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Summary of Press Briefing by UNMIK Spokesperson 08 Mar 2000

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UNMIK Spokeswoman Ms Susan Manuel
International Women's Day

Happy Women's Day. Today members of the Kosovo Transitional Council (KTC) and Interim Administrative Council (IAC), members of the Kosovo and international community and the media attended a reception hosted by UNMIK to mark International Women's Day. I'll get back to you on that later.

Tonight please don't forget the opening of the photo exhibit, by and about Kosovo women. This takes place at 1900 for the media and then at 2100 for the public at the Vizioni Studenteve gallery.

The KTC had a very short meeting today. It was attended by the European Community Commissioner for External Affairs, Chris Patten. Sir Patten attended the signing of an agreement on a fundamental cross-border cooperation programme yesterday in Skopje between the former Yugoslav Government of Macedonia and UNMIK. This agreement should, on a practical level, lead to a great reduction of delays on the border, but it is also intended to lay the foundations for future mutual economic and political development and cooperation. Please see the press release outside for further details.

Also outside is the press release on Dr. Kouchner's address, along with General Reinhardt, to the Security Council on Monday. We distributed it earlier, but let me repeat a few extracts.

Briefing a private meeting of the Security Council on Monday, Dr. Kouchner said the UN work in Kosovo lacked clear political objectives and sufficient resources. "At the present time, the Serbs need reassurance and the Albanians from Kosovo need to have faith in the future," he said. "However, resolution 1244 on the establishment and the objectives of UNMIK doesn't specify the institutional arrangements necessary for the autonomy that it proposes." To empower UNMIK to progress in its work, Dr. Kouchner proposed the creation of an interim constitution, followed by an interim government which would guarantee the protection of the province's ethnic groups.

But, he said, protection is not enough. "If we hope to build democracy in Kosovo, we must do more than ensure the safety of all its residents. We must allocate the necessary resources to accomplish the job." He said it was "unacceptable" for the UN mission to beg for the funds that had been pledged to it by the international community, and for the UN not to be able to stick to its promise to the people of Kosovo of ensuring law and order and providing police protection. "If you are not completely behind our efforts, our efforts may fail," Dr. Kouchner told the Council.

I understand that he was greeted warmly and with a lot of encouragement from all members of the Security Council.

Mitrovica

In Mitrovica yesterday, as everyone knows, there was a very ugly and chaotic afternoon which Philip Anido will describe in detail. We are ourselves awaiting further analyses from UNMIK Police. Basically, following a brawl between a Serb and an Albanian on the northern side, there followed some two hours of grenades and gunfights, resulting in the injuries of some 17 Kosovo Serbs--at least one critically--five Kosovo Albanians and at least 15 KFOR soldiers. None have life-threatening injuries. After things seemed to have quieted down, an RPG was fired into one of the three apartments to which we had assisted returns of some Kosovo Albanians on Friday.

Principal Deputy SRSG Jock Covey may go to Mitrovica today. He was there yesterday, meeting with local leaders and with Supreme Allied European Commander (SACEUR) General Clark at the time that the disturbances began.

UNMIK Police are now checking all the apartments in the three blocks to which Albanians returned to ensure that they are content with staying there. We are not encouraging further returns at this moment.

Just before the violence erupted, a few Serbs had registered with UNMIK, expressing their desire to return home in the south. This process was interrupted by the violence, but is continuing today in Mitrovica.

Other locations

From other parts of Kosovo, UNMIK police report a disturbance in Obilic where some 200 Albanians celebrating a recent commemoration were advancing on a Serb-owned bar and breaking windows all along their way, but were stopped by UNMIK police and KFOR. Earlier that day at the train station, a fight broke out between Albanians and Serbs. Grenade and arson attacks have also continued against minority-owned property around Kosovo.

It should be noted, however, that the celebrations of the Jashari family memorial, which involved hundreds of thousands of people in gatherings around Kosovo, went very peacefully and respectfully.

Women's Day

Today at the Women's Day event, Jock Covey stressed important role of women in parallel institutions during the conflict, and noted as well the other reality for many women during the conflict, in which women and girls were cruelly victimized.

He said that gender equality must be a basic principle of the peace process, and that UNMIK encourages women to take leading roles in decision-making process at all levels.

