Albanians in south hold protest over arrests

BUJANOVAC -- The situation in the southern Serbian town of Bujanovac is tense after the arrest of ethnic Albanians suspected of war crimes during 2001.

One of the suspects is brought to the MUP Headquarters in Belgrade (Tanjug)
One of the suspects is brought to the MUP Headquarters in Belgrade (Tanjug)

The ethnic Albanians held a protest in downtown Bujanovac at noon. The rally ended without any incidents.

Albanians from the Preševo Valley announced earlier it was even possible that they would boycott the Sunday elections.

However, their political representatives held a session at 10:00 on Saturday and decided not to boycott the elections that will be held on Sunday.

A protest rally will be held at noon over the arrest of eight war crimes suspects.

“Yesterday’s operation of the Serbian Gendarmerie is a continuation of the state terror which has been carried out against Albanians in Bujanovac and Preševo since 1990,” Party for Democratic Action leader and MP Riza Halimi told reporters on Friday.

He stressed that the Albanians would carefully study the situation, that they would not allow provocations and that they would request from the government to say whether it was behind the operation organized by Interior Minister Ivica Dačić.

Bujanovac Mayor Shaip Kamberi said that the Friday operation was another Dačić’s attempt to declare the state of emergency in the south of Serbia, adding that not a single court had managed to prove that there was organized terrorism in Bujanovac and Preševo.

Kamberi also claimed that the Gendarmerie officers had arrested and beaten Party for Democratic Action official Izet Qazimi, a brother of killed Rizvan Qazimi who was one of the leaders of the so-called Liberation Army of the Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa (OVPBM, UCPMB).

“We are aware that the justice offered by (War Crimes Prosecutor Vladimir) Vukčević, as a special prosecutor, and Ivica Dačić, as an interior minister is selective. It is disastrous to barge in other people’s houses without showing a warrant,” he added.

However, Serbs from Bujanovac see the Friday operation differently. Human Rights Board President Svetislav Veličković believes that the operation is long overdue and that there are many reasons why it was organized now.

“The arrests could have been made much sooner because the arrested men have been known to the police for a long time,” he pointed out.

Bujanovac municipal council member Miodrag Milković compared the case with the acquittal of former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) commander Fatmir Limaj and noted that there was almost no justice.

“Of course, everybody who committed war crimes have to be held responsible. However, the international community, above all, and little states that were created after former Yugoslavia fell apart do not have power or will to prosecute the people who really committed war crimes,” he said.

The Serbian Gendarmerie arrested eight war crimes suspects and searched numerous homes in southern Serbia on Thursday morning.