Justice for Kosovo – Chance for Serbia

, by Andrej Nosov , Dragan Popović

Justice for Kosovo – Chance for Serbia

After the declaration of independence of Kosovo and the “spontaneous” reaction of “rage and anger” depicted in the Prime Minister’s words, demolished Embassies, public lynching of those with different political opinions, as well as the declarative call to “peace and peaceful protests”, Serbia has hit the bottom. It is less of a problem that in the previous decades we have gotten used to seeing violence, living in it every day and doing it spontaneously to people around us.

It is more of a problem that the state politics of Slobodan Milosevic, the politics of violence, has officially returned as the main, driving force, that on which there is a consensus even of the democratic Presedent Tadic, and almost President Nikolic and all the other actes gathered around the leader of the defense of Kosovo, Vojislav Kostunica.

Another missed opportunity for change

This rock bottom, and this fear that every normal citizen feels regarding what is going to happen the next day, is actually another big chance that we are once again missing. It is a chance for the society in Serbia to face their errors of judgement, to reconsider the politics of the past few decades, to look back and draw the line underneath the decade of conquest, murder, ethnic cleansing, terror over their own citizens and the inhabitants of the region. Kosovo has not been under the rule of Serbia since the day Slobodan Milosevic ended his project by retreating the army and police forces from Kosovo. The politics of conquering territories and nineteenth-century centralistic nationalism is facing a breakdown. Whether it will take something else on its way down, depends on the elite groups in Serbia. Or maybe new politics will arise in its place, appropriate for the modern age, based on cooperation and respect.

Everyone is in wonder because 17 February has happened to us, because there was a celebration and declaration of something we knew had happened in June 1999. Everyone makes excuses for violent behaviour, ancient rights and other mythologies by “our” right to rule “them”. Breaking things in Belgrade, they say, is not much in relation to what has happened to us. They talk of cultural heritage, NATO bombing, the Serbs that died in Kosovo. There is no mention of the Albanians except as “separatists, terrorists, immature people, uncivilized snatchers of our land”. Everyone is silent about Albanians. Because, I guess, one does not mention the name of evil. And the evil that Belgrade has done to the Albanians has symbolically ended for them on that very 17 February.

State enemy No 1 is human rights defender Natasa Kandic, because she dared to sit in the Kosovo Parliament in the name of different values. Some media say that she shouldn’t exist. Others have a problem with Sonja Biserko, Biljana Kovacevic Vuco. The rest would be satisfied with banning and destroying LDP or the expedition to the apartment of Ceda Jovanovic and insulting and lynching the politics and citizens which he represents. These steps are well known, Milosevic used them too. Kostunica is now simply applying the matrix he had inherited from his predecessor. Just as he had copied the rhetoric, he also did everything to leave Serbia in the gutter and through fear and terrot enforce the final establishment of the new Russian province, which is obviously his goal.

Kosovo - Europe’s last colony

The last colony in Europe gained its freedom on 17 February 2008. From 1912 Kosovo has been ruled by boot and sabre. The people living there had no say in anything. Military authorities were imposed on them since the occupation. At that time, they were pronounced to be a nation not mature enough for democracy. Instead of a civil state and civil management, they recieved a hoard of officers and officials, mostly the worst ones, sent by punishment to Kosovo. Many testimonies from that time speak of violence, discrimination and collonial behaviour of the new masters towards the Albanian population in the region. While Kosovo was ruled by the army, the intelligence in Belgrade was making plans on how to change the national make-up of the population. The documents of the Serbian Culture Club lead by Slobodan Jovanovic speak of horrible and cruel entertainment of the Serbian national elite. People are refered to as merchandise, something not alive, calculations are made about how many people should move in and move out from different places. The exact same standards will be applied much more efficiently at the end of the 20th century by academics, writers, poets, bishops... “Humane displacement” will become the official politics which will finally result in the creation of Republika Srpska. That is why it is possible today to speak of territory, but not the people, to pledge in Kosovo, but not give pensions to the Albanians, to erase the complete population from the electorial register or the share of free stocks.

The parties changed names, from the National Radical to the League of Communists, from the Socialist Party of Serbia to the Serbian Radical or the Democratic Party of Serbia. The continuity of colonial rule was maintained after the Second World War through military management. Even though the former colonists were forbidden to return to Kosovo, new ones soon arrived. Authority was established through bloody massacres in Drenica and all over Kosovo. Once again there were no “conditions” for civil authorities. The UDBA (State Secret Agency) sovereignly ruled Kosovo until 1966. Many people, rich today, owe their family posessions to the gold stolen from Kosovo Albanians. After the Brioni Plenum there was an ease, but as soon as the ruling circles saw that Kosovo inhabits people who want their rights and who will not reconcile with the existing situation, everything went to the way it used to be. One year after Tito’s death, the Yugoslav National Army “establishes order” in the streets of Pristina, Pec, Prizren... The number of killed Albanians has never been revealed. In the end, in 1989, the “easily promised speed” completely overtakes the legitimate politics. The sovereignity of Kosovo is annuled by tanks, martial law is established and a system very similar to apartheid.

