Top headlines this week included the attempted robbery of Prime Minister Hashim Thaci's house and the impending implementation of Kosova's Constitution, which will occur on 15 June.

The unsuccessful robbery of Prime Minister Thaci's home occurred late on 6 June and initially caused great anxiety, as it was believed to be an assination attempt. The perpetrator is a 19 year old male who was shot on the premises of Thaci's home. The man was arrested the next day after being turned in by his father.

In other local news, the Germia swimming pool--the largest pool in Europe--will open tomorrow at 10 am.

Germia Pool

06/12/08

Kosovo/a, A Short History

Posted By: Nicole

Kosovo (or Kosova as the Albanians pronounce it) has been a historical struggle for longer than we know. Although it was the location for the most recent war in Europe, the fight for Kosovo has far deeper roots and can be traced to the earliest settlement of the land. This, after all, is what defines the struggle for Kosovo. It is not merely an ethnic conflict (which was stoked in the 80s and 90s), but an issue of who settled on the land first and therefore, who has the rightful claim to the territory.

Kosovar Albanians state that they are descendents of the Illyrians, tribes that first settled in the Balkan region around 1000 B.C. It is believed that the Slavic tribes called Rascians (from which the modern Serbian race descended) invaded from the north in the sixth or seventh century. However, as the author Tim Judah notes in War and Revenge, history is unclear until the middle ages--when Serbian nobility develops under the dynasty of Nemanjic (Judah, 2000, 2). Around the 14th century the sun began to set on the kingdom of Serbia, as the famous battle of Kosovo Polje in 1389 signaled the beginning of its descent. The capture of Serbia by the Ottomans was complete by 1459. After the Ottoman conquest of Serbia, it was believed that two large migrations occurred. The first was around 1689 when Serbs began to migrate northwards to areas such as Bosnia and Vojvodina. The second shift occurred during the Serb-Turkish wars of 1876-78 when about two million people (Muslim and Christian) fled their homes (Judah, 2000, 12).

In 1878 Serbia was recognized as an independent state and Albanians, fearing that their land would be swallowed by the surrounding Christian states, created the League of Prizren. In 1912, the League of Prizren met again, as they attempted to keep Albanian inhabited land together. However, in 1913 the Treaty of London delineated the territory that was to be Albania and made Kosovo a part of Serbia. During the period of Tito’s rule over communist Yugoslavia, he formed a multi-ethnic army and clamped down on nationalist movements among the different ethnicities that comprised Yugoslavia. However, in 1974 Tito altered the Constitution so that Kosovo was given autonomy and therefore had a vote for the presidency (there were eight votes total—-Kosovo, Vojvodina, Serbia, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Macedonia, Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro).

During the 1970s and 1980s, some Serbs emigrated to central Serbia or Vojvodina due to the pull from industrialization, while Serb intellectuals were pulled toward Belgrade. Meanwhile, in Kosovo, Albanians began to hold many important government positions and the high Albanian birth rate led the Serbian population (as a proportion of the whole population) to decline from 27.5 percent in 1948 to 14.9 percent in 1981 to 10.9 percent in 1991(Judah, 2000, 44). In March 1989, Slododan Milosevic gained the votes in order to amend the Constitution so that Vojvodina and Kosovo were no longer autonomous. This meant that Milosevic would have 4 out of the 8 votes required for the federal presidency because he controlled the votes of Vojvodina, Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro. Therefore, Milosevic became the president of Serbia in May 1989.

Following this period Milosevic sacked many Albanians holding important government positions and dismantled the Albanian school curriculum, while spots at Prishtina University largely went to Serb students. In 1990, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) was created as a parallel government with Ibrahim Rugova as its first president. The aim of the party was passive resistance, and while it did not make any large decisions (as the Serbian government was largely in control), it did bring in remittances from the Albanian diaspora abroad.

Around 1996, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was formed, and served as the more radical voice in Albanian society that wanted to counter Serb oppression against the Albanian people. The first clashes occurred between the KLA and Serb forces between 1997 and 1998. However, when the KLA began full-scale war against Serbia in 1998, Serb forces responded by entering villages and massacring people suspected of being KLA or KLA sympathizers. It was one of these massacres—Drenica—that led the international community to act. In March 1999, NATO went to war against Serbia and Milosevic and war ended in June, with Milosevic’s capitulation.