There is another press release outside about women who during the last two months have taken up significant positions in the new Joint Interim Administrative Structure. This is mostly due to the efforts of Dr. Kouchner, and to UNMIK's Office of Gender Affairs, working closely with the Democratization unit of the OSCE, and with UNIFEM.

Let me just name the women who have joined these structures. We have three Kosovo co-Heads for Administrative Departments: Mrs. Nekibe Kelmendi, co-Head of the Department of Justice, who is a lawyer by profession and secretary-general of the LDK Party; Ms Vjosa Dobruna, co-Head of the Department of Democratic Governance and Civil Society Support, who is a pediatrician and was a co-founder of the Centre for Protection for Women and Children in Pristina, coming as a political independent; and Ms Edi Shukriu, co-Head of the Department of Culture, an archaeologist, who was the chairwoman of the LDK Women's Group.

Of the UNMIK co-Heads, Sylvie Pantz, chief of UNMIK's Judicial Department, is the co-Head of the Department of Justice. She had served for four years as chief of investigations for the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and a magistrate in France for 20 years. Blanca Antonini, co-Head of the Department of Local Administration, has been UNMIK's Chief of Staff of Civil Administration. She comes from the UN Secretary-General's Executive Office where she was a policy advisor on political developments in the Americas, human rights and gender issues. Onelia Cardettini, co-Head of the Department of the Environment, has been UNMIK Municipal Administrator in Mitrovica. Previously, she worked as an OSCE Regional Director in Tuzla and in Croatia. Steffi Shnoor, co-Head of the Department of Education and Science, served as a member of parliament and Secretary of State for Education, Science, Culture, Youth and Sports in the German State of Macklenbourg-Vorpommern.

In the KTC, Kadrusha Jashari is Chairwoman of the PSDK (Social Democratic Party of Kosovo). Luleta Pula-Beqiri represents the PSDK. She is a chemist and a human rights activist. Of the independents, Shukrie Rexha is leader of the Association of the Political Prisoners. Sevdije Ahmeti is from the Centre for the Protection of Women and Children. Sonja Nikolic is a journalist and a human rights activist, who helped to create the Civic House and Radio Contact in Pristina.

I also understand that one of the themes of the march which is ongoing now in Pristina is a protest against violence and sexual harassment against women.

I'd like to say a bit about what we are doing in this regard.

While we have no data on firm sexual harassment or violence here, we have had anecdotal reports. Sexual harassment, violence against women, and trafficking of women are major concerns for the UNMIK Office of Gender Affairs and UNIFEM (UN Development Fund for Women), who have established a working group on the issues. Members include representatives of UNMIK Police, the Council of Europe, UNMIK's Department of Judicial Affairs and Legal Advisor's Office, IOM, Amnesty International, NORMA, OSCE's human rights and rule of law sections, KFOR and UNICEF.

UNIFEM is developing research on the incidence of violence and harassment against women in Kosovo. The Council of Europe is conducting a review of the legal codes and laws applicable here in Kosovo. The Office of Gender Affairs and UNMIK Police are planning to write a draft regulation to be presented to the SRSG, which would prevail in areas of legal gaps.

The United Nations itself has very strict codes of conduct governing sexual harassment. On a more practical level, the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General is in the process of setting up a community relations office which can listen to grievances and bring complaints to the attention of the appropriate UN offices and create better public awareness among international staff and local citizens on issues of particular concern. The office can help complainants seek legal remedies or it can assist in mediating disputes between members of the local community and international staff members. This model has proved highly successful in previous missions as a way for members of the community to resolve complaints and allegations against international personnel, to create awareness in the public and in the international community of the kinds of problems which may be festering outside the vision of large international organizations. The office has also been used elsewhere to award compensation to victims of accidents involving international personnel.

Power

While spring seems to have sprung, the power situation is not what it could be. All of Kosovo A's units are currently down, and we are lacking the hydrochloric acid necessary in the restart operation. Apparently there is a shortage of this chemical in the entire region. Kosovo B Unit One is producing 270 megawatts of power a day. The restriction regime is currently 2 hours on and 4 hours off.