1990s - the dark ages

During the nineties, if you were an Albanian, you could not live without fear, let alone work in a school, hospital, the police, or government institutions. Even when the Albanians reacted to such a situation with violence, the elite circles in Serbia did not wonder why, but ravaged villages, civillians, women and children. To be an Albanian, male or female, meant a death sentence. Many were saved by some money or gold. For others, there was no way out.

The nineties are a disgrace for Serbain history, and that must be said out loud in reference to Kosovo. Today in Kosovo, as well as Serbia and the other countries in the region, a large number of people is waiting for the answer to the question where their loved ones are, what happened to them, who killed them. Vojislav Kostunica and his security services hide the answer to that question. Boris Tadic surpresses the answer to that question becase of “stability and the future” and tycoon interests. There is no justice for the Serbs either, if we do not tell the others what we have done to them. There will be no other future if we conceal the facts. And it is futile to rant about crimes over Serbs, world injustice, double standards... Ivica Dacic clearly stated on the parliamentary speakers stand that the politics of the nineties has been confirmed once more.

The decision to recognize Kosovo is not a punishment for Serbia, it is an opportunity.

When in 1999 revenge and retaliation against the Serbs started, there were no academics or scientists who would look for the cause in the behaviour of the state of Serbia. Or even to be determined according to the 800.000 banished people, mass murders in Meja, Djakovica, Suva Reka, Podujevo, Izbica, Vucitrn... Maybe that would have saved more Serbs than any books written in the name of the defense of Kosovo and such politics. Or any journalist scribblings which announced lynching, which the newspapers are full of these days.

The complete state apparatus was involved in hiding the tracks of mass crimes. Bodies were buried all over Serbia, burned in factories and power plants, sunk into the Danube or Perucac. The policemen, officers, members of National Security, politicians, local tycoons and enterpreneurs, judges and prosecutors, the Government and political parties were involved too. And after all that, Serbia is in wonder. Not a trace of regret, sense of responsibility, readiness to change behaviour. The people directly responsible for Serbia’s loss of the right to rule the Kosovo people, today decide our own fate. They will not admit to their mistakes. Instead of that, they will try to tailor the international legislature according to their own dreams. To turn it into a calcified shell which cannot be adjusted to new situations. Because that is how one rules Serbia. That is how laws and constitutions are made here. Full of strong words and phrases, but inapplicable.

Legitimately and legally, the democratic and free part of the world estimated that we cannot terrorize our own citizens forever. Maybe Russia or China still can, but that time will soon pass too. Then the people in Chechnya or Tibet will also gain their deserved place in the community of independent nations. The world’s decision (at least the better part of it) to recognize Kosovo, should not be taken as punishment by Serbia. It is not a punishment, it is an opportunity. Not only for Serbia, but for the whole world to strengthen the mechanisms of the protection of human rights and more decisively defy the terror of local dictators. From Beijing to Havana, from Teheran to Moscow.


Serbia is obliged to recognize the Republic of Kosovo. To give a hand of friendship to their legally elected representatives, to help them establish a modern, democratic society. Not because we are more advanced or cultured, but because we owe at least that much to the Kosovo society. And through Kosovo, we can open the issue of the society in Serbia. To reconsider all the illusons and false values, reform institutions, start creating a critical conscience in young people, to reverse the value system and set things in their place.

Serbia must, from the mistakes of the past, learn the lessons which will take us to building a new society and a different future. By making violence legitimate and attacking people with different political opinions, the authorities are only continuing the old and already seen practice. Those who think that they will destroy critical thinking and the need for different relations with the neigbours in this way, are sadly mistaken. The mass “events of the people” just take us back and create new mistakes which will cost us dearly.

This article was first published on the website of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR), which is a regional non-governmental organisation with programmes in the territories of Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. YIHR was formed in 2003 by young people from these countries in order to enhance youth participation in democratisation of the society and empowerment of the rule of law by driving processes of facing the past and establishing new progressive connections in the post-conflict region of the former Yugoslavia.

Image: flags of Serbia and Kosovo, source Wikipedia.

Your comments

  • On 17 March 2008 at 22:13, by Savo Heleta Replying to: Justice for Kosovo – Chance for Serbia

    Andrej and Dragan, everyone who was reasonable knew that Slobodan Milosevic lost Kosovo in 1999.

    The biggest mistake the new Serbian government that came into power in 2000 have made was that they did not come out clean and announce to the nation that Kosovo was de facto lost as a part of Serbia. They should have blamed it on Milosevic and his policies, as it was the case.

