16. August. 2021. | 08:54


An epidemic of insecurity



A key feature of any democratic society that is rooted in respect for universal human rights principles and the rule of law is the responsibility, ability and readiness of the majority to accept non-majority communities. In Kosovo, this is something that is reflected in the numerous mechanisms embedded in the legislative framework designed to protect them. However, despite the significant passage of time and financial investment of the international community, the stabilization of the socio-political situation and the advancement of Serb-Albanians relations do not appear to ever have been a priority of political elites in Kosovo.

 

Over the past two decades, members of the Kosovo Serb community have been exposed to an unending spiral of threats to their security. Instead of social advancement in the form of the establishment of a safe and stable environment, we have witnessed cyclical periods of internal destabilization and harsh and divisive rhetoric on the part of certain political actors. Also worrying is the absence of public reaction from key power brokers and political elites in Kosovo to the numerous incidents of physical attacks that have been recorded as well as the often-sharp rhetoric that we have seen and heard over the past six months.

It is impossible to find any justification whatsoever for the 48 incidents that were reported by coordinators of the Rapid Reaction Response Group and covered by the bi-annual report on security incidents that have taken place in Serb communities, among which a significant number involved damage to property belonging to the Serbian Orthodox Church. This press release and accompanying illustrations do not cover the many incidents that occurred after the 30th of June, which will be the subject of a consolidated annual report. Of special concern are the many physical attacks against members of the Serb community, including the case of the returnee Dragica Gašić in Gjakova/Đakovica, who has been exposed to an unconceivable degree of pressure. Nikola Perić (a resident of the village of Zebinac) was the latest victim of a long series of assaults that are unacceptable in any circumstance and which demand an urgent and authoritative reaction from institutions in identifying and prosecuting the perpetrators of these acts.

Leaving aside any discussion of the differing views on the process of normalization of relations between Serbs and Albanians, the deafening silence of key central and local government officials, as well as the public regarding numerous security incidents directed at members of the Serb community is unfathomable. Aside from this, it is a sad fact that after two decades, political and party interests are placed above the needs of the population, which, in spite of everything, strives first and foremost for a decent standard of living.  The unstable and insecure environment in some areas of Kosovo is undoubtably highly discouraging for non-majority communities, and gives rise to one key question: Are we, as a society, unwilling to overcome prejudice, reject stereotypes and accept the fact that we share the same space, breathe the same air and enjoy equal rights regardless of religion, nationality or other affiliation? For more than a decade, the same story has been repeated about good theory and bad practice regarding the application of different mechanisms for the protection of non-majority communities in Kosovo. However, seeking an excuse in that kind of formulation is in fact seeking an alibi for institutions who have for years been violating rights of the Serb and other non-majority communities in Kosovo.

With this statement, and instead of recommendations that are seldom or rarely adopted, we demand that investigative bodies conduct thorough investigations of all unresolved cases with a special focus on physical attacks, the outcome of which will be reported monthly / quarterly to the general public.

We call on leading politicians in Kosovo to reject the rhetoric of the past and focus their energy on improving the position of the Serb and other non-majority communities with a special focus on personal security and institutional protection, without which any initiative for economic or any other progress is futile.

We call on the Prime Minister, the President, and all central-level institutions in Kosovo to publicly condemn all incidents and advocate for an effective investigation that would eliminate possible public speculation as to the motives and perpetrators of individual crimes.

We call on representatives of Srpska Lista, as a part of the Kosovo government, to insist on the institutional protection of the Serb community, as well as on an open line of communication with the Prime Minister, Police Director and relevant institutions on security issues in multi-ethnic areas that face special security risks.

We demand from local government officials, police representatives, representatives of local communities in areas with weakened security to act proactively with regular monthly meetings to assess security risks in those areas.

We appeal to the international community to join in the public condemnation of the attacks on members of the Serb community and demand from relevant institutions the consistent application of institutional mechanisms to protect the rights of Serb and other non-majority communities and the responsibility of central and local institutions to improve security in multi-ethnic communities.

We appeal to the media combat the spread of misinformation by engaging in responsible and fact-based reporting.

August 13, 2021

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