Stamps

We are coming close to introducing the new postage stamps for Kosovo. On 14 March in the Grand Hotel, SRSG Kouchner will launch the five new stamps in denominations from 20 pfennigs up to 2 DMS. Eight million stamps will be put on sale all over Kosovo, in 90 post offices. The 8 million stamps have been printed as a donation by the French Postal Administration.

First Day Covers--which means something to stamp collectors--will be available from 15 March at post offices designated by each UNMIK regional office.

We are waiting for equipment, for handling mail, and establishing security, and we must establish the international routes and purchase vehicles. Almost all of this has been donated by the EU Agency for Reconstruction.

Announcements

I'd like to remind you once again of the EU press briefing today at 2 p. m. on the Sharr Cement Factory tender process, which will take place in Room C-301, UNMIK Government building. On Thursday, a seminar for media on taxes will be held in the same room, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.

KFOR Spokesman Lieutenant Commander Philip Anido

The violence that erupted around noon yesterday in Mitrovica just north of the Eastern Bridge, resulted in injuries to 22 Serbs and Albanians and 16 KFOR peacekeepers. The trouble began as a heated argument between two men and grew into a major street fight between Serbs and Albanians involving hand grenades and gunfire.

KFOR French, Danish, Swedish and German soldiers rapidly intervened and brought the melee under control. Their quick and firm reaction prevented the riot from spreading. Eight KFOR soldiers are still under observation for minor injuries, which resulted from shrapnel and debris thrown up by the grenades. Four men have been arrested in connection with the incident and other arrests may follow.

General Dr. Klaus Reinhardt, Commander of KFOR, said yesterday that "the anger between two men in Mitrovica yesterday could happen in any city in the world. However, the ease which the crowd resorted to violence using hand grenades and guns must be condemned by all leaders and citizens. Some individuals chose to throw grenades and shoot directly at the crowd that was being protected by KFOR peacekeepers, with absolute disregard for the lives and safety of civilians and soldiers alike. I will seek the severest sanctions for those found to be involved in this or any future attacks on my soldiers, and I will hold their leaders directly responsible for such actions."

Four of the seven Albanians who were lightly injured, remain in the KFOR Moroccan hospital. They are there just for observation and professional care. Seventeen injured Serbs were evacuated to the civilian hospital in the northern part of the city for treatment. One of them is reported to be in serious condition.

In a related incident, yesterday afternoon at 3:50 p.m. an anti-tank rocket was fired at one of the apartment towers where Albanians, Serbs and Turks live together. There was damage to two flats on the 7th floor, occupied by Serb and Turk families.

General Wesley Clark, the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, made a brief visit to Mitrovica yesterday. He met with his commanders and UNMIK officials. He also met privately with local Serb and Albanian leaders and spoke firmly to them about their role in upholding law and order and maintaining a peaceful environment. Without these conditions, he said, extremists severely hinder the vital and urgent process of rebuilding civic order, administrative structures and confidence among all citizens.

Eurocorps people arrived yesterday and some 40 new Eurocorps staff arrived today to KFOR Main Headquarters at Film City to take up their duties alongside the experienced officers who are coming to the end of their six-month tour. The transfer of authority and responsibilities will occur seamlessly when the official hand over from KFOR 2 to KFOR 3 takes place in April.

And just a few slides here on how KFOR controls the administrative boundary with Serbia, near Podujevo.

(Shows slides.)

So, all cars that come along here are stopped before the boundary line, asked to state their business, people are recorded. Similarly, from the Serbian side you can see that the Serbian authorities also check all vehicles from their side.

Questions and answers

Q: Do you have any information on a Serb man, Dragan Jilekovic, considered to be a sniper? Was he arrested yesterday in Mitrovica? The information given by KFOR and UNMIK Police is not much in accordance. You said that there was a brawl between two men that started the trouble yesterday, but UNMIK Police say that there were two Albanian men who crossed the bridge yesterday from the south to the north and shot two Serbs, and that's how everything started. What was the exact situation? How many Albanians were evacuated yesterday from the northern side?

SM: Linda, are you reading from a UN Police sitrep? Sitreps come in several times throughout a day. They are never considered to be engraved in stone until analysis is done on them. Normally, in most missions they are not even given to the press. I don't think it's really useful to engage KFOR and UNMIK Police in differences.

