10 years since massive anti-Serb violence in Kosovo
Monday marks ten years since ethnic Albanians in Kosovo launched a widespread campaign of violence targeting Serbs in the province.Source: Tanjug
The incidents that took place on March 17 and 18, 2004, known in Serbia as "the March pogrom," and resulted in 4,012 Serbs driven out of their homes.
19 people lost their lives, eight of them Serbs, 11 Albanians were killed in clashes with international forces who tried to contain them and protect Serb lives and property.
At least 170 Serbs were injured, along with dozens of members of international missions.
Some 800 Serb-owned homes were destroyed, along with 35 religious structures, including 18 monuments of culture. Among them was the Church of Our Lady of Ljeviš (Bogorodica Ljeviška) in Prizren - one of the landmark monuments of the medieval Serbia state, which received its final shape during the rule of King Milutin (1282-1321), and served prior to that as the seat of the Serbian Church's diocese of Prizren.
The church has been partially renewed, but the traces of devastation and arson have not been removed. In 2006, it was placed on the UNESCO list of protected monuments. Recently the task of guarding it was taken over from KFOR by the Kosovo police.
According to the April 2004 data of the SPC Diocese of Raška and Prizren, the total number of church-owned structures that had been destroyed was nearly 100.
International prosecutors and judges in Kosovo opened seven cases related to the destruction of churches, and sent 67 person to jail, with terms ranging from 21 months to 16 years.
The wave of violence against Serbs in Kosovo came after Albanian language media launched a campaign claiming that local Serbs near Zubin Potok "chased a group of Albanian boys with dogs and drove them into the Ibar River," where one of them drowned.
An UNMIK investigation later determined that these were false claims. International police spokesman Neeraj Singh said that "the surviving boys were under strong pressure from Albanian journalists and politicians to accuse Serbs from a neighboring village."
The terror launched by Albanian extremists was condemned by the EU, the UN, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which in April 2004 voted to adopt a resolution on these events.
Serbia's outgoing minister without portfolio for Kosovo, Aleskandar Vulin, has been prevented by the authorities in Priština from attending a memorial service for the Kosovo Serbs killed in the March 2004 violence.
"The latest ban shows that Priština wants to impose a ban on reminding the world of the unpunished atrocities and crimes against the Serbs," the Office for Kosovo said in a statement.
"The tenth anniversary of the pogrom will be commemorated by the Kosovo and Metohija Serbs with or without Minister Vulin, and Serbia will on March 17 remind the world of the crimes committed amid international presence in Kosovo and Metohija, just as it will seek that murderers and those who torched houses finally be brought to justice," the statement said.