Demonstrations in Decani - Threats against UNMIK for protecting Visoki Decani Monastery continue

Published on April 14, 2006, KIM Info-Service

Category: Violence Against Christian Serbs and Their Holy Places



Excuses that we are dealing with a small group of irresponsible individuals who do not know what they are doing simply don't hold because what we have is a pre-planned and well-organized campaign that undermines the authority of the international community and further discourages the process of returns and inclusion of Serbs in Kosovo institutions, said Bishop Teodosije, who will be informing the highest representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church regarding these latest developments. The extremists are also damaging the interests of their own people with these shameful disturbances, concluded the Bishop. The lack of a public, responsible and timely reaction by the highest representatives of Kosovo institutions will be a very negative signal to all Kosovo Serbs, according to circles in the Serbian Orthodox Church.

We have asked through international representatives that the highest representatives of Kosovo institutions and Decani municipality clearly and unambiguously condemn and stop the campaign against the monastery being waged through demonstrations and through certain media by the groups that signed the ultimatum letter. We expect them to clearly state whether they support the work of the UN Mission and the international community in efforts to ensure adequate protection for the miniorities and Orthodox Christian religious sites and what kind of contribution they can make to this effort, said Bishop Teodosije of Lipljan, the abbot of Visoki Decani Monastery, commenting on Thursday's demonstrations. This is a test of sincerity and accountability for Kosovo officials who need to demonstrate not just with words but with concrete activities whether they see the future of Kosovo and Metohija in anarchy or whether they are truly prepared to strive for the vision of a democratic and European society, said Bishop Teodosije in a statement for the KIM Info Service.



Apparently the intent of Kurti's activists is to physically prevent UNMIK staff from carrying out their regular duties and to thus interrupt the implementation of the UNMIK chief's executive order, expected to be signed today, according to which the validity of the safety area around the monastery will be extended for the next six months. The activists claim that they will protest until they achieve their goal and they have already placed on public display a list of five internationals whom they wish to expel from the town of Decani. However, it is the opinion of informed circles in Pristina that this superficially unserious campaign hides the intent of certain political and extremist structures to use Kurti as their puppet in order to practically expel the last representatives of the international community from town and prevent the administration of the Special Zoning Area entrusted to UNMIK staff and KFOR troops. In order to do this a tent has been pitched in front of the building housing UNMIK's offices where Kurti's activists keep watch in order to physically prevent UNMIK staff from coming to work and the UN offices from conducting their regular tasks. Some in UN fear that these hooligans might even reach for a weapon since armed persons (KIA) have threatened UN staff with execution and kidnapping last autumn in the Decani area. This open threat to the UN Mission and active incitation of hatred toward the Serbian Orthodox Church, in the opinion of international representatives, is a serious challenge to the UN Mission but also a rather good indicator of the intentions of extremist circles in Kosovo. "Self-determination has very little support in Decani and without at least the passive acquiescence of the authorities Kurti would be hard pressed to bring together ten people," a representative of UN international police told KIM Info Service. He added that the relatively poor showing at Kurti's demonstrations after the flamboyant ultimatum supported by several organizations that could bring together thousands of people shows that the problem is not arising spontaneously from the people but is instead dictated by specific political and paramilitary circles with their own interests, especially drug and weapons smuggling across the border with nearby Montenegro and Albania.



According to well-informed circles in Pristina, senior diplomatic representatives and the UN Mission have asked local party leaders of [Ramush Haradinaj's] Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) to refrain from lending public support to Kurti's demands. They have clearly pointed out that what AAK leaders are saying and what is happening in one of the municipalities governed by this party is hardly in synch. According to unofficial information Ramush Haradinaj himself also urged the members of the organizations that signed the ultimatum to Mr. Petersen not to join in the protest announced in it. As a result of this number of demonstrators was far smaller than expected even though Self-determination activists spent all morning passing out flyers calling on youth and citizens to join in the protest. Of the people who signed the ultimatum, the only one seen at Thursday's demonstrations was the head of the KLA Veterans' Association Avdyl Mushkolaj, who did not make any speeches. Avdyl Mushkolaj headed the demonstrations in Decani in March 2004 when all UN vehicles were torched. Kosovo police kept order and the main road was not blocked during the protest meeting.

On Thursday, April 13, at 12:00 noon Kurti organized demonstrations in the center of Decani in front of the building housing UNMIK's offices. According to assessments by international observers, some one hundred demonstrators took part, shouting slogans against UNMIK and the protection of the monastery. During the demonstrations, which took place without incident, Kurti repeated his groundless and malicious accusations against Visoki Decani Monastery with "testimony" provided by a few local Albanians who allegedly cannot freely work their land within the safety area.



The leader of the ultraradical and nationalistic organization VETEVENDOSJE (Self-determination) Albin Kurti has begun to carry out in practice the threats he recently published in a ultimatum addressed to UNMIK chief Soren Jessen-Petersen. Six days ago Albin Kurti, together with several extremist organizations from the Decani area (Balli Kombetar, Kosovo Liberation Army veterans, etc.) threatened that if Petersen extended his executive order on the protection of the safety area around Visoki Decani Monastery, he would block the work of UNMIK and the protection of the monastery.

We have asked through international representatives that the highest representatives of Kosovo institutions and Decani municipality clearly and unambiguously condemn and stop the campaign against the monastery being waged through demonstrations and through certain media by the groups that signed the ultimatum letter. We expect them to clearly state whether they support the work of the UN Mission and the international community in efforts to ensure adequate protection for the minority population and Orthodox Christian religious sites and what kind of contribution they can make to this effort, said Bishop Teodosije of Lipljan, the abbot of Visoki Decani Monastery, commenting on Thursday's demonstrations. This is a test of sincerity and accountability for Kosovo officials who need to demonstrate not just with words but with concrete activities whether they see the future of Kosovo and Metohija in anarchy or whether they are truly prepared to strive for the vision of a democratic and European society, said Bishop Teodosije in a statement for the KIM Info Service


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