13 July 2012, 18:31

Kosovo police assault Serbian holiday observers - eye-witness

Kosovo police assault Serbian holiday observers - eye-witness
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Interview with Kristian Kahrs, a freelance journalist and a writer investigating the situation in Kosovo. He is also a former KFOR officer who publically apologized to the Serb people.

Could you tell our listeners a little bit about what happened to you? It was Vivodan which is a very important holiday for the Serb people. Maybe you could give us a little background on that? And tell us about what happened to you with the Kosovo police?

Well, we were talking last Thursday, a week ago, June 28th. The Vivodan is an important Serbian religious holiday. So, thousands of Serbs came to Kosovo this day to pay their respect and to celebrate this religious holiday. But in Kosovo they are quite sensitive about their national identity. Of course you Russians and the majority of the countries in the world did not recognize Kosovo yet. That’s why they are very sensitive about anything that could endanger this national identity.

So, Serbians coming with the Serbian flags and colours, clothing and everything, they were met by the Kosovo police and this property was confiscated and thrown in a ditch. Of course I didn’t come there to provoke. I came there to record but I had some Serbian flags, flags on my T-shirt and on a hat and because I didn’t want to provoke I put that in my luggage. But when I came to the checkpoint before the Gazimestan monument where a couple of thousands Serbs had gathered, the police were searching my bag, found my T-shirt and my hat, and threw them in a ditch in a brutal manner. What happened later, I went up to the checkpoint in Gazimestan and demanded an explanation. Some representatives from the EULEX and from the OSCE – the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe – none of these representatives were available and I could not speak to the spokespeople or the commander of the Kosovo police.

So, the whole thing end up by me being arrested. And last Friday on June 29th I got my sentence and I had to pay a ticket of 500 euro for disturbing the public order and I also was fined because I said that Kosovo has a choice. Kosovo wants to be eligible for membership in the EU, they want to apply democratic values and everything. They can do all that but then I said that they can apply democratic values and respect the freedom of speech or they would be a monkey republic. This was also part of the reason why I was convicted to pay a thousand euro.

Of course it was not the wisest thing for me to say that Kosovo would be a monkey republic but on this day the new state of Kosovo did not show any basic respect for the human rights and the freedom of expression because we also saw women who had normal T-shirts with the Serbian flag symbols at this religious ceremony and they were forced to take them off. So, the Serbs had to attend this religious ceremony only in their bra. So, the Serbian men came without Serbs to the ceremony and the police gave no explanation, no compensation, they just threw it in a ditch and no one was allowed to retrieve their things.

You a filing a class action lawsuit against the Kosovo police. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about that?

The reality is that in Kosovo Serbs and other minorities don’t have the basic human rights like the freedom of expression, freedom of speech and that’s why we are collecting all the victims that were harassed by the Kosovo police to file a class action lawsuit against the Kosovo police for discrimination and harassment.

Can you tell me a little bit of anything you know regarding possible Kosovo police involvement in the attacks on the busses that were carrying the schoolchildren?

There is no doubt that this was pre-planned and I find it likely that the Kosovo police had an intelligence that this would happen. But there is no evidence that KPS was directly involved. However I would like to have an international investigation to find out if the Kosovo police had any official role in this.

Have you heard anything about the children that were injured?

I know that two people were seriously injured. They were at the hospitals in Nis. I have not heard any news that they have died or something like that. But of course it is serious that the state of Kosovo is not respecting human rights and that they are using excessive force when they are trying to protect their national identity. And I hope that there will be an international and independent investigation of these matters to find out if the Kosovo police have intentionally provoked the situation.

When they were harassing you, when they made these women undress, when they went through your luggage, were you aware of any EULEX or K4 troops or officers observing what was taking place?

There were no representatives of K4 there. Kosovo police was responsible for the security. However there were three observers from the EULEX.

What were they doing?

They were observing but they were in no position to give any statements because their spokesman was not there. There were several people who tried to get statements from EULEX but they were completely silent. I think it is important that the police officers who were searching my bag, they told me the following – this is Albania, this is not Serbia. If a normal Albanian would have said – this is Albania, this is not Serbia – it would have been bad and we would have known that this is a nationalistic Albanian. However when the representatives of the rule of laware saying – this is Albania, this is not Serbia – it is an official statement from the state that is supposed to be multiethnic. He could have said – this is Kosovo, this is not Serbia. But the police officer said – this is Albania, this is not Serbia – which is a clear signal that Serbs are not welcome in Kosovo.

Are there reasons to believe that this was planned for this date, this year? I understand last year everything went by pretty quietly.

I’m convinced that this was an intentional provocation to give a clear signal that this is the Albanian land and not Serbian at all. The reason why I’m saying this is that there were riot police there, anti-terror police heavily armed and in light gear and you had also normal police officers, and they were definitely planning this. This harassment was definitely planned by the Kosovo police. This is something I hope will be revealed in our class action lawsuit against the Kosovo police.

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