Hyrje | Me Teper | Kosova | HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN KOSOVO 1990-1992 part (2)


1990 Convictions for Possession of "Hostile Materials"

In November and December 1990, at least 40 persons were sentenced to short prison terms for selling or possessing copies of the Albanian-language magazine Dielli and an Albanian-language music cassette titled "Besa." The "Besa" tape appears to have been offensive to Serbian authorities because it contained a song about Adem Demaci, an ethnic Albanian political prisoner who was released in April 1990 after having spent 28 years in prison. Ethnic Albanians were arrested for possessing other materials deemed "hostile" by the Serbian authorities. According to Amnesty International, the following persons were among those imprisoned for possession of "hostile materials:"61

· Mensur Fejzullahu, from the village of Bozovac near Tetovo, Macedonia, was sentenced in Pri_tina to 60 days of imprisonment on November 27, 1990, after police officers in Pri_tina stopped and searched his car and found a copy of the "Besa" cassette tape.

· Behram Toverlani, a taxi-driver from the village of Dumica near Podujevo, was sentenced to 50 days of imprisonment in November 1990 after police officers found a copy of the "Besa" cassette tape in his possession.

· Bedrije Kasumi, the mother of two children (ages three and four), worked as an assistant in a newsstand in Pri_tina. In late November 1990, she was arrested at her home and taken to court, where she was sentenced to 60 days of imprisonment because police had found several copies of the "Besa" tape in the newsstand in which she worked.

· Shaban Raci, age 26, from the village of Si?evo, was arrested near Klina on December 10, 1990, for carrying an emblem of the Albanian cultural association "Migjeni," which is based in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Two days later, he was sentenced to 30 days of imprisonment by the local court for petty offenses in Klina.

· Haxhi Hyseni and Ahmet Ramadani were sentenced to 50 days of imprisonment in Glogovac on December 14, 1990, for possessing copies of the "Besa" music cassette.

November 1990 Arrests in De?ane

Six local officials from the De?ane municipality were arrested in November 1990 for having supported the September 1990 declaration of Kosovo's independence from Serbia. They were accused of having held a clandestine meeting where they drafted a new statute for the De?ane municipality. The six men previously had been suspended from their jobs.62



The situation of the Albanian-language media in Kosovo is dismal. In the past two years, hundreds of journalists have lost their jobs as a result of their ethnic affiliation or political allegiance. The Albanian-language press either has been banned by the Serbian authorities or completely subordinated to the Belgrade media.

The provincial assembly of Kosovo is the founder of Pri_tina Radio and Television and the major Turkish-, Serbian-, and Albanian-language newspapers (Tan, Jedinstvo, and Rilindja, respectively). After Kosovo's Assembly declared the province to be a republic on July 2, the Albanian-language media reported the assembly's declaration of an independent republic of Kosovo. After Serbian authorities dissolved the provincial government, they took measures to suppress the Albanian-language media in Kosovo.

On July 5, Serbian police units occupied and closed Albanian-language Pri_tina Radio and Television. Most ethnic Albanian workers were dismissed from their jobs and others, including Agim Maljaj, the director of Pri_tina Radio and Television, fled the country to escape persecution after arrest warrants were issued for their arrests. Subsequently, Pri_tina Radio and Television lost its autonomy and became a subsidiary of Serbia Radio and Television (formerly known as Belgrade Radio and Television), which is controlled by the government of Slobodan Milo_evi?. Most current employees at Pri_tina Radio and Television are predominantly Serbian and Montenegrin and most of the programming in Kosovo is in the Serbian language. There are two Albanian-lanuguage programs (one 20 minutes and another five minutes in duration) which are broadcast daily in Kosovo. According to Albanians interviewed by Helsinki Watch, the aforementioned Albanian-language reports merely translate news broadcast on Serbia Radio and Television. Many claim that the Albanian-language programs of Pri_tina Radio and Television are read by Serbs and Montenegrins who had emigrated from Vraka, Albania, in 1990 and early 1991.

Prior to the shut-down of Pri_tina Radio and Television, the Serbian authorities intimidated journalists at the offices of the stations. Sali Kelmendi,63 former editor-in-chief of Albanian-language Pri_tina Television told Helsinki Watch:

Three months before they closed the television station, police officers were loitering around the building, telling us to keep our doors open. I believe they were listening to our conversations. On July 5, when they occupied the radio and television station, they used anti-terror tactics that are more appropriate for SWAT teams. Armored vehicles surrounded the building and the police then stormed the building, ordering everyone to leave.

Reportedly, Pri_tina Radio and Television was occupied by the police because of "its editorial policies" and "negative inter-ethnic relations." According to Kelmendi, after the Serbian authorities took over Pri_tina Radio and Television, 1,300 people -- mostly Albanians -- lost their jobs. Journalists, camera crews, graphic artists and administrative staff members whowere considered unsupportive of the Serbian government were dismissed. According to Kelmendi, those workers who were dismissed from their jobs also lost their apartments.64 Many were left homeless and were denied welfare assistance. When Helsinki Watch asked Petar Žebeljan, then Serbian Secretary of Information,65 about the dismissals of Albanians from jobs with the press, he responded that these people were not fired by the government but left of their own accord. According to Žebeljan, since Albanian workers left of their own volition, they were ineligible for government unemployment or welfare benefits. On the basis of our investigation, Helsinki Watch believes that Albanians were indeed dismissed and that they did not leave voluntarily.

