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Kosovo – Casting a Long ShadowMartin BanksMartin Banks


 

Posted on 27/01/2015

By Martin Banks

What with everything from the ongoing crisis in Ukraine to economic instability in Greece it is easy to think that the conflict in the ex-Yugoslavia had long been consigned to history.

Not so. Last week, the trial started of Oliver Ivanovic, a former Serbian Member of Government and leading Kosovo Serb politician, who is alleged to be guilty of war crimes.

The case has re-ignited memories of the bitter wars in the Balkans that, just as with Ukraine now, occurred on the very doorstep of the EU. The trial, in North Mitrovica, Kosovo, may last several weeks but, unlike some war crimes trials of recent years, this one is not so cut and dried. The case has also raised serious questions about the European Union Rule of Law (EULEX) Mission in Kosovo which brought the current indictment against Ivanovic.

 

The 60-year-old Ivanovic had been identified as a suspect during a war crimes investigation soon after the 1990s Kosovo conflict ended.

 

Oliver Ivanovic, former Serbian Member of Government and leading Kosovo Serb politicianOliver Ivanovic, former Serbian Member of Government and leading Kosovo Serb politicianIvanovic, a former state secretary at the Serbian Ministry for Kosovo, has gone on trial in Mitrovica, Croatia, before an international EULEX (European Union Rule of Law) judge.

He is suspected of having tortured and murdered ethnic Albanians and is alleged to have been one of the organizers of a now disbanded Kosovo Serb vigilante group known as “Bridgewatchers” – suspected of violence against ethnic Albanians.

The 1998-1999 conflict began when ethnic Albanians rebelled against Belgrade, prompting a brutal crackdown.

Some 120,000 ethnic Serbs live in Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and which counts 1.8 million inhabitants, most of whom are ethnic Albanians.

 

However, the 40,000 or so Kosovo Serbs living in the north do not recognize Kosovo’s independence. Serbia also rejects Kosovo’s secession.

The trial of Ivanovic for alleged crimes during the Kosovo War has, however, been condemned by several former senior leaders from the United Nations, the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) and the European Union who have raised questions about the prosecution.

What is clear is that an earlier UN investigation carried out in 2000-2003 found that Ivanovic had no connection to the killing of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

Some of Ivanovic’s former colleagues said they fear the allegations against him are politically motivated and amount to little more than recycled rumours that have already been addressed.

 

William Nash, a former UN administrator in Mitrovica and currently a visiting lecturer at Princeton University, says, “this is the wrong time and the wrong person to indict."

He said, “these old charges come 14 years after the event and they have been leveled against the one Kosovo Serb who even The Economist has called a ‘leading force for ethnic reconciliation in the north.'

The indictment says “there is well-grounded suspicion” that on 14 April 1999 during the NATO bombing of Serbia and the invasion of Kosovo – Ivanovic incited police and paramilitary groups to murder nine Albanians, three of whom were subsequently shot dead.”

 

 

EULEX prosecutors also allege that on the 3rd of February 2000 Ivanovic, and former Mitrovica Police Commander Dragoljub Delibasic, incited or ordered police and paramilitaries to expel ethnic Albanians from their homes in northern Mitrovica “with the eventual intent to murder or inflict bodily injury upon them”.

 

Ivanovic, who has denied all charges at earlier hearings, was arrested and imprisoned on 27 January 2014, but charges were not presented until August 2014.

Now, nearly 12 months after his original detention, he still remains imprisoned which, it is claimed, breaches European norms on pre-trial detention; norms which EULEX is seeking to establish in Kosovo.

In the interim EULEX itself has been under fire for allegedly covering up bribery and corruption at top levels in the mission.

Maria Bamieh, a British EULEX prosecutor was dismissed last October for ‘gross misconduct’, soon after making these allegations.

Last month, the European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly said that allegations of irregularities with EULEX had been set out in 2012 in a report by a EULEX prosecutor.

The Irish official noted “the Ombudsman trusts that the question of how such an important document could disappear…will be examined when looking at possible shortcomings in the EULEX operations.”Last month, the European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly said that allegations of irregularities with EULEX had been set out in 2012 in a report by a EULEX prosecutor.

 

O’Reilly has reserved the right to revisit this matter once a criminal pre-trial investigation and/or experienced expert have presented their conclusions.

 

Ivanovic, meanwhile, has declared the charges against him are ‘political’ and has pointed out that investigations conducted by UNMIK Police and prosecutors in 2000-2003 found that he had no connection with the killing of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

One source close to Ivanovic told this website, "we  are concerned about corruption in the EULEX courts and that there has been, and maybe still is, corrupt influences at work in the EULEX prosecution."

