Protests erupt after two recent cases of femicide
Protests erupt after two recent cases of femicide. The Collective for Feminist Thought and Action and Youth Initiative for Human Rights Kosovo joined with hundreds of activists and citizens to protest in Pristina after two recent murders of women by their husbands within just a few days. Under the slogans - “Prime Minister, the enemy is patriarchy” and “A woman’s life is valuable, regardless of whether she is a mother, sister or daughter” and “Safety for women in public and private spaces”, as well as “Men kill women, the state is silent”, the protesters demanded that femicide be treated as a national emergency. Two activists suspected of “causing general danger” were arrested during the protest. Activists considered the detentions as attempts to dampen feminist activism and resistance. Two days later, activists were released after pressure from civil society. In a separate event, dozens of activists joined in a march with bicycles, demanding an end to the violence against women.
Workers strike to demand better wages. Technical and physical security workers of several schools and family medicine centres in Prishtina protested in front of the Municipal Assembly, demanding increased salaries. The Independent Union of the Private Sector of Kosovo has deemed the minimal salary of 230 EUR insufficient for private sector workers. About 200 miners of Trepça went on strike for several hours, calling for higher salaries and additional payments.
Kosovo Serbs protest barricades set up by Serbian parallel structures in the north of Kosovo. Members of the Serbian parallel structures in the north of Kosovo protested in Rudar against the statements of Prime Minister Albin Kurti and German Ambassador to Kosovo Joern Rohde who declared that the barricades must be removed before Christmas Day. Masked people were seen in the protest as well. Members of the Serbian parallel structures had set up barricades in several villages in the north of Kosovo, blocking the roads leading to the border crossing points with Serbia, and guarding 24/7 against the removal of the barricades. Tensions spiked a few days before snap local elections expected to be held in the four northern municipalities with a Serb-majority. Criminal gangs attacked with shock bombs the offices of the Central Election Commission (CEC) in Mitrovica North. 16 barricades were placed following the arrest of a former Serbian member of the Kosovo Police suspected to have organized attacks on the CEC offices. Amid increased tensions and pressure from the Western allies, the Government of Kosovo decided to postpone the elections. Nevertheless, Serbian parallel structures did not remove the barricades. Instead, criminal gangs continued attacking the Kosovo police patrols. Latvian KFOR soldiers and a EULEX car were attacked as well. Gatherings related to the increased tensions in the north of Kosovo were also held near Jarinje and Merdar border crossing points, on the side of Serbian territory, with tens of extreme right-wing Serbs attempting to enter the territory of Kosovo. In addition, the government of Serbia requested the NATO-led international peacekeeping force in Kosovo to return 1,000 military and security forces in Kosovo, a request that was later declined by KFOR. The Government of Kosovo has interpreted the set up of barricades and tense situation caused by the Serbian parallel structures as a measure by the Serbian government to postpone the signing of a comprehensive legally binding agreement with Kosovo. On 28th December 2022, the Kosovo Special Prosecutor’s Office changed the security measure of the Serbian former policeman, from detention to house arrest, due to his health problems. The announcement was followed by the removal of barricades by members of the Serbian parallel structures. Despite the denial by the government, the opposition in Kosovo interpreted the developments as a political influence on the judicial system and a concession by the government in exchange for the removal of barricades.
Kosovo Serb girls and women protested in North Mitrovica against the decision of the Government of Kosovo to convert illegal license plates issued by Serbia into RKS license plates. Serbs in the north of Kosovo have been using license plates issued by Serbia with the denominations of Kosovo cities, while several attempts by Kosovo’s government in the last two years for the conversion of these illegal plates and re-registration of cars have been met with strong and violent resistance by members of the Serbian parallel structures. In another event, Kosovo Serbs gathered in Shtërpcë after the wounding of two young Serbs by a Kosovo Albanian. The attacker was later arrested and received one-month pre-trial detention. Although the motives of the shooting remain unclear, the protesters and the Serbian politicians consider it an ethnically motivated attack. Ultranationalist slogans and flags with the map of Kosovo and the flag of Serbia inside it were seen at the protest. Another protest was held in North Mitrovica, with hundreds of Kosovo Serbs protesting against Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and the Serbian List. The protesters blamed Vučić for the lack of support for Kosovo Serbs standing guard at the barricades, while also protesting against, as they said, threats, blackmails, and self-enrichment of the members of Serbian List.
Social Democratic Party (SDP) stages several actions and protests. Activists of the SDP held an action in front of a government building, throwing rotten cherries at Prime Minister Albin Kurti, and shouting “liar” and “traitor” at him. The action came after the signing of the accord between the Government of Kosovo and the Government of Serbia over license plates under the framework of the facilitated dialogue by the EU in Brussels. The accord foresees that the Government of Serbia will cease issuing illegal license plates for Kosovo Serbs, while the Government of Kosovo will refrain from imposing fines and implementing additional measures against the holders of these license plates. In another action in front of the Government’s building, activists of the SDP placed inscriptions “Tension for Association” and “Tension for concession”, claiming that the volatile situation in the north of Kosovo is intentionally being maintained as a catalyst for the establishment of the Association of Municipalities with a Serb-majority.