Ibrahim Rugova's Grave

KLA Memorial

06/08/08

Article for KWN Newsletter

Posted By: Nicole

Here is the article covering the documentary film, "Women, the Forgotten Face of War" that will be published in the KWN's newsletter:

On 4 June at the Oda Theatre, filmmakers Susan Muska and Greta Olafsdottir presented their documentary, “Women, the Forgotten Face of War”, with the support of the Kosova Women’s Network (KWN). The documentary narrates the stories of Sevdie Ahmeti, Ardiana, Brita, Ema, Aferdita, Nafie, Tatiana, Kada and Kosovare Kelmendi. It opens with footage from RTV21 during the war in 1999. A group of women, including Sevdie Ahmeti, are attempting to bring bread to members of a refugee camp when they are stopped by the police. Their path is blocked by the policemen who tell the women that what they are doing is illegal and they have fifteen minutes to return to their starting position. With great poise and barely concealed contempt, Sevdie states, “They are afraid even of women with bread.”

The documentary focuses on rape, but also explores the effects that the war and the loss of family members had on women. For example, Kada lost her husband, son and daughter in law. She became head of the household and experienced immense difficulty raising and supporting her family. Nafie struggled to gain her family’s recognition as she sought to attend the university. After their acceptance of her academic endeavors, she then worried about failing in school and disappointing her father. Ema and Brita were separated from their families while in the refugee camp and Brita had seen her father taken away by the Serb police. Thereafter, Brita supported her family until her father returned home. Ardiana was torn as to whether she should return home to Kosovo or begin her life anew elsewhere. Kosovare Kelmendi lost her father (a famous human rights lawyer assassinated by the Serb secret police) and two brothers on the first night that NATO began bombing. She therefore entered her father’s profession to continue protecting the human rights of others.

The documentary also explores the issue of rape as a weapon that was used against women during the war. Sevdie explains that in this instance, women were the targets and rape was the methodology for conducting war. The Serbs aimed to “destroy the substance of society,” and therefore targeted women and children—a gross violation of the Geneva Convention due to their non-combatant status. The manner in which the Serbs raped women and the atrocities they committed against pregnant women have left deep psychological and physical scars. Aferdita admits that she still has not healed—that it is a myth that one will ever be healed because the scenes from that day will live with one forever. However, each of these women conveys a message of strength and they have lived to tell their story and empower other women. This resilience comes from the fact that women and children truly are “the substance of society”. Had these women relinquished hope then the Serb war criminals would have achieved their goal. While many war criminals (such as Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic) have not been brought to justice, these women fought on and sought to help others because they refused to let their society be destroyed.

Women, the Forgotten Face of War

Posted By: Nicole

On Wednesday night, the KWN held a screening of the documentary "Women, the Forgotten Face of War," at the Oda Theatre in Prishtina. The documentary producers, Susan Muska and Greta Olafsdottir were in Prishtina to present the film and make comments after its screening. The film begins during the 1999 war in Kosovo and follows the stories of several Kosovar women. The documentary gives these women a voice in order to share what occurred during the war and meets with them again to continue their story several years after the war. In addition to the presence of Susan and Greta, two of the women from the film--Sevdie Ahmeti (a human rights activist who opened a shelter for women in Prishtina) and Nafie (a girl who pursued her dreams of attending the university after the war)--were also present at the screening. I will be writing an article about the film for the KWN newsletter that will be published at the end of June. I also filmed and present here Susan and Greta's comments after the film regarding their motivation for making the documentary. Susan and Greta are speaking, while the executive director of the Kosova Women's Network (Igo Rogova) is translating into Albanian.

Susan Muska and Greta Olafsdottir Speaking on their Motivation for the Film, "Women, the Forgotten Face of War"

06/05/08

First Day in Prishtina

Posted By: Nicole

Jet-lagged and entirely out of my wits, I arrived at the office of the Kosova Women's Network to meet Nicole and the other girls who work there. Nicole and I walked around for a bit, enjoyed a Machiatto and then had dinner at a restaurant called Tiffany--where they cook authentic Kosovar cuisine and use only ingredients from Kosovo. I then got settled in my apartment and met my roommates. They are interesting women--Rema is a doctor and her cousin, Ganijmet, is a television reporter for RTV21 (a news station in Kosovo that was started by two Albanian women). I asked Ganijmet about her position at RTV21 and told her that I am also interested in journalism--she told me that she would take me there and give me a tour. After heading to bed with crazy, earth-shattering thunderstorms and no power, I woke up to the imam calling followers to morning prayer--at 4 am. Unfortunately I am still very jet-lagged. This fact was further upheld when I woke up once again--this time at 4pm.

