UN Must Make Up For Failure To Investigate Kosovo Missing

source: amnesty.org

The UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) singularly failed to investigate the abduction and murders of Kosovo Serbs in the aftermath of the 1998-1999 conflict, Amnesty International said in a report published today.

It comes on the eve of a UN Security Council debate on Kosovo on 29 August.

“UNMIK’s failure to investigate what constituted a widespread, as well as a systematic, attack on a civilian population and, potentially, crimes against humanity, has contributed to the climate of impunity prevailing in Kosovo,” said Sian Jones, Amnesty International’s expert on Kosovo.

“There is no statute of limitations on crimes against humanity. They must be investigated and the families of the abducted and murdered must receive redress. The UN should not be allowed to shirk its responsibility any longer.”

In Kosovo: UNMIK’s Legacy: The failure to deliver justice and reparation to the relatives of the abducted, Amnesty International reveals how UNMIK failed to investigate reports of abductions and killings, despite being charged by the UN Security Council with protecting human rights in Kosovo.

The report is based on the initial findings of the Human Rights Advisory Panel (HRAP) set up by UNMIK to receive complaints from those who consider their rights to have been violated by UNMIK. The HRAP has received some 150 complaints from relatives of missing persons – primarily Kosovo Serbs believed to have been abducted by members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Each complainant claimed that UNMIK had failed to investigate the abduction and subsequent murder of their relative or relatives.

The panel found that in several cases UNMIK was not able to present any evidence that an investigation took place, while in others UNMIK police appear to have given up on the investigation after the victim’s body had been handed over to the relatives. In one case UNMIK police were even unaware that the bodies of a missing husband and son had been found and returned to their family for burial.

In spite of the panel’s findings and recommendations, no further measures appear to have been taken by UNMIK to provide redress and reparation.

Although the report focuses on the abductions of Kosovo Serbs, allegedly by the KLA, Amnesty International’s own research has led to similar findings with regard to UNMIK’s failure to investigate enforced disappearances of ethnic Albanians by Serb forces.

Since 1999-2000, Amnesty International has monitored UNMIK’s progress in a number of emblematic cases of enforced disappearance and abduction. In five cases, involving the enforced disappearances of 27 ethnic Albanians, no-one has yet been brought to justice. In 10 other cases involving the abduction of 13 Serbs and Roma, only one perpetrator has been brought to justice, but by the Serbian authorities.

For nearly a decade after the conflict, UNMIK police and prosecutors failed to initiate prompt, effective, independent, impartial and thorough investigations into many reports of enforced disappearances and abductions. As a result, very few of those suspected of criminal responsibility for the war crimes and crimes against humanity have been brought to justice in international or domestic courts.

“Years have passed and the fate of the majority of the missing on both sides of the conflict is still unresolved, with their families still waiting for justice. The cases considered to date by the HRAP reveal how the victims of human rights violations have been left in limbo due to the lack of will within the UN system to ensure they receive appropriate compensation and other reparation,” said Sian Jones.

UNMIK’s responsibilities for police and justice ended on 9 December 2008, when the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) took over its policing, prosecutorial and judicial functions. This included responsibility for the investigation and prosecution of serious crimes, including crimes under international law. EULEX inherited 1,187 war crimes cases which UNMIK had failed to investigate

“While it is now up to EULEX to open investigations into cases of post-war abduction and murder, UNMIK must make sufficient funds available to provide the relatives of the missing with adequate and effective compensation for moral damages and their pain and suffering, in accordance with international law and standards,” said Sian Jones.

“The legacies of the Kosovo conflict must be resolved – this includes resolving the fate of missing persons from all communities in Kosovo, bringing to account those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and providing reparation. Only when that happens can the scars of the past conflict start to heal.”

Air-Conditioning–Modern Convenience Or Instrument Of Death?

It’s a valid question, in more ways than one.

When I read Time commentator Eric Kleinenberg’s Air-Conditioning Will Be the End of Us, I had to laugh. The point of the article was to highlight just how much Americans rely on A/C, how much energy it eats up, and how bad it is for the environment. He writes

After all, despite our other green tendencies, most Americans still believe that the wise way to use air conditioners is to crank them up, cooling down every room in the house — or even better, relax in the cold blasts of a movie theater or shopping mall, where someone else pays the bills.

Here we have the opposite problem.

Although not technically promaja (the Deadly Draft), air-conditioning is considered a welcome–but somewhat suspect–modern convenience in Serbia. You see, technically (in reality?) air-conditioning is MOVING AIR.

Worse, it’s COLD, moving air, which in itself is inherently menacing.

