BHHRG

About BHHRG

The British Helsinki Human Rights Group monitors human rights and democracy in the 57 OSCE member states from the United States to Central Asia.
* Monitoring the conduct of elections in OSCE member states.
* Examining issues relating to press freedom and freedom of speech
* Reporting on conditions in prisons and psychiatric institutions

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Kosovo 2002: Guantanamo bay in the Balkans
HITS: 9716 | 13-03-2007, 08:19 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Serbia , Analyzing, War and peace

This report was first published in January, 2002. Nearly, four years later, the issue of CIA renditions to European countries where suspects are possibly tortured is being investigated. As Le Monde quoted BHHRG's 2002 report in an article published on 25th November, June: "<…> "prison secrète" américaine a existé dans un camp de l'OTAN au Kosovo ... existence" we are reprinting the report. Also, published is BHHRG's Mark Almond's February, 2002 New Statesman article "Nightmare at Camp Bondsteel".

Introduction

The international community, which governs the former Yugoslav province of Kosovo and Bosnia & Herzegovina, bases its legitimacy on the concept of the rule of law. On 12th February 2002, indeed, the trial began in The Hague of the former Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic. This trial is intended to embody the way in which the international community is working towards the realization of the rule of law in the Balkans in particular and in international affairs on a global scale.

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Cultural Genocide in Kosovo
HITS: 2850 | 18-08-2004, 22:20 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Serbia , Global Events, War and peace

Arson and vandalism after 17th March, 2004

On 17th March, 2004, rioting spread across the UN-administered province of Kosovo. At least nineteen people, mainly Serbs trapped in village ghettoes since June, 1999, were murdered. Many Serb houses were damaged or destroyed by fire. A number of important historical monuments also came under attack. BHHRG has sent observers to Kosovo on numerous occasions since the end of the NATO air war in June, 1999. In March 2003, the Group had warned that the steady withdrawal of KFOR troops from Serb enclaves left both the ghettoised population and their cultural monuments at risk if the Albanian majority turned on them. At that time, a Swedish KFOR contingent had pulled its tanks away from the world famous orthodox monastery at Gračanica outside Priština.[1]
Ostensibly, the violence broke out when local Albanians were enraged by reports that three teenage boys had been chased to their deaths in the River Ibar by a gang of Serbs accompanied by savage dogs. According to the initial reports, these events took place near the ethnically-divided town of Kosovska Mitrovica in the north of the province which had been a flashpoint for violence in the past.

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Kosovo: Independence as (the Final) Solution
HITS: 2209 | 18-08-2004, 00:25 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Serbia , Analyzing, Global Events

On 25th May, the UN’s special representative Harri Halkeri announced his resignation. It would be unfair to pin all the blame for Kosovo’s recent problems on him. He was simply the latest in a line of international officials who have presided over the consequences of the war in 1999. The NATO states fought that war on a false premise. Their propaganda blaming the Serbs for all the region’s ills and boasting about the Alliance’s ability to restore order and prosperity to a “multi-cultural” Kosovo/a has proven entirely false. Only the fact that the Western media was so implicated in spouting the NATO line and therefore has been unwilling to revisit and question much of what it had reported has prevented Western audiences discovering how disastrous the post-1999 situation in Kosovo has been.
Whereas the violent resistance in Iraq has shaken complacent support for the Bush-Blair line there, the fact that violence in Kosovo has been largely directed by the Albanian majority at the Serb and other minorities with very few KFOR casualties[1] (and most of those caused by mutual fights or suicides) means that the Western media have not given the negative realities of Kosovo remotely the same level of coverage as Iraq has received. If Serbs, for instance, had waged guerrilla warfare against NATO forces as Iraqis have against US and others in Iraq, or as Albanians have in southern Serbia and Macedonia repeatedly since 1999, then their plight might well have been noticed and even steps taken to improve conditions for them in Kosovo.

