All motor vehicles in Pristina and Prizren should now have been registered in a process that began four months ago. The idea is to better regulate traffic in Kosovo and to bring more security and order to the public roads. As has been announced before, starting on the 31st of March, UNMIK Police will begin to check vehicle registration papers. Possible sanctions for those without registration papers include a 20 deutsche mark fine, or the impounding of the vehicle and a 50 deutsche mark towing charge and storage costs. This registration process can be completed now in Pristina and Prizren, and we remind all drivers to come and register, especially those who have plates but who do not yet have vehicle insurance. The registration is valid for one year.
Today in Prizren, an organization called FINCA, which is the Foundation for International Community Assistance, will open its first microfinance operation in Kosovo. FINCA has pioneered the Village Bank method, whereby small loans of working capital - normally from US $50 to $200 - are provided to women from low-income families to start up small businesses. USAID is a big supporter of this.
At 1 p.m. today, the project will be launched in Prizren by Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan. She is president of the Jordan River Foundation, and she has long been involved in microfinance concerns. The press are invited, and if they can't make that event at 1 p.m., there will be a visit of Queen Rania to her clients from 2.45 p.m. to 4.15 p.m. in Malisevo. There is press advisory outside with a map.
Tomorrow the Interim Administrative Council meets to discuss finalization of the composition of the Central Election Commission. They are also expected to endorse
the draft regulation on the Ombudsman's office. They will discuss and may endorse draft regulations on travel documents and telecommunications.
We have three other regulations outside, which SRSG Kouchner has signed into law. One is On the Establishment of the Administrative Department of Justice, another is On the Registration and Operation of Political Parties, and a third On the Admissibility of Certain Witness Statements in Preliminary Investigations.
The first regulation concerns the Administrative Department of Justice, which will be responsible for the overall management of matters relating to the judicial system and the correctional service. It will implement policy guidelines formulated by the Interim Administrative Council for the judicial system and the correctional service. As you know, the co-heads, Mrs. Nekibe Kelmendi and Ms Sylvie Pantz, have been working even though the regulation wasn't signed yet on the Justice Department.
The regulation on political parties will govern the registration, operation and dissolution of political parties in Kosovo. A party may apply for registration with the UNMIK Civil Documents Unit once it has a minimum number of 4,000 members who have signed the application.
The final regulation would allow written witness statements by a law enforcement officer to be admissible during a preliminary investigation. This provision only applies when the same witness has not yet been examined by an investigating judge and cannot be examined because he or she is inaccessible to the relevant authorities.
Today UNMIK and the Swiss Government are to sign a Memorandum of Understanding by which UNMIK will accept a donation of 1.9 million Swiss francs (about 2.3 million deutsche mark) for the civil registration process. At this point, we largely have the funding we need to launch civil and voter registration, which is supposed to start next month. The EU, US, UK and Germany have already contributed, and the Canadian Government is expected to donate 1.4 million deutsche mark in the coming days.
Total cost for civil and voter registration will be US $30 million.
From UNHCR, we report that Ms Ogata's visit ended yesterday. She was visiting displaced people in Gnjilane, who have been displaced from the unrest in southern Serbia. She also visited the UNHCR Serbian information office there.
UNMIK Police report
Over the weekend, we had one murder in Kosovo, and several cases of arson and other attacks against minorities.
In Gnjilane on the 25th, a male Bosniak was shot dead in the village of Barane. This brings the total number of murders last week in Kosovo to five. UNMIK Police and KFOR are investigating. Also in Gnjilane, two Serb males were injured when a hand grenade was launched at their home, also on Saturday, the 25th.
Yesterday, after a march by some 1,000 Albanians which began in the morning at the Kosovo Polje train station, two Serb houses were set on fire. I believe UNMIK Police have one suspect. On the previous day, Saturday, two vacant Serb houses in Lipjan and in Crkvena Vodica were also set on fire by unidentified persons.
On the 25th of March in Prizren, a Roma male was abducted to the village of Vlashnija, where he was assaulted. UNMIK Police arrested a suspect.
In Prizren, on the 26th, an explosion occurred in the center of Dragash. The owner of the building was a Goran, who was the former deputy chief of police in Dragash, living currently in Serbia. With a search operation UNMIK Police detained 23 persons in the vicinity of the crime.
Today the fourth class begins at the Kosovo Police Service School, a month before the third class is to graduate. This is the first time that two classes of recruits will be attending the school at the same time. There are presently 230 students at the police school in Vucitrn. They will be joined by another 240 today. The new class is expected to include 31 women, 21 Serbs and four other minorities. With these new cadets, the school will be close to full capacity.
The OSCE will hold another one of their regular press briefings on civil and voter registration, as well as preparations for municipal elections. This will be tomorrow, Tuesday, at 10 a.m., in the conference room on the 7th floor of the OSCE building.