On August 8, 1990, Rilindja (Renaissance), the only Albanian-language daily newspaper in Kosovo, was shut down by the Serbian authorities and its workers were dismissed from their jobs. As of this writing, Rilindja remains banned. Khemail Rexhepi,66 deputy editor-in-chief of Rilindja, told Helsinki Watch that all 200 journalists on the newspaper's staff were fired and most remained unemployed. According to Rexhepi:

Rilindja supported the declaration of republic status for Kosovo and always reported the many human rights abuses committed by the police. However, now that Rilindja is closed, the Albanians -- 90 percent of Kosovo's population -- do not have a daily newspaper. The banning or control of the Albanian-language media in Kosovo is part of a larger Serbian plan to disinform the Albanian population. The Serbian government's ultimate aim is to destroy everything that is Albanian. I do not see how Rilindja will ever be able to resume publication if the current ban of our paper is part of this larger anti-Albanian program.

Efforts to resurrect Rilindja have been futile. Former workers, particularly journalists, from Rilindja have tried to re-organize the newspaper into a stock sharing company but such efforts were blocked by the Serbian government, which claimed that Rilindja was the property of the Republic of Serbia and that only the Serbian government, not ethnic Albanian workers, had the right to decide the fate of the paper. In March 1991, the Kosovo Supreme Court decided to re-instate Rilindja but Serbian authorities refused to abide by the court's decision. The Serbian government said Rilindja could resume printing if its managers signed a statement pledging allegiance to Serbian rule and attesting that it would not criticize the Serbian government. Rilindja's managing directors and editors refused and the paper remains closed.

Government subsidies and access to printing facilities are provided to the Serbian- and Turkish-language press in Kosovo but not to the Albanian-language press. Although Albanian-language newspapers and journals exist in Kosovo, they are privately financed. A periodical foragricultural workers, Bujku, has now replaced Rilindja as the main Albanian-language newspaper in Kosovo. It is published five days a week. Many of its journalists and editors work without salaries because the paper does not have the money to pay its employees or to be published daily.

The government has no legitimate claim of control over the independent Kosovo press because the founders and financiers of these publications are private individuals, not government bodies. Nevertheless, the Serbian authorities have interfered with the independent Albanian-language press in Kosovo. People have been arrested after police found copies of independent papers on their person. In many cases, these individuals were subsequently sentenced to 60 days of imprisonment.

When the independent press has published news that the Serbian government considered harmful to its interests, the authorities have taken action against the respective press or author responsible. For example, on June 1, 1991, Zeri i Rinise67 published a document in Serbian called "Instructions for Action." The document was allegedly a five-point plan for arming Serbs and Montenegrins in Kosovo with 11,000 rifles and providing combat training for 60,000 men. The document named prospective meeting places and called for help from Serbia.68 Also, the plan reportedly called for "systematic and daily intimidation of Albanians and urge[d] the kidnapping of Serb[ian] and Albanian children to provoke conflicts."69 On June 11, Zeri i Rinise was banned for "spreading false information."

Dielli (Sun), an Albanian-language weekly newspaper, was banned in Kosovo for eight months and its editor, Jusuf Ferizi,70 was imprisoned twice. Ferizi, a former editor at Pri_tina Television, went to Zagreb after Serbian authorities occupied Pri_tina Radio and Television in July 1990. While in Zagreb, Ferizi asked the Croatian government for access to a frequency on which to broadcast an Albanian-language news program. He also began publishing Dielli, a weekly Albanian-language magazine. Dielli was registered and printed in Zagreb and its first issue appeared on July 13, 1990. The paper's circulation was confined to Croatia because the Serbian authorities banned Dielli's distribution in Kosovo. Ferizi spent six months in Croatia and returned to Kosovo, via Skopje, Macedonia, only to be arrested upon his arrival. Ferizi recounted his story to Helsinki Watch:

On December 29, 1990, I arrived at Skopje airport, where three Serbian police officers told me I was under arrest but refused to tell me why. I know they were Serbian, and not Macedonian, police officers because they showed me their identification. They took me to Pri_tina in their car. We arrived at midnight andI was taken to prison by the police officers, who told me that they would be back at 8:00 the next morning. However, I never saw these three police officers again. At 8:00 the next morning, two other police officers came and interrogated me for six hours.

During this interrogation, it became clear that I had been arrested for my activities with Dielli. The police officers concentrated mostly on a November 17 [1990] article in which we called on the Albanian population to protest the take-over of Albanian-language Pri_tina Radio. I was told that this article incited the public and that it was secessionist in tone. They also questioned me extensively about a letter I had sent to delegates at a meeting of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) in Paris in 1990. In the letter, I claimed that the Albanian people in Kosovo were victimized by Serbian government policies which aimed to eradicate Albanian culture and language and to deny Albanians the right to information.

Ferizi was sentenced to 60 days of imprisonment, but upon appeal his sentence was decreased to 30 days. After he served his sentence, Ferizi was again tried for the same offense in June 1991. According to Ferizi:

Four days before my release in February [1991], the authorities began questioning me again. They asked me the same questions that had been asked when I was first arrested. On February 22, 1991, at 8:00 a.m., I was released but told that I had to go to court immediately. I followed their instructions and when I got to court, I was told that I was being charged again for the same offense for which I had just served a sentence. According to the court, I was initially charged for committing a petty offense. I was being charged a second time under the criminal code. They wanted to throw me into jail right away but I demanded to see a lawyer. I was given four days to obtain a lawyer and then the court process resumed again in March. I was being charged with the three offenses for which I had been indicted in December -- inciting the public, writing a plea for secession from Serbia and writing a letter to the CSCE delegates in Paris. My lawyers argued that these activities were conducted in Zagreb and that the Pri_tina court did not have jurisdiction to try the case. The court never addressed this issue.

