UN in Kosovo negotiates to ensure multi-ethnic representation at local level.
SEPTEMBER 24 -- United Nations civil affairs officers throughout Kosovo are carrying out political negotiations, at the local level, to help ensure that different ethnic and political groups are part of municipal governments, a UN spokeswoman in Kosovo said today.
The focus of the UN civilian officers, placed in nearly all of Kosovo's 29 municipalities, was establishing government structures and staffing municipal administrations, Daniela Rozgonova told the press in Kosovo's capital, Pristina.
"In the Gnjilane region, four municipal boards comprised of Serbs and Albanians, are operational and are directly responsible for running daily civil administration," Ms. Rozgonova said. Specific negotiations are under way to establish three more local boards, she said.
Meanwhile, UN civilian police in Mitrovica are taking measures to reduce tensions which persist between Serb and Albanian employees at the hospital there.
Following an incident earlier in the week which resulted in a scuffle between a Serb and Albanian hospital staff, UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) police have reinforced patrols and begun escorting buses transporting staff.
In another development, leading Kosovar women's rights activists met yesterday with the UN to begin efforts to include the gender perspective in the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) planning for the territory, during the first meeting of the Kosovo Gender Task Force.
Under the chairmanship of the UN Development Fund for Women, the Task Force will work to support women's participation in political, economic and private sector development.
To strengthen judiciary in Kosovo, Symposium to be held on international human rights standards.
SEPTEMBER 23 -- As part of the United Nations effort to bring Kosovo's legal system in-line with internationally accepted standards, a symposium on human rights law and practices is being convened for Kosovar judicial officers, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said today.
The OSCE, charged by the UN with institution-building in Kosovo, will host the event tomorrow and Saturday in Kosovo's capital, Pristina.
Local, European and United States experts, along with representatives of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia will consider such matters as pre-trial detention and standards for prosecution of war crimes. Twenty of the more than 50 judicial officials already appointed by the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) have been invited to attend.
According to the OSCE, the symposium represents the first step towards establishing a new Kosovo Judicial Institute where members of the judiciary can develop professional skills and be trained on international human rights law.
UN cooperation with Kosovo Serbs will continue, Kouchner says after Council walkout.
SEPTEMBER 22 -- The withdrawal of Serb leaders from today's Kosovo Transitional Council in protest over the creation of a Kosovo Protection Corps was a temporary setback and efforts would begin to ensure future Serb participation, the head of the UN Kosovo operation said today.
Talking to the press in Kosovo's capital Pristina, Dr. Bernard Kouchner said the Serb seats on the Kosovo Transitional Council would be held open until they wished to return.
The Council, the highest political body under the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), has been meeting regularly with the representation all major ethnic groups in Kosovo.
"I am completely convinced that contacts will go on, before the end of the week, and we'll work on particular issues," Dr. Kouchner said. The Kosovar Serb representatives to the Council were the "heart of the Serb community", and they, not Belgrade, were the natural interlocutors with the international community in Kosovo, he said.
Dr. Kouchner said the action of the Serb delegation had been a political statement to appease the Serb community displeased by plans to transform the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) into a civilian corps.
Under the agreement reached yesterday between the UN, KFOR international security force and KLA, demobilized elements of the KLA will be transformed into an unarmed, humanitarian service. The agreement stipulates that 10 per cent of the new Kosovo Protection Corps will be drawn from the territory's minority communities.
Responding to a press query about Serb protests that the UN was building a mono-ethnic Kosovo, Dr. Kouchner said the international community was making every effort to develop a multi-ethnic system in the territory, but the process would take years and must be supported by the people of Kosovo.
UN and Kosovo human rights experts meet to address issue of detainees in Serbia.
SEPTEMBER 22 -- Amidst reports that up to 5,000 Kosovar Albanians are being held prisoner in Serbia, a United Nations-supervised commission of Kosovar human rights experts and families of detainees today began efforts to identify those being held.