KFOR Spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Henning Philipp
The operational phase of Dynamic Response 2000 kicks off this morning. Troops and vehicles of the Strategic Reserve Force will be seen in several areas of Kosovo and they will train along KFOR soldiers. During the next week they will be familiarizing themselves with local terrain and roads and will practice inter-operability with KFOR units. During the entire exercise, there will be no live firing. If soldiers and vehicles are seen in communities, their presence is to complement the KFOR security activities with which citizens are already familiar.
In connection with the exercise we are offering a media opportunity tomorrow with the Polish forces participating in Dynamic Response. Departure here will be at 9 a.m. from the press centre. We are planning to take interested media by helicopter to the exercise area. You will be back here at 4 p.m.
Last night four Albanian men were arrested in connection with an arson attack on a Serb-owned home in Kosovo Polje. The case has been turned over to the UNMIK Police. Also last night a hand grenade exploded in the Little Bosnia quarter in the northern part of Mitrovica. There were no injuries or damage, but KFOR soldiers arrested four Serbs and two Albanians. They were handed over to UNMIK Police for investigation.
The Royal Green Jackets were replaced now by the Second Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. I have the pleasure of introducing to you the commanding officer of the battalion, Lieutenant Colonel James Murray-Playfair.
Lieutenant Colonel James Murray-Playfair, Commanding Officer, The Second Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.
My name is Lieutenant Colonel James Murray-Playfair. I command the Second Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. We're a British infantry battalion and we've now taken over from the Second Battalion of the Royal Green Jackets. You'll recognize all my soldiers by the hackle they wear in their cap badge, which is a battle honour from the Battle of St. Lucia. We look forward enormously to living in the middle of Pristina and working with you and the local community to achieve our mission. Our mission here is to provide a secure environment for all people in Pristina, regardless of their ethnic background. And that is exactly the same mission as the Royal Green Jackets had for the six months of their tour. You probably won't have any questions for me at this stage. There is a press release and a fact sheet out in the foyer. I'd just like to introduce my media operations officer, Captain Neil Wright. If anybody has any questions or wishes to get in touch with me or anybody in the battalion, I'd ask them to direct their inquiries to him. Thank you.
Q: What can you tell you tell us about yesterday's protests in Kacanik and Ferizaji? They were protests concerning the extradition of someone to Macedonia.
SM: Yes, we know there were some protests. There was no actual extradition, however. If you want me to give you more details about what that was about, I can. It's not correct to say that there was an extradition. There was a prisoner being held at Camp Bondsteel who was deported to Macedonia, and that was on the 25th. I believe that's what the demonstrations were about yesterday, some of them at any rate. There were other demonstrations.
Q: A declassified report was published. It says that French KFOR leadership has accused Dr. Kouchner of being pro-Albanian or anti-Serb. Does this mean there is a deep contradiction between the troops and between KFOR and UNMIK in Kosovo?
HP: There is absolutely no rift between KFOR and UNMIK in Kosovo. We are working closely together, as you can monitor every day. I think there was never a closer cooperation in any mission of the United Nations with the civilian part and the military anywhere in the world. Never was a connection so close. We are coordinating all our actions and there is absolutely no difference in mind between UNMIK and KFOR.
SM: I think Dr. Kouchner would also completely deny any rift with KFOR. Furthermore, I have worked with him since he arrived here and he really has no bias in this mission.
Q: Some information was published in the French press concerning the behaviour of the French troops in Mitrovica. According to this information, which has been declassified, the reaction and the behaviour of some of the French troops in Mitrovica was somewhat pro-Serb. As far as we know, there is an investigation and the question has been sent to trial in Paris. Do you have more information? There was also an announcement that there are investigations of UNMIK Police for the last riots in Mitrovica, in the northern part. Do you have any conclusions? And a question for KFOR: Is there a review of the KFOR plans for the defence of Kosova? If so, does the review involve deploying additional troops?
HP: Let me begin with the old story of alleged poor behaviour of the French troops in Mitrovica. That's just not true. From what we know, and we know quite well what happened there, the French really did their best throughout the tension in Mitrovica and they did a great job. Let me just emphasize that. They were not at all biased. They really did their best. As for your second question, I am not going to talk about any operational plans here.
SM: Regarding the arrests in Mitrovica, I'll need to get the exact details for you later. But there are four trials coming up in the next few weeks. One of the trials involves a Serb charged with crimes committed during the war, so the three others I believe are related to the incidents that began on 3 February. Let me find out exactly who those are.
Q: Just coming back to Xhaser Hasani, who was deported to Macedonia. KFOR said yesteday that he was suspected of murder. Was he suspected of murder in Kosovo or in Macedonia? Why was he arrested originally and held in Bondsteel? Was there an international arrest warrant for this person? Were the Macedonians alerted about his deportation and how was he deported from Kosovo? How did he get to Macedonia?
