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Kosovo Transitional Council calls for Urgent Action on Missing and Detained Persons and for a"United City" in Mitrovica

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Press Release UNMIK/PR/168
PRISTINA--The Kosovo Transitional Council today urged the international community, and the United Nations Security Council in particular, to put maximum pressure on Belgrade authorities to release all detainees from Kosovo held unlawfully in Yugoslav prisons and to cooperate with international authorities in clarifying the destiny of a large number of missing persons.

Bernard Kouchner, the Special Reprentative of the Secretary-General, promised to deliver the statement, and raise the issue of the missing and detained when he addresses the UN Security Council in early March.

Regarding some 1,600 detainees held in Serbian prisons, the KTC today said: "These persons are currently held unlawfully -- regardless of fabricated trials that have started--as hostages in Serb civilian and military prisons and on occasion in juvenile correction centers."

According to the International Committee for the Red Cross, some 3,000 other people, mostly Kosovo Albanians, remain unaccounted for.

The KTC called on the UN Security Council to demand the Belgrade government to:

  • Immediately grant the ICRC unconditional access to all detention facilities in the FRY to verify the number of detainees from Kosovo.
  • Immediately stop all ongoing trials against detainees from Kosovo;
  • Immediately hand over all those detainees to UNMIK, acting on behalf of the Joint Interim Administration, for their release or trial, as appropriate. So-called political prisoners should be released immediately without preconditions.
The KTC also called on political leaders from Kosovo to assist in the clarification of the whereabouts of missing persons from the non-Albanian communities, including 346 Serbs, most of whom disappeared after 10 June 1999, according to the ICRC.

The KTC also discussed a comprehensive strategy for Mitrovica proposed by UNMIK, and it issued a statement echoing that of the Interim Administrative Council, which yesterday called for the creation of a "United City" of Mitrovica.

The KTC statement underlined the crucial need to find a political solution to the situation in Mitrovica and committed the KTC to work for a united Mitrovica in a united Kosovo. To that end, the KTC endorsed the proposal for a "United City," without dividing lines. The Council demanded that expulsions be prevented, that freedom of movement in both directions be facilitated and that all those who fled their homes, including Albanians and Serbs, be enabled to return safely.

"We want to enable the Serb population and members of all other national communities in Mitrovica to stay and lead a normal and peaceful life," the KTC stated. "In this respect, we understand that a 'United City' can only be achieved through a gradual process, with a clear timetable, in which the rights and security of all national communities in Mitrovica have to be respected."

The KTC urged representatives of the Kosovo Serb community to join the Joint Interim Administrative Structure as soon as possible, as a political solution could be achieved only through a "joint effort of the representatives of the international community in Kosovo and of political forces from Kosovo."

"There can be no place for forces outside of Kosovo, or parallel structures outside of the JIAS in resolving the Mitrovica issue," the statement concluded.

Following the meeting, SRSG Kouchner told the media that the KTC had proved itself at this meeting to be a "working board," and that he had appealed to the members to "work with us, with all the people of Kosovo, all the communities, on this issue and the goal of a united city."

"UNMIK and KFOR alone will be not able to follow all tracks. We are in charge of security; we are in charge of administration. But we are not in charge--alone--of the spirit and views of the people. So, this statement is an important step forward. We are all together, with the Serbs, working on a united Mitrovica."

For information only - not an official record

Contact UNMIK Press and Information Office: (381-38) 500-223, ext. 5719.