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Updated: 18 August 1999 KFOR Press Updates

Pristina,
Kosovo

18 Aug. 1999

KFOR Press Update

by Major Roland Lavoie, KFOR Spokesperson

Overview

Although intimidation and sporadic criminal acts remind us that our efforts must be sustained, it is encouraging to see that the rate of offences is slowing down while more criminals are now detained. KFOR is determined, together with UNMIK and other agencies to create an environment were all the people of Kosovo can live and work together without fear. Now lets have a look at the Brigades.

Multinational Brigade Centre

Although the overall situation was relatively quiet yesterday, there was a grenade attack on a Roma house in Pristina. Fortunately no injuries were caused.

Today at 14:00 hrs in Multinational Brigade (Centre), British soldiers from 2 Armoured Field Ambulance will be handing out shoes and other items to the children of Pristina who routinely try to make some money by scavenging on the town rubbish sites. In addition, earlier today, soldiers from the Royal Engineers have been handing out toys and other gifts donated by the people of Nottingham, England.

Yesterday, KFOR and UNMIK together distributed 415,000 DM to approximately 2,500 hospital employees in Pristina. Other hospital employees will receive their salary shortly.

Multinational Brigade South

German troops together with UNMIK started cleaning the river in PRIZREN from dirt and rubbish yesterday. This operation will continue, creating a better environment for the local population.

In a search operation yesterday evening in a Prizren café, as part of our continuous efforts to secure the area, KFOR troops confiscated three rifles and three pistols as well as four Joint Implementation Commission (JIC) cards not valid for that area. UCK JIC cards holders are only entitled to wear personal weapons when operating in their Brigade area.

Multinational Brigade East

In Multinational Brigade East there has also been a marked and welcome reduction of incidents.

Yesterday in Vitina, a man was attacked by an unknown number of armed men who threw a hand grenade. Fortunately, he only suffered minor scratches. Early this morning there was another grenade attack on three Serbs in Gniljane. Again they suffered minor injuries and did not require hospital treatment. No arrests have been reported for the moment.
Soldiers are donating blood to the combat support hospital at Camp Bondsteel. The Red Cross is putting together a list of O+ donors and requesting they come down to hospital to donate a pint of blood. The blood will be used by anyone needing medical attention at Camp Bondsteel, whether they are soldiers or civilians. The Red Cross hopes to get their list completed in the next few weeks and many soldiers have already signed up.

Multinational Brigade West

At 01:30 hrs this morning, during a search of an empty house in Dakovica, as part of KFORs 24 hrs patrol activities we confiscated one AK-47, 5 magazines and 250 rounds were confiscated. KFOR troops will continue to be proactive in its efforts against criminal activity. This is just another small example of the successes that all contingents are now having in this peace operation.

Yesterday the Multinational Brigade (West) Support Battalion started a project aiming at visiting and providing support to isolated villages on the mountain region just behind the town of Pec. The Italian troops visited the village of Veliki Stupij, distributing humanitarian aid and providing medical assistance to 187 people.

Question from Spanish News Agency:

First one question for Ron. What about family reunification's, that wouldn't be a cause for evacuation? I am thinking about a woman whose husband was taken to Pristina hospital by soldiers but she cannot leave the village for security reasons, obviously. She wouldn't fall under your niche?

Answer from Ron Redmond - UNHCR Spokesman:

She probably would if she wanted to rejoin her husband, we would certainly make an effort, depending on circumstances, to reunify her with her husband.

Follow up question:

More generally for UNMIK. A couple of decisions were made this week that I do not fully understand. One, is the issue of possibly rewriting all the property laws, which potentially could ex-propriate any Serb family that has bought a home in the last 10 years. Secondly is the decision to put in 750 Albanian families in the north of Mitrovica over the coming months, and I think that we all realise that, if you put in perhaps 4000 Albanians into north Mitrovica, the Serbs will leave. So my question is how are these 2 decisions compatible with the profesicals of persuading Serbs to stay and maintain a multi-ethnic society? What is the role of the Transitional Council if, by the time it gets around to meeting, UNMIK has already accepted the UCK Government position on these 2 issues?

Answer from Nadia Younes UNMIK Spokesperson:

On the question of the property laws and the juridical question and you may have been following, we had a meeting on Sunday of over 50 Kosovo Judges, of both Albanian and Serbs who attended that meeting, and the decision there was to create an Advisory Council, which is meeting today for the first time, of approximately 20 experts. The task of that Advisory Council is to look at the whole legal system, the whole set of laws, the whole law system here. The first task is to immediately deal with and purge the most obnoxious of the descrimatery laws.