It all begs some obvious questions, including, why after so long, 14 years and after the United Nations investigated and cleared him in 2003, has this prosecution taken place?

Why was Ivanovic jailed one year ago without charges being made against him until eight months later?

 

Also, what actions have been started by the European Union to investigate as to whether or not the current alleged corruption and bribery practises within the EULEX judiciary and court and trial processes are affecting the fairness of his trial?

If no actions have been started - why not?

Clearly, the fall-out of a particularly nasty civil war back in the early 1990s still casts a long shadow for those who were caught up in it.

 

By Martin Banks for EU Spectator

 


 

Ethics & Challenges for Journalists Post Paris AttackRandall CalvinRandall Calvin


Posted 20/01/2015

By Randall Calvin

EU Spectator attended an interesting presentation given by Mr Aiden White, director of the Ethical Journalism Network; at the Press Club Brussels Europe yesterday. The title of his talk was the very vexed question: 

“Ethics of reporting the Charlie Hebdo killings and the challenges for journalists.”

The meeting lasted for just under two hours, including a Q&A session, and was well attended by fellow journalists, the majority Brussels-based. There was also a book of condolence to commemorate the victims.

 

He reminded us of the basic ethical values of journalism, those of course being, awareness of our audience, editorial responsibility, fact-checking, and of course independence and impartiality. However he felt post the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, and even before, that there is and has been a lot of self-censorship in the European press by editors and journalists.

That we should be careful not to confuse or blur the lines between qualified editorial decisions and censorship, obviously two very different things, but he felt that in regard to the gravity of these types of dramatic events, this was happening. In short, I took from the presentation a revision of a few core points, not least of which being that journalists cannot function in an atmosphere of fear or threat due to what we print.

 

He reminded us of the basic ethical values of journalism, those of course being, awareness of our audience, editorial responsibility, fact-checking, and of course independence and impartiality. However he felt post the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, and even before, that there is and has been a lot of self-censorship in the European press by editors and journalists.

That we should be careful not to confuse or blur the lines between qualified editorial decisions and censorship, obviously two very different things, but he felt that in regard to the gravity of these types of dramatic events, this was happening. In short, I took from the presentation a revision of a few core points, not least of which being that journalists cannot function in an atmosphere of fear or threat due to what we print.

EP President marks the liberation of Auschwitz 70 years onRaquel JimenezRaquel Jimenez


The past and the present

Posted 18/01/2015

By Raquel Jimenez

The President of the European Parliament this week spoke eloquently in his mother tongue – German - on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the infamous Nazi concentration/death camp in Poland. Himself born in 1955, long after the horror that was the Third Reich of the Nazi regime, it strikes one nonetheless how difficult it must be for Mr Schulz to give his speech given that the barbarism done to millions, was once done in the name of his culture, language, and Fatherland.

It has long since stopped being an issue for generations of Germans, Austrians, and Hungarians, since the war, yet strangely one can only admire the openness of these individuals in recognizing what their grandparents did in the name of a perverse ideology. After the crimes of the Holocaust became internationally known, the world vowed it would never happen again.

But history since 1945 has shown that the international community has stood by, again and again, as genocide unfolds. From Bangladesh to Darfur, humanity is still struggling to end what Winston Churchill once called a "crime without a name."

 The subtext of this article I have called; the past and the present. In this context I want to contrast the old quotes, “time heals” with the time-worn expression “those who don’t learn from their history, are doomed to repeat it.” In reflecting on this subject I must limit the scope of it in an almost parallel universe from third world countries and their cases of genocide post the Second World War:

  • East Timor, 1975 -1999,
  • Cambodia, 1975 -1979,
  • Guatemala, 1981 -1983,
  • Bosnia,1992 -1995, (Europe)
  • Rwanda, 1994
  • Darfur /Sudan, 2004 -?

Not forgetting the current horror that is Syria today and the rebirth of Islamic fundamentalist fascism under the names IS / ISIL.

We have just ended a year of sombre reflection of the great human tragedy, that was - the Great War 1914-18, the war that was to end all wars  of course it didn't, as we can now sadly reflect. Just less than twenty years later we had the Nuremberg trials held between 20 November 1945 and 1 October 1946.

The Tribunal was given the task of trying 23 of the most important political and military leaders of the Third Reich, and the earlier establishment of the United Nations, established 24 October 1945, to promote international co-operation, a replacement for the ineffective League of Nations – given all of that one could be forgiven for thinking that surely we had gotten something right finally!