On July 7, 1991, Jusuf Ferizi was convicted and sentenced to three months of imprisonment under the Kosovo criminal code. After an eight month ban, the Serbian authorities allowed the distribution of Dielli in Kosovo in February 1991, during which time Ferizi was serving a jail term for his association with the once-banned paper.

Almost all Albanian journalists interviewed by Helsinki Watch claim that they have been called in for questioning by the police at least once in the past two years. Many claim that such questioning serves two purposes. First, interrogations are aimed at intimidating journalists from writing articles critical of the Serbian authorities in Kosovo. Secondly, the journalists claim that such questioning is used by the police to extract information about the activities of the Albaniancommunity in Kosovo. According to Nehad Islami,71 the police questioned him about the activities of the Albanian human rights organization in Kosovo and the distribution of the organization's reports to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva in late August 1991. Abdul Krasniqi,72 a journalist who attended the press conference in Geneva when the aforementioned report was released, also was questioned by the police when he returned to Kosovo.

In addition to the aforementioned cases, Helsinki Watch has documented the following instances of repression against the Albanian-language press in Kosovo since 1990:

· On May 15, 1990, a weekly Albanian-language magazine, Bota e Re, was banned because it printed several articles that the Serbian authorities opposed. One article included a statement by a former political leader supporting republic status for Kosovo.73 The next day, two Bota e Re journalists, Luan Jaha and Agim Morina, were arrested for selling an issue of the paper. Both Jaha and Morina were released after four days of detention. Jaha was later sentenced to thirty days of imprisonment and Morina was sentenced to twenty days of imprisonment.74

· Zenun Celaj, a journalist for the now-banned Rilindja newspaper, was imprisoned for reporting on the July 7, 1990, clandestine session of the outlawed Kosovo Assembly. Celaj did not receive a trial and was released after having spent one month in prison.75

· On August 10, 1990, the police confiscated copies of the youth weekly Zeri i Rinise. The following day, the deputy district public prosecutor in Pri_tina declared a temporary ban on the paper's distribution, reportedly because it had printed "lies."76

· In March and September 1990, foreign journalists "were subjected to brief detentions, document checks and other difficulties while attempting to cover news events in Kosovo."77

· In April 1991, Rexhap Rifatija, a former Rilindja journalist, was sentenced to 60 days ofimprisonment by Judge Stojimir Petkov in Uro_evac for writing an article which reported dismissals of Albanian workers. The article, entitled "Violence Upon Violence," appeared on December 4, 1990, in the weekly Albanian-language magazine Kosovarja. Rifatija reported that 240 workers at the Bo_ko Caki? automobile service plant were dismissed from their jobs because they refused to recognize the legitimacy of Serbian rule over Kosovo.78 All those dismissed were members of Kosovo's independent trade union.

· Xhemail Rexhepi, the former editor-in-chief of Rilindja, was arrested for having published a statement issued by the exiled provincial government of Kosovo which was published in Bujku. According to Rexhepi:79

I was arrested on September 26, 1991, in my office. Three police officers came to my office at 8:00 a.m. and told me that I had to come with them for an "informational discussion." The arresting officers were dressed in civilian clothing and were members of the secret police (SSNO). They took me to the police station, where they asked me why I had published the statement by the Kosovo government. During my interrogation five separate people interrogated me. None of them wore a police uniform and all of them were members of the secret police.

At 10:00 a.m., I was taken back to my office and the police officers asked that I give them a copy of the statement published in Bujku and a copy of the edition that transcribed the statement. The police officers left only to return one hour later. They took me back to the police station. They put me in solitary confinement until 2:30 p.m.; I was then interrogated until 9:00 p.m. They asked me why I had published the statement and who had told me to publish it. They contended that I must have been instructed by [Democratic League of Kosovo President Ibrahim] Rugova to do so but I told them that no one ordered me to publish anything. They appeared eager to have me implicate others but, quite honestly, the decision to publish the statement was my own. At the end of the questioning, my interrogator said, "Since you haven't told us anything we'll take you back to solitary confinement. Once the ones in blue -- that is, the regular police officers -- get you, they will make you talk."

Rexhapi was held in solitary confinement until 9:00 a.m. the next morning. He claims his cell was three by two and a half meters large and that it was built with concrete and wood. Human feces were on the floor and he was not given any food, water or blankets and was not permitted to use a bathroom. During his imprisonment, Rexhapi claims that a miner was beaten by the police. Rexhapi continued:

At 9:00 the next morning they took me to a room upstairs and interrogated me once more. Again, they wanted me to implicate others in the publication of that statement. At noon, they told me that I would be punished under the misdemeanor law and that I would serve 60 days in prison. I was told that after I served my 60 day sentence for a petty offense, criminal charges would be filed against me and that I would serve a longer prison term.

Rexhepi served 61 days in prison and was released on November 26, 1991.

