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Updated: 5 August 1999 KFOR Press Updates

Pristina,
Kosovo

28 July 1999
as of 11:00

KFOR Press Statement

Delivered by Major Jan Joosten, KFOR spokesman

  • At first light this morning, following information received as part of the investigation into the Gracko murders, the UK military police supported by soldiers from MNB Centre, searched four houses in the Lipljan area including one in Gracko. The operation is continuing. Four men in connection with the house searches are being questioned at the police station.

  • At 22:15 yesterday, KFOR soldiers also from MNB Centre manning a vehicle check point in the area of Gracko stopped a car as part of a follow-up to grenade attacks in Lipjlan and Pristina. The six men in the car were detained and taken to Lipjlan police station for questioning.

  • In MNB North yesterday morning at 0945 a gunshot and hails of automatic weapons were heard in Vucitrn. Five minutes later a Quick reaction Force was dispatched and discovered a vehicle standing in the middle of the road. They found two dead Serb males in a car hit by several bullets. It appeared to be a car ambush. Military Police are investigating.

  • At approximately 1215 yesterday, locals went to the Military Police station in Pec and reported that two dead bodies had been found in a house near the Pec hospital. The military police went to the scene and found 4 dead people in different rooms of the house. Three of the victims were apparently ethnic Albanians and one was a Muslim Bosniac. The bodies were moved to the Pec hospital to establish the cause of death. An investigation has begun.

  • We condemn these murders and I would like to stress again that a free and democratic society based on the rule of law, can only be achieved if the citizens break the historical cycle of violence. Our soldiers are here to help everybody to do precisely that.

  • Yesterday evening, a vehicle carrying four French journalists was fired on near the village of Klina. The journalists then drove to Mitrovica, where the driver was treated at the French hospital for a slight injury. The journalists are from Metaphore production and Ambiance production.

  • Today the Russian Battalion in Kamenica will officially assume responsibility for this area and as such will fall under the tactical control of the Commander MNB East, Brigadier General John Craddock. The current troop strength of the Russian Battalion in Kamenica is 510 soldiers, 17 APC and 32 vehicles.

    Announcements:

  • Co-operative harvest continues in MND(E). Media are encouraged to cover this event.

  • There will be a photo-op for the arrival of Madeleine Albright tomorrow at 09:30 at KFOR main headquarters.

Question: Initial comments unheard due to technical problems…. Walking across the street from the Headquarters with his entourage. What his he doing here, one and 2 is it wise that such a person walk around publicly like that just 50 metres away from 100's maybe 1000's of young Albanians walking down the street? Two, again for both KFOR and UNMIK, about the border situation between Serbia and Kosovo. Is anything being done to monitor who is coming back? Are there not concerns that Paramilitaries and trouble makers are coming back in civilian cars, civilian clothing causing problems, setting up shops in Mitrovica and Jilani and potentially causing a problem for this project to build the democratic institutions in the society for the future of Kosovo?

Answer from Mr Kennedy: In answer to your first question, as you are well aware, Mr Boyovic has been assigned by the Belgrade authorities as the liaison with the International Community here in Pristina. As such he circulates in town and comes and goes between here and Serbia proper. Whether or not that is wise for him to do is maybe a question you should put to Mr Boyovic.

The fact is he is here representing the FRY, he is a point of contact appointed by his government to liaise with us and he does, of course, meet on occasions with representatives from our mission. I would also point out, again, that the Security Council Resolution, while it establishes UNMIK as the Civil Administration for the territory and essentially provides UNMIK with all necessary executive authority and in essence governmental authority over the territory of Kosovo, the resolution at the same time reaffirms the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the FRY, which Kosovo is a part.

So this is, of course, an ambiguity within the resolution which we must all be aware and Mr Boyovic's presence here is justified under that portion of the resolution. Having said that I think this question of his ability to circulate is in fact directly linked to the issue of maintaining law and order in Kosovo, establishing rule of law. Your question suggests that he might be the target of violence or that he might be the target of reprisals. Our immediate concern, and the highest concern of UNMIK, and I believe we can also say for KFOR, at this point is to establish a public recognition of the need for the rule of law and for due process.

In dealing with people who we may not agree with or who may subsequent to investigation be found to be guilty of some crime. But that goes for all those who maybe accused of a crime. So the idea of summary justice for people taking out revenge on others is something that we must ask everybody to reject as contrary to the norms of Human Rights and to accept it as behaviour.

Answer from Maj Joosten: Coming to your second question about the border of the province of Kosovo. Regarding to the MTA, which has been signed. It is forbidden for VJ Forces as well as specialist units to be inside the 5km Ground Security Zone. We closely monitor that zone. Beside that we also have vehicle checkpoints were we check vehicles for prohibited weapons and that is what we are doing.

Question: If you could clarify the people you mentioned who had been found in homes and taken into custody. Are you suggesting that these people, the first group are suspects in the Gracko killings? What are they charged with? Are there suspicions here and is it helping with the case? Where does the entire case stand against those that might have carried out the murders?

Answer from Maj Joosten: The only thing that I am prepared to say is what I have already said that we are questioning 4 persons. They have not been detained, yet. The investigation is ongoing, I just wanted to show you that we are determined to bring those murderers to justice. We may be able to release a little more information by the end of this week.

Question: Just a brief question on Mr Kuchner's meeting with members of the LDK presidency. Do you expect that delegation to include Mr Rugova?

Answer from Mr Kennedy: I do not believe so.

Question: Has a date been set for the next Transitional Council Meeting and have you reapportioned the seats on the council to address the concerns of the LDK?

Answer from Mr Kennedy: The answer is really no to both questions. No date has been set for the next meeting yet and in light of the events last week aswell as the things going on this week, including the Sarajevo meeting which Mr Kuchner will be attending. There has not been a date set.

Question: You talk about actively helping Serbs from the Serb refugees from the Bosnian/Croatian conflict top leave Kosovo. Are you doing the same for Serbs who fear for their safety here and are you doing the same for the Roma population who want to leave?

Answer from the UNHCR. The answer is no. We do think, however, it is a priority for us to find a durable solution for the refugees. These are the people who fled the conflict in Bosnia, they have been here for 3 or 4 years now and they have been really involved in 2 conflict in fact. We have a mandate to protect these people and we believe that their stay in Kosovo is now going to cause them problems. Other Serbs and Romas and Muslim Slavs are other minorities who are in fact Kosovo residents, these people we don't really think it is right for us to facilitate evacuation, departure from Kosovo.

For the most part we are there to visit these communities, to monitor their situation, to see what their needs are and we try to maintain contact with these minority groups. Having said that, in very extreme cases, if it is really a matter of life or death, we will consider to relocate them to places outside of Kosovo. This is really not something we would like to do.

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