Albanians in Serbia

Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa














Humanitarian Law Center




Albanians in Serbia

Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa



A brief survey


Preševo (Preshevë), Bujanovac (Bujanoc) and Medveđa (Medvegjë) are underdeveloped municipalities in southern Serbia with a mixed Albanian, Serb and Roma population. The region is bounded on the south-west by Kosovo and the south by the Republic of Macedonia. Owing to its demographic composition, location and underdevelopment, this volatile region has been strongly and specifically influenced by politics, security and other developments in Serbia, Kosovo and the wider region.


Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa are the only municipalities in Serbia having a substantial number of members of the Albanian ethnic community. Their total number in these three municipalities is estimated at over 100,000. The first population census not boycotted by the Albanians in 21 years was taken in April 2002, but the official results have not yet been made public.


The Albanians’ fundamental and minority rights were persistently violated under the former regime. Discrimination in education, employment, information and other spheres of life was stepped up during the late 1980s. The promulgation of the Serbian constitution of 1990, followed by a succession of laws designed to bolster central government, affected local self-government in particular. In the municipality of Preševo, for instance, Albanian parties had no means at their disposal of promoting the collective rights of the Albanian community although they were in charge of local government from 1990 on. Until the intervention by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1999, the authorities engaged in systematic discrimination as well as other kinds of pressure (such as dismissals, political trials and bans on periodicals).


The NATO bombing campaign[1] coincided with grave human rights violations and open repression by paramilitary formations, the army and police. During the state of war in 1999, eleven Albanians were killed under mysterious circumstances in the municipality of Preševo alone. The cases of grave human rights violations (murder, abuse and looting) in all three municipalities followed the pattern of those taking place in Kosovo. The maltreatment of the inhabitants of the village of Veliki Trnovac on 31 March 1999, when their houses were searched and the residents given two hours to surrender ‘NATO commandos, OVK (Kosovo Liberation Army) terrorists and drugs’, was illustrative of the conduct of army and police authorities during the state of war. The majority of such incidents have never been accounted for, and the new authorities do not appear willing to confront the truth.


The Kumanovo military-technical agreement of 9 June 1999, which paved the way for the deployment of international troops in Kosovo, established, among other things, a 5-km-wide ground security zone (GSZ) along the administrative border with Kosovo. Nearly half of this zone ran through the municipalities of Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa. Under the agreement, only lightly-armed members of the police force were allowed to enter the zone, the Yugoslav Army (VJ) having had to pull out altogether.


During 2000 and the first half of 2001, the territory of the three municipalities was the scene of armed clashes between the police and the Liberation Army of Preševo, Medveđa and Bujanovac (OVPMB). OVPMB members made their fist public appearance in the village of Dobrosin, in The Bujanovac municipality, at the end of January 2000, when they attended the funeral of the slain Shaqipi brothers. Armed clashes and incidents intensified in particular after the police withdrew from their checkpoints in Albanian villages in the municipality of Bujanovac on 27 November 2000. The withdrawal was occasioned by an OVPMB attack on a police patrol in which three policemen were killed and five wounded. Within six months of the incident, over 100 people, both Albanians and Serbs, including policemen and soldiers, were killed, wounded or kidnapped.


At the beginning of 2001, the Serbian and federal governments set up a Co-ordinating Body for Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa. As part of the efforts to resolve the crisis by political means, government and Albanian community representatives opened talks early in 2001 with the mediation of NATO, the United Nations (UN) and the Organization for European Security and Cooperation (OSCE). As a result of the talks, the VJ was granted a phased re-entry into the GSZ, coupled with the simultaneous demilitarization and disbandment of the OVPMB. The GSZ itself was formally abolished under a later agreement. The Federal Assembly passed in 2002 a law under which all former OVPMB members were amnestied.


The conflict having been brought to an end, an OSCE-assisted population census was taken and a media agreement for the municipality of Bujanovac signed. With the help of international organizations, displaced Albanians started returning from Kosovo and were assisted in repairing their property. In some cases, the Serbian Government even paid for the damage. Training courses for members of a local multi-ethnic police force were organized by the OSCE and the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MUP). The ethnic composition of the 400 members of the force reflects the ethnic composition of the population of the three municipalities.


Serious human rights violations by members of the VJ and the police have become progressively few of late. However, the severe beating of three Albanians from Preševo, the killing of Agim Agushi, and the opening of fire on a group of schoolchildren on an outing in the village of Strezovce show that human rights continue to be violated by the VJ and the police. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) holds that the state authorities have not reacted to these incidents adequately because the perpetrators either remain unknown or have been punished lightly. The replies the Human Rights Committee in Bujanovac has received from the Serbian MUP in connection with its complaints indicate that the state authorities are not conducting an impartial investigation of these incidents.


Other still unexplained incidents involving the planting of explosives, hand-grenade attacks and attacks on members of the multi-ethnic police force occurred at the end of 2001 and during 2002. In their statements the authorities have blamed these incidents on members of the Albanian national community.


The HLC has carried out a systematic investigation of human and minority rights violations in the municipalities of Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa.[2] From May 2001 onwards, HLC investigators have worked in the field continuously, month by month. Their investigations in the municipality of Bujanovac cover 23 villages including all the villages in the GSZ, villages where serious human rights violations occurred within the last two years (Dobrosin, Lučane), and ethnically mixed villages (Oslare, Biljača). Other than in Preševo itself, investigations were carried out in 20 villages in the municipality, mostly those within the GSZ. Special attention was paid to settlements in which grave human rights violations occurred and those from which people were expelled.


Although the HLC focuses on human and minority rights violations in the three municipalities, its investigations encompass - owing to the plentitude and complexity of developments in the region - such other issues affecting the free exercise of minority rights as education and information in one’s native language, and participation in public affairs. The investigations include monitoring of local elections in 2002.


In the past decade, the situation of Albanians regarding education in their native language has been similar to that of other national minorities in Serbia. The conclusion reached by the HLC is that ethnocentric curricula, offensive textbook content and total centralism in decision-making continue to obstruct adequate education in the Albanian language. Furthermore, many Albanian-language schools were damaged during armed clashes and some continued to be used or occupied afterwards by the VJ. Diplomas earned in Kosovo before 1999 began to be recognized during 2001 in keeping with a recommendation by the Ministry of Education and Sport.


By 2001, Albanian media and cultural life in Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa depended entirely on private initiative. Conditions for adequate public information services in the Albanian language were established following the opening of Radio Preševo and the signing of an agreement on the basic principles for reorganizing the media establishments founded by the Bujanovac municipality.


Up to now Albanians have not participated in the conduct of public affairs in any of the three municipalities in proportion to their numerical strength. Although Albanian parties have always been in a position to form local government in the municipality of Preševo, a system of ‘positive discrimination’ favouring the minority Serbs and Roma has been in operation. Albanian parties have not participated in government in Bujanovac and Medveđa municipalities, where Albanians account for 60 and 30 per cent of the population respectively, and Albanian participation in local government bodies has been minimal. In the summer of 2002, Albanians continued to be employed only where strictly necessary (as registrars, interpreters and translators, employees of local offices in Albanian villages). Albanians are also inadequately represented in the republic’s administrative organs, courts, prosecuting offices and police force, where most positions of authority are occupied by Serbs.


The local elections of 2002, organized with OSCE assistance, have been the first major step so far towards encouraging Albanian participation in public and political life. The modified electoral system and the election results should enable Albanian representatives  in all three municipalities to take part in and influence the realization of the collective rights of the Albanian national community (such as introducing Albanian as an official language in Bujanovac and Medveđa, increasing the number of Albanians working in local self-government organs, giving Albanians greater decision-making powers on infrastructure, etc.).


1. The population


Exact data on the number and the ethnic structure of the population being unavailable, the HLC had to draw inferences.


1.1.          The 1981 census


The population census taken by the Federal Statistical Office throughout the former Yugoslavia in 1981 was the last to provide specific figures about Serbia’s population. The census put the population of the municipality of Bujanovac at 46,689, of whom just over 55 per cent (25,848) were Albanian, some 34 per cent (15,914) Serb and nearly 9 per cent (4,130) Roma. In the town itself, Serbs, Albanians and Roma lived in roughly equal numbers.[3] Other than Bujanovac, the village of Oslare was the only settlement with equal numbers of Serbs and Albanians, other settlements being almost mono-ethnic. Of the municipality’s 59 villages, 36 had a Serb population; however, none of them had more than 900 inhabitants. The largest Albanian village, Veliki Trnovac, had a population of 6,336.[4]


The municipality of Preševo had 33,948 inhabitants: over 85 per cent (28,961) Albanian, over 12 per cent (4,204) Serb and less than 1 per cent (433) Roma. Of the 35 settlements in the municipality, six including the town of Preševo were ethnically mixed, Albanians accounting for over 82 per cent of their population. Four settlements were purely Serb and 25 purely Albanian.


Of the 17,219 residents of the municipality of Medveđa, Serbs and Montenegrins accounted for some 65 per cent (11,354), Albanians some 32 per cent (5,509) and Roma some 0.5 per cent (83). Of the 44 settlements, three-quarters of which were purely Serb and Montenegrin, only three had over 1,000 inhabitants. The town of Medveđa and two other settlements were ethnically mixed with Serbs predominating. Albanians were in a majority in eight settlements.


Roma lived mostly in towns in all three municipalities.


1.2. 1991 estimates


The general census taken in 1991 was boycotted by Albanians living in Kosovo and in the municipalities of Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa. The estimate of the Albanian population is based on the 1981 census. Thus the municipality of Bujanovac had a population of 49,238, or some 30 per cent (14,660) Serb, 60 per cent (29,588) Albanian and just under 9 per cent (4,408) Roma. The population of the municipality of Preševo was put at 38,943, comprising some  34,992 Albanians (90 per cent), 3,206 Serbs (8 per cent) and 505 Roma (1.29 per cent). The Federal Statistical Office did not publish an estimate for the municipality of Medveđa; instead, it only gave the census results, according to which the population numbered 13,368 or 9,205 Serbs and Montenegrins and 3,832 Albanians.


1.3. Population estimates for 1999 to mid-2001


Due to armed clashes and threats to safety, the Albanian population of the municipalities of Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa left its homes on three occasions. The fist exodus occurred during the NATO bombing campaign in 1999, when about one-third Albanians left the region,[5] some 20,000 Albanians fleeing from the municipality of Preševo alone.[6]


Most of these Albanians returned after the bombing, though not all: international organizations reported 3,227 displaced persons from the three municipalities remaining in Kosovo in September 1999.[7] And there were an additional 3,000 or so refugees from Preševo and Bujanovac in Macedonia at the end of October 1999.[8]


The second wave of refugees started moving out in 2000, some 900 families[9] leaving their homes in the early stage of the conflict between the security forces and the OVPMB between February and June. Intensified fighting drove out about 10,000 Albanians in November, most of them to the municipality of Gnjilane in Kosovo. Displacement continued in 2001: after the third wave of refugees from Preševo and Bujanovac left at the end of May, the number of displaced persons from the region staying in Kosovo stood at roughly 14,000.[10]


It was not before the middle of 2001 that substantial numbers of Albanians returned either individually or with the assistance of the international community. International organizations put the number of Albanian returnees to Preševo, Medveđa and Bujanovac at approximately 5,300.[11] On the other hand, a spokesman for the government’s Co-ordinating Body cited a figure of 8,346.[12] By October 2001, 1,263 displaced persons had returned to the municipality of Preševo, with some 400 still remaining in Kosovo. Of the 247 refugee families from the villages of Zabrince, Pribovce, Ravno Bučje, Suharno and Novo Selo in the northernmost part of the municipality of Bujanovac, an area called Malesija Bujanovac, only 90 returned between June and the middle of September 2001. The 300 or so Albanians who remained in the municipality of Medveđa were rejoined by some 400 who returned after the end of hostilities.[13]


There has been no mass return of the remaining Albanians during 2002 so far. They have been visiting their homes with the help of international organizations but have not yet made up their minds to go back. The exact number of internally displaced Albanians staying in Kosovo ought to be known after the publication of the results of the Serbian population census incorporating a census of internally displaced persons from the three municipalities.


1.4. Estimates for 2001


According to estimates by international organizations, the population of the municipality of Preševo totalled about 46,000, 92 per cent of which were Albanian, 7 per cent Serb and 1 per cent Roma. The municipality of Bujanovac had a population of 49,000 (50 per cent Albanian, 36 per cent Serb and 14 per cent Roma), and the municipality of Medveđa 13,500 (67 per cent Serb, 32 per cent Albanian and 1 per cent Roma).[14]


1.5. The 2002 census


The official figures for this census taken in Serbia in April 2002 are yet to be made public. The census in the municipalities of Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa was especially important in that the electoral registers for local elections due in July were compiled on the basis of its results. Although the Albanian community took part in the preparation of the census, its response was uncertain. The Albanians insisted that all internally displaced persons from these municipalities currently staying in Kosovo should be included in the census[15] and that the field census-takers should be accompanied by OSCE representatives. The census was eventually taken on special forms by teams comprising one Serb and one Albanian; the OSCE representatives, who were present at and engaged in the proceedings, used a Pristina data base of internally displaced persons.


The only official data in connection with the census was announced by Rasim Ljajić, the federal minister for national and ethnic communities, who said during a visit to Medveđa that the municipality had 11,823 residents, of whom some 30 per cent were Albanians.[16] After the local elections held on 28 July 2002, the Serbian deputy prime minister and president of the government’s Co-ordinating Body, Nebojša Čović, declared: ‘There are definitely more Albanians than there are Serbs, so one ought not to spread the illusion that the Serbs prevail where actually there aren’t all that many of them.’[17] It was the first statement by a government official referring to the proportion of Serbs and Albanians in Bujanovac.


2. Human and minority rights violations up to 2000


Although the human and minority rights of ethnic Albanians of Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa had been violated substantially ever since 1989, the gravest violations occurred during the NATO bombing campaign in 1999.


2.1. The Situation Between 1989 and 1999


The attitude of the Serbian authorities towards Albanians in the three municipalities deteriorated after the abolition of Kosovo’s autonomy in 1989. Infringements of the right to work and exclusion of Albanians from public life, especially from educational institutions, were commonplace during the late 1980s and the early 1990s.


2.1.1. Dismissals of professors and others in 1989


The fist violation of the right to work and of the minority right to education in national language involved the dismissal of 11 distinguished Albanian professors from the Education Centre in Preševo in 1989, the institution having been branded ‘a hotbed of Albanian nationalism and irredentism’.[18] Among the dismissed professors were Riza Halimi, current president of the Preševo Municipal Assembly; Naser Aziri, current president of the Executive Committee of the Preševo Municipal Assembly; Behlul Nasufi, director of the Culture Centre; Nazmi Jashari, director of the Welfare Work Centre; and Seladin Avdiu, director of the Pre-school Institution in Preševo.


Ramadan Ahmeti of Bujanovac, a candidate of the first Albanian party in the area, the  Party for Democratic Action (PDD), was dismissed after Serbia’s first multi-party elections in 1990 for absenting himself from work for one day for taking part in campaigning.[19]


Ymer Ymeri, a case officer at the Secretariat for National Defence was sent on a 24-month paid leave on 1 January 1992 with the explanation that he remained ‘unappointed’ under a new job schedule.[20] When his leave expired, his employment contract was terminated. His complaint to the Co-ordinating Body submitted on 7 June 2001 was dismissed by the Ministry of Defence as having been submitted too late.[21]


2.1.2. Media freedom violations and trials


Sevdail Hyseni, the editor-in-chief and managing editor of the Albanian-language periodical Jehona, was penalized in 1994 for distributing copies of the periodical.[22] The ruling by the municipal magistrate was later set aside, but on February 23 the same year the State Security Department Centre in Vranje filed criminal charges against Hyseni for publishing what it saw as a disparaging poem about the Serb traditional hat and simultaneously banned the collection in which the poem appeared. Two years later the District Public Prosecutor’s Office brought criminal charges for ‘making a ridicule of the nations and nationalities of Yugoslavia’.[23] Sixteen Albanian witnesses were penalized twice for non-appearance at hearings. The case was terminated six years later as statute-barred.[24]


On 7 August 1998, the Municipal Public Prosecutor’s Office in Preševo brought charges against Riza Halimi for ‘obstructing an official in the discharge of  his public security duties...’. Halimi, it was said, ‘obstructed an official in authority of the OUP [Department of Internal Affairs - police station] in Preševo...[who had been dispatched to] restore public law and order that had been disrupted by the holding of an unreported public assembly of citizens of Albanian nationality, [Halimi accosted him] with the words, “Who are you, what’s your business here?”...physically restrained him by taking hold of his uniform by the sleeve above the right elbow, and told him as he did so, “Don’t you go away”.[25] On 29 March 2000, Halimi was given a three-month prison sentence suspended for a year.[26] His appeal was dismissed and the initial decision upheld.





2.1.3. Curbs on local self-government


Discrimination against the Albanian ethnic community in public and political life was in evidence throughout the period. The new laws applying to the whole of the Republic of Serbia promoted centralization and curbed local self-government jurisdiction. This was especially keenly felt in the municipality of Preševo: although Albanian parties won enough mandates at all local elections to form local government, they could not influence the running of day-to-day affairs in practice. Except for brief periods in 1992 and 1993, Albanian parties did not participate in government affairs in the municipalities of Bujanovac and Medveđa.


2.2. Human Rights Violations in 1999


The bulk of evidence on human rights violations collected by the HLC relates to 1999, especially to the period after the NATO intervention. The perpetrators were mostly members of paramilitary formations, the VJ and the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MUP).


A report by the Preševo Municipal Assembly alleges that 11 Albanians were killed on the territory of the municipality under mysterious circumstances during the state of war.[27] Six of the victims were from this municipality, three from the municipality of Gnjilane in Kosovo and two from the neighbouring municipality of Bujanovac. During the state of war, citizens from the municipality of Preševo alone made 243 statements to the municipal authorities in connection with human rights violations including the right to property. The physical damage was estimated at over 12 million DEM (some 6 million EUR).[28]


2.2.1. The killing of Driton Arifi


On 4 April 1999 Driton Arifi (b. 1959) of Ranatovce village in Preševo municipality set out to collect his livestock from another part of the village. Members of paramilitary formations arriving from the village of Mučibabe intercepted him and shot him in the leg, stomach and chest. The villagers were forbidden to help the severely wounded Arifi. He died of wounds about 7.30 p.m. the same day. His father[29] says he was told by doctors in Vranje who had performed the post mortem that Arifi would have lived if timely medical help had been available.


2.2.2. The killing of Nexhati Arifi


Following is the statement[30] by Ruzhdi Arifi (b. 1968) of  Buhić village in Preševo municipality in connection with the killing of his brother Nexhati of the same village:


On 18 April 1999, a group of 40 men, mostly soldiers but also armed civilians, arrived in our village. My brother was near his house at the time, but later all trace of him was lost. Nine days later, on April 27, I and several people from Karadak village set out in the company of civil defence staff from Preševo to have a look at our homes. When we reached the place called ‘Šehovske livade’ we were stopped by a Yugoslav Army patrol. They asked us where we were going. When we replied that we were going on a tour of our villages, they forbade us to go on and  threatened to kill us ‘like that one in Buhić village (probably referring to my brother Nexhati).


