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UNMIK Media Observer, Morning Edition, June 9, 2021

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• COVID-19: Nine new cases, one death (media)
• Kosovo to be among first in Europe to receive vaccines from U.S. (media)
• UN Court Confirms Ratko Mladic’s Life Sentence for Genocide (BIRN)
• Kosovo welcomes court’s upholding of Mladic’s genocide conviction (media)
• U.S. blocks property and suspends entry of persons contributing to destabilisation of Western Balkans (media)
• Gervalla: Rule of law, crucial for cooperation and stability in the Balkans (Koha)
• COMKFOR Federici speaks about security of Serb religious sites (Koha)
• Albania as member of Security Council could be an opportunity for Kosovo (Koha)
• Kandic: Serbia will not agree to open state archives (RFE)
• EULEX’s mandate extended until 2023 (media)

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  • COVID-19: Nine new cases, one death (media)
  • Kosovo to be among first in Europe to receive vaccines from U.S. (media)
  • UN Court Confirms Ratko Mladic’s Life Sentence for Genocide (BIRN)
  • Kosovo welcomes court’s upholding of Mladic’s genocide conviction (media)
  • U.S. blocks property and suspends entry of persons contributing to destabilisation of Western Balkans (media)
  • Gervalla: Rule of law, crucial for cooperation and stability in the Balkans (Koha)
  • COMKFOR Federici speaks about security of Serb religious sites (Koha)
  • Albania as member of Security Council could be an opportunity for Kosovo (Koha)
  • Kandic: Serbia will not agree to open state archives (RFE)
  • EULEX’s mandate extended until 2023 (media)

COVID-19: Nine new cases, one death (media)

Kosovo has recorded nine new cases of COVID-19 and one death in the last 24-hour period. 155 recoveries were also confirmed during this time.

There are currently 944 active cases of coronavirus in Kosovo.

Yesterday, Kosovo’s National Institute for Public Health confirmed the first case of South Africa coronavirus variant. The patient is being treated at the Infectious Clinic in Prishtina and is in stable condition.

Kosovo to be among first in Europe to receive vaccines from U.S. (media)

Media report that Kosovo will be among the first in Europe that will receive COVID-19 vaccines as part of the assistance pledged by the United States.

“Georgia, Ukraine, and Kosovo are the first three European countries to receive vaccines from the United States, based on regional priorities and partnerships,” the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi said on Twitter.

UN Court Confirms Ratko Mladic’s Life Sentence for Genocide (BIRN)

The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals in The Hague on Tuesday confirmed that Ratko Mladic will serve a life sentence for his role in the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II.

The court’s appeals chamber upheld the initial verdict convicting the former Bosnian Serb military leader of the genocide of Bosniaks from Srebrenica in 1995, the persecution of Bosniaks and Croats across the country, terrorising the population of Sarajevo with a campaign of shelling and sniping during the siege of the city and taking UN peacekeepers hostage.

But Mladic was acquitted of genocide in five other Bosnian municipalities in 1992 –  Prijedor, Sanski Most, Kotor Varos, Foca and Vlasenica.

In a hearing held under pandemic-related restrictions and dogged by technical problems, with presiding judge Prisca Matimba Nyambe appearing via a video link, the court rejected claims from Mladic that he did not receive a fair trial, or that his health problems had been overlooked.

Mladic, 78, attended the trial hearing in person wearing a dark suit and blue tie, accompanied by a legal counsellor but without his usual legal team.

The court rejected Mladic’s argument that he was not physically present during the killings of more than 7,000 Bosniak men and boys from Srebrenica in July 1995, and agreed with the initial verdict’s finding that he was part of “a common criminal plan to commit genocide, extermination and murder”.

It also rejected his claims that his actions in Srebrenica were actually “humanitarian”.

“The appeals chamber, with judge Nyambe dissenting, considers unconvincing Mladic’s allegations that he acted with the goal of performing a humanitarian evacuation of civilians,” judge Nyambe said.

The court further rejected his claims that “he only sought legitimate military success rather than permanent removal of Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat civilians” from municipalities across the country during the 1992-95 war.

It also dismissed his claim that Sarajevo was a “defended city” during its three-and-a-half-year siege by Bosnian Serb forces, and upheld the findings of the initial verdict that said he had the “objective of spreading terror among the civilian population of Sarajevo through a campaign of sniping and shelling, including through the commission of murder, terror, and unlawful attacks against civilians”.

