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In Jail in Kosovo

by Tika Yankovic, March 15, 2001

All over the world the U.S. and European governments fund groups with "democracy" and "democratic" in their names. They promise to introduce a new world, based on respect for law, where all people are empowered, and so on.

Kosovo is now controlled by NATO, and particularly by Washington. What kind of democratic reforms have been introduced? What better place to find out than in jail?

I visited Kosovska Mitrovica (pronounced Mitrovitsa) in Northern Kosovo in May and June, 2000. During the trip, I was allowed to meet with Serb and Roma prisoners in the city jail as well as with four prisoners in the jail wing of the City Hospital. This privilege was granted by General William Nash, former commander of the US First Armored Division, now the colonial governor of Mitrovitsa.

I was accompanied by a friend from California, where I live, as well as two members of the Serbian Council of Mitrovitsa and a woman from the Circle of Serbian Sisters. The inmates met us in the inner courtyard. They all wore the clothing they had been arrested in - slippers, running shoes, old, dirty pants and shirts. They shouted with excitement, trying to get their cases across to us. All were accused of the same thing: genocide. If this sounds like an unusual criminal charge, read on.

They complained about terrible food, dirty blankets, no bed linen, no way to wash their clothing, no hot water. They were unshaved, neglected, unbathed. When I asked the warden, an American, "Why don't you have a laundry," he said, "Oh, that's an idea. Hadn't thought of it..."

When one learns that someone has been arrested, the automatic question is, "What did they do?" Even if a person is innocent, we assume there must be some circumstantial evidence, something tying him or her to a crime that has in fact been committed. And we expect the courts to proceed based on the principle that "a man is presumed innocent until proven guilty." Even though we know Western justice is far from blind, we do expect certain rights: the right to counsel of one's choosing, protection against arbitrary arrest, and so on.

Throw all these notions out and you have the new justice in Mitrovitsa. To start with, no crime has been committed. So of course there is no real evidence; nevertheless there are witnesses. The accused is presumed guilty, and a brief hearing serves to officially affirm his guilt. He has no lawyer to speak of; that is, he is given a lawyer, but he and the lawyer do not speak the same language> Moreover the defense lawyer and the prosecutor work together; they are interchangeable.

Western law enshrines, at least as a concept, habeas corpus, the guaranty against arbitrary arrest, but here everything is arbitrary. KFOR (NATO in Kosovo) wanted to have 43 non-Albanians arrested and held indefinitely. Therefore, 43 people were arrested. What people? Serbs and Roma. But who? Who were they? Serbs and Roma.

Let us say you are a Mitrovitsa Serb. We'll start from the beginning.

You may be working or sleeping or playing with your children. KFOR troops drive by. Perhaps they choose your house because your light is on; bad luck. Your door is thrown open. Or, if your door is locked it is broken down. More bad luck.

An Albanian "witness" points to you and nods. Tough soldiers grab you.

Your wife yells, "Where is your warrant?" One of the soldiers threaten her with a gun. You try to calm her. Your 7 year old son comes out. ""Hold him!" you say to your wife, but before the words have left your mouth the soldiers pull you outside. No charge has been stated. No rights have been read. You are grabbed, chained, crammed into a van. There is a bruise where your elbow hit the door as they pushed you in.

You are taken to the City Jail. After two hours, you are brought before an Albanian judge. All proceedings are conducted in Albanian, a language you do not speak. In the bad old days when Kosovo was administered as a province of Serbia, court proceedings had to be conducted in seven languages. In the new Kosovo there is no interpreter.

Your judge, like all the judges, is newly appointed. Like the rest, he is a democrat of the New World Order type, either a member or a supporter of the U.S.-run Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), a terrorist-secessionist group. The judge hates you just the way a Ku Klux Klan member would hate a Black American. You are aware that you are in his power, but you keep thinking: "What will happen to my wife, to my son?"