I went to the village for the first time two months later, on 2 July 1999. I looked for my brother’s grave. At a place called ‘Stan’ I found a grave in a village field but there was nothing in it. We looked around and found human bones lying about, probably scattered by stray dogs. By the bones we also found a watch, a waistcoat,  a jacket, a pair of trousers and a pair of shoes. By the look of them I concluded that it was my brother. We inspected the clothes and saw that he’d been shot from firearms in the back several times. The same day I saw that my brother’s house and workshop (he was a TV repairman) had been burned. We carried his remains to the village cemetery that day.’


2.2.3. The torture of Hysni Ademi and Qerim Halimi


Hysni Ademi and Qerim Halimi of Mađare village in Preševo municipality say they were severely beaten by five VJ members on 7 May 1999. After being maltreated in their village they were taken to Mučibabe, where they were taken over by another patrol and beaten again. Ademi and Halimi were then transferred under escort first to Pasjane village and then to Varoš, a neighbourhood in Gnjilane (Kosovo). They were locked up in a private house cellar and kept 12 days there. Ademi says in his statement[31] that he, like all other prisoners, was physically abused and beaten every day.


They pierced the ears of a boy only 18 years old with a knife and tried to gouge the eyes of another several times. I saw them carve the initials A.H. on the elbows of another.’


Ademi and Halimi were taken blindfolded to the slaughterhouse on the outskirts of Gnjilane and released.


2.2.4. The ordeal of Arife Avdiu


Like many other Albanians, the Avdiu family of Buštranje (Bushtranë) in Preševo municipality left its village in the spring of 1999 and went to Kumanovo in Macedonia. The old woman Arife Avdiu (b. 1932) remained at home. This is her statement to the HLC investigators:


It happened at about 10 p.m. on May 31. The power was down and I went to bed to sleep. I heard voices outside the house and got up. I saw several soldiers outside. At that moment one of them came into the room. He asked for coffee and sugar, then for money and other valuables. When I told him I had none, he started to boot me in the head. I fell off the bed on to the floor and he took out a knife and started to cut my throat. He then threw me on to the ground thinking I was dead. I remember that he hung about for some time rummaging through the house.’


Avdiu says that she managed to crawl as far as the front door. She was saved by her nearest neighbour, Zoran Atanasijević, a member of the MUP. He drove the old woman to Preševo, fighting off VJ reservists on the road who had blocked his way and even fired a burst over his car. Avdiu was treated in a hospital in Niš. As a result of her injuries, she has difficulty taking food and is blind in both eyes. The perpetrator has not been found as of this writing. The HLC has no knowledge either of any charges having been brought against the persons who tried to prevent Atanasijević from taking the woman to Preševo.


2.2.5. The killing of two members of the Fejzuli family


On 19 June 1999, 18 members of the VJ including a woman entered the yard of Metushë Fejzuli of Gospođince (Gospogjincë) village in Preševo municipality. Fejzuli made the following statement:[32]


My wife, daughter and myself were marched out into the yard. My son Qani and my cousin Ibrahim, who were sleeping in another room, were ordered to dress and go out too. We were knocked down and beaten for almost an hour as we lay there. We were next taken to the yard of my brother Rahim, where there were also soldiers standing around. His wife was taken out and made to join us in the yard and he was beaten inside the house. He was then carried out unconscious into the yard and the beating continued. Half an hour later, they started asking Ibrahim why he’d come to the village, then three soldiers led him away in the direction of the brook allegedly “to ask him something”. The rest were marched back to my yard. Shots were heard from the direction in which Ibrahim had been taken. The soldiers arrived carrying Ibrahim’s identity card and asked me in what way we were related. I told them that he was my cousin and asked them what they’d done to him. They replied that Ibrahim had escaped.


They next took us into the house, placing the unconscious Rahim in one room and piling us into another. They ordered the women to prepare a meal. When they’d eaten, most of them went away in the direction of Bukovac village but two soldiers and the woman who was with them stayed with us. She told us that Rahim had died. The soldiers returned at about 3 p.m. They took me and my son into the yard and started to maltreat us. They told us they’d taken us out to shoot us, cocked their pistols and trained their submachine-guns at us. This was too much for me and I lost my consciousness. When I came to, they ordered us to march in the direction of Preševo, saying that Arkan [Željko Ražnatović] was waiting there for us. We’d gone some 300 metres when they started to shoot at us but fortunately no one was hit.


We reported the whole incident to the Civil Defence Headquarters in Preševo. The doctors who treated us reported the incident to the police. In spite of my repeated demands, the police didn’t go out to make an on-site investigation, nor did they try to find my cousin Ibrahim. Seeing that the police weren’t going to do anything about it, eight villagers went to collect the body of the dead Rahim. There were wounds on the chest, head and back of Rahim’s body. We looked for Ibrahim and found his body in a field in the part of the village called “Arnica”. There were four shoot-through wounds in his body. The head and chest bore large open wounds. All those wounds were noted by the doctors who’d ascertained the death of both deceased.’


2.2.6. The killing of Fetah Fetahu


The HLC has reason to believe that violations of the human rights of the Albanian ethnic community continued after the end of the state of war. The taxi driver Fetah Fetahu of Bujanovac was killed under mysterious circumstances on 31 July 1999. The Committee for Human Rights in Bujanovac says that Fetahu took two Serb refugees from Kosovo that day. They passed the police checkpoint in Končulj village and drove on towards Gnjilane. The body of Fetah, shot through three times, was discovered near the place called ‘Eminove česme’. His car was found 150 metres away.[33]


2.2.7. VJ treatment of Albanians during the state of war in 1999


During the state of war, particularly in April, the VJ and the police searched houses and maltreated villagers in the municipalities of Bujanovac, Preševo and Medveđa. The Report on the Discrimination Against Albanians in Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa, published by the Committee for Human Rights in Bujanovac in 2000, states that VJ tanks surrounded Veliki Trnovac village on March 31. The commanders demanded from the villagers to hand over ‘NATO commandos, OVK terrorists and drugs’ within two hours. The same source says that the houses were searched again the next day, and that on April 23 the villagers were rounded up and left standing in the rain for several hours. A similar incident occurred on April 12 in the villages of Breznica and Muhovac, where houses were searched and 45 villagers taken to Bujanovac. They were kept there several hours, maltreated and threatened with liquidation.


The same source alleges that groups of soldiers and policemen also repeatedly maltreated Albanians from The Bujanovac municipality within the space of several weeks towards the end of 1999.


According to press reports, members of the VJ took 83,615 DEM (about 41,000 EUR) from Imer Miftari of Novo Selo village while searching his house. They told him they were confiscating the money because he could not prove its origin and gave him no receipt for it. The money was returned to Imer’s brother on 12 May 2001.[34] The Committee for Human Rights in Bujanovac records another such case, when 72,000 DEM (approximately 36,000 EUR) confiscated from the Islamic Religious Community was returned to it.


3. The time of conflict: 2000 and the first half of 2001


During 2000 and the first half of 2001, the territory of the municipalities of Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa was the scene of armed clashes between the VJ and the police on one side and members of the OVPMB on the other. The OVPMB comprised mostly younger Albanians from all three municipalities. In view of the fact that Serb forces were permitted to carry only light arms within the ground security zone (GSZ), the OVPMB operated mostly in that part of the zone, which ran through the three municipalities. The OVPMB succeeded over time in establishing control over the villages within the GSZ. This situation endured until the end of the conflict.


OVPMB members made their first public appearance at the end of January 2000, at the funeral of the Saqipi brothers in Dobrosin village in The Bujanovac municipality. The conflict progressively intensified during the year, especially after the withdrawal of the police from their checkpoints in the villages of Lučane, Končulj and Veliki Trnovac on 27 November 2000.


According to official Serbian MUP data, [35] 10 civilians were killed within the GSZ in parts nearest Kosovo between 10 June 1999 and 31 August 2001. Five of them were Serb, four Albanian and one ‘of other nationality’. In the same period, 25 civilians were injured, 15 Serbs, eight Albanians and two members of the UN mission. In addition, 43 people - 40 Serbs and three Albanians - went missing. The MUP says that two of the kidnapped were killed, one managed to escape, 36 were released and four are unaccounted for. It put MUP and VJ losses at 24 killed, 78 injured and two kidnapped.


Representatives of the Co-ordinating Body of the federal and republican governments speak of 724 armed attacks and provocations by the OVPMB between 16 December 2000 and 16 December 2001. They say that 19 people were killed (seven policemen, six soldiers and six civilians), 49 wounded (21 policemen, 16 soldiers and 12 civilians), and 28 kidnapped. All of them were later released.[36]


A MUP officer said that the four kidnapped people unaccounted for were Serbs: Vlada Miletić (aged 81) and Persa Miletić (56) of Mali Trnovac village, Goran Stanković (19) of Rakovac village and Zoran Tomić (26) of Lopardnica village.[37] Stanković and Tomić were kidnapped on 14 August 2000 in Kosovo.


The Committee for Human Rights in Bujanovac[38] has evidence that nine OVPMB members and 11 Albanian civilians were killed, and five civilians (two Albanians and three Serbs) kidnapped during 2000. Some 150 Albanians gave evidence about maltreatment at the hands of the police and the VJ.


The HLC notes serious human right violations in the period. This, and the fighting itself, caused all three ethnic communities to fear for their safety, a feeling which still endures. The HLC therefore believes that Serbia’s state authorities must investigate impartially all the cases of human rights violations in Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa in the past in order to normalize the situation and restore mutual trust. The judicial authorities for their part must effectively protect victims of torture and discrimination and people’s property.


3.1. The Burden of Unsolved Killings and Kidnappings


The HLC has collected evidence on several killings and kidnappings during the period.


3.1.1. The killing of the primary school governor in Muhovac


Qemal Mustafa (b. 1947), governor of the ‘Mideni’ primary school in Muhovac, was killed on the Đorđevac-Muhovac road in The Bujanovac municipality about 7 a.m. on 17 January 2000. He was vice-president of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) in Bujanovac. The Bujanovac Press Centre says he was killed in a terrorist attack.[39] The MUP said in a statement that Mustafa was killed by ‘Albanian terrorists’ and that 48 bullet wounds were found in his body.[40] The perpetrators were not discovered.


3.1.2. The killing of the Saqipi brothers


Shaip (b. 1968) and Isa (b. 1964) Saqipi were killed on the outskirts of Dobrosin village in The Bujanovac municipality on 26 January 2000. Their father Saqip Saqipi described the incident to the HLC as follows:


There was a heavy snowfall that day. In the company of my sons, I set out for the woods to cut timber. We split at the end of the village because I worked at the forestry farm. They continued in the tractor straight ahead, along the road leading to Lučane village. They wore boots and had a chainsaw with them. I turned off to the right. After a while I heard a shot from the direction of the Kosovo border and a little later shooting from the direction of where Isa and Shaip had said they were going. I set out in that direction and spotted seven or eight policemen coming from there. I took fright and went back to my house at the edge of the village, making sure they didn’t see me. I first called up the president of the Bujanovac Municipal Assembly, Mr. Stojanča Arsić, with whom I was on good terms. I told him what I’d heard and seen, that my sons were out there, and that I feared for them. I next rang up the Bujanovac SUP [Secretariat for Internal Affairs]. The duty officer who answered the call said after he’d heard my story: “They ought to kill all of you.”’


Saqipi found the bullet-riddled bodies of his sons slumped over the tractor shaft near a wood along the Lučane-Dobrosin road. The tractor tyres were punctured. Adem Rashiti, the president of the Dobrosin local community centre, said that policemen had seen him that day about unpaid electricity bills and insisted that the residents settle their debts. When a shot rang out from the direction of Kosovo, the policemen started back for Bujanovac.


According to the Co-ordinating Body, the Saqipi brothers were ‘citizens killed in terrorist attacks’ on 26 January 2000:


About 1.15 p.m. on 26 January 2000, Albanian terrorists carried out an attack with light machineguns, sniping rifles and other automatic weapons on a police patrol in Dobrosin village, Bujanovac municipality. The policeman Žarko Guberinić (b. 1969) was slightly injured.[41]


At the brothers’ funeral four days later, members of the OVPMB made their first public appearance.


The HLC considers that the investigation into the incident ought to be completed and the perpetrators punished because it is possible, on the basis of the Co-ordinating Body’s  report, to establish which police patrol was in the neighbourhood of Dobrosin village on January 26.


3.1.3. The kidnapping and disappearance of Nebi Nuhiu


Nebi Nuhiu, who owns the ‘Neza petrol’ filling station in Preševo, was kidnapped on 2 February 2000. He contacted his family for the last time two hours after he had been taken away. His fate has since been unknown. The kidnappers contacted the family and demanded money several times. His daughter Flora Nuhiu, who talked to them, recorded every conversation they had on audio tape. Following is her statement to the HLC:


At about 2 p.m. two cars - a white Mercedes with a Vranje licence plate and an ochre Audi - parked at our station. Four young men came out. All of them spoke Serbian, were between 20 and 30 years of age, and were heavily built. One of them with cropped hair said they were from Montenegro and asked where Nebi was. Our father being away, he said they would come back later because they needed tyres for the car. Another spoke to a relative of ours who worked at the station and later brought them the money they demanded. My younger brother was also there. They next drove off in the direction of Preševo.


They returned at about 5 p.m. My father was there and they asked him if he had tyres for their car. He showed them the ones that were on display and they asked him if they were the only ones he had. He told them he had more in the cellar and they replied they wanted to have a look. One of them stood outside the door and the other three went down with my father into the cellar. A few minutes later they returned and started for the cars with my father in their company. My father kept silent and when he sat in the car he stuck a leg out so as not to let them close the door.


One of the kidnappers called out: “We’re going to the SUP in Bujanovac, we’ll drive him back.” At that, my father shook his head without speaking. Both vehicles drove off in the direction of Bujanovac. That was the last time we saw him.’


Nuhiu’s family reported the incident to the police. Half an hour after the abduction, the kidnappers asked the family to bring them 110,000 DEM (approximately 55,000 EUR) as soon as possible or else they would kill Nuhiu. The family managed to collect 75,000 DEM (roughly 32,000 EUR). The kidnappers demanded that one of the station employees set out with the money for Vranje, adding that they would let him know later where to hand it over.


I set out by car, following the instructions Flora had been receiving. I took a mobile phone and the money with me. I drove very slowly and noticed that inspectors from the Vranje SUP were trailing me all the time. At some place beyond Bujanovac I was stopped by traffic police, presumably because I drove very slowly. The inspectors from the car in the rear got out and told them to let me go on. After that, no one followed me. Before I reached Vladičin Han, Flora rang me up and told me to stop because the kidnappers so demanded. At that moment I saw a man, one of the kidnappers, walk into the road. I stopped the car and he took the money and the mobile phone and ordered me to drive back immediately.’[42]


While giving their instructions, the kidnappers inquired, among other things, why the car was being followed by police. Two hours after the kidnapping, Nuhiu called up his family for the last time. He said that he was well, was at the Predejane motel and would hitchhike back home. However, he never turned up.


Two days later, two Vranje SUP inspectors who identified themselves as Voja and Vujica N. paid an evening visit to the Nuhiu family and assured them that the case would be solved in a few days. They insisted that they alone could help and asked the family to contact no one else regarding the kidnapping. Each time a member of the Nuhiu family rang them up, the inspectors replied that he should have some more patience.


A week later the kidnappers rang up for the last time and demanded an additional 100,000 DEM (some 50,000 EUR). When the family asked to hear Nebi, the caller replied that that was not possible because he was in Montenegro.


Nebi Nuhiu’s family requested help from the SUP and the Co-ordinating Body in Bujanovac several times but got none. After contacting the Committee for Human Rights in Bujanovac, the family received an official letter from the Serbian MUP on 19 February 2001, informing them that ‘on the basis of collected evidence and information, members of the police have filed criminal charges with the Office of the District Public Prosecutor in Vranje against the unidentified perpetrator of the criminal offence of kidnapping under Article 64 of the CC RS [Criminal Code of the Republic of Serbia]’. Attached to the official letter was a report stating that ‘the SUP in Vranje continues to take intensive operational-tactical measures and actions for the purpose of discovering Nebi Nuhiu and the committer of this criminal act.[43]


One of the Vranje SUP inspectors who visited the Nuhiu family, Vojislav Stanković, was arrested in April 2001 and detained for 30 days on reasonable suspicion of having abused his authority ‘by appropriating unlawfully on several occasions money to the amount established so far at 1,700,000 dinars, to the detriment of Nuhiu...Zdravković said that further dismissals and arrests of Vranje policemen were expected during next week.’[44] As far as the Committee for Human Rights knows, Stanković was released from custody and no proceedings were instituted.


On 11 May 2001 the assistant commander of the Jagodina SUP, Ranko Denić, and Branislav Nikolić of Kruševac, were arrested on fraud charges while a third suspect, Slaviša Zdravković, also a MUP employee, was on the run. ‘They deceived the Nuhiu family with false promises of finding the kidnapped Nebi and of returning him to his family for a fee of 160,000 German marks.’ The arrested men were not implicated with the kidnapping of Nebi Nuhiu.


The president of the Co-ordinating Body, Nebojša Čović, said that a key participant in the kidnapping was in Germany and therefore beyond the reach of Yugoslav authorities.[45] After several thousand residents of Preševo gathered on the second anniversary of Nuhiu’s kidnapping, Čović promised again that the matter would be solved.


3.1.4. The killing of Ejup Hasani


Ejup Hasani (b. 1944) of Letovica village in The Bujanovac municipality was shot dead on 12 February 2000. The Committee for Human Rights in Bujanovac says in its 2000 report that he was taken out of his house by masked attackers and shot at a place 200 metres away. The Bujanovac Press Centre reported that Hasani (it gave his name as Ejup Asanović) was killed in a terrorist attack.[46]





3.1.5. Armed incident in Končulj


The Committee for Human Rights in Bujanovac notes that an Albanian civilian, Fatmir Ibishi, and a policeman, Slaviša Dimitrijević, were killed in a serious armed incident on 26 February 2000 in a wood adjoining the Lučane-Dobrosin road on the outskirts of Končulj, on the Bujanovac-Gnjilane trunk road. The MUP said for its part that ‘Albanian terrorists laid several ambushes and carried out an armed attack on four policemen in a service vehicle. The policemen Slaviša Dimitrijević (b. 1968) and Dragan Filipović (b. 1965) were killed on that occasion. One policeman was severely and another lightly injured.’[47] The MUP said nothing about the dead Albanian.


3.1.6. The killing of Bahri Musliu and Destan Adili


Bahri Musliu (b. 1961) of Vraban was found dead near the Serb village of Levosoje in The Bujanovac municipality on 13 March 2000.[48] The MUP said in this connection that ‘the body has been found of Musli Bari [sic] who was killed with firearms by Albanian terrorists in the vicinity of the village of Levosoje.’[49]


Destan Adili (b. 1964) of Veliki Trnovac was found dead on the Veliki Trnovac-Breznice road on 13 April 2000. His family says that he was returning from a journey (he was a trader). The family insisted on an investigation and was informed by the District Prosecutor’s Office in Vranje that ‘having collected the necessary information [the Office] took the decision not to institute criminal proceedings’. At the same time, the family was informed of the possibility of ‘instituting proceedings against a known perpetrator of the criminal offence of murder’.