PA: On the part of KFOR, these reports come in at different times. The brigades need to tally what they pass on to KFOR HQ. I give you every piece of information that I've got. UNMIK Police and KFOR are working cooperatively, in the best way we can. We are not trying to be in conflict with each other, if you think that may be the case. I don't have the information that people involved in the incident came across from the south. I just have it that it started with two men getting into a battle which fell out of control at that time. I think you should wait and get a final statement from the police. As for the Serbian sniper, I have a report on four men being arrested, I don't have their ethnic identities. They are innocent until proven guilty, they are interrogated and, if they are directly involved, they will go to trial. I don't have names.

Q: But why have you reported about two Albanian snipers shooting two weeks ago, which was even reported to thew Security Council, and here you keep silent? Why do you use double standards?

PA: I don't think those are double standards. We haven't released information on those incidents weeks ago. In fact, it will be up to the civilian authorities to release that. I am not withholding any information from you, I just don't have the names. We don't have that information.

Q: Why is your information radically different from that of the UNMIK Police? Is it the joint UNMIK/KFOR position that no one came across the bridge and that was just a local dispute between two people from the northern side?

PA: To be honest, I haven't seen the report that you are talking about. We can meet afterwards and we'll put the two and two together. I don't have any information in the KFOR reports about where those two men came from. I don't want to speculate on that.

Q: Could you confirm the age of those four arrested in Mitrovica? Were there four or five men arrested?

PA: I don't have their ages. I give you all the information I have.

Q: How could those two people have come across the bridge if, as you say, there is no chance of a bird flying through? Who exactly started the shouts and fight yesterday? I heard that there were Serbs attacking Albanians. Can you explain that?

PA: As I have just said, I can't confirm that those men came from across the bridge. I highly doubt that people with weapons could have come across the bridge. All those who come across are checked very rigorously, I've seen it myself. And they are required to have business, people cannot cross the bridge without reason. I also think it's not helpful to say who started that. We had a fight between two people, which will be very rigorously investigated. KFOR was very quick in its reaction to stop it, which is a very good sign of our overall resolve to make sure that people do not spread unrest throughout Mitrovica and Kosovo. I don't think that you'll get it in any report, who started it.

Q: Who is then doing the final reports and updates? Who is doing those press releases, a Serb, an Albanian or an international staff? Why there are always mistakes on the Albanian side?

SM: As for that situation report that Linda was quoting, it doesn't mean that it was the final one, although it was drafted at midnight. It also may mean that the police have seen something that KFOR did not see. It's a very general question you are asking. And your insinuation about prejudice is without any grounds whatsoever. The sitreps are by internationals for internationals, they are not actually for public consumption. They have no reason to express bias. They are factual reports of an event.

PA: I think it's unfair, because you are asking us to comment on something that we haven't seen. But you are not being helpful in saying that the international community is favouring one side over the other. We are equal, egalitarian, all we want to do is to prevent criminals and extremists on either side from inflaming the situation and spoiling Kosovo's chance to a new future. So if your insinuation carries on to make the international community divided here, I would think very carefully about where you are going with that.

Q: Can you explain what happened to the Finnish soldiers who had been arrested by Serbian police in Serbia? I think it's very embarrassing.

PA: That's incorrect. The Finnish soldiers were not arrested by Serbian authorities. There was a chance meeting somewhere near the boundary. It appears that the Finns were slightly on the Serbian side. But it turned out to be a friendly event. The Serbians saw how the Finns were patrolling, what they were doing, and the Finns saw what they Serbians were doing there. The Serbian police did not get any information on the KFOR dispositioning.

Q: Is KFOR and police presence in Mitrovica adequate to maintain security?

PA: We do feel that the presence is adequate. Yesterday proved how quickly and how professionally well KFOR reacts to incidents. We will continue the rotation of international troops to Mitrovica. That happened with six companies two weeks ago when we had the significant problems. Now it's back down to three companies and may drop down to two. But KFOR will continue to maintain a very strong presence in Mitrovica. We are very robust there. In the days ahead, we are going to take other measures to increase the confidence of the local citizens, so that the implementation of all UNMIK's and international community's initiatives could take place in an appropriate environment.