· Jonuz Fetahu, director of Skendija, Bujku, Fjala and Jeta e Re, was arrested in October 1991. He was called to come to the police station for "informative discussions" in June 1991. On October 9 at 10:00 a.m., three men entered the Rilindja office building in which he was working and identified themselves as members of the secret police (SSNO). According to Mr. Fetahu:

They asked me to accompany them to the state security building where I was taken to the third floor. Four people and the police chief were in the room. They asked me why we had published the communique by the Assembly of Kosovo which called on Albanian teachers to reject the new Serbian curriculum in Kosovo's schools. I was interrogated from 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. At 5:00, they told me that I would not be allowed to see my family and that I would be sentenced to 60 days in prison. I was kept in the same room for another hour and then was taken before a court, where I had to wait for 90 minutes for a magistrate to arrive. (There was a change in the shifts and the attending magistrate had gone home before his replacement arrived.) They claimed that I had violated the law because I allowed the publication of a statement by the [underground] Kosovo government which indicated that the school year would begin on October 1, not October 16 as the Serbian program stipulated. They said that this statement "disturbed the public order and peace" and that it "upset the non-Albanian population in Kosovo." The trial lasted from 6:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and my two lawyers, Bajram Kelmendi and Fazli Balaj, were present.

I was sentenced to 60 days of imprisonment and was immediately taken to the jail, where I was put in cell number six, with 12 other people. The cell was about 13 square meters large so each prisoner had one square meter to himself. I spent the night in that cell and the next day I was taken to the jail in Mitrovica.

At the Titova Mitrovica jail, Fetahu was held in a cell with 17 other people for five days and then was transferred to a less crowded cell. He was released on December 7, 1991.

· Gani Bajrami, editor of a political affairs column for Bujku, was arrested on October 9, 1991, at 11:00 a.m. According to Bajrami:80

I was responsible for publishing the communique about the school's commencement and the police kept asking me why I allowed its publication. I was sentenced to 60 days in prison for having disturbed the public peace and order. I was taken to the basement, where they kept a cell for those to be placed in solitary confinement. I was kept there for 24 hours. When I was being taken to the cell, two police officers were holding up a man under his arms. The man's surname was Dervisholi and he had been badly beaten and could not walk. While I was in my cell, I heard them beating him again; he kept screaming.

Bajrami was released on October 14, 1991. He appealed his sentence and the decision of the lower court was thrown out on a technicality -- his indictment indicated that he was the deputy editor, rather than the editor, of the column.

· Riza Reshani, a correspondent for Bujku, was arrested on October 25, 1991, for an article he had written about the alleged mistreatment of persons in the town of _timlje. According to Reshani:81

The article was entitled "?etniks Mistreat Children." Although the authorities may have objected to the title, the factual information contained in the article was correct. I also worked as a correspondent for the Albanian-language program of Croatian radio, which also bothered the authorities.

· Shaip Beqiri, a journalist for the weekly Zeri, had authored a book about the works of Ismail Kadare, a prominent writer from Albania. In mid-November 1991, Beqiri travelled to Paris to interview Kadare, who was living in France as an expatriate at the time. According to Beqiri:82

On November 18, [1991], I was returning to Pri_tina from Paris. I arrived in Belgrade and took a train to Pri_tina. When I got to the train stop in Kraljevo [approximately 170 kilometers south of Belgrade], the police boarded the train and told me to disembark. I had a copy of Kadare's book with me at the time and the next day I was sentenced to 40 days in prison for having been in possession of that book.

· Rexhep Rifati, a journalist for Bujku, was arrested and beaten in detention on November 28, 1991. According to Rifati:83

I reported on a meeting which was being held to commemorate the independence of Albania. The meeting was held in a school in the villageof Komoglava. A large number of police officers surrounded the building and raided the premises. All those present had to form a single line and the police pulled 45 people from the line, including myself. We were taken to Uro_evac police station. Between 4:00 p.m. on November 28 and 7:00 a.m. on November 29, almost all of us were beaten. They tied a rope around my neck and beat my hands. We were released at 7:00 a.m. on November 29 and I was told to report to the police station every day for two weeks thereafter.

· Blerim Shala, editor-in-chief of Zeri, was responsible for the contents of a November 28-December 7, 1991, issue of the magazine which showed a double-headed eagle with no star and a map of areas where Albanians constitute a majority or large minority of the population (including Kosovo, areas of Montenegro and Macedonia, and the country of Albania). According to Shala:84

The magazine cover had a picture of Albanians performing a folk dance on November 28, 1942 -- the day of Albania's independence -- and a map of predominantly Albanian regions in the Balkans. Some claim that this is a map of a "Greater Albania." I was arrested for having allowed the publication of this cover and map on November 28. I was tried on November 29 and imprisoned. The Serbian authorities employ a double-standard; all maps of a so-called "Greater Serbia" are readily available throughout Serbia but we Albanians cannot print a similar map.

· Musa Kalaveshi, an illustrator for Zeri, was arrested on December 1, 1991, and sentenced to 60 days in prison for having drawn the aforementioned map of a "Greater Albania" for the magazine. According to Kalaveshi:85

I was also charged for having drawn a cartoon of Slobodan Milo_evi? and Saddam Hussein with sticks of dynamite in their mouths in the magazine Koha (Time). The police searched my house, confiscated those materials and took my passport.