Once that is done then they will look at the law as a whole, including all the components that you are talking about, of which the property laws is one. This work is going to start very soon, today they are constituting themselves into those working groups that will deal with the different aspects of the law, it will start very soon. It is a joint effort of UNMIK Legal experts as well as Kosovo Legal experts to come out with a law that is workable for everybody. On the situation in Mitrovica, there has been, and this is no secret to anybody, a lot of tension recently. As a result of which the SRSG, Bernard Kuchner, issued Regulation 2 allowing KFOR to detain the agitators and the troublemakers. We are also taking a series of measures to try and lessen the tension there.

Question from Kosovo Press:

Question for KFOR, you mentioned that KFOR Troops are taking a proactive stance, entering in homes or dwellings that may be a suspect of holding weapons etc. Is this uniform, for instance are the French Troops in the northern side of Mitrovica also taking these measures or is it at the discretion of the local commanders gauging the situation at the moment to do this? Or is it throughout Kosovo that this proactive policy is taken? When Albanians identify individuals as perpetrators of crimes, former Police Officers, Police Officers who have just changed clothing into civilian clothing, what takes place, how is this process filed through the beaurocracy of KFOR which ultimately leads to the detention of this person, or if this person is detained at all?

Answer from Maj Lavoie - KFOR Spokesman:

In general terms we are proactive across all the areas of operation. Having said that each Brigade Commander assesses this threat and the risks that are specific to his Brigade and then will adapt the overall policies to the requirement of the Brigade. So in some areas, for example near the border the action might be concentrated on border control and checkpoints around these roles. In other areas it could be more city patrols in urban areas. In a farming region you might wish to escort farmers and look for caches that could be suspected to be hidden in some confined area.

So basically there is an overall proactive policy: to be present everywhere where we see a threat, whatever would be that threat. For what concerns the investigations, when there is a report of an incident we do through our troops and mainly the Military Police our own investigation, and based on evidence collected through the investigation, then we take action as is required. We have to have some justification to arrest somebody, to go into this specifics, basically we could look at a lot of things like witnesses, it is only a part of the evidence, obviously, and also the presence of criminals on the crime site and also the attestation of true forensic analysis for example between the weapons or bullets or other kinds of ammunition found on the site. So these investigations are done in depth and I think the recent Gracko crime illustrates how we take this seriously through using expertise that is available world wide.

Question from The Daily Telegraph:

This question for NATO and the UNMIK. I understand from conversations with the British Soldiers on the ground in their sector that they are liaising closely with the KLA. Card carrying members of the KLA whom they sometimes catch actually carrying out criminal activities in Pristina. Other times actually get help from them by sharing intelligence. So want to know on the basis of that, since that is confirmed information coming from a lot of the British that are liaising with the KLA, that do you accept the communiqué that you referred to UNMIK by Gen Ceku that categorically denies any involvement in crime, even though it says that the KLA is a peoples army consisting of all Albanians. Do you accept this communiqué, is that something that you are filing away as something that you do accept?

Answer from Nadia Younes - UNMIK Spokesperson:

Let me answer the second part of your question, we actually welcome the communiqué, we welcome the fact that they have condemned the behaviour that is going on. We welcome also their commitment to stop it. There is an invitation to all the citizens regardless of their ethnic background to stay, there is a forceful condemnation of all the acts against the minorities including the Serbs, that for us is a welcome statement.

Answer from Maj Lavoie - NATO Spokesman:

On the first part of your question let me state it clearly: we do not have any cooperation with criminals, whatever is their background in Kosovo. This is clear for us, a JIC Card is a privilege and no criminal will have coordination or liaison with KFOR. We liaise with the UCK through Gen Ceku and the Brigade Commanders to coordinate the process of demilitarization, we do not have any coordination in relation to criminals and, when we do, it is to arrest them.

Question from BBC:

For KFOR, what is the total number of murders committed since the mission began and of that how many Serbs and what is the weekly murder rate now? For UNMIK, what is the date set for the meeting of the Transitional Council and how is represented on it?

Answer from Maj Lavoie - NATO Spokesman:

The statistics about murders are issued every week or so, we expect to have either today or tomorrow the statistics up to the week ending on Sunday 15 Aug 99. So I am expecting to be able to provide you all numbers probably today.

Answer from Nadia Younes - UNMIK Spokesperson:

The date of the resumption of the council is Saturday, we do not have the time yet, it will probably be in the early afternoon. The composition of the Saturday meeting of the council is the same as the first meeting, the exact composition, as you know at the first meeting the Rugovav did not participate, he will be participating with one more member of the LDK. We have in our offices, if you wish to pick up, the complete list of people that attended the first meeting

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