The Commission of Prisoners and Detainees, meeting under the chairmanship of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, will gather information on all detainees from Kosovo and make interventions on their behalf.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has received detailed information on nearly 2,000 Kosovo Albanians being held in Serbian jails. Most are being held without trial and have been charged with terrorism.
UN signs plans to transform Kosovo Liberation Army into civilian corps.
SEPTEMBER 21 -- The United Nations in Kosovo, the KFOR security force and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) last night finalized and signed plans to transform the KLA from a military force into a civilian emergency service corps.
At a ceremony in Kosovo's capital Pristina, the leader of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Dr. Bernard Kouchner, legally established the new Kosovo Protection Corps of 3,000 members and 2,000 reservists. The new Corps will carry out disaster response, de-mining and other humanitarian functions.
Based on the negotiations completed just before Monday's ceremony, the Kosovo Protection Corps - which will operate under the UN's final authority and KFOR day-to-day supervision -- will have no role in law enforcement or in political activities in Kosovo.
Dr. Kouchner has appointed the former Chief of Staff of the KLA, General Agim Ceku, as Commander of the new Kosovo Corps, and to assist with the process of transformation, which is expected to take at least 60 days.
Also at the ceremony, attended by the Supreme Commander of NATO, General Wesley Clark, KFOR Commander Mike Jackson verified that KLA had completed the process of demilitarization as outlined by the UN and KFOR. According to KFOR, some 10,000 weapons and five million rounds of ammunition have been handed in.
Speaking at a press conference today in Pristina, Commander Jackson said agreement had also been reached on a weapons regime for the new Corps, an issue which had delayed final agreement on the KLA transformation plan. Under the agreement, 200 small arms will be available to Corps members for "routine site guarding", while the use of those weapons will be carefully controlled by KFOR and UNMIK.
Also speaking at today's press conference, Dr. Kouchner said the Kosovo Corps would be "a civilian, disciplined, uniformed and multi-ethnic emergency response service" which would absorb KLA demobilized troops and help re-direct the aspirations of former fighters.
"Demilitarization in not necessarily accomplished by simply dismantling military structures and collecting soldiers' arms," Dr. Kouchner said. In the case of the KLA, the transformation of the former army into the civilian Corps was an integral part of the Kosovo peace process, he said.
Dr. Kouchner will have the final word over selection of Kosovo Corps members, who are currently being recruited by UNMIK with the help of the International Office for Migration (IOM). Ten per cent of its ranks will be drawn from among Kosovo's minority groups.
Secretary-General warns Kosovo gains could easily be reversed.
SEPTEMBER 20 -- Cautioning that "Kosovo's future is not yet secured", Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a report to the Security Council, urged the international community to continue to provide political, financial and economic support for the UN's operation there.
In the report released today, the Secretary-General observes that Kosovo today bears little resemblance to the territory in mid-June 1999: "Most refugees are home, the informal economy is thriving and efforts are under way to restore law and order throughout the province".
However, the report also argues that the UN Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) must resolve three pressing challenges in the weeks and months ahead if this progress is not to be reversed. First, the rule of law and UNMIK's authority must be established and cemented; extremists have to realize that ethnically motivated murders and violence will not be tolerated. Security for all communities, especially for vulnerable minorities in Kosovo, has to be a priority. The deployment of UNMIK civilian police and the creation of the Kosovo Police Service, as well as the activation of the judicial and penal system, are all key factors towards achieving this end.
Ensuring temporary winterized accommodation for 350,000 people in need is a second major priority. Temporary housing until next spring will be a stop-gap solution. Restoration of public utilities, including electricity generation, must be addressed on an emergency basis along with long-term efforts at reconstruction, the report says.
Finally, the future stability of the territory depends on successful demobilization of the Kosovo Liberation Army and other armed elements. The 19 September deadline for completing demobilization has just been extended by KFOR for 48 hours. Clearly, there is a real threat that "former fighters may become an obstacle" to implementation of UNMIK's objectives, unless reintegration into civilian life is handled appropriately.
The international community's sustained support for the Mission, including contributions to fund salaries of Kosovo's public service employees, is of critical importance, the report urges.