A/C in Serbia is like the new, young and charming Catholic priest starting his service at the diocese.

Most of the time it’s all good, but there’s a chance of danger if parents are not super-watchful.

A/C might cool you off and even prevent heat-exhaustion, but it can cause … dum dum dum. Sickness and Death.

It’s true! It happened!

Last summer, in a news story that has since become urban legend, a couple with an infant drove from Sweden to Serbia (why not just fly with the baby, I do not know) in the middle of a heatwave. They used the air-conditioning, set on 71F/22C. Apparently when they removed the baby from the car and directly into the oven-like heat, the poor infant went into some type of cardiac arrest and sadly, died.

And so, even if you have air-conditioning, you cannot use it.

For the rest of that summer, whenever I got into a taxi with my two kids, the driver dutifully made a show of turning off the air-conditioning. I had to specifically request that we have A/C.

“Are you sure? What about the children?”

“Yes, please, they are very hot and sweaty.”

Shaking his head, he reluctantly turned the A/C back on.

Perhaps during the day, but definitely NO air-conditioning at night
Especially around sleeping children.

Generally, apartments here do not have central air. Each room, and sometimes not even then, has its own unit, and they actually work pretty quickly. They can cool down a room to sleep-able levels in five-ten minutes. In my view, this is a fast, convenient aspect of homes in Serbia.

However, locals view it otherwise. I’ve learned that it can be very dangerous to leave the air-conditioning on in a room with a sleeping child. Why? Because if a child sweats when he sleeps (and he is very likely to do so, with or without A/C), and the parent is unable to wake the child and change his clothes quickly enough (because a child can never wear sweaty clothes) … Oohhhh, that is not going to be pretty.

I know one kid who begs his parents to let his sleep in only underpants–because he knows better than to ask for the A/C to be on at night.

No. way.

Sleeping with only underpants on! What if a breeze comes by! That’s a recipe for sickness!

Truly, no one in that house is getting a good night’s sleep … not the kid who’s being woken up two or three times a night to have his clothes changed, and definitely not the parents!

But hey, at least Serbia isn’t contributing to global warming nearly as much as the U.S. For that, we should all be thankful.


Guca Trumpet Festival Starts Tomorrow! (video)

The biggest trumpet and brass band festival in the world starts tomorrow and will last until August 11th.

The Guča trumpet festival, also known as the Dragačevo Assembly is an annual brass band festival held in the town of Guča, near the city of Čačak in the Dragačevo region of western Serbia. Guča is a three-hour bus journey from Belgrade.

600,000 visitors make their way to the town of 2,000 people every year, both from Serbia and abroad.

Elimination heats earlier in the year mean only a few dozen bands get to compete. Guča’s official festival is split into three parts. Friday’s opening concert, Saturday night celebrations and Sunday’s competition.

Friday’s concerts are held at the entrance to the official Guča Festival building. This event features previous winners, each band getting to play three tunes while folk dancers, all kitted out in bright knitting patterns, dance kolos and oros in front of a hyped-up audience.

An English party site, ThisIsTheLife.com, has named Guča the best festival in the world.

“Forget Glastonbury, Reading, Burning Man and Coachella: the wildest music festival on earth is a cacophonic and crazy brass band festival that takes place every summer in the tiny Serbian town of Guča in the western region of Dragačevo.”

The traditional Dragačevo trumpet – its cult kept alive for nearly two centuries regardless of political and social considerations – has with time become world-renowned. It is owing to the trumpet that the name of Serbia has resounded worldwide, in all the continents. Some orchestras, when they appear on stage, whether for official competition national dress, the authentic and indigenous dances and other folk-inspired elements, coupled with music, have become an integral part of national gathering.

The virtuoso music performers, the trumpet players to the paradox and make the story more authentic – are for the most part fully self-taught. They play by ear and quite spontaneously, relying on their musical memory; they play from the heart and soul, and their music reaches out to listeners precisely for this quality.

The Guča Assembly of Trumpet Players continues to grow year after year: today, this musical feast of recognizable national skills is more popular, more diverse and bigger than ever before.

The first Dragačevo Assembly of Trumpet Players was held on October 16, 1961 in the yard of the Church of Sts. Michael and Gabriel in Guča. Initially, it was a very modest Assembly – almost subversive for the prevailing political circumstances of that time. However, the Assembly gradually grew and expanded its, one might say, magical influence, and over the past ten or so years has become the folk remained its key symbol and raison d’etre, it is no longer held solely for the trumpet players. It grew into an Assembly of toastmasters, painters, song “Sa Ovčara i Kablara”, marks the beginning of the festival each year. Some church music festivals notwithstanding, the Assembly of Trumpet Players is the best known event of this kind extending uninterruptedly for 43 years and attracting guests and musicians alike from every continent. Trumpet players and folk song and dance groups from around the world deem it a great honor to be invited to the Assembly, and the number of visitors increases with each coming year.