In a separate gathering, activists of the SDP, joined by Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) ex-fighters, citizens, and some MPs protested after the conviction of former KLA commander Salih Mustafa to 26 years in prison for war crimes. Under the slogan "Not in my name", the protesters condemned the sentence imposed in the name of the people of Kosovo and claimed that the Specialist Chambers do not aim at justice, but at the distortion of the history of Kosovo and the punishment of the KLA’s war to defend and liberate its people. The Social Democratic Party has submitted a request to the MPs, demanding an amendment to the Law on Specialist Chambers. In 2015, the Assembly of Kosovo set up the Specialist Chambers after strong pressure from Western allies. The Court is part of the court system of Kosovo but it is staffed with international judges and it is located in the Hague, Netherlands due to Western allies’ concerns over the protection of witnesses from intimidation. The Specialist Chambers are heavily contested among the Kosovo Albanians who perceive it as an unfair court that targets and prosecutes only suspected war crimes committed by the KLA.
Other protests in the reporting period:
- On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the Organisation of Persons with Muscular Dystrophy Kosovo and Ec Ma Ndryshe, joined by persons with disabilities, gathered in front of the Municipal Assembly of Prizren, calling on the local government to take into account their needs and to fulfill their demands. Persons with disabilities remain discriminated against in terms of physical access to infrastructure and opportunities for education and employment. The announcement of 2022 as the year of persons with disabilities by the Government of Kosovo did not generate the expected results in practice.
- Civil society activists and the Ombudsperson gathered in front of the National Theatre of Kosovo to mark Human Rights Day. Under the slogan, “Stand up for human rights”, they recalled recent cases of femicide and called on the state authorities to provide better protection for human rights and to promote human freedoms.
- Residents of a neighbourhood in Ferzaj protested against the construction of high buildings in their settlement. They blamed the Municipality for allowing the constructions without any spatial planning criteria, while calling on the Prosecutor’s Office to initiate investigations.
- Students of the Faculty of Education of the University of Pristina marched under slogans to boycott Serbian products. A “Don’t buy Serbian products” online campaign has been launched in Kosovo after tensions with Serbia rose recently due to the barricades set up by the Serbian parallel structures in the north of Kosovo.
Various forms of attacks against journalists reporting from the barricades set up by the Serbian parallel structures in the north of Kosovo were recorded during the reporting period. International NGOs, federations of journalists, intergovernmental organisations, and missions in Kosovo condemned the attacks and called for better protection of journalists in the north of Kosovo.
A cameraman with the Insajderi online portal, Jetmir Muji, was physically attacked in North Mitrovica by a group of local Serbs. A team of journalists of Kallxo.com was also attacked by masked people in North Mitrovica. RTV Dukagjini and TëVë1 crews were assaulted with explosive devices while reporting live from North Mitrovica. A Klan Kosova TV crew was attacked by masked people throwing stones near the barricades set up in the village of Çaber in Zubin Potok. Klan Kosova’s journalists were also attacked by masked people in the village of Zupç in Zubin Potok while reporting on the barricades set up by members of the Serbian parallel structures in the north of Kosovo. Two journalists suffered physical injuries due to the assault. Reporters Without Borders called on the Kosovo Police, KFOR, and EULEX to address the attacks on journalists in the north of Kosovo and to provide better protection for them. The Office of the European Union in Kosovo, the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, and the US Ambassador in Kosovo also condemned the attacks on the journalists. Concerns over the persistent attacks on journalists were also expressed by the International Federation of Journalists and the European Federation of Journalists which called on the law enforcement authorities to take additional protective measures for the journalists reporting from the north of Kosovo.
The Association of Journalists of Kosovo (AJK) denounced the threatening language against journalists and assessed 2022 as a challenging year for freedom of expression in Kosovo:
- A Klan Kosova TV crew was verbally attacked by the Director of Finance in Kosovo Telecom, who in a series of emails referred to journalists as “servants of a criminal clan”. The AJK called on Telecom to refrain from using such language that delegitimises journalism.
- Denigrating language towards the journalist of Koha Group, Saranda Ramaj, was used by a member of the Procurement Review Body, who called Ramaj a disinformation journalist and suggested measures be taken against her. Ramaj is a well-known journalist for her investigations on abusive contracting of medicines without certificates of quality. The AJK condemned the denigrating language used against the journalist.
- Denigrating language was also used against a journalist with Koha Group, Agim Ademi, by the Mayor of Shtime Qemajl Aliu who accused Ademi of producing defamatory TV chronicles against the local government in Shtime. The AJK condemned the language and called on the mayor to provide transparency about the local governance.
- The AJK assessed 2022 as a challenging year for the safety of journalists, considering over 30 reported cases of various forms of attacks on journalists and the freedom of expression.
🇽🇰 On 17 November, @GazetaInsajderi cameraman Jetmir Muji was physically assaulted by a group of people in North Mitrovica while waiting for a scheduled interview when they noticed someone trying to force a man into a car. Muji tried to film the scene.https://t.co/nWxPgcQUcB pic.twitter.com/a6GYdi40LV— Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) (@MediaFreedomEU) November 25, 2022
The Government of Kosovo passed the Administrative Instruction on the Registration, Operation and Deregistration of Non-Governmental Organizations, which had been initiated in 2019, following the adoption of the new Law on Freedom of Association for NGOs. The secondary legislation defines the procedures for registration, operation, and deregistration of NGOs in Kosovo. The Administrative Instruction was open for written/electronic public consultation from 26th June to 15th July 2021. Civil society organizations provided comments on several aspects related to general provisions, procedures for registration and deregistration of NGOs, and transitional and final provisions. Most of the recommendations from civil society were accepted by the Ministry of Interior and included in the final draft.