· On January 13, 1992, Sanije Gashi, editor-in-chief of the Albanian-language women's magazine Kosovarja, was sentenced to 60 days of imprisonment. Gashi was found guilty of "having disturbed national and patriotic feelings" because she had permitted the publication of a statement which called for an end to repression in Kosovo. She served her term in a prison in Mitrovica.86



Since the Serbian government took direct control of Kosovo's administration in 1990, thousands of ethnic Albanian workers in government and public enterprises have been dismissed from their jobs because their loyalty to the Serbian government or their professional competence was questioned by the Serbian authorities. Others have been dismissed because they refused to recognize Belgrade's authority or to accept the imposition of "special measures" in Kosovo. Other ethnic Albanians have been dismissed due to an alleged "surplus of labor" in a given establishment or because an employee made an unfavorable comment to the press. Many Albanians dismissed from their jobs were replaced by Serbs or Montenegrins. Helsinki Watch believes that, since 1990, most Albanians have been dismissed from their jobs primarily for ethnic reasons.

On September 3, 1990, ethnic Albanians participated in a general strike to protest the imposition of "special measures" in Kosovo. Many participants were fired from their jobs. Those private proprietors who closed their shops in support of the strike were fined87 and some were not allowed to re-open their business for one year. Other workers faced disciplinary measures for having taken part in the demonstration (e.g., a temporary cut in pay).

Hajrullah Gorani,88 the head of the Independent Trade Union of Kosovo, was arrested on August 24, 1990, for having called for the general strike on September 3. According to Gorani:

I was in my home with my family and with several journalists who had come to interview me. Four police officers, armed only with revolvers, came to summon me. Two officers remained in the police car while the other two came into my home. They did not have a search or arrest warrant and they "invited" me to go with them. I was taken to the police station for two and a half hours. I was not mistreated nor was I interrogated.

I was then taken to the district court and was brought before a judge. I asked that a lawyer be present; the judge agreed and we waited for my lawyer to arrive. The trial lasted two hours and the court called one witness

-- a police officer. In the middle of the case, at about 12:30 a.m., the judge stated that he had to make a telephone call. He returned and then sentenced me to 60 days of imprisonment. My lawyer appealed the sentence and the decision of the lower court was thrown out. I was then released but I had already served 45 days of my 60-day sentence.

According to Gorani, over 850,000 Albanians employed in commercial enterprises have been fired from their jobs. In Yugoslavia, when a worker is dismissed, he or she must be given a written statement explaining the reasons for the dismissal. According to Gorani, many Albanians have not received such dismissal notices nor have they been otherwise informed about the reasons for their dismissal. Such workers frequently are told not to report to work and are prevented from entering the premises by armed police officers.89 According to Gorani, one such case occurred in the coal mine in Obili?:

After special measures were imposed, an emergency management team was introduced in the Obili? coal mining enterprise. Only Serbs and Montenegrins were members of the management team; there were no Albanian representatives. This emergency management team decided to fire hundreds of workers. Many workers asked that their dismissals be reviewed but the same management team heard the appeals and thus reaffirmed their prior decisions. The names of those who had been dismissed were given to the police, who prevented those employees from reporting to work.

Such allegations were confirmed by 36-year-old Mitush Prebreza,90 a former employee of the Obili? mining company. According to Prebreza:

Two thousand three hundred people worked at the mining enterprise. Most ethnic Albanians in Kosovo participated in the general strike on September 3, 1990, and we at the mine also participated in the strike. We went back to work the next day but the emergency management team had closed down the plant. On September 10, the Serbian employees received notices inviting them to come back to work. The Albanian employees were sent dismissal notices. My notice stated that I was fired because I did not show up for work for seven days. However, the plant had been closed for seven days and no one could report for work. My two brothers and my father also worked at the plant. We were all fired but our Serbian colleagues were asked to return to work.

The basis for the dismissal of Albanians from the Obili? mining firm appears to have been their participation in the September 3, 1990, general strike, not their failure to report to work between September 3 and 10. Prior to the strike, the Serbian government made clear that all those participating in the strike would be dismissed from their jobs.

Albanians who have tried to recruit members to the independent trade union have been imprisoned for their activities. Beca Baton was sentenced to 15 days of imprisonment and was fined by a court for petty offenses because he tried to organize workers and to form a branch of the independent trade union at the "Kooperacija" firm in _timlje on September 10, 1990, at approximately 9:30 a.m. The list of names of prospective members and the amount of dues to be paid by each member was found on his person when he was stopped by police at acheckpoint on October 12, 1990. The court stated that, by being in possession of such documents, Baton "provoked indisposition of the citizenry toward organs of the state."91

According to Gorani, before the imposition of "special measures," 50 percent of the management positions in Kosovo were held by Albanians but that, currently, nearly all supervisory and management positions are filled by Serbs. Some workers are forced to sign loyalty oaths either to the Serbian government or to the emergency management team appointed by the Serbian authorities. According to Gorani, those who refuse to sign such oaths are subsequently dismissed. Gorani also claims that those Albanians who signed such oaths were subsequently fired for other reasons.

