The protests took place on Friday as the parliament gathered to elect a new head of state in an election marred by violence both inside the chamber and on the streets of Pristina.
Kosovo’s opposition MPs are furious over a government deal with Serbia to create an association giving greater powers to Kosovo’s Serb minority — a move they fear will increase the influence of Belgrade. Despite the unrest MPs elected foreign minister and former premier Hashim Thaci as president.
From Bosnia-Herzegovina to Greece, no Balkan country is free of political turbulence, economic distress and social unrest. But the turmoil in Kosovo is particularly worrying because of the potential impact on Europe’s refugee and migrant crisis, The Financial Times adds:
Part of the problem lies in a deal, initialed in August by the governments of Kosovo and Serbia, to enshrine extensive rights of autonomy for the ethnic Serb minority. Ethnic Albanian nationalists, concentrated in Vetevendosje (Self-Determination), Kosovo’s main opposition party, hate the deal. If anything, the ethnic Serbs hate it even more.
More fundamentally, Kosovo’s mounting chaos is the price that the US and EU are paying for having consistently emphasised superficial political stability over the newborn state’s deeper needs — law and order, a corruption-free political class and the uprooting of organised crime.
“Kosovo is like a child who has always been held by the hand, so that it doesn’t fall over,” says Ariana Qosaj-Mustafa, a London-educated legal expert and program director at the Kosovo Institute for Policy Research and Development, a Pristina think-tank. “The trouble is, now we’re all worried about possible violence.”
In the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Serbian President Slobadan Milosevec stripped Kosovo province of its autonomy in 1989, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission adds:
Conflict escalated until war broke out in February of 1998. On March 24, 1999, NATO intervened with airstrikes. Seventy-eight days and 38,000 sorties later, Serbia accepted withdrawal of its forces.
War crimes, including torture, killings, rapes, and forced expulsions, were committed during the armed conflict, the vast majority of which have been attributed to Serbian police or the Yugoslav Army. By the time the conflict ended, according to State Department records, Serbia’s systematic campaign to expel ethnic Albanians from Kosovo had led to the looting and burning of more than 1,200 residential areas; the killing of at least 6,000 civilians; and the forced displacement of over 1.5 million Kosovar Albanians, at least 90% of the population.
The Unidentified is a 40-minute documentary that examines some of the war crimes committed by Serbian forces against Kosovar Albanians during the Kosovo war. Based on two years’ of research, the film focuses on attacks on villages around the town of Pec, and identifies commanders and officers alleged to have given the orders and to have removed the victims’ bodies to mass graves in Serbia. Among those named is a prime suspect in the post-war executions of three American citizens and brothers—the Bytyqi Brothers—a crime that is the subject of a pending concurrent resolution in the House of Representatives (H. Con. Res 51). No individual has ever been found guilty for the executions of the brothers.
Following the screening, a distinguished panel will provide insights into the conflict and offer recommendations as to how Congress can help ensure accountability for those responsible.
Please join the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for a film screening followed by a panel discussion of The Unidentified, a film by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN – a partner of the National Endowment for Democracy) that explores some of the most brutal and unresolved war crimes of the Kosovo war.
Diane Orentlicher, Professor of International Law at American University’s Washington College of Law
Marija Ristic, Reporter, screenwriter and journalist
Fatose Bytyqi, Brother of Ylli, Mehmet, and Agron Bytyqi, American citizens executed in Serbia
Robert A. Hand, Policy Advisor, Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
Thursday, March 3rd, 2016
4:00 – 5:30 PM
1539 Longworth House Office Building, Capitol Hill, Washington, DC.
The screening and panel discussion will be open to members of Congress, congressional staff, the interested public and the media. For any questions, please contact David Howell (for Rep. McGovern) at 202-225-3599 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Isaac Six (for Rep. Pitts) at 202-225-2411 or Isaac.Six@mail.house.gov.