However, the judges dismissed the prosecution’s appeal related to the alleged genocide in five Bosnian municipalities in 1992, saying that it had not demonstrated the existence of a threat to the survival of Bosniaks in these communities.

The guilty verdict was welcomed by survivors of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Refija Hadzibulic, one of the mothers of the victims of the Srebrenica genocide, said it was a recognition of their suffering.

Read more at: https://bit.ly/3cvxrqq

Kosovo welcomes court’s upholding of Mladic’s genocide conviction (media)

The news that Ratko Mladic, former Bosnian Serb commander known as the “Butcher of Bosnia” for orchestrating genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in the Balkan nation’s 1992-95 war, lost his final legal battle when U.N. judges rejected his appeals and upheld his life sentence was welcomed in Kosovo.

Prime Minister Albin Kurti tweeted: “The notorious war criminal, Ratko Mladic, known as the ‘butcher of Bosnia & Herzegovina’, is sentenced with life imprisonment for genocide. Serbia hid him and portrayed him as a hero. But this verdict is a reminder that Serbian denial of past crimes in Bosnia & Kosova must end.”

President Vjosa Osmani also reacted via Twitter. “When we see a verdict like today, the people & families who experienced untold suffering perpetrated by Milosevic’s genocidal regime will feel one step closer to justice. There is no doubt now that the intention of Milosevic, Mladic & others part of that regime, was genocide. This judgement will go down in history as a rare case of justice delivered, but the region has a long way to go to ensuring other survivors & the families of the missing also get justice.” She then quoted the U.S. President Joe Biden: “Justice & reconciliation are the foundation for peace & stability.”

Emilija Redzepi, Kosovo’s Deputy Prime Minister from the Bosniak community, said confirmation of Mladic’s verdict is “the justice we’ve been waiting for 26 years.” “There is no sentence that can ease the pain of Bosniak mothers who lost their husbands, children and their entire families,” she told Klan Kosova.

Foreign Minister Donika Gervalla-Schwarz commented on Twitter: “Inconvenient truth: The final verdict against Mladic for genocide and warcrimes by Serb aggression is a verdict against nationalism, too. With support of EU and US we will push back against aggressive nationalism which still poses the biggest threat to peace in the Balkans.” In another post, she wrote alongside a video showing President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic voicing support for Mladic: “Justice is needed. For all victims of the genocide! The video below is meant to remind all those who have already forgotten.”

Minister of Justice Albulena Haxhiu said Mladic’s conviction is good news not only for the thousands of families who lost their loved ones but also for international justice. “Mladic is not the only one guilty for this crime but Serbia as well for being responsible and planning this genocide,” she wrote on Facebook.

Acting leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) Enver Hoxhaj said in a Facebook post that Mladic’s confirmed conviction is a clear indication as to who committed crimes against humanity in the Balkans and shows “which regime was genocidal in the Balkans, who are the real criminals and where should be truth for the wars Serbia caused in the region from 1990 to 1999 be sought.” “International justice, international courts, have the chance to once again learn even the slightest about the truth of the wars in the Balkans from this case while liberators that defended their lands should be allowed to return free to their Homeland, where they belong and where their people waits for them with open arms,” he concluded.

Leader of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) Ramush Haradinaj said Mladic’s conviction gives hope that justice can be delivered for the victims of massacres committed by Serb forces in Kosovo.

Behgjet Pacolli, leader of the New Kosovo Alliance (AKR), welcomed the court ruling: “My thoughts are with the families of the victims of Serbian genocide in Bosnia. Serbia should take the responsibility for the destruction & pain caused to all nations of former Yugoslavia,” he wrote on Twitter.

Kosovo Bosniak MP, Duda Balje, called the court’s ruling “good news”. “It is a delayed justice but good that the Hague Tribunal is active and working even after 27 years,” she told RTV Dukagjini.

Vlora Citaku, Kosovo’s former ambassador to the U.S., commented on a picture of now Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic placing a boulevard sign named Ratko Mladic: “Current President of Serbia Vucic pasting a fake street sign bearing the name of Ratko Mladic in 2007.  Today the UN tribunal confirmed Mladic’s life sentence for the genocide in Bosnia. This didn’t age well for the purported reformist, did it?”

U.S. blocks property and suspends entry of persons contributing to destabilisation of Western Balkans (media)

United States President Joe Biden signed an executive order to further address the ongoing national emergency related to the Western Balkans.