Helsinki Watch retains a copy of a dismissal notice issued to Husni Pireva, a secretary at the city council of Mitrovica. Pireva refused to sign a statement declaring his acceptance of the Serbian Parliament's enactment of special measures in Mitrovica's city council on July 11, 1991, and acceptance of new regulations for the workplace, as set forth in the law on special measures.92 Similar dismissal notices were issued to Adem Prekazi, Burbuce Hasani, Jusuf Hadzimehmeti and Zejnepe Hasani, also employees at Titova Mitrovica's city council. Helsinki Watch also retains a copy of a pre-prepared loyalty oath issued by the Kosovo branch of the Belgrade-based Jugopetrol enterprise. The statement expresses the employee's "acceptance/non-acceptance of the Republic of Serbia, and all its laws which are promulgated by the People's Parliament of the Republic of Serbia, and all the normative acts [i.e., regulations] enacted by the Jugopetrol enterprise." The statement is dated April 11, 1991.

Although Helsinki Watch takes no position on Serbia's right to codify its regulations throughout its territory, Helsinki Watch is gravely concerned that such regulations have been manipulated to justify the mass dismissal of thousands of ethnic Albanians so as to replace them with Serbs and Montenegrins. In particular, Helsinki Watch is gravely disturbed by the fact that many notices of dismissal appear to have been handed out without prior warning from a supervisor, that such dismissals are not carried out by supervisors but by "emergency management teams or by co-workers in some instances, and that the police have been used either to remove ethnic Albanians from the workplace physically or to intimidate them into leaving.

Yugoslavia is party to the International Labor Organization's (ILO) Convention Against the Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation (#111) and the ILO Convention on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively (#87). The mass dismissal of Albanian workers in Kosovo is contrary to the tenets set forth in the aforementioned ILO Conventions. Helsinki Watch believes that dismissing a worker because of his or her refusal to sign a loyalty oath to a government or employer violates the right to freedom of expression. The dismissal of ethnic Albanians and their subsequent replacement with Serbian and Montenegrin workers indicates that the dismissal of ethnic Albanians is based onethnic criteria. Helsinki Watch believes that the mass dismissal or workers in Kosovo is part of a broader campaign to marginalize economically and socially ethnic Albanians in the province, many of whom already live below the government-designated poverty line.


With regard to the medical profession, new regulations set forth in the laws on special measures specify that all schedules, prescriptions and other written documentation be written in the Serbian language, in Cyrillic script.93 Many ethnic Albanian doctors refused to abide by the new instructions and continued to write in Albanian. This was often cited as the reason for a medical worker's dismissal. Many of the doctors have appealed their dismissal to courts but have not received any answer to their appeals.

According to doctors interviewed by Helsinki Watch in December 1991, most of the dismissals of Albanian medical workers -- including doctors, technicians, researchers, nurses and others -- were concentrated primarily in the Pri_tina municipality. The dismissal of doctors in the villages was less pronounced.

Serbian authorities have claimed that Albanian doctors were dismissed and replaced with Serbian doctors because the former had neglected their medical duties and that, since 1989, Turks, Roma and Serbs were not receiving proper medical care.94 Moreover, they claim that the poor quality of overall health care in Kosovo was due to the negligence of Albanian doctors and that, therefore, their dismissals were necessary to better the standard of medical care in Kosovo.95

When the Kosovo School of Medicine was merged with the Medical Faculty of Serbia in 1990,96 doctors from Serbia came to Kosovo. Doctors interviewed by Helsinki Watch reported that the Serbian doctors refused to work with their Albanian colleagues. According to Dr. Lumturije Gashi-Luci, a pathologist:97

On June 10, 1990, all the Serbian medical workers left the hospital; they claimed that they did not want to work with their Albanian colleagues any longer. The Serbian doctors did not report for work but received their pay checks. When special measures were imposed in Kosovo, Serbian doctors returned to work and then the firing of the Albanian medical personnel began.

According to Dr. Drita Mekuli,98 an internist from Pri_tina hospital:

In August 1990, military personnel surrounded the surgery clinic and the police entered the premises. One of the doctors was handcuffed, taken to the police station and later released. Approximately 45 doctors and other medical personnel were taken in for questioning and were subsequently released that day.

On September 16, a university lecturer, a nurse and a technician -- all Serbs employed at the same clinic as I -- came to my work station. They handed me a notice of dismissal and told me that I had to leave within the next 30 minutes. Similar orders were issued to many of my Albanian colleagues at the clinic. I obeyed the order and left immediately. Those colleagues who refused to leave were forcibly removed by the police.

According to Dr. Mekuli, her dismissal notice stated that she had been fired because she was refusing to cooperate with the designated medical organs. She claims that the dismissal notice also stated that she refused to accept "emergency measures" that had been imposed in the hospital.

Dr. Vjosa Dobruna, a pediatrician who specializes in psychological and neurological disorders in children, was dismissed in August 1990. The dismissal was facilitated by the police. According to Dr. Dobruna:99

I was fired on August 13, 1990, a few days after "special measures" were imposed in Kosovo's medical establishments. I have no idea why I was fired; I presume to change the demographics of the staff. At 8:00 a.m., six fully armed police officers and six members of the clinic's management team approached me. A member of the management team reached for a piece of paper from a nearby desk, wrote my name on it, cited a law and told me that I was fired and that I should leave immediately.

I did not leave but continued to work for the remainder of the working day, until 2:00 p.m. During that time, they changed the lock on my office door. I continued to report for work for another three days. On the third day, I was given a formal notice of dismissal and told by a police officer that I was no longer allowed on the premises. The Albanian nurses were fired the next day.