With considerable experience in organizing Assemblies, today the traditionally hospitable Guča has earned its place on the map of world music festivals, inviting high interest from ethno music lovers, and deservedly so. As an internationally recognized trumpet capital, and a singular corner of positive energy, a place with accumulated joy, gaiety and spontaneity, coupled with the piercing yet gentle sound of the trumpet, Guča is a place of catharsis of the heart and soul while the festival lasts. All this is more than enough to attract visitors to Guča from Mexico, Spain, Greece, Denmark, China and other countries. The names of Boban Marković, Ekrem Sajdić, Elvis Ajdinović, Fejat and Zoran Sejdić have carried the glory of the Serbian trumpet across the world.

We Are The Champions!

Serbia claimed the UEFA European Under-19 Championship title for the first time as Andrija Luković’s calm second-half finish settled a tight final against France in Marijampole.

Both sides had chances in an even first 45 minutes, yet the deadlock was not broken until Luković slotted in early in the second period. France – seeking their third title at this level – tried to rally, but a well-drilled Serbian rearguard held firm, denying their opponents clear openings and space in the final third to spark jubilant scenes of celebration at full time.

Having each played extra time in their semi-finals, it was perhaps understandable that both teams opened cautiously, although the pattern of the match might have been different had France forward Corentin Jean not pulled the first opening of the evening across goal in the eighth minute. At the other end, Aleksandar Mitrović turned smartly, but his subsequent shot drifted over, a fate France’s Anthony Martial also suffered in similar circumstances later in the half.

Uroš Djurdjević did manage to get his shot on target after the ball had broken to him inside the France penalty area, Quentin Beunardeau saving comfortably, and then latched on to Mitrović’s clever header only to opt for a return pass instead of a shot. As quickly as it had come the opening was gone. Larry Azouni’s pass provided a glimpse of goal for Jordan Ikoko; the France right-back prodded wide.

Twelve minutes after half-time, Luković was not so forgiving. Marko Pavlovski’s cross cleared Antoine Conte and found Mitrović; although his first touch took him wide, the No14 had the presence of mind to pull the ball back for the midfielder to sidefoot in. Serbia swiftly pressed for a second but were almost caught out on the counterattack when Jean and Yassine Benzia combined to set up Adrien Hunou; Predrag Rajković blocked the shot.

Suitably roused, France continued to press, with goalkeeper Rajković spilling a fierce Benzia drive and substitutes Lenny Nangis and Kevin Rodrigues trying their luck from range, their efforts blocked and wayward respectively. Six days ago Serbia had found a late equaliser against France in Group B; this time Ljubinko Drulović’s team resisted attempts to turn the tables and, after one last scare when Benzia curled a free-kick too high, held out to finally claim the trophy.

source: uefa.com

Good-Bye Jat, We’re Going To Miss You

From this day, Serbian airline Jat will no longer exist under that name. After 66 years, it will change the name to “Air Serbia”.

The new company will be formed together with “Etihad”, foreign partner from Middle East. Serbian state will own 51 percent of the company, and “Etihad” 49, but also the management of the company.

According to projections, the new company could have 22 airplanes, while the flights will mostly connect former Yugoslav republics and Europe with Middle East, Australia and America. Etihad is a company with 77 aircrafts and has around 10 million passengers per year, and the experts agree that the arrival of that company should bring in more connections and cheaper tickets.

Predecessor of “Jat” was airline “Aeroput”, founded in 1927. Two decades later, the name was changed to Yugoslav Air Transport (Jugoslovenski aerotransport) and soon becomes leading airline in the Balkans with direct overseas flights to America and Australia.

Dacic Can Vote On Kosovo

source: balkaneu.com

Kosovo Central Election Commission has clarified the declaration made by Serbian Prime Minister, Ivica Dacic that he will vote in the local government elections. According to the CEC, Dacic must first register with this commission.

“If he wants to vote in the local government elections in Kosovo, the Serbian Prime Minister, Ivica Dacic must register at the Central Election Commission in Kosovo. Prime Minister Dacic has declared in numerous occasions in the media that he wants to vote in the local elections in Kosovo, given that he was born in Prizren. This wish can be fulfilled for him”, said Bajram Latifi, member of CEC.

According to Latifi, out of all the criteria needed to have the right to vote, Dacic only meets that of age.