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Vandalism not religiously motivated
HITS: 2068 | 18-08-2004, 00:10 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Serbia , PR and human rights

J.A. Cuddon’s classic Companion Guide to Jugoslavia mentions the churches and monasteries of Prizren but insists, “The [sic]church to see in Prizren is Sv. Bogorodica Ljeviška (the Virgin of the Falling Asleep). It is an interesting mixture of Serbian, Greek and Romanesque styles built with five cupolas, an ex-narthex and a belfry” Begun in 1307, it had been converted into a mosque under the Turks who whitewashed over its medieval frescoes. After 1950 restoration began after the church had been returned to Orthodox control in 1913 after the Serbian army expelled the Turkish rulers. Turkish iconoclasm damaged the frescoes but the intention was only to cover them over. Cuddon noted, “Every few inches there is a white scar on the paintings giving the effect of a heavy snow storm. This was done to make it easier for the walls to take plaster. However, between and behind the flakes of this ‘blizzard’ one can still see the frescoes which are among the finest in the fourteenth century.” Whatever Cuddon saw is now locked away behind barbed wire. Fire damage is visible on the window frames and because KFOR prevents access to the interior the exact state of the wall paintings so admired by visitors before 1999 can only be guessed at.

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The post-Kosovo European Refugee Crisis: the final part
HITS: 1945 | 17-01-2003, 03:35 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Albania, Global Events, War and peace

The sight of hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing their homeland was the defining spectacle of the Kosovo crisis. However, like previous post-Cold War crises such as the Kurdish exodus in 1991 following the end of the Gulf War, Allied victory has not resolved the problem of displacement, just altered the parameters. The return of so many refugees to Kosovo has not stemmed the flow of would-be migrants, some from Kosovo others claiming to be from the province. They have joined the existing tide from other places.

Despite the existence of dictatorships and persecuting regimes, few of the arrivals in southern Italy, let alone those who make their way through safe countries like France to Britain, have serious claims for asylum. Only the Roma refugees from Kosovo formed a clearly persecuted group in the observers’ opinion. In practice it is those with the money to pay people-smugglers and with the daring to take the risks involved primarily young men who make up the bulk of asylum-seekers.

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Roma refugees from Kosovo
HITS: 2188 | 17-01-2003, 02:00 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Albania, World health, War and peace

Bari: centro a prima acollienzo Bari Palese

One group of asylum-seekers in the reception centers visited by the BHHRG in southern Italy seemed to take the issue of refugee status very seriously and all had stories of persecution: the Roma or gypsies from Kosovo. Unlike other asylum-seekers who tend to enter Italy from Albania, in August hundreds of Roma refugees fled Kosovo through Montenegrin ports to Bari. The largest group arrived on 19th August. Roma refugees from Kosovo in southern Serbia had told representatives of the BHHRG in July that they wanted to go to Italy.

By 1st September, the influx stalled perhaps the drowning of up to 100 gypsies during the crossing from Montenegro in small fishing boats had acted as a disincentive to leave, for the moment at least. The cost to each person for the journey - 1000 to 2500 marks - amust also deter such large families.

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The rule of law in Kosovo
HITS: 2082 | 7-01-2003, 18:06 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Serbia , PR and human rights, Political leaders

The situation in the international protectorate of Kosovo then is far removed from the success story described by spokesmen for both Kfor and UNMiK. This is in large part because of the distorting effect of the international presence, which stymies self-generated improvements in infrastructure and economic conditions. However the international community’s commitment to proper governance and the rule of law is nowhere more questionable than in the way it deals with suspected criminals - as the events which took place in Kosovo on 14th December 2001 demonstrate.
Around 1.30 pm that day, the last day of Ramadan, a unit of Italian carabinieri (military police) and other Kfor troops surrounded the offices in Djakova of two humanitarian organisations. They arrived with tanks and were surveyed by helicopters whirring above. The Director of one of the charities, the Global Relief Foundation, was in his office and he bid the soldiers and the police welcome. They responded by telling him to get out. He was threatened with beating and told to come with them. He was made to stand spread-eagled against a wall and his cap was violently pulled over his eyes so that he could not see. He was taken to the main military base in Djakova, where he was brutally pulled out of the vehicle by the face. He stumbled to the ground and the soldiers started to beat him. They pulled his up, causing him great pain in the process.

 

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