3.1.7. The disappearance of the only Serbs from Mali Trnovac


The only Serb residents of Mali Trnovac village, Vlada (b. 1920) and Persa (b. 1945) Miletić, went missing on 21 June 2000. Spent bullet cartridges and blood marks were found in their house. Their fate remains unknown.


Fearing revenge at the hands of the Serbian police, all of the village residents, numbering 550 or so, left their homes and took to Kosovo the same day. When three days later several villagers returned to their homes to collect things, the police arrested Avni Jakupi, Sejdi Jakupi, Nexmedin Sopi, Shemshi Salihu and Halim Berisha and applied excessive force in the process.


On the morning of June 24, several of us went back to our homes, mostly to collect valuables, gold or money, for we’d gone to Kosovo literally without anything. Each of us went to his house. We took care not to be noticed because we feared that the police would maltreat us. At about 10 a.m. a group of some 10 policemen burst into my house. They asked me who’d killed Vlada and Persa and, without waiting for an answer, started to hit me with their hands, boots and rifle butts. They next took me out and led me towards a nearby hill. I saw that they’d caught some others and were searching the village hoping to find more. I was taken by jeep to the police station in Bujanovac, where I and the others were questioned all night. They used no force against me. Except for Halim Berisha, who was transferred to the prison in Niš, we were released at about 11 a.m. next day and went to Gnjilane. Some of us have by now returned but many are still afraid.’[50]


According to witness testimony given to the Committee for Human Rights in Bujanovac, [51] the arrested men should thank one of Vlada Miletić’s daughters for their release. She told the police that ‘she did not believe that her father and sister were killed by Albanians from Mali Trnovac because they had always helped the family’.


3.1.8. The killing of Ridvan Qazimi


Ridvan Qazimi (b. 1964), better known as ‘commander Lleshi’, was among the OVPMB representatives who negotiated directly with government officials at the beginning of 2001. His killing on 24 May 2001 is still unresolved. According to available information, he was shot dead by a sniper at a location called Guri Gat above the village of Lučane, where he had arrived in the company of three fellow fighters. His jeep was riddled with 20 bullets. According to the president of the Co-ordinating Body, Nebojša Čović, Qazimi was killed ‘in a classic exchange of fire’; a spokesman for the government Press Centre for his part described the incident as ‘a showdown of Albanian extremists in Veliki Trnovac’. Jonuz Musliu, the president of the OVPMB Political Committee, charged that Qazimi was ‘murdered by Serb snipers in the presence of the head of the NATO office for Yugoslavia, Sean Sullivan’.[52] KFOR denied the allegation.


3.2. Human Rights Violations by the OVPMB


3.2.1. The torture of two VJ soldiers


Sergeants Saša Bulatović (b. 1978) and Milojica Bjelica (b. 1970), members of the VJ 3rd Battalion, drove into Veliki Trnovac in a military vehicle on 21 March 2001. The OVPMB, which controlled the village, kept them for the next 25 days. They told HLC investigators that they had been beaten with baseball bats, lengths of pipe and rifle butts. They also suffered knife wounds and were electrocuted about 30 times. They were ordered to make written statements that they had been dispatched by their captain. They were released on April 15 with KFOR mediation.





3.2.2. The capture of four Serbs from Vranje municipality


Suzana (b. 1974), Stojanča (b. 1969) and Nebojša (b. 1977) Petrović and Dragan Ilić (b. 1973) of Donje Žabsko village in Vranje municipality were captured by the OVPMB on 4 March 2001. They were kept one night in Veliki Trnovac and then transferred to another village. Stojanča Petrović told the HLC investigator that ‘we were struck with rifle butts, kicked, beaten with various lengths of pipe, electrocuted, had knives thrust under our tongues, forced to kiss OVK symbols and to write statements that State Security had dispatched us to blow up the mosque in Veliki Trnovac.’


During their imprisonment lasting 41 days, the four kidnapped were moved through five different cellars, most of which had no daylight. The forensic medicine expert who examined Dragan Ilić said in his report that the four were not abused during their capture but later during their detention. The report[53] says:


He had rags and blankets thrown over his head, after which a number of uniformed persons present started to search and beat him - he was struck mostly on the body and kicked. The beating lasted several hours with brief breaks. During a break he was hauled upstairs on to the ground floor, where the beating continued. As Stojanča Petrović was being dragged into the cellar, he [Ilić] saw them “bash his head against the floor”, after which the right side of his face began to swell. Later they dragged him to a chopping block and threatened to cut off his hand with an axe.’


 The captives were asked to admit ‘who dispatched them to Veliki Trnovac and on what mission’. While they were given electric shocks, they were told that ‘Suzana has already confessed’.


Before dawn they brought in a Gypsy who was very drunk; we were awakened by his cries because he too had been beaten. They gave him plum brandy to drink, then they gave him a rubber truncheon and ordered him to “interrogate” and to beat him (Ilić) and the Popović brothers. At first “Fatmir” refused but then the uniformed persons started to beat him and repeated the order. After that “Fatmir” started to strike them with the truncheon, and the soldiers brought in a video camera and filmed this.’


On 6 March 2001 the captives were forced to declare in front of TV Kosovo cameras that they had come to carry out a terrorist attack. Some 10 days after that, they received the first visit by representatives of the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The torture methods described above  continued to be used throughout the captivity. According to Ilić, the prisoners began to receive medicines and three meals a day several days before being released.


The captors released Suzana Petrović on March 31 and cautioned her that she must repeat to the Kosovo Force (KFOR) the statement they had prepared for her in advance. The rest were released through KFOR mediation on April 14.


3.2.3. The kidnapping of the PDD vice-president


The media reported that Behlul Nasufi, the vice-president of the Party for Democratic Action (PDD), had been kidnapped near Končulj on 23 April 2001.[54] He was kept by OVPMB members in a stable with two horses. His hands were tied and he was blindfolded. Spokesmen for the OVPMB denied the kidnapping and alleged that Nasufi had been staying in the region of Karadak to hammer out details of talks.[55] Nasufi was released through international mediation two days later.


3.3. VJ and Police Treatment of Albanians


During the armed conflict, members of the Albanian ethnic community were subjected to maltreatment, insults, threats and provocations by members of the VJ and the police. The human dignity violations were frequently coupled with unmistakable physical abuse. The majority of the incidents occurred in rural environments, their number and gravity increasing in the most distant and least accessible places. Members of the Albanian ethnic community were also insulted at police checkpoints.


3.3.1. The arrest of Adnan Kamberi


Adnan Kamberi (b. 1970) of Veliki Trnovac went missing on 29 July 2000. Two days later his family was contacted by a lawyer who told them that Kamberi was under investigation for terrorism and in detention.[56] On August 29 the detention was prolonged for another month,[57] and on September 12 the investigation was  terminated and the detention discontinued.[58]


Under the same decision which discontinued Kamberi’s detention, Jeton Xelili of Breznica and Mustafa Alishani of Veliki Trnovac were ordered to be investigated and detained.


3.3.2. The maltreatment of the Ismaili family


On 19 September 2000, four men in camouflage uniforms and armed with pistols and knives maltreated the following members of the Ismaili family of Veliki Trnovac: Imrie Ismaili (b. 1950), Seiziu Ismaili (b. 1971), Esmale Shabani (b. 1973) and three underage children. The three women were hospitalized with serious injuries to their bodies. The police made an investigation the same night but the perpetrators remain unknown as of this writing.[59]


3.3.3. Maltreatment at police checkpoints


Fatmir Hasani, the vice-president of the PDD municipal board in Bujanovac, was kept at the Lučane police checkpoint on his return from Kosovo on 20 January 2001. The reason for the delay was a 1:600,000 geographic map of Yugoslavia found in his possession. Hasani was kept at the checkpoint itself about two hours before being taken to the Bujanovac police station. He was questioned about PDD activities by two state security inspectors for an hour and then released.[60]


At the police checkpoint Cerevajka in Preševo municipality on 10 February 2001, the police physically and verbally abused 26 passengers in a bus operated by the Veli trans company. The company runs regular bus services between Preševo and towns in Kosovo. All the maltreated passengers were Albanians.[61]


3.3.4. The Rashiti incident


Januz Rashiti of Turija, an inspector at the Bujanovac Municipal Assembly, was beaten in front of his family on 1 March 2001. The 16 members of a special police unit who beat him took him first to the command point in the village of Levosoje and then to Bujanovac. Rashiti was released at the insistence of the head of the Co-ordinating Body. Several other Albanians were physically abused that day. One of them was Reshat Ebibi, who was also beaten in front of his family before being taken to the police station in Bujanovac. He was released at 4 p.m. the next day.[62]


3.3.5. Shots, searches, threats


On 11 March 2001, about 15 shots were fired at the mosque in the mixed village of Oslare during a service. The Imam, Berat Alimi, says the shots were fired from a location called Padine.


Soldiers and policemen searched houses during the entry of the armed forces into the KSZ and following the OVPMB pullout from Oraovica. Although most of the searches were carried out in the presence of owners or local community representatives, incidents occurred, property was damaged and people were physically assaulted. The police maltreated four members of the Osmani family - Nazim, Abedin, Muharem and Aletin - while they searched their house in Oraovica on 15 May 2001. The ill-treatment continued until they were brought to the police station in Preševo.


During the entry of members of the joint security forces into the village of Dobrosin on 31 May 2001, special police threatened the residents with the words ‘You’re all going to be killed’. The next day one of them stopped the father of the slain Shaqipi brothers and questioned him about his sons, saying that they got what they deserved because they were armed.




4. Towards a political solution:


Mid-2001 to august 2002


The Serbian and federal governments set up in December 2000 the Co-ordinating Body for the municipalities of Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa. As part of their efforts to solve the crisis by peaceful means, the new authorities adopted the ‘Programme and Plan  for the Resolution of the Crisis in the Municipalities of Bujanovac, Preševo and Medveđa’. The Programme states the authorities’ firm commitment to defuse the crisis in southern Serbia peacefully and by political-diplomatic means, i.e., through dialogue between representatives of the Republic of Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on the one hand and representatives of the Albanian national community on the other, with assistance from the international community.


The measures due to be implemented within specific time-frames following the signing of an agreement are laid out in three groups. They provide for the integration of the Albanians into the political, social and governance systems and for respect of their human rights in accordance with European standards; for the establishment of peace and security in the region; and for the economic and social revitalization of the region and its development in keeping with municipal projects and priorities.


An invitation to local Albanians to discuss solving the crisis in the municipalities of Bujanovac, Preševo and Medveđa was extended under Annex 3 of the plan. Also, an appeal was made, under Annex 4, to the international community to uphold the solution. International representatives approved of the plan and representatives of the Albanian ethnic community endorsed most of the measures envisaged.


However, the OVPMB rejected the plan and presented its ‘Joint Platform for the Peaceful Resolution of the Crisis in Preševo Valley’ on 1 March 2001.[63] Two days later, Albanian political and OVPMB representatives put forward their joint ‘Political Platform for Halting Armed Conflicts and Solving the Crisis in the Region of Preševo, Medveđa and Bujanovac’.[64]


NATO, EU and OSCE representatives joined in the negotiations and mediated in separate talks with the Serbian and Albanian delegations. The effort led to a cease-fire agreement signed on 12 March 2001. The first direct meeting of the two sides took place in the British military base in the village of Livadice near Podujevo on 23 March 2001.[65]


Parallel with the talks, the VJ and the police embarked on a phased return to the KSZ with KFOR permission. The entry of the armed forces into all parts of the KSZ was completed on 31 May 2001. The UNHCR says that some 5,000 Albanians left their homes in villages within the zone during the last phase of the operation.


A first major result of the talks was the Agreement on the Demilitarization of the Villages of Lučane and Turija, signed on 4 May 2001. Under the agreement, both sides undertook to withdraw their forces from the two villages unconditionally, vacate all occupied private facilities, let the displaced persons return and grant freedom of movement on the Bujanovac-Gnjilane road. The agreement took effect on 7 May 2001.


On 21 May 2001, OVPMB military leaders signed in Končulj a Declaration on the Demilitarization of the Southern and Central part of the So-called Sector B of the KSZ. The declaration provided for initial demilitarization to take place the next day and for total demilitarization, including the surrender of arms to KFOR, to be completed by 31 May 2001.


As the region demilitarized, the establishment of a local multi-ethnic police force began. Principles for a Multi-Ethnic Police Element in Preševo, Medveđa and Bujanovac were adopted at the recommendation of the OSCE mission.[66] The document, signed in Bujanovac on 27 June 2001 by representatives of the Serbian government, the Albanian ethnic community and the OSCE, was a first concrete step towards Albanian participation in the exercise of public affairs on a footing of equality.


4.1. Amnesty for Former OVPMB Members


An amnesty for members of the OVPMB, envisaged under the Co-ordinating Body’s  Programme,[67] was confirmed on 21 May 2001 in a letter sent to the then-personal envoy of the NATO Secretary-General, Pieter Feith, by the Serbian deputy prime minister and president of the Co-ordinating Body, Nebojša Čović; the commander of the Joint Security Forces, General Ninoslav Krstić; and the commander of the special police forces, Goran Radosavljević. The signatories said that a general amnesty would be guaranteed to ‘all who surrender the arms, uniforms and all military equipment in their illegal possession’.


According to the chief of police for Pčinja District, Novica Zdravković, [68] by 13 January 2001 the District Public Prosecutor’s Office in Vranje had received 43 criminal charges against 32 persons for terrorism,[69] a term used by the authorities to denote OVPMB activities. Consequently the District Court in Vranje ordered on 19 June 2000 an investigation[70] ‘against 35 persons of Albanian nationality...on reasonable suspicion that [they] established the terrorist organization, the so-called OVPMB, in the house of Ajdari Vebi in Dobrosin village in The Bujanovac municipality during 1999.’ The president of the District Court said, in a reply to a representation by the Committee for Human Rights, that the accused had either been committed to detention or put on a wanted list. This action by the judicial authorities was contrary to the amnesty granted to the members of the former OVPMB.


The fact that the amnesty was in force was confirmed in a letter sent to the personal envoy of the NATO Secretary-General, Robert Serry on 26 February 2002 on behalf of the Co-ordinating Body by its president Čović and vice-president Mića Marković, and the commander of the police forces, Goran Radosavljević. The Serbian Deputy Prime Minister and Co-ordinating Body President, Nebojša Čović wrote in the letter: ‘It is not my intention to concern myself with the investigation into the persons listed in the document of the District Court in Vranje (Ki No. 37/00 of 19 June 2000), [i.e.] with the activities directly bearing on the establishment of, or participation in, armed groups prior to the signature of the aforementioned document “Amnesty is way out.”’


Luan Sadilu of Bujanovac, sentenced to seven years and six months in prison on charges of terrorism, was released on 26 March 2002, a month after the letter was sent. He spent 14 months in prison.


Besim Leka (aged 18) of Bujanovac, also convicted of terrorism, was acquitted. When he was arrested on 16 November 2000 in a bus on a regular route between Priština and Bujanovac, 10 kg of explosives was found in his bag.


As a result of the Albanian community’s insistence that the amnesty should be rendered in legal form, the Federal Assembly adopted on 4 June 2002 an Amnesty Law applying to Yugoslav all citizens suspected of having engaged in terrorist activities between 1 January 1999 and 31 May 2001. The amnesty is being implemented according to the provisions of the Law on Criminal Procedure.


4.2. Violations of the Right to Life and of Physical Integrity in 2002


The number of violations of people’s right to life and of their physical integrity in the region of Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa decreased considerably in the second half of 2001. However, such incidents recurred in the first half of 2002. The common characteristic of all these grave violations of human rights is that none has fully been explained and that no perpetrator has been found.


Especially conspicuous were incidents involving attacks on multi-ethnic police force members and applicants, as well as on facilities these police used. There were also attacks on prominent representatives of the Albanian national community.


4.2.1. Attacks on the multi-ethnic police


On 10 November 2001, unidentified persons fired shots at the car of Besnik Mustafa, an applicant at the time, in the village of Muhovac. His son Leon (b. 1997) and wife Fatmire were injured in the incident.


Two underage persons, S.A. and S.N. of Bujanovac, were arrested on 14 March 2002 on charges of throwing a hand-grenade at the house of Hajredin Salihu of Bujanovac. Salihu’s son Elvir is a member of the multi-ethnic police.


A hand-grenade was thrown at the house of Samet Shabani of Veliki Trnovac on 17 March 2002. No one was hurt. Shabani’s son Enis is a member of the multi-ethnic police in Bujanovac.


A hand-grenade was thrown by unidentified persons at a multi-ethnic police facility in Ranatovce village in Preševo municipality on 29 November 2001. A similar attack occurred in the village of Lučane on 17 May 2002. There were no casualties in either attack and the perpetrators have not been found. Although such attacks have explicitly been condemned by Albanian political representatives, the Co-ordinating Body has in its statements blamed the attacks on members of the Albanian community.


A member of the local multi-ethnic police force, Blerim Mustafa, was severely beaten by two attackers while off duty on 24 June 2002. He suffered head injuries. The MUP gave the names of the suspects and said they were on the run.


4.2.2. Hand-grenade attacks on houses


Qemal Rexhepi and Ramize Rexhepi, Albanians from Dobrosin, were injured on 5 April 2002 by a hand-grenade hurled at their house. The motive and the perpetrators are not known.


At 10.45 p.m. on 14 June 2002, two hand-grenades were thrown at the house of Galip Beqiri, the president of the local community centre in Veliki Trnovac. About 1.30 a.m. the same night, a hand-grenade was thrown at the house of Islam Sulejmani in Veliki Trnovac. No one was hurt in the attacks. Two Albanian parties protested in connection with the attacks, saying ‘the official statements by  the state authorities that an investigation is under way will not satisfy us; we demand greater efficacy in discovering the perpetrators of these and other incidents’.


4.2.3. The planting of explosives


The planting or fixing of explosive devices is an act violating a person’s right to life. In some cases even anti-tank mines were used: one was discovered on the Donja Sušaja-Oraovica road on 9 April 2002 and another on a road to Dobrosin on 19 April 2002. Two members of the VJ, corporal Boban Ilić (aged 27) and junior sergeant Saša Stanković (aged 33), were injured on 27 April 2002, when their tanker truck hit a mine on the Lučane-Dobrosin road.


On 16 February 2002, a bomb exploded at the cattle market belonging to the Komunalac public enterprise of Bujanovac. A month later, an explosive device destroyed the Tri ribara cafe owned by Obrad Ristić of Lučane village in The Bujanovac municipality. An explosive device was hurled on 18 April 2002 at the Srna cafe owned by Dragija Pešić of Preševo.


On 27 February 2002, Slobodan Dimitrijević, a Serb from Bujanovac, discovered a second time-bomb in his field. The first device was found on 1 October 2000.