History says, the League of Nations was ineffective, principally because the USA did not join. Although the League formed part of President Woodrow Wilson’s enlightened fourteen-point plan, the US Congress rejected the motion in 1919. Thus it was hoped that the creation of the UN with American inclusion would seek to do a better job than its predecessor in maintaining world peace. Despite a myriad of civic and humanitarian portfolios under its brief, to this day, the difference with the UN post Nuremberg is that it mandates making war against your neighbour illegal, thus a crime. The idea was, and is, that only the Security Council of the United Nations, under mandate, has the right to make a declaration of war against a country.

That judicial pillar has worked most of the time, a clear example being the Cuban missile crisis in 1963, when the Kennedy Administration were able to openly embarrass the former Soviet Union ambassador in open council with photos of the missiles taken from the air. As we now know that in itself did not end the saga, but that open court of public opinion certain had a bearing on the outcome. In fact the notion of this global “supreme court” with final authority in matters of world disputes, was so grand an idea that the creator of the very famous 1960s space drama Star Trek (Gene Roddenberry) took his inspiration for his futuristic; United Federation of Planets setting - directly from the United Nations concept.

Sadly it took Mr George W. Bush to tarnish this noble authority, when he decided to act unilaterally on his vengeance war in Iraq, when he ignored the UN, and without legal mandate from the UN Council, went to war anyway, along with his buddy Tony Blair of course. The rest as they say is history.

The consequence of this action only helped to undermine respect for the UN, and it should also be noted that the USA is very slow in paying its UN bill as all members should.

Growing up in the 1980s, our greatest fear was the Cold War, and all that it might have entailed.

But then with the rapid development of the micro-chip and early computer technology, to the world of the internet today, we began to see another chance for reason and conflict resolution. Allow me to explain why I say this.

The greatest problems in history that usually resulted in conflict, were the basic facts that most people could not get an education, they could not have a democratic say in anything, inequality, which can only lead to feelings of frustration, isolationism, and helplessness. No voice, no opinion, no power.

Amnesty International is over fifty years old now, and their slogan is still the same “the fight continues,” but shouldn't we question why we still need an organization like Amnesty to fight on our behalf for human rights?  

However today, just one simple noun phrase has changed or at least is helping to change all that forever – the internet.

No, not cruise missiles, nuclear submarines or B-52 bombers; what frightens most political leaders today, especially the corrupt tyrannical types, is broadband and a keyboard.              

The keyboard is mightier than the sword. This is why of course many, less than democratic, states simply turn off the power of people to converse online, close them down, because they cannot control the thing, cannot police or censor this electronic pen; you simply cannot run a dictatorship if everyone with access to a computer is free to study or learn anything they want, when they want – and to add insult to injury; say what they want! Goodness forbid.

We still need democratic representation, whether direct or representative in terms of governments and thus elected people who will hopefully speak on our behalf; with integrity and honesty.

Speaking of honesty, former US President Richard Nixon quoting Teddy Roosevelt said, speak softly, and carry a big stick.

Joe public now has an enormous stick with which to monitor and/or punish politicians who abuse that trust. It is unforgiving and forever; albeit these are subjective terms.

 

Many from the “traditional” media; TV and print, constantly attack the internet, claiming it is always misused and abused, a refuge for crazy irresponsible people; as if it took the invention of the internet to expose evil people!

Or perhaps they are simply worried about their future job prospects in off-line print journalism? Maybe the Net threatens the interests of media moguls like Rupert Murdock, and his ilk, but I digress.

Returning to our main theme. One of the first things the Nazis did when they came to power in 1933, besides closing down the trade unions, was to immediately control the radio and the press; the past is the present – with different shades, and names.

Today Berlin and Bangladesh are but a fraction of a second apart, thanks to modern science and technology; meaning it is difficult to dislike people when you actually know them, the more we know (personally) about other cultures in depth, the less likely we  are to hate them; despite the apparently broken world we inhabit in this 21st century. I believe it is fundamental to our human nature to see the good in each other, work together, and help our fellow man given the chance.

We would not have survived as a species thus far in our evolution if this were not true.

EU Spectator fully shares and endorses the sentiments of EP President Schulz on this important anniversary. R. Calvin - editor.

 

By Raquel Jimenez - Columnist for EU Spectator 

 


  

Putin - poking the Russian Bear


By Anna-Maria BakAnna-Maria BakAnna-Maria Bak

Posted on 05/01/2015

Post this historic centenary year 1914 – 2014, I thought it might be interesting to compare the lie of the land as we enter 2015.