Alleged Poisoning of School Children

Ethnic Albanians claim that over 3,500 Albanians -- 78 percent of whom were elementary and high school students -- mysteriously fell ill after they were poisoned between March 22-31, 1990. Albanians claim that toxic chemicals were purposely emitted from the ventilation vents in schools and, to a lesser extent, in factories where Albanians were in attendance. The victimswere alleged to have suffered from headaches, stomach pains, nausea, dizziness, respiratory difficulty, eye, nose and throat burn, and cramps.100

Various international medical groups have investigated the phenomenon but while some have confirmed the above allegations, others have refuted them. It is beyond the competence of Helsinki Watch to determine the validity of such allegations. However, Helsinki Watch is disturbed by the fact that Serbian authorities did not investigate the Albanians' allegations. Rather, Serbian authorities have dismissed such allegations as part of a mass hysteria or the simulation of illness to serve political ends.


In September 1990, the Serbian government instituted a new curriculum in the Kosovo schools. The new curriculum increased the emphasis on Serbian history and culture. Albanians objected to the increase in the attention given to Serbian heritage and the decreased attention given to their own. According to Miodrag Djuri?i?,101 elementary school students have the option of receiving Albanian-language instruction but most other subjects are to be taught in Serbian. In high school, a higher percentage of the classes can be taught in Albanian. On the university level, all instruction must be conducted in the Serbian language.

As in other places of employment, after "special measures" were instituted in Kosovo, emergency management teams assumed administrative and supervisory responsibilities in Kosovo's schools, universities and libraries. Thousands of Albanian professors and teachers who refused to teach the new curriculum or lectured predominantly in the Albanian language were dismissed from their jobs. The schools in which they taught either were closed by the authorities or the ethnic Albanian teachers were replaced by Serbs. Parents who chose not to have their children taught according to the Serbian curriculum have kept their children at home. As a result of the boycott, Albanians interviewed by Helsinki Watch estimate that most Albanian children in Kosovo (between 300,000 and 450,000) have not attended school for approximately two years. Some children are educated by fired Albanian teachers or by their parents.

In addition to elementary and secondary school students, many university students also have boycotted classes. Professor Imer Jaka102 claims that in 1990 the university's admission policy was changed to favor Serbs in Kosovo. Prior to 1990, quotas for admissions required that Albanian students comprise two thirds of the student body while the remaining one third was reserved for Serbian students. Changes in the admissions process in August 1990 required that half of all incoming students be Serbian. According to Professor Jaka, "There is one Serb for every nine Albanians in Kosovo. Despite this fact, they want a 50 percent share of all university facilities." As in the case of elementary and secondary school pupils, the vast majority of the university's student body now consists of Serbs.

Many Albanian university professors refused to teach in the Serbian language and were subsequently fired. After "special measures" were instituted at Pri_tina University approximately 780 professors and deans were fired, their right to appeal their dismissal has not been granted and their positions have since been filled by Serbs, according to Professor Dika. Radivoje Papovi?,103 the rector of Pri_tina University, told Helsinki Watch that the newly appointed professors at the university included Vojislav _e_elj, leader of the ultra-right wing Serbian Radical Party and Serbian ?etnik Movement. _e_elj is also the leader of a paramilitary group, whose troops are responsible for the most brutal violations of humanitarian law against civilians in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia.

Although some Albanian educators were dismissed because they refused to adhere to new Serbian curricula, others appear to have have been dismissed from their jobs solely for reasons relating to their ethnicity or political beliefs, particularly those employed in the National University Library of Kosovo. Helsinki Watch has examined the dismissal papers of several ethnic Albanian employees of the aforementioned library.104 The reason for the dismissal of such workers often is attributed to the worker's "failure to perform [his or her] duties and preventing other workers from attending to their responsibilities and doing their jobs." The duties the worker failed to perform and the ways in which he or she prevented others from doing their jobs often is not given. In several instances, a worker's dismissal is justified by the following clause:

... in making statements to the press, the worker misrepresented the situation at the Library, misinformed the public and gave a wrong impression of the work of the temporary bodies [i.e., the emergency management teams] and their actions, in that [s/]he accused and rudely attacked their work and [referred to] the relevant measures of the Serbian Parliament as "police methods."105

Both Radivoje Papovi? and Miodrag Djuri?i? believe that all Albanian teachers and professors who had been dismissed could return to work if they chose to abide by the Serbian curriculum and regulations. Djuri?i? claims that the Serbian authorities fired only those Albanian teachers who refused to abide by the Serbian program. When asked if any criminal charges had been filed against such teachers, Djuri?i? replied that no such charges had been filed; only disciplinary measures, such as the revocation of salary, had taken place.

Helsinki Watch does not dispute the Serbian government's right to devise and implement uniform curricula or regulations in public schools and universities on its territory. However, Helsinki Watch is gravely concerned that efforts by the Serbian authorities to implement such curricula and regulations have been abused to purge ethnic Albanian educators.



According to Albanian sources approximately 80,000 Albanians have been dismissed from their jobs and have no financial means to support themselves and their families. Many are denied social security benefits. Under Serbian law, those workers who are fired are not eligible for welfare benefits. Medical services are available but they are not free of charge and many cannot afford to pay the fees. Moreover, many Albanians do not trust the new Serbian doctors and do not go to government-operated hospitals and clinics for medical care. Pregnant women, in particular, have been reluctant to give birth in the hospitals and few receive pre-natal care.