Muhamed Murati (aged 18) of Vranje, Naser Aliu (19) of Bujanovac, Sami Islami (22) of Lojane in Macedonia and Arban Murati (20) of Vranje were arrested on charges of planting an explosive device containing 10 kg of trotyl in the centre of Bujanovac on 3 March 2002. They were investigated on terrorist charges and their detention was extended by two months. The Trial Chamber of the District Court in Vranje sentenced Muhamed Murati and Naser Aliu to three years in prison each and acquitted Sami Islami for lack of evidence.


4.2.4. Two more killings


Two other insufficiently clarified killings occurred in the period. The body of Zoran Šakić (aged 32), a Serb of Gubavce village in Medveđa municipality, was found in the burnt-out remains of the house of his paternal uncle Miodrag. The house lay near the Kosovo border. Eyewitnesses say they first heard shots being fired from the direction of the house, then dense smoke rising from there.


Agim Agushi (b. 1964), an Albanian from Miratovac village in Preševo municipality, was shot dead by VJ members near the Macedonian border on 9 June 2002. He was returning from Macedonian territory in the company of a relative, Bajram Sulimani. The two were travelling in a tractor, Sulimani says, when they heard shots being fired:


We then spotted a soldier hiding in the wheat. He ordered us from where he was to lower one side of the trailer so he could see what we carried. He suspected that we traded illegally. I dropped one side and told him that we had nothing, that we’d been to our field and were going back home. He replied that we couldn’t go on and ordered us back at once. Keeping his sniper rifle trained at us all the time while he spoke, he said he was going to kill all Albanians passing this way. He was very angry and kept insulting and cursing us all the time.


Agim and I agreed that he start the tractor and that we ask the soldier once more to let us through. As soon as Agim started the engine there was a shot and I saw that the soldier had aimed at me. I had not mounted yet and luckily the bullet hit a tractor wheel. But the next bullet struck Agim in the chest. That bullet was lethal.


The Co-ordinating Body expressed regret at the incident and announced that one soldier had been suspended.


4.3. Unlawful VJ and Police Acts


In the majority of incidents occurring after the end of armed clashes, members of the Albanian ethnic community were subjected to maltreatment, insults, threats and provocations by members of the VJ and police.


Most of these incidents took place in rural areas, on roads, at checkpoints and in places where people went about their farming work. Owing to the large number of such incidents, the failure to punish the perpetrators and fear of new incidents, residents of the villages of Breznica, Muhovac and Veliki Trnovac staged several protests during 2001 against attempts to set up containers for permanent police checkpoints in their villages.


During the entry of the armed forces into villages in the KSZ and after the OVPMB pullout from Orahovica, soldiers and policemen searched houses. Although most of the searches were carried out in the presence of owners or local community representatives, cases of theft and damage as well as physical assault were registered.


4.3.1. Searches, threats, provocations


As several members of the special forces passed through Končulj village on 15 June 2001, one of them trained a light machinegun at a group of villagers standing outside a store. One of the villagers described the incident as follows:


We were standing outside a store that had recently been opened in the village. Its owner is known to all of us as Boss Zija. There were some 15 of us, mostly elderly people. A group of  armed commandos filed past us. I don’t know exactly how many they were, but I saw by their emblems that they were special units. One of them pointed a weapon at us as he walked past and shouted: “What you’re gonna do now, I’m gonna screw your sisters!” We all kept silent. He approached one of us, Fatam Osmani, who’s only 15 years old, and asked him: “Were you in the UČK [Kosovo Liberation Army]?” He remained silent because he does not speak Serbian well, so the commando grabbed him by the hand and asked: “Did you hear what I asked you?” He kept the weapon pointed at the boy all the time. After several minutes the other commandos called out to him and he walked away.


Some of the provocations left the local population visibly dismayed. For example, someone carved with an axe nine crosses - all being visible from considerable distance and the largest measuring 50 cm - on trees growing in the old Albanian cemetery in a part of Končulj village. The villagers who graze cattle fist spotted the crosses on 1 June 2001. They told the HLC that the sight was a deep insult to their religious feelings. A VJ unit was stationed near the cemetery during the entry into the KSZ.


A police checkpoint is situated by the village cemetery in Dobrosin, on the road leading to Kosovo. The residents, who were verbally provoked daily and searched on their way to Kosovo, were particularly offended on finding that the policemen were in the habit of relieving themselves in the cemetery.


On 2 June 2001, unidentified persons wrote ‘We will kill all of you and rape your women’ and ‘For King and Fatherland’ in brick-marks on the wall of a tumbledown building of the old mine on the Veliki Trnovac-Breznica road.


An incident with serious consequences occurred in the centre Lučane on 1 July 2001. A police vehicle arriving at great speed from the direction of Dobrosin hit Elhan Behluli (b. 1982) and caused him serious injuries. The policemen from the vehicle took the boy to Bujanovac. He was later hospitalized in Niš. An MUP commission conducted an on-site investigation the following day. The Bujanovac Press Centre announced briefly that the boy had run into a police jeep through his own negligence.


4.3.2. Incidents in Trnava


At the end of the conflicts, a police checkpoint was set up on the outskirts of Trnava, a mixed village with a Serb majority in the south of the municipality of Preševo. Following is the complaint of one of the villagers:


In the past five days, several incidents have occurred at this checkpoint. On 5 June 2001, Bujar Sherifi and Qani Nexhipi, a refugee from Macedonia, set out to collect their livestock. At 7.15 p.m. they were stopped at the checkpoint, asked repeatedly “Where are your rifles, you UCPMB [Albanian acronym for OVPMB] members?” and threatened with being killed. Bujar Sherifi reported the matter to the Preševo SUP. When two days later he set out for the livestock in the company of Fidan Hiseni at about 7 p.m., the policemen at the checkpoint told him he was not to take the animals to the wood. On June 9, policemen at the same checkpoint forced Fidan Hiseni to pick up an automatic rifle. They told him he surely knew how to handle one, having been in the UCPMB. Fidan refused to obey, so they thrust an automatic rifle into his hands. The next day a Yugoslav Army jeep with T-6333 licence plates passed on the same road at great speed in the direction of Preševo. Ilber Abdulahi of Trnava was walking on the right-hand side of the road and managed to jump into the ditch at the last moment.


4.3.3. The harassment of the Emini family


Nehat Emini (b. 1980) of Cerevajka village in Preševo municipality and members of his family were harassed on two occasions - on 17 and 18 November 2001.


They shouted “Army, get up!” but when we got out we saw they were the police. A group of some 15 had encircled our house. They asked for our identity cards and searched the house, asking what we were doing here and if our intention was to form an OVPMB unit. As they were leaving, they said they’d come back again. They did so already next day. They insulted us again and found nothing. They said it would be best if we didn’t meet again. So we took to Preševo to stay with a relative.’


4.3.4. Shots fired at Strezovce schoolchildren


On 14 March 2002, fourth-form pupils of the ‘9. maj’ primary school in Strezovce village in Preševo municipality were taken out by their teacher for an open-air lecture. When they were at a place called Cer, three shots rang out. The bullets struck the ground in front of the feet of two of the pupils, Valon Ramadani (aged 10) and Betim Arifi (aged 10). The children ran home. The father of one of the boys, Gazmend Ramadani, spoke to a VJ officer and was told that ‘not three but one shot was fired, the reason being that Romanians often cross the border at that place, so [the group] looked suspicious.’ Witnesses say a child can easily be distinguished from a grown up person from the place from which the shots were fired. The incident was also reported to the Preševo OUP.


4.3.5. The torture of three Albanians from Preševo


About 9 p.m. on October 26, three Preševo Albanians - Ekrem Sulejmani (aged 43), Bejtula Musahu (55) and his son Avni (27) - were riding in tractors on their way back from Strezovce village, where they had bought cows and calves for their own use. A calf escaped from a trailer and all three started to look for it. As they were searching the surroundings, a voice from the dark ordered them to halt. They were immediately surrounded by some 20 policemen who ordered them to lie face down and place their hands on their heads. Bejtula Musahu described his experience of that night as follows:


They started to strike us with submachine guns, punch us and kick us on the heads and bodies, insulting and cursing us all the time. They called us terrorists and threatened to give us hell. One of the policemen squatted above my head, broke wind and said we were all “shit and arseholes.”


Avni Musahu was first struck several times on the small of the back while he lay on his stomach. A policeman then ordered him to lie on his back and to cup his hands behind his head. ‘The policeman next pressed my neck to the ground with the submachine gun and kicked me with his boot in the face,’ he told the HLC. Sulejmani was punched and kicked while a policeman kept his head pressed to the ground with his boot so that he could not move. ‘They cursed my “Albanian mother” and all the rest. As it was dark I couldn’t see the badge numbers or what they looked like’, he told the HLC. Sulejmani suffered two broken teeth and numerous injuries all over his body.


It was only an hour later, when a local policeman from Preševo called Ljubiša and a colleague happened along, that the beating stopped. Ljubiša recognized his fellow citizens and asked the unidentified policemen to lay off. However, several of them continued to beat Sulejmani even after that. A little later an ambulance car arrived and took Bejtula and Ekrem first to an outpatient facility in Preševo and then to a hospital in Vranje. Avni, who was not injured as seriously, was taken to the police station in Preševo, where he made a statement about the incident. He was released at 6 p.m. the next day. Bejtula and Ekrem were questioned by inspectors after they were discharged from the hospital on October 27.


The police returned the tractors but all the livestock the Albanians had bought in Strezovce village - four cows and two calves - were confiscated by market inspectors. Avni says no receipt for the livestock was given.


On 28 October 2001, the Committee for Human Rights in Bujanovac wrote to the Co-ordinating Body to complain about the abuse of power by MUP members. Four days later, on November 4, the three Albanians were summoned to the police station in Bujanovac. The two police officers who received them took their statements and promised to institute proceedings against the perpetrators ‘if their guilt is established’. The same day they received notification from the market inspectors confirming the confiscation of the cows and calves with the explanation that they had been bought ‘without permission’. In reply to the Committee for Human Rights representation and a HLC media statement, the Serbian MUP announced that the perpetrators were known and would be punished for breach of discipline. Their names were not given and the action taken against them was not specified.


4.3.6. Freedom of movement violations


All citizens were granted full freedom of movement after the OVPMB was disbanded on 30 May 2001. The police and the VJ violated people’s right to freedom of movement by prohibiting the grazing of livestock in some villages or bringing misdemeanour charges against persons arriving from abroad via Kosovo.


Haxije Abazi of Nesalce village arrived from Switzerland via Priština on 7 June 2001. She was kept waiting at the police checkpoint in Končulj for two hours. Another woman, Rejhane Fejzl, was also unnecessarily delayed. Misdemeanour charges were brought in both cases.


In support of its claim that the citizens’ freedom of movement is respected, the Co-ordinating Body announced that 299,038 persons from the territory of Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa municipalities had crossed into Kosovo and 296,888 had come back between 31 May and 31 October 2001.


Several residents of Depče village in Preševo municipality complained that their access to the neighbourhood called Zegbaša had been barred by police who insulted them, pointed rifles at them and put on ski masks. Fadil Haziri, Avdi Zymberi, Ajvaz Zymberi, Zeqirja Rashiti and Bejxhet Ajvazi experienced such maltreatment during February 2002. The problem was eliminated next month after a meeting between the villagers and VJ and police representatives.


One of the grievances concerned the MUP’s refusal to issue passports. According to the Committee for Human Rights in Bujanovac, by May 2002 travel document applications had been turned down for Shefqet Arifi and Driton Xhelili of Breznica, Arsim Leka and Lirim Jakupi of Bujanovac and Vebi Ajdari of Dobrosin. The Committee says they were denied passports because they were under investigation. The problem is expected to be solved under the Amnesty Law.


4.3.7. Summonses for interrogation


Cases of people being summoned or brought in by the police for questioning without a written summons or an explanation were not rare. On these occasions the police were mostly interested in information concerning the activities of the disbanded OVPMB or the OVK. In several cases the police inquired in connection with the display of Albanian flags.


Lokman Dalipi, Visar Beluli and Afrim Azizi of Nesalce village in The Bujanovac municipality were ordered to appear at the police station in Biljača at 9 a.m. on 20 June 2001 for the purpose of an ‘informative conversation’. The summons was relayed to them orally by Hyseni Gzima, a messenger for misdemeanour prosecuting authorities. The three ignored the summons because it had come from the police station commander, Stanko Todorović, who had taken part in the beating of 13 Albanian civilians of Letovice village in 1999. EU monitors (EUMM) reacted the same day and warned Todorović that such practice was impermissible. The reply was that the conversation was necessary in order to obtain information about the OVPMB.


Burim Hasani (b. 1980) went to the Preševo OUP and applied for an identity card on 5 July 2001. He was kept there and questioned for four hours.


After handing in my identity card application, I was told to go upstairs for a talk about something or other. I entered a room with three men in civilian clothes inside. One of them was an interpreter. I knew none of them because I’d been away from Preševo from 1999 to 2001. They asked me where I’d been as a member of the OVPMB, whom I’d killed, what my mission had been, who was my superior officer. Much of the questioning concerned, among other things, what the OVPMB had been up to in Oraovica. The chief of the Preševo OUP, whom I remember from before, did not question me himself but saw that I’d been pulled in and was present during part of the questioning.’


Hasani was released after being told to report with his younger brother Naim for further discussions at 10 a.m. the next day if he wanted his identity card. The police treated Naim in the same way when he had applied for his identity card three weeks previously. After the matter was reported to the HLC and Preševo municipal authorities, Burim got his identity card without undergoing further questioning.


Sadik Ferati (b. 1980) was questioned at the police station in Bujanovac when he went there to collect his new identity card on 22 April 2002. He was told that he would have to be transferred to prison in Vranje because he was among persons suspected of setting up the OVPMB. It was not before the Committee for Human Rights intervened that he was allowed to go.


4.4. Representations to the Co-ordinating Body


The Committee for Human Rights in Bujanovac began making representations for the municipalities of Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa to the Co-ordinating Body of the Serbian and Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) governments on 21 December 2000. As of this writing, the body has received over 120 representations containing citizens’ complaints about their treatment by the police, the VJ and state authorities.


The Co-ordinating Body responded four months after it had received the first representation. It answered 24 of the 61 representations submitted, accompanying each reply with a report on the inquiries made and the measures taken. It also said that the other allegations were being looked into. Nine more representations were answered later, but since March 2002 the Committee for Human Rights has not heard from the Co-ordinating Body.


All of the Committee representations related to incidents to the detriment of Albanians. Of the 33 replies, 30 related to incidents in the municipality of Bujanovac and the remaining three to those in the municipality of Preševo. Two-thirds of investigated incidents occurred in large settlements (Bujanovac, Preševo, Veliki Trnovac). Except for three, all of them occurred in December 2000 or during 2001.[71]


4.4.1. Violation of the right to life


The Co-ordinating Body answered only one representation regarding violation of the right to life, i.e., the kidnapping of Nebi Nuhiu, owner of the ‘Neza petrol’ filling station in Preševo.[72] In its reply to the representation, the MUP informed Nuhiu’s daughter that ‘on the basis of collected evidence and information, members of the police have filed criminal charges with the Office of the District Public Prosecutor in Vranje against an unidentified perpetrator of the criminal offence of kidnapping under Article 64 of the KZ RS [Criminal Code of the Republic of Serbia]’. The report on the investigation carried out corroborated the allegations contained in the representation and added that ‘the SUP in Vranje continues to take intensive operational-tactical measures and actions for the purpose of discovering Nebi Nuhiu and the committer of this criminal act.[73]


4.4.2.Violations of the right to psychological and physical integrity


The MUP answered 20 representations alleging violation of the right to psychological and physical integrity. The most frequent complaints were about physical abuse (8), improper behaviour and insults (4), maltreatment (3) and threats (3).


The MUP confirmed the allegations in only one of these cases. In its reply to the Committee’s representation on behalf of Fehrija Selimi, who complained against improper behaviour by uniformed persons, the MUP stated that ‘it was established...that two unidentified uniformed persons behaved improperly towards Selimi Fikrije [sic], whistling and waving their arms at her...’ but that ‘...the said person was unable to state whether this concrete case involved military or police uniform, and was also unable to give a description of the said persons’.


In all the other cases, the allegations set out in the representations were dismissed with the explanations ‘not founded’ or ‘no evidence provided’. In one case the allegation was dismissed as incorrect and in several others it was replied that evidence was unavailable ‘owing to the inaccessibility of the complainant’. While most replies granted that the complainant had been in contact with the police, his or her allegation of rights violation was dismissed. Half the replies acknowledged that the police behaved ‘untactfully’ or ‘unprofessionally’ or ‘entered into arguments’. While policemen were said to have been cautioned or subjected to disciplinary action, only one was referred to by his name because his name was cited by the aggrieved party in the representation.


Aziz Isuf of Oraovica village in Preševo municipality complained that an explosive device had been planted at the filling station he owns and that he had been threatened by the police. The MUP replied that ‘about 11.30 p.m. on 23 January unidentified perpetrator committed a criminal act of terrorism under Article 125 of the CC [Criminal Code] of the FRY, to the detriment of Isuf Azizi, by planting an explosive device’. It concluded that ‘the indicia that in this particular case members of the police took part in the commission of the criminal offence were not borne out by the information gathered’. The MUP also said that ‘it was established that several cases of unprofessional conduct and transgression of authority on the part of members of the police occurred in recent years (as of 2000). In these cases appropriate action was taken against the responsible personnel. Azizi points out in particular that of late he has had no problems whatever with, or complaints against the work of, members of the police other than in individual case’.


Kadrush and Lokman Aliu complained that their vehicle had been hit by a projectile. The MUP replied that criminal charges would be brought against an unidentified perpetrator for the criminal offence of terrorism. Contrary to the allegation in the representation, the MUP report insisted that the projectile had not been fired from the direction of Bujanovac as alleged. ‘It was established that about 10.47 a.m. on the day of 6 February 2001, near the first houses as one approaches the village of Veliki Trnovac from the direction of Bujanovac, the passenger car with the licence plates VR-504-45...was hit in the rear by one projectile fired from an infantry weapon of unknown calibre, which projectile pierced the bumper, the towing hook bar, a plastic bucket and the left shock-absorber’, the MUP report read. It also stated that ‘on the day of 6 February 2001 there were no armed attacks on and provocations of members of the police, nor were firearms used in the area of Bujanovac in the direction of the village of Veliki Trnovac’.


4.4.3. Violations of property rights


The MUP issued 13 reports in reply to the Committee for Human Rights’ representations alleging violations of property rights including theft (5), damage (3) and appropriation of property (3). In one case the police failed to act on a housebreaking complaint[74] and in another a policeman refused to pay back money he had borrowed.[75]


Although the MUP replies for the most part bore out the description of the alleged violations, police responsibility was confirmed in only two cases. In four cases the police or administrative authorities involved were said to have acted lawfully; with regard to the rest the MUP stated that the facts and the allegations set out in the representations did not fully match and denied that simultaneous violations of the right to psychological and physical integrity had occurred in some instances. In most cases its estimate of damage differed from that stated in the representations.


