Project: Dealing with the Past

1. Meeting with Representatives of RAE Community in Prishtina

09 November 2010

The Centre for Research, Documentation and Publication (CRDP) from Kosovo, has launched the first meeting with RAE community leaders in light of dealing with the past activities where the right to know and right to justice was debated. In that regard, the initiative for RECOM (for establishing a Regional Commission for finding the facts of war crimes and other major violations of human rights committed in the wars of 1991-2001 in the territory of former Yugoslavia) was also tackled, where participants were informed about the process of consultations in Kosovo and the region, and the draft Statute of the RECOM was discussed.

A total of six representatives of RAE communities participated. They are of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian ethnicity, coming from Prizren, Prishtina and other places from Kosovo.

B.S. claimed that violent unrest in Kosovo which broke out on 17 March 2004, led to a dozen of Roma families being deported from Vucitrn/Vushtrri; thus he suggests that the Regional Commission should cover the outcome of such riots, and the mandate of RECOM should cover the period from 1991 until 2004. According to him, some 300 Roma families living in Vucitrn/Vushtrri before 1999 have left, and only 15 Roma families still remain there. H.Q. insisted that: ‘Without finding the bodies of the missing persons, even a symbolic apology from the state authorities won’t be enough’. Z.M., (Former MP) from Prizren, supported the idea that all communities should confront their past wrongdoings in Kosovo, and confirmed the hardship of Roma people in surviving, getting access to education, security and freedom of movement.

In regard to the RECOM initiative, Z.M. (Former MP) was positive and confident that the Kosovo Government will positively accept the idea of setting up the Truth Commission for war crimes in Former Yugoslavia. Additionally, A.M pointed out two main problems that RAE communities face in Kosovo: 1) Manipulation of RAE communities from both the Albanian and previously from the Serbian community, 2) Discrimination based on skin color (ex. It is difficult for Roma people to obtain documents in the municipality because they are not equally treated due to their skin color).

At the end, three out of six participants present at this meeting signed up for the Coalition for RECOM, and expressed their willingness to participate in other similar meetings and consultations, whether national or regional.

2. Meeting with Women, Victims of War from Skenderaj

16 November 2010

The CRDP launched the second meeting with women, victims of war on 16th of November 2010 in Skënderaj/Srbica, Kosovo.

Women were informed about the Initiative for REKOM (for establishing a Regional Commission for finding the facts of war crimes and other major violations of human rights committed in the wars of 1991-2001 in the territory of former Yugoslavia), and the process of dealing with the past in Kosovo and the region. Sixteen women participated in this meeting.

Nora Ahmetaj, director of (CRDP) and Rona Nishliu (National Coordinator of the consultative process in Kosovo for RECOM) informed the participants in detail about the importance of establishing RECOM, the reasons for this initiative, the course of the consultative process to date, the experiences of countries with similar stories and how the activity will proceed after the consultation process will end.

One of the main topics of discussion at this meeting was the needs and demands of victims’ families, which unfortunately live without any hope for a better status in the society. A single mother of two orphans from Skënderaj/Srbica supported the Initiative for RECOM, and considered this as a point of hope in her ocean of despair because she feels neglected by Kosovo society and institutions. ‘We have been stripped of our dignity; so far we do not feel part of Kosovo society’. What was done to find the missing persons?  How is it possible that 12 years after the war, there is no information on their fate?

S.V., a single mother of two children from Skënderaj/Srbica, says that institutions recognized the families of those who were killed, but they do a lot of favoritism in the allocation of benefits and pensions for the families of martyrs. According to her there is no equal distribution of reparations for the families of victims. She continues: ‘I hope that if accepted, the RECOM will take into consideration our requests, and will support us despite many allegations in regard to its implementation’.

At the end of the meeting, all sixteen participants signed the declaration of joining the Coalition for RECOM, and already unanimously stated that every mother and woman in this world and all families of victims, no matter which country they come from, have the right to know about the fate of their family members and should enjoy a better treatment in their society.

3. National Consultations with Women, Victims of War

04 December 2010

The Initiative for REKOM (for establishing a Regional Commission for finding the facts of war crimes and other major violations of human rights committed in the wars of 1991-2001 in the territory of former Yugoslavia) launched the first national consultation with women, victims of war on 4th of December 2010, in Rahovec/Orahovac, Kosovo.

The Centre for Research, Documentation and Publication (CRDP) from Kosovo, has organized and implemented such consultations, where a total of 32 women participated. They are of Albanian, Serbian and Roma ethnicity, coming from Rahovec/Orahovac municipality: villages Hocha e Madhe/Velika Hocha and Krusha e Madhe/Velika Krusha.

F. H. from Velika Krusha/Krusha e Madhe expressed skepticism as regards the commitment of the municipal authorities in Rahovec/Orahovac to register the missing and other victims since 1999. According to her ‘the total number of victims from this municipality amounted to around 900 dead and missing, while only in Krusha e Madhe/Velika Krusha there are 226 dead and 68 still missing’.

While M. R. from Velika Krusha/Krusha e Madhe insisted that only ‘by mutual cooperation and communication of all communities in the municipality and beyond it, and with an exchange of information on the missing, which would help identify the perpetrators of such crimes, the families of victims would be relieved of anxiety’. She hopes that only the formation of an independent commission would bring justice to all.

According to T. S. from Hocha e Madhe/Velika Hocha; ‘the formation of a regional commission would shed light and expose the truth related to her husband missing since 1999’. She still hopes for justice and for the locating of his body. She also wants to learn who had committed that crime and why.

In the course of discussions women displayed the need for sharing their experiences of the events of 1998 and 1999. They adamantly demanded the detection of war criminals. When the panelists brought up the question how would they react should such criminals become known and available, the reactions were diversified. S. V. demanded that criminals who had kidnapped her brother in 1999 be handcuffed and properly punished. M. B. brought up some positive evidence of Yugoslav police and soldiers who had rescued some Albanian individuals during the war in Rahovec/Orahovac.

At the end of the meeting, 27 women victims present at these consultations, signed up for the Coalition for RECOM and expressed their willingness to participate in other similar meetings, whether national or regional, while always in search for truth about war crimes victims.

4. Preparatory Meeting with Women, Victims of War from Village Krusha e Madhe

11 December 2010

In light of the initiative to inform the families of victims and other relevant stakeholders within Kosovo civil society on ‘Dealing with the Past’ initiatives thus discuss and assess their needs, interests and positions vis-à-vis institutions and Kosovar society, the CRDP organized a preparatory meeting with 22 women victims of war from Krusha e Madhe/Velika Krusha. This is a village were nearly 6000 people live today, located in the municipality of Rahovec/Orahovac and the setting of one of the worst massacres committed during the Kosovo War. Between March 25 and 27, 1999, members of the Serbian military, paramilitary, and police killed 241 civilians, including five women and seven children. Serbian forces also burned 793 houses and destroyed parts of the school, the cultural centre, historical monuments and most of the villagers’ agricultural equipment.

Throughout discussion with women victims of the war, three questions were raised; their needs (the right to know the truth, reparations and legal/institutional protection, and if the victims received a fair and effective remedy so far).

In regard to their interests, women victims keep searching for recognition of their sufferings, while they demonstrated an interest to support any national or regional initiative which will promote peace, the truth-seeking commissions, and financial and /or symbolic reparations for the victims.

This was the third in the series of the meetings which will be organized in light of ‘Dealing with the Past’ initiative.