In the early 20th century, the peoples of Europe seemed to slip quite easily into the new century of optimism, scientific progress, some political and social reforms, not a perfect world by any means, but change for the good was in the air, the happy summer of 1914, there was no comprehension of the total collapse of prized late 19th ideas.

Revisionist history is generally not a good idea, too many different parallels, but now that a different Russian Bear, a century on, is flexing his muscles it might be worth reflecting on the then, and now.

There are at least a few disturbing similarities than have once again come to the fore. Then as now, we have weak political leadership, rampant anti-politics, extreme politics, to revolutionary groups. Sounds like the headlines from Sarajevo 1914. Though today thankfully we do not have the tragic political / military agreements of that era, but are we doing any better in the soft diplomatic war of our time?

Barack Obama will perhaps go down in history as one of the least effective American Presidents, fairly or unfairly in terms of his foreign policies.

Europe does not have a collective common foreign policy view, and its leaders are constantly at loggerheads over the simple day-to-day running of the EU, much is expected of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, but she can do nothing, and in turn is seen as toothless - is it any wonder that Putin is enjoying and exploiting his moment in the spotlight, and quietly smiling to himself as he works-out in the gym.

 

In terms of the military chess game, many in the west put their faith in  NATO, to contain and corner Mr Putin, that has not impressed him thus far, and nor will it. The EU has done its part to provoke him, via intervention in Ukraine etc.

Putin is a populist, but a pragmatist, and the chilling examples from the past are not just a question of time chronology. The fall in the price of oil will hit the Russian economy more than he will pretend, EU sanctions over the annexation of Crimea are beginning to bite, but in the end, will count for little; but playing chess is a national obsession in Russia, they’re very good at it.

One wonders, fifteen years on, what Boris Yeltsin had in mind, when on New Year’s Eve 1999, the dawn of the new millennium, he chose Putin to, as he put it “take care of Russia.” The mother land as was in a mess, and Putin was the man to clean it up. Boris placed his hopes in his former Prime Minister to do just that.

The former KGB officer began his tenure as President by focusing on stability and expanding Russian Federation wealth, GNP and GDP. The fiefdoms would no longer do as they pleased, and it must be said that after the economic chaos of the early 1990s, he did manage to provide a measure of prosperity.

He also reached out for closer ties with Western Leaders, and the West in general. However whether as President or Prime Minister over these last fifteen years, a whole generation has grown up with his name being synonymous with being the leader of Russia, rather like a monarchy or dictatorship by Western democratic standards. The Russian constitution allows him to run again for President in 2018, to remain in power until 2024!

This seems almost a given with his approval rating at 85% despite all international criticism, and utterly bizarre through Western political lens.

What could possibly account for this envious level of popularity, given that the country borders on recession, that the Moscow middle classes are not at all happy with the state of affairs, and G-20 leaders isolating him at the last gathering in late 2014 in Melbourne  Australia. There are many possible perhaps more complex answers to this question, but maybe it simply boils down to good old fashioned pride and nationalism. Putin has come to express openly his resentment in what he calls “Western attempts to weaken Russia, and its encroachment on Russia’s sphere of influence”. He portrays himself as the fittest, strongest, most able and decisive leader in the world, and given his competition as quoted above, who the hell is going to argue with him in real politic.

He is aware of the Western dilemma of confronting IS/ISIL, the tangled loyalties in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia vs Iran etc., and a European Union potentially tearing itself apart, politically and financially, with no stomach for an argument never mind a fight; and lets just see what great results come from the international environmental convention in Paris later this year.

So in conclusion, 1914 -2014/15, clearly the problems are different, lines on the maps have changed, as they did back then – but it would seem that just moving around the furniture and getting in new tenants, does not change the fundamental foundations of the structure, as to whether it be rotten, or good.

We should not tar all Russians with the Putin brush, but he must be watched very carefully, we should also pay greater attention as to why he is apparently so popular, but not demonize the man, after all he is just one man.

Tis' the season of centenary of first World War commemorations, as it should be, and throughout this year, and all the way to 2018 reflecting the duration of that war, when the guns finally stopped. We shall be swamped with commemorance and justified remembrance, acts that are supposed to remind us, that it was the war to end all wars, and the very definition of the futility of conflict.

For myself, I know there is one or two constants in this life, people need hope and some measure of stability, yet as we view the landscape of Eurasia in 2015 and indeed globally, we shall again be compelled to compare with 1915, thus to quote an Italian philosopher; I am a pessimist by intellect, but an optimist by will.     

 

By Anna-Maria Bak for EU Spectator