SM: I'll answer what I can. As far as I know, KFOR detained him on the 9th of January on suspicion of some kind of activity, which took place in Macedonia. I don't know the charges. His period of detention had expired - the three-month period had expired. KFOR released him and UNMIK Police took him to Macedonia two days ago. He was taken by helicopter due to the demonstrations along the road at the time. I assume that they knew he was coming, although it was not a direct handover of him to them. The Macedonians were interested in him because of an incident that happened in 1998, where he allegedly was building an illegal house and various authorities came to question him and he got in a fight with them and he shot one of the civil servants who came to question him. But the victim was not killed.
Q: Whan you say the Macedonians were - interested in him -, does that mean there actually was a warrant out for his arrest? Did the PPDK at any point ask UNMIK not to deport him?
SM: I don't know the answer to either of those questions. I will try to find out about the warrant and whether the PPDK expressed any opinion.
Q: I'm a little confused about the timing. The protests were last night, right? He was taken back to Macedonia on the 25th. Were there protests two times?
SM: Yes, but they weren't related to him. There were protests on the 24th related to the one-year commemoration of the beginning of the war. I guess the police deduced that there were protests all along the road and that it would be operationally more simple to take him by helicopter. The protests yesterday were about this case.
Q: Can you explain the difference between an extradition and a deportation and what the grounds were for the deportation?
SM: Whatever an extradition is, we don't have an extradition agreement with Macedonia because Kosovo is not a country. A deportation is expelling someone who is believed to be a problem, as in this case, where he could have posed a potential problem should he be released in Kosovo. Especially when he was wanted on various charges in Macedonia.
Q: He hadn't been tried or convicted, so how could he be deemed a sufficient danger to be expelled from this territory?
SM: As you know, most of the people that we have arrested during the past nine months in Kosovo have not been tried on anything. That doesn't mean that there are two million angels walking around here.
Q: Most of them haven't been expelled from the country either. I think this is the only one.
SM: He's from Macedonia, apparently.
Q: Whose decision was it that he be removed from Kosovo?
SM: Dr. Kouchner's.
Q: KFOR said yesterday that the man was suspected of murder and illegal weapons possession. But UNMIK is saying that he shot at a civil servant in Macedonia. What is the discrepancy there?
HP: That was the information I had. KFOR's only concern was that we had him in custody and our information was that he was suspected of murder. We handed him over to UNMIK Police for further action.
Q: Who actually flew him out of Kosovo?
SM: It was under UNMIK Police jurisdiction. I assume it was an UNMIK helicopter.
Q: When Dr. Kouchner went to Skopje yesterday, did he discuss this with the Macedonian Government?
SM: No, he went for completely different reasons. He went to talk about electricity, purchases and about travel documents and border issues.
Q: It was announced that a trial will start tomorrow in Mitrovica's court against a Serb civilian who committed crimes against Albanians during war time in Kosovo. I heard the trial was postponed. Do you know the reason for the postponement?
SM: I know there was a request to move the trial to Pristina because of the difficulty in conducting it in Mitrovica. That may have been an element. Let me find out for you - if you could contact me this afternoon.
Q: What is the position of the Macedonian authorities on the travel documents, what they call - Kouchner's passports -? As you may know, there is a wide campaign in the Macedonian media against this.
SM: I don't know the latest of the last week, but the travel documents were sent to Brussels for scrutiny by the EU countries, both for their technical aspects - were they good documents that couldn't be forged - and for political acceptability. I believe that most EU countries have indicated that they would accept the documents. I think the Macedonian authorities, informally anyway, were waiting to see how the EU countries reacted. I know there's been a lot of negative press about these potential documents. I think there are a lot of misunderstandings. From what I've seen in the Macedonian press, somehow they think that every Kosovo Albanian will be given a document that will send them directly to Macedonia. At least two weeks ago the press didn't seem to understand that these are not passports but that they are more or less the equivalent of passports in order to allow people to travel - not just to go live in Macedonia. The last I heard - and my information is a week or so old - they were looking more favourably on the whole idea.
Q: Regarding the travel documents again. I have information that two EU members were against the travel documents; one of them is Luxembourg, I'm not sure about the other one. Have you considered that if only one of these European countries accepts the travel documents, they can move freely in all the countries that are part of the Schengen Agreement? What is the deal in this case.
SM: I think you're right. That's why they wanted to EU as a board to look on these documents favourably. I don't know what the repercussions will be of one small country objecting, but I doubt that those objections will hold up the whole process. And yes, the document would theoretically give you a Schengen visa, with which no one stops you when you go from one country to another.