The View of Prishtina from My Bedroom Window

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fyPqI8oPuM

05/30/08

A New Chapter

Posted By: Nicole

I am back in DC for a few days before I leave for Kosovo. I recently returned from a visit to California, where I closed a significant chapter of my life. Since my earliest memories California has been my life, my blood, my home. UCLA was where I made my college memories and the surrounding areas of Santa Monica and Malibu offered respite from stress. Visiting California and driving these familiar roads--the infamously trafficky 405, Malibu Canyon and Kanan--made me nostalgic, for I was filled with the knowledge that this was no longer my home. These sentiments sprung from the fact that I was saying goodbye to a place that I have loved for the better part of 20 years.

While finishing this chapter of my life was difficult, it is appropriate to let go before I embark for Kosovo this summer. Releasing the past and beginning a new and exciting chapter of my life will allow me to gain and give the most during my internship this summer. Recognizing that while multiple memories are behind me, there are still many yet to be created. My summer internship with the Kosova Women's Network (KWN) will be the opening of a new chapter--one with themes of greater self-discovery, deeper understanding of others and pursuit of social justice.

The Kosova Women's Network was founded by Igo Rugova in 2000 and is a network of 85 women's groups. KWN works on behalf of women, regardless of age, sexual orientation, ethnicity or religion. KWN has worked to improve women's literacy, reveal the effects of domestic violence on women, has formed "Get out the Vote" campaigns, promoted a movie called "Lilja Forever" (regarding human trafficking) and worked to develop political platforms for women.

This summer I will serve as KWN's media and advocacy intern and work in different capacities. I will compose public relations materials profiling the women's groups associated with the KWN, further develop the the Women's Peace Coalition (a partnership between KWN and the Women in Black in Serbia), as well as covering the events led by the Peace Caravan as it makes its way through Kosovo.

The purpose of this blog will be to chronicle this summer and the work of the KWN, as well as profiling the stories of the women who work within the KWN. This blog is my way of using multimedia (video, photography and the internet) to tell a story--a story that will hopefully become a long-term journey.

From California to Kosovo
From California to Kosovo

Picture taken from travel website: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/20ab6/afdf9/



Nicole Slezak is working with the Kosova Women’s Network (KWN) as a 2008 AP Peace Fellow. The mission of KWN is to support, protect, and promote the rights of women and girls throughout Kosova, regardless of their political beliefs, religion, age, level of education, sexual orientation, and ability. KWN fulfills its mission through the exchange of experience and information, partnership and networking, research, advocacy, and service.

Nicole will help the Kosova Women’s Network fulfill its mission by advocating for women’s rights through the KWN website, press releases, and journalistic essays.

Nicole is excited to be working with Igo Rogova and the wonderful women at KWN. KWN was formed in 2000 and is networked with other women’s groups – including those from Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, and Egypt. KWN offers guidance and training so these groups can support their communities. KWN has led the way on many issues – including the early detection and fight against breast cancer, raising awareness regarding the trafficking of women, promoting the reduction of violence against women, advocating for the inclusion of women on the negotiation team regarding the final status of Kosovo, and for the reformation of electoral procedures.

Nicole hopes to use her background in communications and interest in journalism to cover KWN’s advocacy and to advance the rights of women in the region.

Nicole is currently working toward a Master’s Degree in security studies at Georgetown University. She is focusing on international security, with a special interest in the small arms trade and their effects on civilian populations. Nicole is additionally concerned with the promotion of equal rights for women in all societies, as well as advocating against human trafficking.

In 2007, Nicole received her BA in communication studies and political science from the University of California, Los Angeles. In 2006, Nicole studied Czech in the Czech Republic on a National Security Education Program scholarship. After graduating from Georgetown, Nicole hopes to work in Eastern Europe and to continue advocating for the rights of women.

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