The Judge talks to a second man. This is the prosecutor, also from the KLA. The Judge says something to a third Albanian who comes and stands beside you. When you try to ask the Judge what is going on, this third man yanks your arm, indicates silence. Respect the Court! This, you realize, is your attorney. He is very friendly with the prosecutor; the two converse in whispers, though you couldn't understand if they bellowed. It dawns on you: this is a highly streamlined system. The judge, the prosecutor and the defense attorney are united. And as for you, well, you came into this world alone and you'll leave alone. In between, you're alone in Court.

There is no jury.

You, the perpetrator of - of what, you still don't know - are confronted with two men and a woman who nod and point, seeming to identify you. As what? What are you supposed to have done? You try to get your lawyer to explain; you move your hands trying to communicate through sign language. The judge bangs his gavel. A guard hits you. Order in the Court.

The witnesses are KLA; the same ones testify in case after case. When NATO marched into Kosovo these people devoted all their time to driving out 350,000 non-Albanians and anti-Fascist Albanians and stealing their property. Now that job is pretty much done, and they are lucky to have found new work as witnesses.

Your "lawyer" neither cross examines the witnesses nor challenges the rulings of the Judge. The Judge comes to a conclusion. You are taken out, thrown in a cell.

Another prisoner explains matter-of-factly: "You were found Guilty of Genocide, paragraph 26. Two months in jail."

"How do you know?"

He explains: "It is always the same."

Variations in Methods of Abuse

While all prisoners were told they were guilty of 'Genocide; paragraph 26', there were certain variations in treatment. For example, a 'Gypsy' man whom I interviewed in the jail wing of the City Hospital told me he was arrested as follows: One day several ethnic Albanians neighbors broke into his house and stabbed him in the shoulder and neck. The wounds were not fatal; he treated them himself. The next day, French gendarmes came and dragged him to jail. By the way, this man was a Muslim. Many of the 'Gypsies' in Kosovo are Muslims, or perhaps I should say 'were' since most 'Gypsies' were driven out of Kosovo during the Summer and Fall of 1999, after the NATO takeover. The NATO-trained and NATO- armed KLA apparatus launched an all-out attack on these Roma people, sacking or burning their homes and businesses, forcing them to flee the province or squat in squalid refugee camps where they were and are harassed constantly. (1) The Western media rarely mentions these attacks and when they do the reports of terror are always mitigated with phrases such as:

"the Gypsies whom Albanians accuse of collaborating with the Serbs." (2)

We were told that 'the Serbs' were motivated by hatred of Muslims. And yet many of the 'Gypsies' are Muslims...

Some of the prisoners I interviewed said they had not even received a phony trial. They were just seized, taken to jail, put in a cell and, sometime later, informed they were guilty of 'Genocide: paragraph 26. Two months sentence.' All the prisoners said their sentences were extended every two months.

Brave New Order

Perhaps as you read this you are thinking, "This sounds terrible. But everyone knows the KLA is crazy and hates Serbs. As soon as responsible Western officials learn what is happening, they'll stop this outrage."

Such thoughts may offer comfort but, alas, Western officials do know what's going on: they created this outrage.

KFOR and UNMIK (the UN in Kosovo) pick the judges. They are sworn-in in solemn ceremonies presided over by dignitaries like Bernard Kouchner from UNMIK who make lofty speeches about democratic change, multinational society and so on. Then the KLA judicial specialists are turned lose to deal with Serbs and Roma.

Americans are involved; they are everywhere. Western journalists observe the proceedings and report that the new Kosovo judicial system is experiencing democratic beginnings complete with the inevitable growing pains, etc., etc.

The reporters never honestly discuss the previous legal system in Kosovo. In the old days, the Courts were required to have translators in the seven main Yugoslav languages. Habeas corpus (guaranty against arbitrary arrest) and other legal rights were strictly adhered to. But all this has been destroyed - the old Judges, clerks, policemen, were all driven from Kosovo or killed by the KLA or they are in jail.