In an effort to address the humanitarian needs of the poverty-stricken portions of the Albanian population in Kosovo, ethnic Albanians have formed a humanitarian organization called the Charity and Humanitarian Society of Mother Theresa (Dobrotvorno Humanitarno Dru_tvo Majka Tereza). The organization was founded in May 1990 and registered with the Yugoslav authorities in August 1990. The organization supplies food, medicine, hygiene materials and, in some cases, minimal stipends to families who live in abject poverty or otherwise are not able to support themselves. The organization maintains branches throughout Kosovo, Macedonia and in Western Europe. All of its workers are volunteers, and its financial support is derived from member contributions.

According to members of the organization's executive committee,106 members of the organization have been dismissed from their jobs because their affiliation with the organization was deemed to be "disturbing the peace and public order and the political sensibility of the citizenry." The executive committee members claim that shipments of humanitarian aid have been unnecessarily detained, taxed or confiscated by the Serbian authorities. According to the president of the organization:

Our shipments of humanitarian aid were stopped by the Serbian authorities even before the war [in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina] prevented such aid from reaching Kosovo. Much of the aid came from Western Europe or Croatia and our drivers were frequently harassed on the road in Serbia. For example, the police required that our drivers unload and unpack everything for their examination, which is understandable. However, after everything was re-packed and placed on the trucks again, the police told the driver to unload all the materials again for inspection. One driver had to do this so many times that he collapsed from the exhaustion.

In August 1991, medicine from Belgium was transported to our branch in Zagreb. It was then taken to Pri_tina via train. The customs officials in Pri_tina confiscated our medicine and told us that they could not give us the aid. They claimed that such medicines were available in Serbia and that there was no reason why we should be receiving such materials from abroad; they told us that we should buy the medicines in Serbia. We tried to explain that these were donations and that we did not have to pay for this humanitarian aid. Theyrefused to accept that and told us that they had set a date to "destroy" the medicines. We don't know what happened to the medicine but we never saw it again. A similar incident took place with a smaller quantity of aid in November 1990.

On yet another occasion, customs officials imposed a duty that amounted to three times the value of the aid. Again, they justified the heavy taxation by pointing out that such materials were available in Serbia. They refused to accept that this was a charitable donation of humanitarian aid.

Some persons who have lost their jobs also have been evicted from their homes. In the former Yugoslavia, the system of self-management allowed enterprise and worker ownership of apartments. The state, which controlled the public enterprise, provided subsidies to the enterprise to purchase units in apartment buildings which would be allocated for the firm's workers. In some cases, after a worker was employed in an enterprise for a given number of years, he or she was entitled to an apartment. In other instances, a worker could contribute a portion of the funding and purchase a unit with its enterprise. In most cases, the ownership of the apartment belonged jointly to the worker and his or her respective employer. Ethnic Albanians who have been dismissed from their jobs have lost the right to remain in their apartments and some have been evicted.

For example, the executive committee of the city council of Gnjilane issued a resolution at a meeting held on January 10, 1991. The resolution required that

in accordance with the law, proceedings commence to take public apartments from all workers on the territory of the municipality of Gnjilane whose employment has ceased because of their actions supporting Albanian nationalism and separatism and their failure to uphold measures taken by the Republic of Serbia to stabilize the situation in Kosovo and Metohija.107

Similar action has been taken against workers in Pri_tina. Mr. Foniqi, a journalist for Pri_tina Television for 13 years, was dismissed from his job in August 1990 and subsequently evicted from his home. He is married and has two children (ages seven and nine) and lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Pri_tina. When his apartment building was being built, several units were bought by Pri_tina Television and its workers. Initially, the television was to pay 50 percent of the apartment's cost and Mr. Foniqi was to pay the remaining 50 percent. However, Pri_tina Television did not have the necessary monies at the time of purchase and it was agreed that Mr. Foniqi would pay 80 percent of the cost and that his firm would pay the remaining 20 percent. Mr. Foniqi paid his share of the cost in periodic installments, beginning in 1985. When the building's construction was completed in 1989, he was allowed to move into the units which

he had purchased. One year thereafter, Mr. Foniqi was dismissed from his job and forcibly evicted from his home in November 1991. According to Mr. Foniqi:108

I had been warned that I would be evicted three times in writing. After I was fired, the first notice I received was on August 16, 1991, and it ordered me to move out in three days. The letter came from the municipal secretary for urban affairs at the request of Pri_tina Television. I filed a complaint and the Ministry of Urban Affairs in Kosovo agreed that I could not be evicted because it would have violated my contract with Pri_tina Television about the apartment, i.e., because I had paid for 80 percent of the apartment, I was the unit's principal owner.

One month later, the Ministry of Urban Affairs withdrew its support of my claim. On November 12, 1991, nine uniformed police officers appeared at my doorstep with a letter from the Ministry of Urban Affairs. The police had come with movers and ordered them to start moving out my furniture. My children got upset and I could not stop them from moving our belongings. I didn't know what to do so I took my children and left the apartment at about 10:00 a.m. When I came back, I saw that all my furniture had been placed in the hallway and that the apartment was practically empty. I now rent an apartment which I can barely afford because I am unemployed. I had to sell my family land in order to be able to pay for that apartment and now I am penniless.

According to Mr. Foniqi's lawyer,109 Serbian law requires that before one can be evicted from one's home, one is entitled to a hearing in a civil court; an administrative agency, such as the municipal ministry for urban affairs, does not have the right to evict an individual. Mr. Foniqi was never granted a hearing before a civil court prior to his eviction.

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