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Measures to Re-establish Security and Build Peaceful Co-existence in Mitrovica

PRISTINA -- The recent escalation of violence in Mitrovica illustrates how fragile the peace is in Kosovo. The situation in Mitrovica clearly has the potential to re-ignite inter-ethnic conflict and destabilise all of Kosovo. The victims of this situation are once more innocent people and the minorities on both sides of the ethnic divide.

The improvement of the security situation and the tangible political progress achieved over the last few months in Kosovo are obviously at risk. Peace and the success of the KFOR and UNMIK missions are seriously challenged by the renewed descent of Kosovo into the spiral of inter-ethnic violence. Furthermore, since the beginning of the recent crisis, over 1000 Albanians have been expelled from the northern part of the city. The security situation of Serbs living in enclaves in Mitrovica region has also become precarious. A new humanitarian crisis looms in Kosovo, affecting, once again, vulnerable minorities.

For the international community, this is a critical turning point. The situation in Mitrovica calls for the adoption of a systematic preventive strategy based on robust measures to re-establish security and build the conditions for peaceful coexistence. The international community is determined to re-establish law and order, protect the minorities and prevent further escalation of the crisis.

Re-establishing Security

The situation in Mitrovica requires extraordinary security measures, backed by applicable law and, where necessary, by additional UNMIK regulations. All efforts will be taken by UNMIK and KFOR to ensure the security of all communities throughout Mitrovica and to protect the property of those who have been displaced as a result of the recent violence. To ensure the successful implementation of enhanced security measures, a unified approach by UNMIK, KFOR and those involved in the judicial system is essential. This approach will entail the following:

UNMIK Police and KFOR will strengthen their cooperation in re-establishing and maintaining law and order in the city through joint security operations. These joint security operations will aim to cover the full range of law enforcement and public order needs in Mitrovica.

UNMIK Police will significantly increase its presence in Mitrovica, through earliest deployment of 300 additional officers, which will bring the total strength in that region to approximately 600 officers. Special Police Units, specialised in crowd control and major incident management, will be deployed as soon as possible following their arrival in Kosovo.

Immediate measures will be taken to strengthen the judicial system in Mitrovica, in order to combat criminal activity and to end the cycle of impunity. Such measures will include, among others, the appointment of international prosecutors and judges as well as enhanced security arrangements for individuals involved in the judicial system.

In order for UNMIK and KFOR to re-establish law and order in Mitrovica, robust temporary measures are being implemented:

The current "safety zone" along the river will be expanded, and additional "restricted access" areas within the city will be established.

Additional check-points will be established in Mitrovica to disarm persons, particularly extremist elements. Intensive searches of houses, premises, vehicles and persons will also be conducted throughout the city for weapons and ordnance.

Strict measures will be taken to enforce the curfew, which will be continued for as long as required.

Restrictions on public gatherings and demonstrations, including prior permit requirements, will be strictly enforced. A ban on public demonstrations in certain vulnerable areas along the river will be implemented in order to protect the safety of all communities.

Access of persons and vehicles to Mitrovica will be prohibited as necessary in order to prevent threats to public peace and order. In particular, extremist elements -- from both sides of the ethnic divide -- will be prevented from entering the city.

The investigation, prosecution and trials of those suspected of having committed criminal acts will be expedited, including through the immediate appointment of international prosecutors and judges to assist the judicial process.

Regulation No. 2000/4 against the incitement of ethnic hatred will be vigorously applied, including against extremists on all sides. In addition, extremist elements and others who threaten public peace and order will be removed from, or prohibited access to, Mitrovica through the strict application of Regulation No. 1999/2, which also provides for preventive detention under certain circumstances in order to achieve this.

Further measures are being considered by UNMIK and KFOR.

Building the Conditions for Peaceful Co-existence

Together with the immediate initiatives to re-establish law and order, as outlined above, it is also necessary to undertake vigorous efforts to build the longer-term conditions for peaceful co-existence. To achieve this, a series of concerted political, humanitarian, administrative, and economic efforts must be initiated by the international community.

Political: It is critical to mobilise international political support for a robust strategy to protect the minorities in Mitrovica if such a strategy is to be successful. Involving the UN Security Council directly in this effort may prove particularly useful. A clear signal must be sent to Kosovo political groups that they must cooperate with UNMIK and KFOR in the implementation of this new strategy. Remaining parallel structures which obstruct the implementation of these measures must be dissolved.

Humanitarian: Comprehensive efforts must be undertaken to ensure access of the most vulnerable from all communities in Mitrovica to humanitarian assistance. In addition to increased security measures to prevent further expulsions of the remaining Albanians from the northern part of Mitrovica and to protect their property, the safe return of all those who have fled their homes in Mitrovica, including Serbs from the South, must also be expedited. UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies must therefore be enabled to resume full operations within all communities in Mitrovica.

Administrative: Re-gaining the confidence of all communities within Mitrovica is essential to the success of the new strategy. The UNMIK Administration will therefore be strengthened: a substantial number of additional UNMIK personnel will be deployed in Mitrovica in the near future to reinforce the capacity of the international administration to address major problems faced by all communities. An international Special Envoy-Administrator for Mitrovica directly responsible to the SRSG will also be appointed soon to assist in the implementation of the strategy to re-establish law and order and build conditions for peaceful co-existence in Mitrovica. This arrangement will involve responsible local leaders in the administration of Mitrovica.

Economic: Identifying and implementing programs that promote economic development and re-integration are also integral parts of the new strategy to build conditions for peaceful co-existence. The mobilisation of international donor support is needed for the development of a focused package to bolster economic revitalisation and development in Mitrovica. Furthermore, a senior international Manager for the Trepca mine complex should also be appointed soon, given its importance and political sensitivity.

Promoting Reconciliation and Re-integration

Genuine reconciliation and full re-integration among all communities within Mitrovica will be facilitated by the settlement of the future political status of Kosovo and general improvement of the political situation in the region. The objective is a united Mitrovica in a united Kosovo. But it will take time to heal the wounds of years of inter-ethnic conflict and societal divisions. Therefore, the immediate challenge for the international community is to respond promptly and decisively to the security and humanitarian crisis that is looming in Mitrovica. By contributing to the building of conditions for peaceful co-existence, the international community is also laying the foundations for reconciliation and re-integration. There are no easy or speedy solutions in Mitrovica. The international community, however, has a responsibility and a duty to rebuild trust among all communities, for which the re-establishment of law and order and peaceful co-existence are vital.