Two Plus two

So you rot in this awful jail two months. Then, shortly before your sentence is complete, it is renewed for another two months and then again: two months. The process continues indefinitely. You are never freed. You never receive a fair trial. You live in fear: What have they planned for you? Your two month extensions are scribbled on a scrap of paper, as if someone were writing a shopping list.

Prisoners of a Lesser Humanity

I spoke to the American who runs the Mitrovitsa Jail. I asked him, "Do you practice US legal procedures in this jail?" He did not. I asked, "What about their human rights?" He replied calmly: "These are dangerous war criminals, guilty of Genocide." His conscience was clear.

The Hospital

Four inmates were in the jail wing of the City Hospital when I visited - a Roma man, a middle aged Serb, an old Serb hospitalized for a heart attack and a boy suffering from exhaustion and malnutrition. Four UNMIK policemen guarded them. These were men from Argentina, India, and two other poor countries - four policemen for these four poor souls. The policemen were very sympathetic to the Serbs and the lone "Gypsy".

I spoke with one of the Serb mass murderers, the boy. I will not give any names lest the secessionists take revenge.

The boy was 15, from Southern Mitrovica, retarded. He was a gentle child, confused, miserable, weak from hunger and exhaustion. At age 14 he had been dragged from his home by French gendarmes led by an Albanian "witness". The gendarmes hauled him to court and he was charged with torching 100 Albanian homes. Not 99 mind you, or 101 - exactly 100. "Genocide: Paragraph 26. Guilty as charged. Two months."

I saw this child in May, 2000. He had turned 15 in jail. He was serving his fifth "two-month sentence". There was no end in sight.

Beside him lay the elderly heart attack victim. He was already paralyzed from a stroke ten years earlier. He could hardly move let alone walk and was blind in one eye. The charge against him was of course "GENOCIDE, paragraph 26." Albanian secessionist witnesses swore he had "operated in Kosovo as a Serb commando in an Arkan unit, torching Albanian homes and killing Albanians."

How did he performs these feats? He could not walk. Did he levitate?

The old man's 25 year old son had been abducted by KLA thugs in July, 1998; there had been no word from him since then. Of course, the son was tortured and he is long dead but the old man, physically broken and deprived of his freedom, held onto the belief that his son was alive. I did not contradict him. How could I?

What is behind these arrests, this torture of innocents? I think two things. First, the very irrationality of the arrests, the absurdity of the charges and the cruelty of the terms of imprisonment serve a function. They warn Serbs or "Gypsies" who might contemplate resistance: no one is safe from the Occupier. A cripple may be a dangerous Commando; a retarded child may be a mass murderer. Imagine what crimes might be uncovered, committed by an able-bodied man or woman who opposed NATO and the UNMIK.

Second, and very important, these people, thrown into a nightmare with no way out, may reach a point where some can be used against bigger game, as witnesses in future war crimes trials, whether in the Hague War Crimes Tribunal or in Belgrade, in show trial of leaders of the previous Yugoslav government or officers in the Yugoslav Army.

So this is a holding pond; they can be scooped up later, and used.

Parting thought: the present regime in Belgrade recently passed a measure releasing all KLA murderers held in Serbian jails. In committing this outrage, the regime did not even demand as a pre-condition the release of the innocent Serb and Roma hostages held in the KLA-NATO jails in Kosovo. This as much as anything demonstrates that these authorities are simply proxies for NATO. In that sense, they are the Serbian equivalent of the KLA.

- Tika Yankovic, March 15, 2001

Further reading...

1) 'The Roma and Racism in the Balkans' by Jared Israel at http://emperors-clothes.com/analysis/burial.htm

2) 'How Roma View Serbia and the Serbs, and What It Means' by Paul Kneisel

3) "Back to the dark ages?" by Jared Israel at http://emperors-clothes.com/articles/jared/bac.htm

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