    Instead of Milosevic being rightfully portrayed as someone responsible for the loss of the Serbian “Jerusalem,” they will now get the blame. The Economist writes that “for the past couple of years Serbian leaders have repeated that Kosovo would never be independent. No wonder ordinary Serbs are angry and confused.”

    SAVO HELETA Author of "Not My Turn to Die: Memoirs of a Broken Childhood in Bosnia" http://savoheleta.livejournal.com

  • On 17 March 2008 at 23:31, by Voltaire Replying to: Justice for Kosovo – Chance for Serbia

    Wow, what an endles list of donors. Yet your list of partners in the region does not include any widley accepted Serbian NGO from Belgrade. Classic example of a niche NGO trying to speak for many. I would rather have the insight of the European Movement in Serbia as this NGO is a extreme case as is Natasa Kandic. What the bellow list shows is that you are able to get money from donors, but are very poor at winning the hearts and minds of Serbs.


    YIHR Donors Australian Embassy in Belgrade Balkan Trust for Democracy British Embassy-Belgrade Charles Stewart Mott Foundation Civil Dialogue Comité Catholique contre la Faim et pour le Développement (CCFD) Danish Embassy-Belgrade East-East Program (Soros) Embassy of Finland-Belgrade Embassy of France-Belgrade Embassy of Germany-Belgrade Embassy of Netherlands-Belgrade Embassy of the United States of America - Belgrade Freedom House French Cultural Centre, Belgrade Friedrich Ebert Foundation Fund for an Open Society-Serbia Heinrich Böll Foundation Konrad Adenauer Foundation Kosovo Foundation for an Open Society National Endowment for Democracy Norwegian People’s Aid Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Quaker Peace and Social Witness Rockefeller Brothers Fund Royal Norwegian Embassy-Belgrade Swedish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights Swiss Government Ministry of Foreign Affairs United Nations Development Programme United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees United States Institute of Peace US Office Pristina

    YIHR Partners Belgrade District Court’s War Crimes Chamber Centre for Democratic Initiatives-Jagodina Centre for Multicultural Education in Preševo Centre for Tolerance and Interreligious Relations Centre for Social Emancipation Civic Action for Human Rights-Priboj CIVIS Committee for Human Rights -Bujanovac Committee for Human Rights-Negotin Committee for Human Rights-Niš Gayten LGBT FAMA International-Sarajevo Forum of Slovaks – Backi Petrovac Helsinki Committee for the Protection of Rights and Freedoms of Bulgarians-Dimitrovgrad Humanitarian Law Center ICTY Outreach Office LGBT Vojvodina Lambda LGBT Human Rights and Queer Culture Center Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM) Local Democracy Agency-Subotica Movement of Mothers from the Enclaves of Srebenica and Žepa-Sarajevo Resource Centre Leskovac Quaker Peace and Social Witness Queeria Labris Sanjak Committee for the Protection of Human Rights Taboo Zrenjanin

  • On 18 March 2008 at 18:21, by eslaporte Replying to: What is missing from this essay...

    What is missing from this essay, that is often missing when discussing “Serbia,” is that Serbia has made progress toward her European future. In the lines of this essay is the notion that Serbia is some kind of hopelessly lost and even criminal nation. Serbia has, in fact, developed into a responsible European nation.

    First of all, Serbian nationalism, like the former nationalism of Germany, must not be punished or shunned, but understood. Serbian nationalism needs to be understood so we Europeanists can work with Serbia in an effort to minimize and render Serbian nationalism benign. Serbia is already well on the way to being a European nation. The work of constructing a European identity has already taken place. Serbian Europeanists have risked their lives in the creation of European Serbia. The European Union was contributing to the democratic opposition to Milosevic while he was still in office. Please don’t forget the memory of Zoran Djindjic, the brave Serbian reformer who was murdered trying to build European Serbia. Also do not forget those Serbs that are working to build a European future for Serbia. They need our help, not condemnation!

    Why don’t we see the pro-European march on 28 February 2008, where pro-Europe Serb students wanted to repair the window of the Slovenian Embassy? Why don’t we hear about the pro-European movement in Serbia?

    There needs to be a revisiting of the absolute demand to produce war criminals, not just for Serbia, but for other Balkans’ nations. It must be understood that this does not mean that the indictments against the indictees will be dropped. However, this absolute demand to produce war criminals is becoming a liability and counterproductive. The standard should be revised to good faith cooperation with the ICTY, and this standard is more reasonable. The problem here is that the conditions of the SAA with regard to Serbia, including the timing of “Kosovo independence,” have been horribly misread.

    Last, Serbia is not a criminal nation and its European reformers need our support as they struggle with the lingering nationalism. Serbian nationalism needs to be understood - and collective punishment of Serbia for its nationalism is just as wrong as the collective punishment of Germany would have been 60 years ago. When the Berlin Wall fell, no one called for the continued demonization and punishment of Germans for the horrors of World War Two. Europe now needs the same understanding and positive policy with regard to Serbia.

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