“Today’s E.O. provides additional sanctions authorities, including to target individuals who threaten the peace, security, stability, or territorial integrity of any area or state in the Western Balkans as well as those responsible for or complicit in, or who have directly or indirectly engaged in, serious human rights abuse in the Western Balkans, among other things.  The E.O. the President is signing today builds on the existing national emergency and expands the designation criteria, to address such challenges as corruption, and other actions that obstruct key institutions and international agreements,” a statement issued by the White House reads.

As part of the order signed by President Biden yesterday, all property and interests in property of persons designated pursuant to the executive order that are or come within the United States or the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them. “In addition, individuals sanctioned under this E.O. will be banned from entering the United States or holding a U.S. visa.”

The statement continued: “Ensuring the security and political stability of the Western Balkans region is consistent with the Biden Administration’s commitment to advancing core U.S. national security interests, including the protection of democratic institutions.  The Administration will continue to address the challenges in the region head on.”

Gervalla: Rule of law, crucial for cooperation and stability in the Balkans (Koha)

Kosovo’s Foreign Minister Donika Gervalla said in her remarks at the Berlin Process virtual meeting of Western Balkans that rule of law is the main factor for cooperation and stability in the region.

Gervalla said the Government of Kosovo is committed to cooperation in all fields noting however that it should rest on values and principles. She also thanked Germany for its contribution to the cooperation of the Western Balkans countries. “There are countries, like Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, who were destroyed from the aggression and genocide of the 90s causing tragedy and loss of human lives. But this total war against the civilians also premeditatively destroyed main infrastructures. These billions of damages have not yet been compensated and so our economic cooperation in the region begins from different positions.”

COMKFOR Federici speaks about security of Serb religious sites (Koha)

KFOR Commander, Major General Franco Federici, said in an interview with KTV that the security situation of Orthodox religious sites is much better than it was in the past and that today KFOR only provides security to the Decan Monastery while other sites are protected by the Kosovo Police and some have require no protection at all.

“I think this is a very important indication that the situation is much better than before but certainly we believe, and I believe, that all religious monuments and cultural heritage are valuable for all people living in Kosovo,” he said.

Federici added that the situation with the Decan Monastery is slightly different than that with other religious sites: “There are two issues still up in the air in that field and I believe that without these two issues being resolved it is important for KFOR to maintain its current position,” he said in reference to the security zone and the decision of the Constitutional Court.

Albania as member of Security Council could be an opportunity for Kosovo (Koha)

Albania’s Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Olta Xhacka said that Albania joining the UN Security as a temporary member is a good opportunity for Kosovo to be brought to the attention of the international community.

In a meeting with the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Xhacka presented Albania’s priorities.

“Kosovo is definitely an issue of our national interests and we will have a very good opportunity through being at the Security Council to bring the attention of the international community, the United Nations Security Council. It is worth noting that we are aware of the limitations we have as a small country at this big table but this will not prevent us from making utmost efforts to advance issues of national interest, regional issues and of course those of broader peace and security through the priorities we have set to ourselves,” she said.

Kandic: Serbia will not agree to open state archives (RFE)

Natasa Kandic, Belgrade-based human rights activist from the Humanitarian Law Centre, said she didn’t believe Serbia would agree to the opening of its state archives in order to shed light to the fate of missing persons in Kosovo.

“In my opinion, Serbia is not ready to, through the issue of missing persons, open the issue of criminal responsibility, above all of its generals,” she said. Kandic said Serbia did not even agree to hand over documents to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) citing national security concerns. “Nothing more can be expected from Serbia,” Kandic said.

Kandic’s remarks follow those of Kosovo PM Albin Kurti who underlined the importance of opening of Serbia’s state archives to determine the fate of the missing persons during the Kosovo war, RFE reported.

EULEX’s mandate extended until 2023 (media)

Council of the European Union extended the mandate of the EU rule of law mission (EULEX) in Kosovo until 14 June 2023, several media outlets report today quoting a decision issued by the Council on 3 June.

The Council stated states that the Political and Security Committee agreed that EULEX should be extended until 14 June 2023 and that the task of providing operational support to the EU-facilitated dialogue shall be transferred to the European Union Office in Kosovo by 31 December 2022. “The financial reference amount intended to cover the expenditure of EULEX KOSOVO from 15 June 2021 until 14 June 2023 shall be EUR 173 693 683. Out of that amount, the amount intended to cover the expenditure of EULEX KOSOVO for the implementation of its mandate in Kosovo shall be EUR 57 900 000 and the amount intended to cover the support to the relocated judicial proceedings within a Member State shall be EUR 115 793 683.”

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