Criminal responsibility was established in the case of Kadrija Rašitović, owner of the ‘Eureka komerc’ store in Lučani. He had complained that the police had looted his store and taken away machinery and materials. Rašitović’s lawyer pressed criminal charges against an unidentified perpetrator, and the Committee for Human Rights filed a representation with the Co-ordinating Body. The MUP said in reply that ‘before the criminal charges were pressed and the representation made, members of the police ascertained, acting on operational information, that the said criminal offence had been committed by Zoran Rakić, Dragan Topalović and Goran Jovanović, policemen of the SUP in Belgrade, from whom articles deriving from the commission of the criminal offence have temporarily been confiscated...since not all the articles have been discovered, the necessary measures and actions continue to be undertaken with a view to discovering said articles and detecting the perpetrators’. The policemen were charged with aggravated larceny and relieved of duty pending disciplinary proceedings.


In two cases complaints concerned violations by members of the Serb ethnic community. In both cases the allegations of property rights violations were upheld without, however, confirming the identity of the perpetrators as given in the representations.


The Committee for Human Rights representation in connection with the complaint by Aslan Kastrati of Bujanovac gives the nickname of the man of Serb nationality who broke several plates with eggs and made threats to Kastrati. However, after interviewing five witnesses, all of whom were of Serb nationality, the MUP said that ‘the unidentified perpetrator broke without cause and for no reason several plates with eggs that Aslan Kastrati was selling and then departed from the scene...No evidence exists on the basis of the data and information collected to point to Grada Stojiljković as the perpetrator of this offence...In the course of  the proceedings conducted so far the value of the damaged articles was established at 1,200 dinars not 100 view of the rapidity of the event, no evidence was secured to corroborate the allegation in the representation that the citizens gathered round took no action to protect Aslan Kastrati’. Although the MUP did not identify Stojiljković as the perpetrator, it nevertheless stated in its reply that ‘a caution was imposed on Grada Stojiljković under statutory powers’.[76]


4.5. Damage to Property During Conflict


Houses and other private property were damaged during armed clashes in the municipalities of Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa. Most of the damage was the consequence of combat operations, though some was also caused by the armed formations during their occupancy of houses and ancillary facilities. Cases of looting of households also occurred. Some damage was caused by negligent VJ and police drivers, and some by VJ and police arrogance.


The Programme and Plan for the Resolution of the Crisis in the Municipalities of Bujanovac, Preševo and Medveđa subsumes the property problems under the chapter entitled ‘Economic and Social Revitalization and Development of the Region’. The chapter envisages the construction of road, water supply, electricity and telephone networks in all the villages, the cataloguing of damage and repair of houses to enable the repatriation of Albanian refugees and the repair of 527 Serb housing facilities for temporary accommodation of 2,300 persons displaced from Kosovo and Metohija. This part of the Programme is making the least progress: only some 3 per cent and some 30 per cent was realized - two and eight months, respectively, after the signing of the Programme, its full implementation being due in three years. The HLC considers the present rate of progress unacceptable since the return of displaced persons depends on just compensation for damaged property and prompt house repair.


4.5.1. Damage to property in The Bujanovac municipality


Most violations of property rights in the municipality of Bujanovac occurred in villages situated just outside the KSZ, notably Lučane, Turija and Nesalce. Violations also occurred inside the KSZ, in the villages of Pribovce, Novo Selo, Zabrince and Končulj. In some cases commissions were set up to assess the damage, their members including local Albanians whose property had been damaged.


In the mountain villages around Zabrince village (Pribovce, Čar, Ravno Bučje, Novo Selo) in the area of Malesija Bujanovac, several houses were damaged and the household movables either looted or destroyed. The HLC investigator who visited Pribovce after the end of the fighting saw visible damage to houses apparently done at various times. Most houses also bore graffiti. Those of Hafiz Musliu, Shaban Rexhepi and Imer Musliu were damaged in almost the same way.


I was born in Pribovce and have spent my whole life here. During the conflict between the army and the OVPMB, I was in Pribovce, staying in my house. My family had escaped to Kosovo but I stayed here. When the OVPMB started to pull out, I set out for Kosovo, for Gnjilane. It was on 22 May 2001. The house you’re looking at was in a normal state of repair. There was furniture inside, so when I set off I locked the door. I heard that the army entered the village the next day - 23 May 2001. Today is the first time I’ve visited the house since I left. Everything was destroyed - the things that were inside, the doors and the windows, completely destroyed. So far as I can see, my stable across from the house wasn’t damaged. I wish to return to Pribovce and that’s why I’m here. I’m embittered and I want the state to make this good.[77]


Musliu’s house, consisting of a ground floor and a floor above, lies on the left side of the road as it enters the village. All the doors and windows were smashed, the things inside were scattered around and food leftovers lay about. Some parts of the house were used as a toilet. The Albanian acronym UCPMB and several graffiti in Albanian were written on its walls. On the ground in front of the house there was a piece of uniform without emblems.


The house of Shaban Rexhepi, who left Pribovce in 1999, was damaged to the same extent. Someone had scrawled ‘The Nikšić Boys’ and ‘For King and Fatherland’ on its walls.


During the conflict in 2000 and 2001, the police used 21 houses in Lučane village in which 160 people used to live. On 24 April 2001, after the VJ and the police evacuated these houses, a takeover in writing was effected. However, the houses were wrecked and looted a little later the same day. The Co-ordinating Body condemned the act and an investigation was launched. On its completion a statement was made that the perpetrators had been suspended and disciplinary action taken against them. The names and the number of the perpetrators were not given.


The secretary of the Lučane local community, Enver Hetemi, told the HLC that the damage had been assessed on several occasions.


The first official commission to inspect these houses was composed of international community representatives, the EUMM and the UNHCR. They inspected the houses superficially and jotted down the damage. Later, when the situation had calmed down, a new commission arrived. Its members were men in uniforms. They had cameras, made records about each building, took photographs. After them a third commission went out, comprising a representative of the MUP, the municipality of Bujanovac, and our local community. The villagers were most pleased with the work of this last commission because everybody who’d suffered damage made a statement about his possessions and gave his own estimate of the damage. In some cases the value of the things was reduced, so four families made a statement saying they disagreed with the damage estimate.


By 28 October 2001, seven out of 21 families had been reimbursed,[78] the damages ranging from 4,000 DEM to 21,000 DEM (2,000 EUR to 10,500 EUR). Two owners took legal action over the damage estimate. The Committee for Human Rights in Bujanovac says that payments continued during November and that almost all the villagers were reimbursed in the course of 2002. In cases where litigation is pending, the damages have not yet been paid.


The MUP agreed to pay 60,000 dinars (about 1,000 EUR) to Qenan Kurteshi, owner of the private company Gold Commerce, in reparations for property destroyed during armed clashes. Januz Sabedini of Kurbalija village in Preševo municipality received 79,000 dinars (some 1,300 EUR) in damages. Ilmi Memeti of Oslare village was informed, however, that the damage caused by members of the VJ billeted from 24 March to 15 April 1999 had not been fully established.


Many houses in the village of Mali Trnovac were damaged, looted or demolished. In August 2001 an UNHCR team and the owners made an approximate assessment of the damage and agreed on emergency help measures to enable the residents to reoccupy their houses. Shefqet Berisha (b. 1942) and his wife returned to the village the same day.


I arrived earlier today thinking I could stay. But I see now that it’s impossible. I’d  left the house with all the furniture inside and two cows in the shed. We took to Kosovo carrying only two bags with us. As you can see, there’s nothing in the house left. Even the walls are damaged in places. The doors, windows and part of the roof are gone, everything that was in the house was stolen.’


Inside the house, only a part of the wall system inscribed with motifs from the Serbian coat of arms survived. Food leftovers, tins and cartridge cases lay about in the room. There were two loopholes in a wall for sniping. The kitchen and other places were used as a toilet. Kitchenware lay scattered in the house yard.


The two-storey house of Sabri Jakupi of the same village was also completely looted and wrecked. The signs of a minor fire were visible on the upper floor. The ground-floor workshop was smashed up, the more valuable appliances were missing, and parts of others were broken.


Owing to mines buried in the fields, the residents of Mali Trnovac, who are mostly farmers, cannot go about their work. When they fled the village, they left their livestock behind. They have not been able to repair their homes completely yet. Their difficulties are compounded by the location of the village.


4.5.2. Damage to property in Preševo municipality


Private property in the municipality of Preševo suffered damage as a result of fighting as well as looting, wilful destruction and abuse. Most damage was caused in villages where fighting occurred (Oraovica, Gornja Sušaja) and in mountain villages within the KSZ (Cerevajka, Sefer, Depče, Mađere), whose residents are reluctant to return.


Although all of the 22 families who lived in Depče’s Ukmemeti neighbourhood are back, seven of them were living in tents. The UNHCR has built new houses for five families. Two families spent the last winter in tents.


In the neighbouring village of Buhić, Halit Hairulahu and four members of his family spent the winter in a tent. He told the HLC in January 2002 that he had not received any compensation for his damaged house and no humanitarian aid since November 2001.


Following the May 2001 incidents in Oraovica, 25 residents contacted the Committee for Human Rights in Bujanovac to complain about property rights violations, i.e., damage to houses and ancillary buildings caused by fighting or movement of vehicles. The villagers also reported the disappearance of appliances, money and valuables during searches. The perpetrators were not found.


In the village of Gornja Šušaja, whose population consists of 10 families, the houses of Zejdi Emini and Naser Mehmeti, whose households number 11 and 9 respectively, were badly damaged. By the look of it, the projectiles that caused the damage came from the Serb positions. The only resident who stayed in the village throughout the clashes, Bejzad Haliti, told the HLC:


The people from all the 10 houses in the villages went to Kosovo and I alone remained. It wasn’t before May 21 that the Red Cross escorted me out of the village, the shooting having been bad for several days before. By that day all the houses were in order and no one had entered them. But when I got back, I saw a lorry covered with a tarpaulin in the yard of my neighbour Memet. I went over to have a look, thinking he might’ve come back. Two men in camouflage uniforms - I think they were commandos - came out of the house. They told me they were “on field duty”, got into the lorry at once and drove off. I couldn’t see whether there was something in the lorry, but saw that the house had been broken into and that some things were missing. A similar lorry arrived from the direction of Rajince village three or four hours later. I stood in front of the house as it approached and was sure that they’d seen me. The lorry made an about turn and went back the same way.


4.5.3. Property Rights Violations Since Mid-2001


The Azizi motel, owned by Lufti Azizi of Preševo, stands in the inner town area. Since 1999, special police have been stationed in the motel and in a private house next to it. Special police have also been billeted in the Youth Club in the Železnička Stanica local community in which the majority of Preševo’s Serbs live.


Following the shooting in the village of Ranatovce in September 2001, seven households of the Arifi family numbering 50 members left their houses. The unoccupied houses were wrecked and ransacked. A VJ officer said during a meeting with residents of Kardak village in Preševo municipality that ‘weapons and medical supplies’ had been found in the houses and that ‘the houses themselves were smashed up by bands from Kosovo’.[79]


Albanians who own land near the border with the Republic of Macedonia find it particularly difficult to exercise their property rights. Muhamet Ramadani (b. 1967) of Miratovac village in Preševo municipality has three different plots which he either cannot work or can do so only with difficulty.


The fist plot is located at the place called Kroni i Canit. Although the place is more than a kilometre from the border, we are forbidden to do anything there because it is allegedly too close to the border. The other plot is near my house, at the place called Bregu i Cakanoces. Although it’s a five-minute-walk by direct route, we’re not allowed to use it because the soldiers are stationed there, so we have to use a roundabout one. As to the third plot, a police barrack stood there until recently. The barrack is gone but the trenches remain. I’ve applied to a commission about compensation but I’ve had no reply.


Remzi Murati of Stanec village in Preševo municipality and his three brothers own a total of eight hectares of land. He alleges that the VJ prohibits him to use his property ‘under the excuse that we are forbidden to move through the wood’. He says that the VJ used his timber and gravel to build a road without his permission.


The house of the Azizi family in Depče village in Preševo municipality was damaged around 24 February 2002. A VJ officer told residents of this and adjoining villages that he had seen the incident and that the men who did the damage were not in military uniform. He mentioned that police were also deployed in the area.


Citizens also complain that their movable property (cars, tractors, lorries) were confiscated during the state of war in 1999. Most of the vehicles were never returned, the explanation being that they were destroyed during combat operations.[80] In one of the cases the MUP informed the owner that ‘owing to combat operations, the tractor filed by the MUP in Vranje was placed at the disposal of the Poljoprodukt socially-owned company to be used and exploited. The owner may collect the tractor in question...’[81] In another case, the MUP instructed the aggrieved party to press criminal charges against the person who had appropriated a vehicle.[82]


4.6. Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees


According to UNHCR estimates, over 15,000 people fled southern Serbia during and after the NATO bombing in 1999.


The clashes in the municipalities of Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa during 2000 and 2001 triggered a new mass exodus of Albanians, the majority of whom felt that their personal safety was threatened. According to UNHCR and ICRC figures, 4,531 internally displaced persons from the municipality of Preševo, 13,252 from the municipality of Bujanovac and almost the entire Albanian population of the municipality of Medveđa arrived in Kosovo. During the armed clashes, the entire Albanian population in the municipality of Medveđa numbered 300. Fighting in the village of Oraovica in May 2001 displaced another 3,000 Albanians from the village itself and from neighbouring Kurbalija, 969 of them fleeing to Kosovo on May 15 alone. The majority of the displaced found temporary accommodation in Gnjilane and its neighbourhood. Albanian sources estimate the number of Albanians who fled the region of Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa between May 1999 and the Oraovica incidents of May 2001 at some 25,000.


The displaced Albanians began to return after the end of the armed clashes. Their mass return was preceded by organized visits for displaced persons to inspect their homes during June 2001. The security situation, the state of the property left behind and the possibility of work weighed heavily with those displaced Albanians who considered going back. Help from international organizations in repairing damaged houses and in other spheres of life has been invaluable.


According to Yugoslav government official data,[83] of the 12,500 displaced persons from the three municipalities, more than 9,000 had returned by the end of 2001. The return continued during 2002. There are believed to be fewer than 1,500 displaced persons accommodated in Kosovo at present. The Co-ordinating Body president, Nebojša Čović, said on 27 July 2002 that 450 or so displaced Albanians from the municipalities of Preševo and Bujanovac were still in Kosovo.


4.6.1. The villages in Malesija Bujanovac area


Fearing for their safety, all the residents of Zarubnica and the surrounding villages, i.e. Čar, Pribovac, Novo Selo, Đorđevac and Ravno Bučje, left their homes. Their organized mass return was preceded by organized visits to the villages and meetings with UNHCR, EUMM, VJ and MUP representatives. Those who considered returning addressed the most questions to the VJ and MUP representatives, asking for guarantees of safety and promises that people would not be physically and verbally abused. The guarantees the VJ and MUP representatives gave were of a general nature. They promised that the VJ and the police would behave in a disciplined manner and asked the citizens to report incidents to VJ and police authorities.


Besides being concerned about their personal safety, the residents worried about the damage done to schools and other public buildings. During the first visits to villages in June 2001, attended by a HLC representative, the VJ was no longer billeted in those facilities but signs of their use were still visible. A VJ tank stood parked next to the school in the village of Zabrince and a VJ tent was positioned next to the village clinic. The villagers demanded that the VJ should leave the school yard. The VJ complied at the end of the year but the school remained closed in the 2001-2002 school year.


When residents visited the mountain village of Pribovce in the far north of the municipality of Bujanovac, they saw damage as well as evidence of looting and occupancy by armed formations. The residents are poor, engage mostly in crop and livestock farming, and have no means of repairing the damage. The large number of mines scattered in the area make tilling difficult.


According to available figures, 55 out of 67 families had returned to Zabrince, 12 out of 60 to Ravno Bučje, 12 out of 45 to Suharno, five out of 45 to Pribovce, and six out of 25 to Novo Selo by 15 October 2001. There was no substantial return to these villages in 2002. The residents of the Albanian village of Đorđevac, most of whom are staying in Bujanovac, have no wish to return because nearly all the houses have been destroyed.


4.6.2. Other villages in The Bujanovac municipality


The entire Albanian population of the village of Mali Trnovac on the Kosovo border left following the disappearance on 20 June 2000 of the only Serb residents, Vlada and Persa Miletić. Of the 550 residents living in 62 houses, 135 living in 14 houses had returned by mid-June 2001. Accommodation is the returnees’ biggest problem because nearly all the houses are more or less damaged. There is evidence that most of the houses were occupied by members of the armed forces and that some were used to shoot from. The villagers who lost their livestock and cannot till the land owing to mines depend entirely on humanitarian aid from the ICRC and the Islamic Religious Community. They cite lack of health care as a major problem. The village has no clinic, and only one resident owns an unlicenced vehicle. The villagers insist on being given permission to use the vehicle in emergencies in order to reach the nearest clinic and on being let through the police checkpoint between Mali Trnovac and Veliki Trnovac without harassment.


Some 70 per cent of the 480 residents of the village of Nesalce left during the year 2000. More than 60 families returned by the end of June 2001 and the remaining 15 afterwards. A similar situation obtains in Letovica - where return was substantial though individual - nearly all of the 200 families having returned by the end of 2001. The president of the Letovica local community, Ekrem Xhemaili, says that the constant presence of multi-ethnic police patrols has been the most positive development.


During the last two years the village residents have suffered frequent maltreatment at the hands of the police. In 1999, 13 of our residents were detained under the pretext of possessing weapons. They were beaten and maltreated in the police station. Stanko Todorović, the commander of the police station in Biljača, still occupies that post. That same year, soldiers stayed in 12 houses of our village. The damage done to them was never adequately repaid. The commander who used to visit the village, Major Vuksanović, told us that that we ‘ought to be content’. Education of our village children is a big problem. The village school is a four-year one, so over 70 pupils from the village have to travel as far as Nesalce. We had no means of transport to Letovica for over three months and the children were the most affected. We also applied for a pre-school facility and were even prepared to pay for it. The problems with the facilities built by our villagers and those of neighbouring Rajinac with the help of a joint self-imposed levy also remain. The facilities, all of which are falling into disrepair, are now the property of the Jugokop company. The villages are willing to invest their own money to build a facility to be used by all, such as a culture centre or something like that. Unemployment is another big problem. There are a great many highly-educated people in our village who are unemployed. During 1999, some of the villagers were dismissed from the factories where they worked, above all from Simpo. The road to our village is unpaved although the one leading to Gramada, which has a Serb population, is largely paved with asphalt.


In spite of all that, the villagers are returning because they want to live and work here. All of them feel much more secure because of the presence of the multi-ethnic police and now expect other problems to be solved in a satisfactory manner.


In May 2001, some 20 of the 120 or so families (constituting a total of 1,100 people) living in Dobrosin village on the Kosovo border crossed temporarily into Kosovo for fear of possible incidents following the return of the VJ and the police to the KSZ. They returned that summer. However, they insist that the killing of the Shaqipi brothers be solved, that the remaining mines be removed, and that the police stop unnecessarily searching and verbally abusing people who travel to Kosovo several times a day. The villagers point out that they have always had close links with municipalities in Kosovo and that none of them has ever been employed in the municipality of Bujanovac.


The secretary of the local community in Končulj, a village with a population of 1,200, says that 70 per cent went to Kosovo following the disbanding of the OVPMB and the return of the VJ and the police to the area. Nearly all of them returned during June 2001.


4.6.3. The municipality of Preševo


By 19 September 2001, 1,263 internally displaced people had returned to the municipality of Preševo in an organized manner. The largest returns were on 17 and 26 July 2001, when some 400 went back, mostly to Bujić, Depče, Ceravajka and Ilince villages. Twenty-nine families whose houses were damaged were living in tents.


The villages of Ilince, Bujić, Cerevajka and Mađere, situated in a mountainous western part of the municipality called Karadak, found themselves inside the KSZ. When news spread that the VJ and the police were returning, the villagers left the area. These villages remained deserted, some of their inhabitants having already left in 1999 and 2000. The villagers made their return conditional on the withdrawal of the strong VJ and police forces from the area. Armed forces were billeted in private houses in Bujić and Ilince during June 2001 and a large police unit stayed in the primary school in Ceravajka on the Gnjilane-Preševo road. The police evacuated the school and the private houses at the end of July 2001.


The return of internally displaced persons staying mostly in neighbouring Gnjilane in Kosovo was organized by international humanitarian organizations in cooperation with local authorities in Preševo. Individual returns were characteristic of villages in the north of the municipality (Gornja Šušaja, Donja Šušaja, Crnotince) and Oraovica. Most of the villagers either visited or returned to their homes during June 2001.


The regular weekly meetings of village representatives and other residents with representatives of the VJ, the police and international organizations have proved useful in encouraging the return of displaced persons. At such meetings in the Cerevajka school residents have been able to air their grievances about VJ and police behaviour. They find that this practice encourages others to return. However, this practice was discontinued in July 2002.


4.6.4. The municipality of Medveđa


So far, 307 Albanians have returned to this municipality in an organized manner, mostly with UNHCR help.[84] The present Albanian population of the municipality is estimated at some 800. The president of the Co-ordinating Body said after the local elections in July 2002 that some 700 Albanians from the municipality remained internally displaced in Kosovo.


4.6.5. Refugees from the Republic of Macedonia


According to the UNHCR, over 8,000 Albanians and some 2,000 Macedonians and members of other ethnic communities had crossed into Serbia and Montenegro by 1 June 2001 to escape the fighting in Macedonia. The majority of the Albanians have found temporary accommodation in villages in the municipality of Preševo. Some 1,500 refugees took to Miratovac, a village on the Macedonian border, while 200 or so went to Čukarka, another 100 to Crnotince, etc. On 25 May 2001 alone, 1,500 people, mostly residents of the Macedonian village of Lojane, fled to Preševo municipality. The Bujanovac municipality refugee commissioner says that repatriation has been negligible.

5. Albanian Participation in Public Life



5.1. The Multi-Ethnic Police


The replacement of regular police with members of the multi-ethnic police force trained according to OSCE standards is a major condition for the restoration of mutual trust and the return of the Albanian ethnic community, as well as for the success of the ongoing political process and the development of a civil society.


Under the plan, the training of multi-ethnic police was carried out in three phases. The first, from 21 May to 9 June 2001, comprised three five-day courses attended by Serb policemen and former Albanian policemen from Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa who had previously been dismissed. The first multi-ethnic patrols went out on 28 May 2001. During the second phase, 28 former members of the reserve security forces attended a five-day course beginning on 11 June 2001.


The third phase involved the training of 400 beginners from Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa in police work. They were admitted as trainees on the basis of a public competition for members of the multi-ethnic police force in Preševo, Medveđa and Bujanovac. The competition was advertised by the Serbian MUP in cooperation with the OSCE mission in Yugoslavia. The applicants had to be FRY citizens, possess secondary school vocational qualifications, be between 20 and 27 years old and psychophysically fit. Also, persons with previous criminal convictions and those against whom criminal proceedings were pending were ruled out. The deadlines for applications were extended twice.


Members of the Albanian ethnic community proved the most interested in the project. The age requirement posed a problem for them and members of the Roma ethnic community because there were not many of them who satisfied both this and other requirements. Furthermore, the majority of Albanians in this age group had earned their diplomas in Kosovo and Serbia did not recognize those before 20 September 2001.


During the screening of candidates for the second group, 31 Albanians were turned down for not meeting the ‘special conditions’. According to the Committee for Human Rights in Bujanovac, the ‘special conditions’ in this particular case required that no member of the applicant’s family had a conviction record either and that a favourable opinion of the applicant had been obtained in the field. The HLC notes that such conditions are not envisaged in the ‘Accepted Principles for the Multi-Ethnic Police Element in the Municipalities of Preševo, Medveđa and Bujanovac’ signed in Bujanovac on 27 June 2001 by the Serbian Minister for Internal Affairs, Dušan Mihajlović; the President of the Preševo Municipal Assembly, Riza Halimi; the Head of the OSCE Mission in Yugoslavia, Stefano Sanino; and the President of the government Co-ordinating Body, Nebojša Čović.


The training of the applicants selected in the competition began on 6 August 2001. From then until 15 July 2002 four groups were trained, comprising 253 Albanians, 128 Serbs, two Yugoslavs and one Montenegrin. The trainees included 29 Serb and Albanian women. The training in Mitrovo polje was conducted by ‘qualified international police instructors under OSCE auspices in cooperation with Serbian instructors’. All the trainees were accommodated in the Training Centre. Both languages were used equally with the help of interpreters. A Joint Working Group comprising one representative each of the Albanians, the Government of the Republic of Serbia and OSCE supervised work and dealt with all important issues.[85]


5.2. Education


The Albanian and Roma communities in the Preševo Valley are very interested in educational possibilities. The considerable problems stemming from the 1990s have recently been compounded by the physical damage done to schools. The damage has partly been made good thanks to foreign donations but the inadequate school inventories still pose a great problem.


The programme and plan for the resolution of the crisis in the municipalities of Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa provides for no measure whatever to solve the numerous educational problems of the local minorities. Albanian representatives have for their part put forward proposals for improving the situation on several occasions. They demand Albanian administration and management of schools, legislation to enable them to set up primary and secondary schools using separate instruction plans and programmes and textbooks in the Albanian language and the establishment of a special educational committee (Serbia-Kosovo) to regulate the education of local Albanians in secondary schools, which do not exist in the Preševo Valley, as well as in senior schools and universities in Kosovo. Other demands include recognition of all diplomas issued by secondary and senior schools in Kosovo and the University of Priština in 1991-2001, speeding up the validation of diplomas granted by universities in Albania and other countries, construction and reconstruction of educational facilities, and provision of equipment to modernize teaching.


The HLC recognizes that the minorities’ educational problems include inadequate schools, lack of teaching aids, inadequate instruction plans and programmes, non-recognition of diplomas earned in Kosovo in 1991-2001 and the impossibility of influencing the election of school management personnel.


5.2.1. The state of schools in the Bujanovac municipality


Primary schools in this municipality were attended by 5,805 pupils and secondary schools by 1,141 pupils in the school year 2001/2002, with nine primary schools operating in the whole of the municipality. Four of these (in Bujanovac, Klenika, Levosoje and Žbevče) had instruction in Serbian; four (Bujanovac, Muhovac, Veliki Trnovac and Lučane) in Albanian; and the ‘Desanka Maksimović’ school in Biljača under a Serb governor provided instruction in both languages (492 pupils were Albanian and 23 Serbs). Taken as a whole, Albanian language classes were attended by 3,485 pupils and those in Serbian by 2,319 (552 Roma and 1,767 Serbs).


Most of the primary schools operated branches in neighbouring villages, mainly for pupils attending the first four years of schooling. A great many of these facilities were always in bad repair and suffered further damage during the armed clashes. Some of them served or still serve as accommodation for the VJ and police.


The ‘Skanderbeg’ primary school in Zabrince, which had some 350 pupils including those attending branch classes, suffered extensive damage and was not opened last year. The teachers’ flats in the vicinity, the local community office, the library and the cultural activity premises were also damaged. Property in all these buildings was destroyed, there being indications that the school furniture, teaching aids and documents were burned as fuel. When residents who wanted to return visited the village with UNHCR assistance, they saw VJ armoured vehicles parked next to the school building as well as signs of the building itself being occupied by soldiers.


The primary school in Čar operates a branch in Muhovac. The school secretary, Xhevad Xhevili, described an incident that occurred during the VJ’s return to the GSZ:


The school in Čar is very small since it has only seven pupils and has hardly any property. On 30 May 2001 policemen went into the school and carried off several things they’d found inside. According to my records, none of the seven items in question, including a ball and a cap called “titovka”, was of any particular value. The electricity metre was the only valuable item among them. It was not before I made a protest that the police drew up a list of the items. Two days later, they returned everything to the school except the meter. I insisted on being given back the metre because we have no money for another, but I received no reply whatever’.


The school building in Vrban village is located by the cemetery. When HLC investigators went to see the building, it was locked. The residents said they had no key and had not been to the school that day because they thought that the police were still inside. The inside of the school and the surroundings bore evidence of a large number of people and vehicles having been there. Although the area outside the school is accessible via the village road, it was obvious that vehicles had been passing through the village cemetery for quite some time.


The new school in the Albanian village of Turija, built with the help of a local self-imposed levy, was still not in use although the old school was dilapidated. A local self-imposed levy was also used to build the school in Dobrosin. The construction of a school at Samoljica was started but had to be stopped owing to lack of money. Older pupils from this village travel daily to the school in Biljača 13 km away.


The school buildings in Letovica, Nesalce, Lučane and Dobrosin are in better repair but lack school desks and chairs. In Nesalce and Lučane, as well as in many other villages, the purchase of desks and chairs was funded by UNICEF.


When villagers returned to Mali Trnovac and inspected the school, they found only two blackboards and two desks inside, the doors and windows having been destroyed. The furnishings were later partly renewed though not enough for normal work.


There are two secondary schools in Bujanovac. The ‘Sveti Sava’ secondary vocational school offers several programmes in Serbian and has 632 pupils. Albanian-language classes were attended by 506 pupils this year, 123 at the gymnasium and 383 at the ‘Mihajlo Pupin’ school of mechanical and electrical engineering.


Secondary-school instruction in Albanian is available in the ‘28. mart’ primary school building because the building used by the ‘Mihajlo Pupin’ gymnasium (formerly ‘Sezai Suroi’) was converted into barracks in 1992. Local authorities complain that the stationing of troops in the building has inconvenienced both ethnic communities because classes for Serb pupils used to be held in another part of the building. The VJ left the building on 15 April 2002. The Committee for Human Rights in Bujanovac says that the building is in such bad repair that it cannot be used for instruction. By 5 July 2002, there had been no indications that the building might be ready for the next school year.


5.2.2. The state of schools in Preševo municipality


There are eight primary and two secondary schools in this municipality. Primary school classes in Albanian are attended by over 5,500 pupils and those in Serbian by some 400 including Roma children. Albanian-language instruction is available in schools in Preševo, Oraovica, Miratovac, Reljane, Crnotince, Cerevajka and Rajince. A school providing instruction in Serbian is situated in the Železnička stanica local community, where most of the municipality’s Serbs live. Some 1,300 Albanian pupils attend the gymnasium and the ‘Preševo’ technical school. Municipal authorities say there is a Serbian-language class for each year of secondary-school instruction.


The eight-year school in Cerevajka village served as a police base until June 2001. Although the furnishings were damaged, the MUP offered no compensation. School employees say that the school still does not have as many teaching aids as it had before the police moved in. The school is very important because it teaches senior pupils from the neighbouring villages of Ilince, Mađere and Bujić. The school in Depče too was stripped of desks, tables, teaching aids, window frames and doors. This school and the one in Gornja Šušaja were used briefly by armed formations during the conflict.


The eight-year school in the village of Reljane has about 700 pupils (550 Albanians and 150 Serbs) including those attending its branches. There is one such branch in the village of Buštranje with 70 Albanian and 12 Serb pupils. The governors of the remaining six primary schools providing instruction in Albanian are Albanians.


Schools in the municipality have benefited greatly from assistance rendered by international organizations. The refurbishing of the ‘22. decembar’ school in Crnotince village is financed by the US government through USAID and the purchase of school desks and chairs by UNICEF. The school is also to receive eight computers from the EU. The latter has plans to make similar donations to all the schools in the municipality.


The eight-year school in Oraovica is attended by some 800 pupils. Instruction is difficult because the building is inappropriate. There is a project to build a new school building and help has been promised by several foreign and international donators. UNICEF has paid for equipment for the eight-year school in Miratovac.


5.2.3. The state of schools in Medveđa municipality


The state of primary schools in this municipality is similar. In the village of Tupale, one of the largest in the municipality, only 35 pupils enrolled this year, compared with 182 three years ago.


5.2.4. Recognition of Kosovo diplomas


The fact that Albanian pupils and students in Kosovo are no longer encompassed by Serbia’s unified system of education has had adverse effects on members of the Albanian ethnic community in the Preševo Valley. Owing to the inadequacy of curricula available locally, lack of educational institutions teaching in Albanian and, especially, the conversion of the Bujanovac gymnasium into a barracks, a number of Albanians from these municipalities have obtained their primary and secondary education in Kosovo and a good many their high education at universities in Priština and Tirana.


The diplomas issued by alternative Albanian schools in Kosovo after 1991 bear the words ‘Kosovo Republic’. These diplomas have been rejected by the Serbian Ministry of Education as invalid. The new authorities, however, appear willing to address the problem. Thus the Ministry of Education and Sport passed the opinion on 4 May 2001 that ‘all diplomas issued on the territory of the Republic of Serbia and the FRY have direct effect in every part of the territory in that they are not subject to validation procedure. The above also applies to the territory of Kosovo and Metohija.’ [86] Regarding diplomas earned in Albania, the Ministry merely said that any person was ‘entitled to request validation or recognition of equivalence’.


In reply to a representation by the Committee for Human Rights in Bujanovac of 20 September 2001, the Ministry replied :This Ministry cannot recognize any diploma issued with the designation Kosovo Republic for understandable reasons. However, all diplomas certified with the UNMIK stamp other than those bearing the designation Kosovo Republic will be recognized by this Ministry.[87]


5.2.5. The instruction programmes and textbooks


Instruction plans and programmes are a crucial issue in the education of all minorities in the FRY. The problem has not been solved to the satisfaction of the Albanian minority either, its members still being taught according to the instruction plans and programmes adopted in 1989. The textbooks they use have merely been translated into Albanian rather than supplemented with material dealing with Albanian culture and history.


The Serbian Ministry of Education and Sport has done nothing so far to improve the situation. Albanian representatives have proposed setting up special bodies in charge of instruction plans and programmes as well as establishing a committee on educational affairs to deal with educational problems of Albanian pupils in schools, the equivalents of which do not exist in the Preševo Valley.


5.3. The Media


The markedly unfavourable situation in the provision of information services to ethnic minorities was somewhat improved during 2001 thanks to OSCE presence and assistance, private initiative and democratic changes in Serbia. Permission to distribute Albanian newspapers and periodicals printed in Kosovo has been a major step forward.


Albanians from southern Serbia have a poor opinion of the news services of the Co-ordinating Body’s Press Centre. The fact that the ‘Programme and Plan for the  Resolution of the Crisis in the Municipalities of Bujanovac, Preševo and Medveđa’ states that ‘the object of the FRY and the RS [Republic of Serbia] is to win the media war through a new approach and so to secure the sympathy of the international community, among other things’ has not escaped their attention. The Plan further states that ‘it ought to be clear to everybody who is outside the law and is for violence, and who is legitimate and is for a peaceful solution; who is the victim and who the criminal; who respects agreements and who does not. One must not support the thesis that the terrorists are “the victims” because it was in that role that they made significant gains in Kosovo and Metohija’.


Bujanovačke novine in Serbian and Jehona in Albanian are the only print media in Bujanovac. The publication of Jehona was resumed on 25 April 2000 after a long break. The fortnightly periodical received funds from the municipal assembly last year but got none this year. It focuses on the Albanians’ political and cultural life and is currently printed in some 3,000 copies. The OSCE project to transform the media in Bujanovac envisages full local media independence, ownership transformation, bilingual services, complete defascistization and training of new personnel from all three ethnic communities.


Radio Bujanovac, a public media establishment founded by the Bujanovac Municipal Assembly, broadcasts in Serbian. This radio station is also covered by the OSCE project. There are also two commercial radio stations in the town, Ema and Duga, broadcasting in Serbian. Ema has its own news programmes as well as rebroadcasts of Germany’s Deutsche Welle, France’s RFE and Belgrade’s Radio B92. The station is open to the problems of all ethnic minorities and supports projects promoting multiculturalism and tolerance.


Radio Toni, the only Albanian-language electronic media house in the municipality of Bujanovac, has operated since 7 June 2001 and currently broadcasts an experimental commercial programme. It plans to launch its own news programme as well as rebroadcasts. On 2 July 2001, Jehona and Radio Toni started a school of journalism to train future local media journalists.


Radio Preševo broadcasts news, cultural and entertainment programmes in the Albanian language. It operates as part of the Preševo Culture Centre and has a staff of seven.


In view of the bad media situation, OSCE, Co-ordinating Body, public media and Albanian representatives signed in 2002 ‘Basic Principles for the Reorganization of Media Founded by the Bujanovac Municipal Assembly’. Although planned, no agreements were signed for Medveđa and Preševo. The first results were in evidence on 20 September 2002, when five-minute news programmes in Albanian began to be broadcast for the first time.


5.4. Culture


Owing to the armed conflict, cultural activities and affairs, which are essential for preserving the identity of ethnic minorities, were relegated to the background. The main cultural institutions in Preševo and Bujanovac are their culture centres. The Albanians also have the ‘Veliki Trnovac’ cultural-artistic society, which last performed in the local culture centre in 1997. A museum was established in Veliki Trnovac in 1993.


The Bujanovac Culture Centre has 12 employees - eight Serbs and Montenegrins and four Roma. The only Albanian employee resigned in 1995. The first event organized by local Albanians after a hiatus of more than three and a half years was the opening of a school of journalism on 2 July 2001. The director of the Culture Centre is a Montenegrin and the director of the Bujanovac Library a Serb. The Library employs six people - one Roma, two Albanians and three Serbs. Of the 35,000 titles, only 1,000 are in Albanian.


The Preševo Culture Centre has a staff of 19 - 16 Albanians, two Serbs and one Roma. Its director is Albanian. A library with seven employees under an Albanian manager operates as part of the Culture Centre. Of the 18,200 books it had 13,400 were in Serbian and some 5,000 in Albanian. The Library acquired 4,800 titles during 2002. The Youth Centre in the Serb part of Preševo is currently closed owing to police occupancy.


5.5. Albanian Participation in the Conduct of Public Affairs


In the past decade, the Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa Albanians and Roma did not participate in a local government in conformity with international standards.


After the end of the armed conflict, the republic’s authorities expressed a willingness to change the situation in this sphere as part of a quest for a political solution. The ‘Programme and Plan for the Peaceful Resolution of the Crisis in the Municipalities of Bujanovac, Preševo and Medveđa’ sets as its first objective ‘the integration of the Albanians into the political, state and social system and respect for their human rights according to European standards’. It specifies that the ethnic composition of employees in the state administration, the economic sector and the social services sector should be made to reflect the ethnic structure of the population, giving the Albanians adequate access to local and republican organs of government. For all this, however, there has been no major headway in this regard.


The Albanians first expressed their interest in participating in local self-government in their draft proposals adopted by the first Assembly of Albanian representatives elected in the Preševo Valley on 1 August 2001. On that occasion, they demanded the imposition of emergency measures in the municipalities of Bujanovac and Medveđa and the holding of early elections on the basis of recent decisions on forming electoral districts that would reflect the ethnic structure of the population. They also pressed for amending the Law on the Election of National Deputies to increase Albanian representation in the republic’s Assembly as well as for legislation to ensure proportionate Albanian participation in administration at all levels.


5.5.1. Local self-government in The Bujanovac municipality


At the previous local elections held in 2000, the majority of seats in the Bujanovac Municipal Assembly were won by the Yugoslav Left -JUL (16), followed by the Socialist Party of Serbia - SPS (13) and the Albanian Party for Democratic Action - PDD (8). The PDD was the only Albanian party competing in the elections. It would probably have won another four seats if ballots had been casts in the electoral districts of Končulj, Breznica, Muhovac and Zabrince, Albanian villages situated in the zone of armed clashes.


These election results were made possible because the electoral districts had been organized so as to favour the Serb population. The Albanians, who account for 60.6 per cent of the municipality’s population, could in theory have won at most 12 (29.26 per cent) out of 41 seats. The electoral districts returning one deputy each were formed in such a manner that those in Albanian settlements had a large number of voters (e.g., the electoral district No. 3 covering Veliki Trnovac had 2,176 electors) while those in Serb areas had far fewer voters (e.g. the electoral district No. 42 in Petina had only 61).[88] Yet each electoral district returned one deputy.


The Roma, who had no political party of their own competing in the elections, won seats through the ruling SPS and JUL. They won two seats in the Bujanovac Municipal Assembly or 4.87 per cent of the seats. Unlike the Albanians, who were not represented in the Assembly, the Roma had a representative in the Executive Committee (government) comprising nine members (five from the SPS and four from the JUL).


According to the former president of the Bujanovac Municipal Assembly Executive Council, the 104 administrative employees included one Roma and 17 Albanians. Of the Albanians, 11 worked in Albanian village community offices and six in the Municipal Assembly building mostly as interpreters and translators, typists and messengers. One of them was a registrar. The Committee for Human Rights in Bujanovac insists that fewer Albanians were employed.


The heads of all the municipal services, as well as those in positions of authority in the Municipal Court, the Municipal Public Prosecutor’s Office, the police, the Social Work Centre and the Municipal Committee of the Red Cross, were Serbs. The number of Albanians employed in any local institution is many times smaller than the number of Serbs. One Albanian is employed in the office of the Federal Ministry of National and Ethnic Communities.


Of the total of 700 families in the ethnically-mixed village of Biljača, 20 are Serb. However, the local community president, the police station commander, the school principal, the director of the Megal factory local works, the registrar and the veterinary surgeon are Serbs. The local clinic has one Albanian doctor. The Megal works employ no Albanians.


The Serbian authorities’ position on Albanian participation in the exercise of public functions remains unchanged. A most telling example of this attitude was provided by the acting Public Prosecutor of Serbia, Dragomir Nedić, who, in announcing an early appointment of public prosecutors, outlined the tasks of the Bujanovac Public Prosecutor’s Office as follows: ‘besides protecting human rights, the main task of the Office entails the taking of legal measures against all who work against the Serb national interest’.[89]


5.5.2. Local self-government in Preševo municipality


At the 2000 local elections, seats were won by four parties: the SPS (5), the JUL (1), the until-then ruling PDD (19), and the Party for Democratic Unification of Albanians, or PDUA (13). Characteristically, the election returns fully reflected the ethnic structure of the municipality: of the 38 deputies six were Serbs and 32 Albanians. It is therefore presumed that the Serbs voted for the first two and the Albanians for the last two parties. The municipality’s Executive Committee had seven members.


The municipal administration has 81 employees of whom 13 (some 16 per cent) are Serbs and three (3.7 per cent) Roma. Although there are no woman deputies, there are 18 women employees (22.22 per cent).The heads of the main municipal departments are Albanians, while the heads of the inspectorates and their personnel are mostly Serbs. The head of the market inspectorate and its two employees are Serbs, while the financial police department comprises one Albanian and three Serbs. The Republican Board of Public Revenue is headed by an Albanian and the Land Survey Office by a Serb. The president of the Municipal Court is a Serb and of the five judges only one is Albanian.


5.6. Local Elections in Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa in 2002


Albanian representatives and the republic’s authorities had agreed that local elections in the municipalities of Medveđa and Bujanovac should be held as soon as possible. The authorities were also in favour of holding elections in the municipality of Preševo, while the Albanian representatives were opposed, arguing that participation by all ethnic communities in the exercise of government there was already proportionate to their numbers.


The elections in Serbia’s southern municipalities were to follow the announcement of the 2002 census results and the preparation of new electoral registers. An agreement on the basis principles for early elections was signed on 18 March 2002. The Serbian government dissolved the Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa municipal assemblies on 13 June 2002 and the local assemblies were replaced by provisional executive councils. The Bujanovac council consisted of six Albanians, five Serbs and one Roma; that in Preševo of 10 Albanians and two Serbs; and that in Medveđa of eight Serbs and four Albanians. The executive councils formed, among other things, multi-national municipal electoral commissions.


The elections in all three municipalities were set for 28 July 2002. The new Law on Local Elections, adopted on 13 June 2002, treats the whole of a municipality as one electoral district and stipulates that a candidate must win 3 per cent of the vote to secure a seat in the local assembly. There was also the requirement that there be at least 30 per cent women among the candidates.


5.6.1. The pre-election activities


Throughout this period, politicians and activists from all three national communities in all three municipalities focused their attention on the members of their respective communities.


A new Albanian party was established - the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP). The PDUA competed in the elections for the first time in Bujanovac. The PDP and PDUA contested the elections in Preševo and Bujanovac while the strongest Albanian party, the PDD, put forward candidates in all three municipalities.


The Roma national community competed in the municipalities of Preševo and Bujanovac. In Bujanovac, the Roma candidates figured on the lists of the Party of Roma Unity and the Group of Citizens.


The Serb parties competed mostly within coalitions such as the Coalition for Preševo, the Coalition for Bujanovac and the Coalition for Medveđa. The mainstay of these coalitions were party members of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition. DOS was the only contestant with Serb candidates in Preševo, while in Bujanovac candidates were put forward by the Coalition Opstanak (Survival), comprising the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) and the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), and by three groups of citizens. The seats in Medveđa were contested by the Coalition for Medveđa, the SRS, the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), the Social Democracy (SD) party, the SPS, the SPO and a group of citizens.


In Preševo municipality, 28,000 registered electors voted for 38 deputies; in The Bujanovac municipality, 37,059 electors (including some 18,500 Albanians and 3,000 Roma, according to Albanian sources) voted for 41 deputies; and in Medveđa municipality, about 10,000 electors voted for 34 deputies.


Considering that the new Law on Local Self-government gives municipal assembly presidents broad powers, it was decided that they should be elected by direct ballot. The candidates for the Preševo Municipal Assembly president were three Albanians: Riza Halimi (PDD), Rahim Zulfiu (PDUA) and Abedin Selimi (Group of Citizens - PDP). The presidency of the Bujanovac Municipal Assembly was contested by Nagip Arifi (PDD) and Novica Manojlović (Coalition for Bujanovac). The candidates in Medveđa municipality were three Serbs: Slobodan Drašković (Coalition for Medveđa), Živko Doderović (SPO) and Zoran Marinković (Group of Citizens).


The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and the European Council Congress of Local and Regional Authorities set up on June 8 an International Election Observing Mission composed of four election experts and 110 short-term monitors. The majority of complaints about the electoral process filed with the Mission concerned the electoral registers.


During the campaigning, all the candidates laid stress on the importance of economic development of the region. By putting forward a single candidate (Novica Manojlović), the Serb community in Bujanovac furthered the thesis that the elections were in defence of ‘the national interest’. It was noted that the Serbian authorities and the Co-ordinating Body went out of their way to promote Manojlović during the campaign. On the other hand, the Albanian candidate Arifi stressed that ‘if I win, I will be the candidate of all the citizens’. In his last pre-election appearance on local Vranje Television on 26 July 2002, the candidate of the Coalition for Bujanovac, Manojlović, did not address the Albanian voters at all and made no reference to the problems peculiar to the Albanian community and their settlements. He said instead that he would try to solve the problem of economic development by ‘creating jobs in Bujanovac for people who would come from Pirot, Niš and other towns in Serbia’.





5.6.2. The course of the elections


The elections took place in all three municipalities on 28 July 2002 without major incident and in compliance with international standards. This was also the opinion of the International Election Monitoring Mission,[90] which observed that further improvements were desirable, especially in the preparation of electoral registers. The majority of the complaints were about people being prevented from casting their ballots because they were not listed in the registers and about insufficient secrecy of voting.


Far fewer voters from all three ethnic communities turned out on polling day than their representatives had expected. Although the elections had been described during the campaign as ‘fateful’, the turnout in Bujanovac was only some 60 per cent Serbs and Albanians and a small number of Roma, so the Roma community won no seat there. The turnout in Preševo was some 52 per cent and in Medveđa some 43 per cent of registered voters.


Owing to the large number of voters who had yet to vote, the casting of ballots was extended beyond the statutory 8 p.m. deadline. The polling station No. 59 in Bujanovac with 2,468 registered voters remained open until 5 a.m. the next morning and polling stations in Veliki Trnovac until after midnight. The late voters were all Albanians.


5.6.3. The election results and the post-election period


Riza Halimi of the PDD was elected in Preševo in the second ballot. The turnout was 10,780 and Halimi beat his rival, Rahim Zulfiu of the PDUA, with 58.8 per cent against 41.2 per cent. The PDD won 19 seats, the PDUA 11, the PDP five and the Serb Coalition for Preševo three. The Roma won no seats.


The inaugural session of the Municipal Assembly was held on 22 August 2002. Časlav Anđelković, a Serb from the Coalition for Preševo, was elected vice president. It was also decided to increase the number of Executive Council members from 7 to 11. Dissatisfied with such developments, the deputies of the other two Albanian parties walked out.


Slobodan Drašković was elected in Medveđ and his Coalition for Medveđa won the majority of seats (11). The PDD won six (or 17.14 per cent), the SPS seven, the DSS six, the SPO three and the SRS two. The inaugural session was held on 17 August 2002.


The initial voting figures in Bujanovac indicated that the three Albanian parties had won 24 out of 41 seats, as well as that Nagip Arifi of the PDD had polled 51.22 per cent of the vote against his opponent Novica Manojlović’s approximately 48 per cent.


While the processing of votes was in progress, Serbs began to protest outside the Municipal Assembly building, alleging ‘electoral irregularities’. They also resented the prospect of an Albanian being elected president and of Albanian deputies outnumbering their Serb counterparts in the Municipal Assembly. During the protest, they blamed the results on the government’s Co-ordinating Body and signed petitions demanding repeated voting at all polling stations and the sacking of Nebojša Čović as president of the Co-ordinating Body. The Coalition for Bujanovac and the DOS distanced themselves from the protest, and the DSS later dissolved its local board over the participation of its members in the protest.


The municipal electoral commission cancelled the results in 11 polling stations: three in Veliki Trnovac, two in Bujanovac and one each in the villages of Letovica, Biljača, Nesalce, Dobrosin and Breznica (except in Biljača, the registered electors in these villages were 100 per cent Albanian). Voting was repeated at these polling stations on August 11. The Coalition for Bujanovac lodged 14 complaints and the PDD two against the decisions of the municipal electoral commission. All of these complaints were dismissed by the Municipal Court in Bujanovac on 18 August 2002. Owing to irregularities, a third ballot was held in Nesalce and Biljača on 25 August 2002.


The final results for this municipality put the turnout at 21,434 out of 37,058 registered voters. The winner was Nagip Arifi with 11,399 votes (53.18 per cent) while Novica Manojlović won 9,720 (45.35 per cent). The Albanian parties won a total of 23 seats in the municipal assembly (PDD 16, PDP five and PDUA two) and the Serb parties 18 seats (Coalition for Bujanovac 12, Coalition Opstanak five and the Group of Citizens candidate, Trajko Trajković, one).


5.7. Public Enterprises and the Economy


Discrimination in employment, dismissal of Albanian workers during the NATO bombing and refusal to re-employ those who fled during the bombing are the main problems of the Albanians in Preševo and Bujanovac. For this reason the majority of Albanians work in the private sector or engage in agriculture.


The data on economic development and employment give rise to concern. The G17 Institute says that of all municipalities in Serbia between 1988 and 1998 the municipality of Preševo stagnated the most. The per-capita income in this underdeveloped municipality in 1998 was 370 USD compared with 1,700 USD for Serbia as a whole. The share of the private sector of the income in Preševo increased from 18 per cent to 52.2 per cent, and in Bujanovac from 17.3 per cent to 35.2 per cent during the period.


5.7.1. The Bujanovac municipality


According to municipal authorities, there are 6,000 employed and 4,385 unemployed persons. The latest figures show that the number of persons applying for work at the labour exchange has increased to 4,600. Total unemployment, including people not registered by the office, is estimated at some 10,000, of whom 70 per cent are Albanians.


Management posts in the key public enterprises such as the Post Office, Telecom, the Electricity Board and the Public Utility Company are occupied by Serbs. Public enterprises including the mineral water factory, the tobacco factory, the Svetlost car battery factory and the Simpo works are also managed by Serbs. The percentage of members of ethnic minorities working there is negligible. Out of 460 people working at the Heba mineral water factory, some 95 per cent are Serbs.


The already small Albanian workforce has further been reduced by dismissals, especially from one of the Simpo works during 1999. The Committee for Human Rights says that about 80 Albanians were dismissed that year. From the village of Lučane alone, six workers (Nijazi Ramadani, Fatmir Sherifi, Qani Hasani, Fatmir Xhelili, Ramiz Sabedini and Muzafer Nuhiu) lost their jobs. They have sued Simpo and the proceedings are pending. After the conflict ended in 2001, the director invited the workers to come back on condition that they give up their suit, an offer all six of them turned down. At the moment there are 15 employed people in their village, eight of them in education.


Ruzhdi Fejzullahi of Veliki Trnovac, who worked at the Simpo plant in Bujanovac, describes his case as follows:


When the bombing started, the plant in which I worked employed 53 Albanians. The next day, 25 March 1999, forty-five of us were removed from our workplaces without an explanation. Several days later, on 1 April 1999, I went there to collect my pay and again on April 15 to claim my cash grant. I got no money on either of these occasions. On my last visit there, a policeman with a submachine gun sat in a Ford Taunus car near the factory gates. When I asked the staff at the gates when I was expected to report, the police trained the gun at me in a threatening manner and said, “Do you want me to tell you when to report?” Since then I’ve not been there to inquire about my pay because I was afraid.’


Fatmir Nebiu (b. 1958), Xhemaile Nevzadi (b. 1958), Faik Agushi (b. 1963), Makfire Ajeti (b. 1959) and four other employees of the 7. juli company of Preševo did not go to work during the NATO intervention in 1999 owing to the general insecurity. Five of them now want to go back to work but promises by the director is all they have received so far. Their workbooks were returned to them by post without any information that their contracts had been terminated.[91]


No resident of Dobrosin, Končulj and Mali Trnovac works in public and socially-owned enterprises in the municipality and people from villages not affected by the armed conflict in any way are also unemployed. Of the 1,500 residents of the village of Samoljica only four are employed, all of them as village teachers, and a fifth, who worked for the Svetlost company, was dismissed in 1999. Local Albanians say that socially-owned enterprises employed mostly local Serbs and those from neighbouring municipalities.





5.7.2. Preševo municipality


There are 2,408 employed and 4,306 officially registered unemployed people in this municipality. Since most Albanians do not report to the labour exchange, the number of unemployed is estimated by Albanian sources at some 19,000.


The directors of the Post Office and Telecom public companies and of most socially-owned companies (the plastics factory, the Grafoflex printing works, the Budućnost lime factory, the Kristal glass works) are Serbs. The directors of the Public Utility Company, the Electricity Board, the Bratstvo food company and the Metal factory are Albanians. Although the percentage of Albanians and Roma in the workforce in this municipality is greater than in Preševo, in most of these companies it does not reflect the ethnic composition of the population. Grafoflex and the plastics factory employ about 50 per cent Albanians.


The tobacco factory plant in Preševo has a workforce of 78, of whom 29 (37.17 per cent) are Albanians and only one (1.28 per cent) a Roma. In the months when extra seasonal labour is needed, the plant employs 100-120 people, some 70 per cent of whom are Serbs. The director is a Serb and the managing board consists of five members, three Serbs and two Albanians.


Of the 2,000 residents of the village of Crnotince, only 20 are employed in the socially-owned sector. The corresponding figures for Oraovica are 6,000 and 100, Miratovac 5,000 and 60, and Norča 1,500 and 50.


The ethnically-mixed village of Reljane has about 200 families with about 1,500 members. Three quarters of the families are Albanian and the rest Serb. Of the 110 residents employed in the social sector, 75 are Serbs and 35 Albanians. The village of Buštranje comprises some 180 families, of whom one-third are Serbs. Of the 900 Albanians, 10 are employed, and of the 200 Serbs or so, 40.


The stationing of military and police units in economic facilities poses a special problem in Preševo. The Albanian community has been pointing to the example of the Euroflex shoe factory, which used to employ 210 people of whom over 80 per cent were Albanians. The Co-ordinating Body had extended the deadline given the VJ to evacuate the factory several times. The factory was finally freed on 15 April 2002. Soldiers and police are billeted in the production hall of the Elektrokontakt company, the premises of the agricultural co-operative in the centre of Preševo and in the private motel Azizi.


The segment of the federal and republican government’s plan aiming to ‘adjust the national composition of executives’ in the economy, the judiciary and other important spheres has not been implemented, nor have any steps been taken to do so. The minorities still wield no influence on the economic development of the municipalities in which they live.



5.8. Health Care


The fact that neither Bujanovac nor Preševo has a hospital represents the main problem in the health care sector. The composition of staff and managers in this sector also does not correspond to the ethnic structure of the population. A number of health care employees who took to Kosovo during the bombing have not been restored to their workplaces.


The directors of the health centres in Preševo and Bujanovac are appointed by the head of the health centre in Vranje. The health centre in Bujanovac is headed by a Serb, employs some 250 and has only eight Albanian doctors. Of the 130 employees of the health centre in Preševo, also headed by a Serb, 86 are Albanians and two Roma. Dr Esthref Aliu who works at the centre says that most of the doctors and medical staff who went to Kosovo during the bombing want to come back.


5.9. Infrastructure


All three communities are in agreement regarding the state of roads, water supply, telephone networks and other infrastructure facilities in the Preševo Valley.


The previous period was marked by discrimination in this domain too. Most Albanian villages have no telephones, the roads through mountain villages are mostly bad, and only 65 per cent of the population are connected to the water supply system. Sewerage is a big problem, especially in Roma settlements. The situation in the largest Albanian village of Veliki Trnovac is a case in point: the post office was built by the residents themselves and handed over to the Serbian PTT company; the population of 9,000 or so has only one telephone, no sewerage and has problems with low water pressure. The predominantly or purely Albanian villages of Oslare, Nesalce, Letovica, Lučane and Turija have no water supply system.


The local authorities have taken many practical steps in collaboration with the republican government and international organizations to construct infrastructure facilities. One of the main projects, in which local Albanians are keenly interested, is the improvement and asphalting of the 51-km road connecting Veliki Trnovac and Muhovac. The first part of the project was prepared by the VJ. The road is to link all the villages gravitating towards Zabrince to the rest of the municipality. A project to improve the electricity grid in this part of the municipality is also envisaged.


The former president of the Bujanovac Municipal Assembly, Stojanča Arsić, has promised sewerage and water supply to the Roma or mixed settlements of Morava 76, Gnjilanski put, Car Lazar, Novo Naselje and Cale.


Infrastructure work is most in evidence in Preševo, where only 25 per cent of residents receive their water from a water supply system. Projects to construct roads, water supply and sewerage in the municipality have either been signed or are already being implemented.


In 1990 the residents of the village of Crnotince collected among themselves about 200,000 DEM (100,000 EUR) towards building a road to the village. The money deposited with Beobanka in Preševo remains frozen as ‘old foreign exchange savings’. Local community representatives have repeatedly petitioned the Co-ordinating Body to solve the problem but have received no reply. In 1992 they also prepared projects to connect three villages to the telephone network as well as to build water supply and sewerage facilities.


5.10. Official Use of Language and Script


Under the Serbian Law on the Official Use of Language and Script of 1991, the Serbian language and the Cyrillic script are in official use in the Republic of Serbia. The law allows municipalities to regulate by statute the use of national minority languages on their territories but lays down no criteria. The law stipulates that the names of streets, squares, organs and organizations in such municipalities may be written in languages which are in official use but prohibits the use of traditional minority toponyms.


The statute of the municipality of Preševo provides for the equal use of the Albanian and Serbian languages. This provision is implemented in practice in all local self-government institutions and all inscriptions there are bilingual. However, a great many republican and federal institutions do not display such inscriptions. All the inscriptions at the Land Survey Office, the PTT company, the Accounting and Payments Office, the Labour Exchange, the Pčinja District Office and Jugobanka are in Serbian.


The statute of the municipality of Bujanovac has no provision to enable both languages to be used equally. There are no bilingual inscriptions in the municipality. The statute of the municipality of Medveđa contains no such provision either. Personal and all other official documents are issued in Serbian and printed in Cyrillic letters in both municipalities. The transcription of Albanian names is not possible.


Albanian representatives therefore insist on ‘the use of the Albanian language and script parallel with the Serbian language and the Cyrillic script in local self-government organs and in all other activities at municipal or other territorial level, subject to appropriate amendments and supplements to the Law on the Official Use of Language and Script’.[92]


The Serbian authorities have objected several times to the flying of Albanian flags in public places. The display of the flags of other states has been illegal under every piece of legislation passed so far, including the Law on the Protection of the Rights and Freedoms of National Minorities. Albanian flags were displayed in 2001 on Albania’s national holiday, Day of the Flag, on November 28 and on the anniversary of the killing of Ridva Qazimi on 24 May 2002 in spite of the Co-ordinating Body’s objections that the practice was illegal. An Albanian flag still stands at the monument to the OVPMB commander in Veliki Trnovac in spite of the Co-ordinating Body’s insistence that it should be taken down.


Although the new Law on the Protection of the Rights and Freedoms of National Minorities guarantees the right of choice and use of national symbols, paragraph 2 of Article 16 stipulates that ‘a nationality symbol and emblem shall not be identical with a symbol and emblem of another state’.[93] The Committee for Human Rights in Bujanovac appealed to the Federal Constitutional Court in August 2002 to reappraise the constitutional validity of the article in question. The committee alleged in its representation that the article ‘puts the Albanian national community in an unequal position vis-ŕ-vis other national minorities considering that, due to the qualification in paragraph 2, it has no opportunity to use its national symbol in spite of the fact that the national flag of the Albanians, “a red field with a two-headed black eagle in the middle” has represented a national symbol of the Albanians since as far back as 1443.’ The committee considers the provision as being contrary to paragraph 1 of Article 11 of the Constitution of the FRY and/or paragraph 1 of Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The FRY Constitution provides for the right to use one’s national symbols in keeping with international law and no international instrument binding on the FRY contains qualifications on the choice of symbols. The Committee for Human Rights furthermore considers that the said provision undermines the protection of acquired rights guaranteed by Article 8 of the Law on the Protection of Rights and Freedoms of National Minorities.


The Federal Court dismissed the request on 25 September 2002, saying that ‘rather than prohibit the use of national symbols which members of national minorities may choose themselves through their organs, it prohibits the use of symbols which another specific country has already chosen as its symbols’.




















Table of conents



A brief survey


1. The population


1.1. The 1981 census

1.2. 1991 estimates

1.3. Population estimates for 1999 to mid-2001

1.4. Estimates for 2001

1.5. The 2002 census


2. Human and minority rights violations up to 2000


2.1. The Situation Between 1989 and 1999

2.1.1. Dismissals of professors and others in 1989

2.1.2. Media freedom violations and trials

2.1.3. Curbs on local self-government


2.2. Human Rights Violations in 1999

2.2.1. The killing of Driton Arifi

2.2.2. The killing of Nexhati Arifi

2.2.3. The torture of Hysni Ademi and Qerim Halimi

2.2.4. The ordeal of Arife Avdiu

2.2.5. The killing of two members of the Fejzuli family

2.2.6. The killing of Fetah Fetahu

2.2.7. VJ treatment of Albanians during the state of war in 1999


3. The time of conflict: 2000 and the first half of 2001



3.1. The Burden of Unsolved Killings and Kidnappings

3.1.1. The killing of the primary school governor in Muhovac

3.1.2. The killing of the Saqipi brothers

3.1.3. The kidnapping and disappearance of Nebi Nuhiu

3.1.4. The killing of Ejup Hasani

3.1.5. Armed incident in Končulj

3.1.6. The killing of Bahri Musliu and Destan Adili

3.1.7. The disappearance of the only Serbs from Mali Trnovac

3.1.8. The killing of Ridvan Qazimi

3.2. Human Rights Violations by the OVPMB

3.2.1. The torture of two VJ soldiers

3.2.2. The capture of four Serbs from Vranje municipality

3.2.3. The kidnapping of the PDD vice-president


3.3. VJ and Police Treatment of Albanians

3.3.1. The arrest of Adnan Kamberi

3.3.2. The maltreatment of the Ismaili family

3.3.3. Maltreatment at police checkpoints

3.3.4. The Rashiti incident

3.3.5. Shots, searches, threats



4. Towards a political solution: Mid-2001 to august 2002


4.1. Amnesty for Former OVPMB Members


4.2. Violations of the Right to Life and of Physical Integrity in 2002

 4.2.1. Attacks on the multi-ethnic police

4.2.2. Hand-grenade attacks on houses

4.2.3. The planting of explosives

4.2.4. Two more killings


4.3. Unlawful VJ and Police Acts

4.3.1. Searches, threats, provocations

4.3.2. Incidents in Trnava

4.3.3. The harassment of the Emini family

4.3.4. Shots fired at Strezovce schoolchildren

4.3.5. The torture of three Albanians from Preševo

4.3.6. Freedom of movement violations

4.3.7. Summonses for interrogation


4.4. Representations to the Co-ordinating Body

4.4.1. Violation of the right to life

4.4.2.Violations of the right to psychological and physical integrity

4.4.3. Violations of property rights


4.5. Damage to Property During Conflict

4.5.1. Damage to property in The Bujanovac municipality

4.5.2. Damage to property in Preševo municipality

4.5.3. Property Rights Violations Since Mid-2001

4.6. Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees

4.6.1. The villages in Malesija Bujanovac area

4.6.2. Other villages in The Bujanovac municipality

4.6.3. The municipality of Preševo

4.6.4. The municipality of Medveđa

4.6.5. Refugees from the Republic of Macedonia


5. Albanian Participation in Public Life


5.1. The Multi-Ethnic Police


5.2. Education

5.2.1. The state of schools in the Bujanovac municipality

5.2.2. The state of schools in Preševo municipality

5.2.3. The state of schools in Medveđa municipality

5.2.4. Recognition of Kosovo diplomas

5.2.5. The instruction programmes and textbooks


5.3. The Media


5.4. Culture


5.5. Albanian Participation in the Conduct of Public Affairs

5.5.1. Local self-government in The Bujanovac municipality

5.5.2. Local self-government in Preševo municipality


5.6. Local Elections in Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa in 2002

5.6.1. The pre-election activities

5.6.2. The course of the elections

5.6.3. The election results and the post-election period


5.7. Public Enterprises and the Economy

5.7.1. The Bujanovac municipality

5.7.2. Preševo municipality


5.8. Health Care


5.9. Infrastructure


5.10. Official Use of Language and Script


[1] From 24 March to 10 June 1999.

[2] All data, statements and conclusions presented in this report, other than those especially denoted, are the result of HLC investigation.

[3] 3,911, 3,728 and 3,883 respectively.

[4] Popis 1991 - 70 godina popisa (1991 census - censuses in the last 70 years), Federal Statistical Office, CD edition, Belgrade, 1998.

[5] Data by the UN Inter Agency Assessment Mission to Southern Serbia, April 2001.

[6] Riza Halimi, Albanians in Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa, Eurobalkans, No. 36, Autumn/Winter ‘99/2000.

[7] Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Situation of Human Rights in Kosovo, UNHCR, 7 September 1999.

[8] UN consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for The South Eastern Europe Humanitarian Operations, UN, November 1999.

[9] Data by CARE International, Municipal briefing of Gnjilane/Gnjilan, HCIC, June 2000.

[10] UNHCR Southern Serbia and Kosovo Map, UNHCR, May 2000.

[11] UN Interagency progress report and recommendations on the situation in Southern Serbia, OCHA, January 2002, and UNHCR data on internally displaced persons who returned by November 2001.

[12] Novica Zdravković, chief of the Secretariat for Internal Affairs (SUP) in Vranje, ‘Za godinu 724 napada’ (724 attacks in a year), Politika, 18 December 2001.

[13] Data by the Committee for Human Rights in Bujanovac and the Multi-ethnic Centre in Medveđa, October 2001.

[14] UN Inter Agency Assessment Mission to Southern Serbia, UN, April 2001.

[15] The demand was justified by a census of internally displaced Serbs from Kosovo on the territory of Serbia proper taken in 2001.

[16] ‘U Medveđi tek počinju velika ulaganja’ (Major investment in Medveđa only just begins), Danas, 7 June 2002.

[17] ‘Čović: Srbi u Bujanovcu izmanipulisani od strane DSS-a’ (Bujanovac Serbs manipulated by the DSS), B92, 30 July 2002.

[18] ‘Nova izborna geografija’ (A new electoral geography), interview with Riza Halimi, Novine Vranjske, No. 210.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Serbian Ministry of Defence ruling No. 118-1257 of 1 January 1992.

[21] HLC records.

[22] In his ruling No. 1316/94, the Bujanovac municipal magistrate justified the penalty by stating that Hyseni ‘as editor-in-chief and managing editor of the periodical Jehona permitted seven numbers of the periodical in 2,000-3,000 copies to be brought into and distributed on the territory of the municipality of Bujanovac, without permission from the competent authority’.

[23] Indictment proposal by the Municipal Public Prosecutor’s Office in Bujanovac No. 9/96.

[24] Ruling by the Municipal Court in Bujanovac, No. 11/98.

[25] Indictment proposal by the District Public Prosecutor’s Office in Preševo, K No. 98/98, 7 August 1988.

[26] Judgement K No. 142/98 of 29 March 2000, Preševo Municipal Court.

[27] Preševo Municipal Assembly report on the amount of war reparations, 2000.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Statement by Xheladin Arifi to the Preševo Municipal Assembly, 8 April 1999.

[30] Statement by Ruzhdi Arifi to the Preševo Municipal Assembly, 9 July 1999.

[31] Statement by Hysni Ademi to the Preševo Municipal Assembly, 31 May 1999.

[32] Statement by Metushë Fejzuli to the Preševo Municipal Assembly, 13 July 1999.

[33] The investigating judge’s report on the on-site investigation.

[34] ‘VJ vratila Albancu 83,615 DEM’ (The VJ returns 83,615 DEM to an Albanian), Blic, 12 May 2001.

[35] The Serbian MUP website.

[36] See footnote 12.

[37] Statement by Novica Zdravković, the chief of police in Pčinja district, ‘Šerifi iz preševske doline’ (The sheriffs from Preševo valley), Danas, 13 January 2001.

[38] Report for 2000.

[39] List of citizens killed in terrorist attacks, Bujanovac Press Centre, 27 July 2001.

[40] ‘Ekstremizam’ (Extremism), the Serbian MUP, December 2000.

[41] Official MUP report on the events in the area of Dobrosin village on 26 January 2000.

[42] Statement by Aziz Musliu to the HLC investigator.

[43] Report on the verification of the allegations contained in the complaint by Flora Nuhiu of Preševo, the Serbian MUP, 19 February 2001.

[44] ‘Vandalsko ponašanje policije više ne može da se toleriše’ (Police vandalism can no longer be tolerated), statement by Novica Zdravković, chief of police of Pčinja District, Danas, 28 April 2001.

[45] Čović’s address to the Preševo Municipal Assembly, 14 November 2001.

[46] List of citizens killed in terrorist attacks, Bujanovac Press Centre, 27 July 2001.

[47] ‘Ekstremizam’ (Extremism), the Serbian MUP, December 2000.

[48] Committee for Human Rights in Bujanovac, report for 2000.

[49] ‘Ekstremizam’ (Extremism), the Serbian MUP, December 2000.

[50] HLC investigator interview with Sejdi Jakupi.

[51] Committee for Human Rights in Bujanovac, report for 2000.

[52] ‘Leši poginuo u sukobu sa snagama VJ’ (Lleshi killed in clash with VJ forces), Danas, 26 May 2001.

[53] Forensic medicine examination of injuries, the Military Academy Hospital (VMA) in Belgrade, 20 April 2001.

[54] ‘Otet potpresednik PDD-a’ (PDD vice-president kidnapped), Politika, 25 April 2001.

[55] ‘OVPMB demantuje da je kidnapovala Nasufija’ (OVPMB denies kidnapping Nasufi), B92, 26 April 2001.

[56] Committee for Human Rights in Bujanovac, report for 2000.

[57] District Court in Vranje ruling Kv. No. 75/00 of 29 August 2000.

[58] District Court in Vranje investigative judge ruling Ki No. 37/00 of 12 September 2000.

[59] Ibid.

[60] Statement by Fatmir Hasani to the Committee for Human Rights in Bujanovac.

[61] Report by the Committee for Human Rights in Bujanovac.

[62] Committee for Human Rights in Bujanovac, report for January-March 2001.

[63] ‘OVPMB predstavila plan za rešenje krize na jugu Srbije’ (The OVPMB unveils plan to solve the crisis in southern Serbia), Beta, 1 March 2001.

[64] ‘Halimi predstavio albansku platformu’ (Halimi presents Albanian platform), Glas Javnosti, 3 March 2001.

[65] ‘Sastali se Srbi i Albanci uz posredovanje NATO-a’ (Serbs and Albanians meet with NATO mediation), Beta, 23 March 2001.

[66] The document was signed by the Serbian Minister for Internal Affairs, Dušan Mihajlović, the President of the Municipal Assembly of Preševo, Riza Halimi, the Chief of the OSCE Mission in Yugoslavia, Stefano Sanino, and the President of the government Co-ordinating Body, Dr Nebojša Čović.

[67] Point 4 of Annex 5b: ‘Amnesty for criminal responsibility and “pacification” and/or “conversion” of terrorists into civilians, with full freedom of movement for those who did not commit a concrete violent act by the end of this phase.’

[68] ‘Šerifi iz preševske doline’ (The sheriffs from Preševo valley), Danas, 13 January 2001.

[69] Article 125 of the Criminal Code of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

[70] Order to conduct an investigation No. 37/00 of 19 June 2000, reply to a representation of the Committee for Human Rights, District Court in Vranje VIII-Su No. 56/01, 22 October 2001.

[71] The complaints were by Mehmet Šerifović (money loan to a policeman in 1966), Fehmi Ibrahimi (car confiscation in April 1999) and Flora Nuhiu (kidnapping of father Nebi in February 2000).

[72] See section ‘The Burden of Unsolved Killings and Kidnappings’.

[73] Reply by the Serbian MUP, Vranje OUP, No. 158/01 of 19 February 2001 to the representation by Flora Nuhiu submitted through the Committee for Human Rights; Report on the verification of the allegations made in the representation by Flora Nuhiu of Preševo.

[74] Committee for Human Rights representation regarding complaint by Fejzi Limani of Veliki Trnovac.

[75] Committee for Human Rights representation regarding complaint by Mehmet Šerifović of Bujanovac.

[76] Report on the investigation of the allegations in the representation by Aslan Kastrati of Bujanovac.

[77] Statement by Hafiz Musliu to HLC investigator.

[78] They included Avni Hiseni, Ramiz Xhelili, Xheladin Xhelili, Mexhid Ebibi, Latif Shaqiri and Halil Mamuti.

[79] Meeting between Karadak and VJ representatives.

[80] For instance, Enver Hiseni of Norča village in Preševo municipality handed over his Mercedes LP813 truck to a VJ unit in Vranje, VJ postcode VP 7036/32. At the end of the state of war, he was given a receipt (V 1821-1) with the explanation that the vehicle was destroyed during bombing.

[81] The Vranje MUP reply to the Committee for Human Rights representation regarding the confiscation of the tractor of Sadik Haziri of Gnjilane.

[82] The Vranje MUP reply in the case of Afrim Salihu.

[83] Minister Rasim Ljajić in the article ‘Povratak na Kosovo’ (The return to Kosovo), NIN, 8 November 2001.

[84] Statement by Kadri Hiseni, president of Kapit local community.

[85] Riza Halimi, Mića Milovanović and Arve Westgaard.

[86] Official notice by the Ministry of Education and Sport to the Serbian Deputy Prime Minister, Nebojša Čović, 4 May 2001.

[87] Reply by the Ministry of Education and Sport to a diploma validation request by the Committee for Human Rights in Bujanovac of 20 September 2001.

[88] CESID website data.

[89] ‘Zakonske mere za sve koji rade protiv nacionalnih interesa’ (Legal measure against all who work against national interests), Danas, 1 august 2001.

[90] Announcement of preliminary findings and conclusions, 29 July 2002.

[91] Statement by Fatmir Nebiu, March 2002.

[92] Conclusions of the First Assembly of elected Albanian representatives in the Preševo Valley, 1 August 2001.

[93] Law on the Protection of the Rights and Freedoms of National Minorities, Article 16, paragraph 2.