Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Alush Gashi
Kosovo Parliamentarian - Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK)

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The Honorable Chairman, ladies and gentleman,

It is great pleasure and honor for me to speak before you today on such an important subject as human rights situation in Kosova with the focus on minority rights.

Even though I am honored by the invitation to appear as witness in capacity of the member of Kosova Parliament, I share with you my personal opinions on the subject, which do not necessarily represent the position of my government.

I am grateful to the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe that for many years gave me the opportunity to speak before Commission about human rights situation in Kosova.

I spoke then as a victim of repression against Kosova Albanians, repression, which went through all phases, from segregation, to discrimination, apartheid, and ethnic cleansing which escalated to genocide and crimes against humanity.

Today is very special day for me. I am appearing before you as witness, member of Kosova Parliament committed to make all what is possible to have equal rights and opportunities for all citizens of Kosova. And this would not have been possible without the help and courageous decision of United States of America and its Western allies to wage war to stop genocide in Kosova and create the opportunity for peace and justice for all Kosova citizens.

The United States of America rescued Kosova, and Kosovars are in-debt forever to United States of America. We are going to do our best to establish democratic institutions in Kosova and be a strong factor of stability, with unconditional support for United States doctrine on zero tolerance against terrorism.

Mr. Chairman, I am privileged to report that there is a very long list of achievements in Kosova since NATO forces took the responsibilities to protect Kosova and its people and the United Nations with the European Union are administering Kosova and gradually are handing over responsibilities to elected Kosovars. Therefore I prefer to say that Kosova is a successful story and Kosovars are committed to work with you until all citizens have equal human and national rights.

I would like to reaffirm that we are not going to rest until this has become reality.

Let me just share with you that since we last met Kosova has had its local and Kosova wide democratic elections and has formed its institutions. Now we have the Parliament of Kosova, President of Kosova and the Government of Kosova. Who are working together with international community to integrate Kosova in European Union and NATO.

With the Constitution Framework of Kosova there are guaranteed human and national rights for minorities. And in accordance with that minorities in Kosova are participating in all levels of Kosova government. In Parliament, with 35 members, out of 120, as well in the Presidency of Parliament, with two members. There is also participation in Committees of Parliament etc.

In government with two Ministerial positions, Minister of Health and Minister of Agriculture and Serbian minority even with a special position in the Office of Special Representative of Secretary General of United Nations and at the Office of
Prime Minister. They are participating in Kosova Police Service and Kosova Protection Corps etc.

There is institutional support in Kosova for Serbs to return to their homes and property. We are committed to integration and not isolation. Therefore there is no support for new settlements and enclaves.

We are committed to work together with the Serbian minority and international community to establish freedom of movement for citizens of Kosova in all its territory.

A lot has been achieved and much more has to be done to fulfill the needs of Kosova citizens. Therefore, we are committed to work together to finish the job, which has been started.

But at very same time we have to deal with reality, that Kosova is small country with over 650 mass graves and that hundreds of those mass graves have not been opened yet. There are 4000 thousands of Kosovar Albanians missing, initially taken by Serbian forces as hostage, or as massacred bodies taken in different mass graves to Serbia and still being kept in Serbia while members of their families in Kosova waiting for the bodies of loved one. There are also missing Serbs. We need to provide their loved ones with their bodies, or as much information as possible about them.

Elected members of Kosova Parliament are doing their best to not remain with the past but look to the future. We can not change the past but we can shape the future.

We are remained daily that the repression, apartheid, which escalated to genocide, has been systematically organized and executed by the Belgrade authorities and unfortunately had the support of many Serbian people. And during all of those years there were only a few Serbian voices, which distanced them selves from those actions and even now they are not doing so. They do not make apologies for crimes committed on Kosova. Contrary to that, they are asking to have back to Kosova, Serbian military and police.

Overwhelming majority of Kosova citizens are committed to work very hard for Kosova, which is democratic, independent and multiethnic with its place at United Nations. There is a strong belief that Independence of Kosova is the factor of stability.

Members of Kosova Parliament are facing legitimate demands of Serbian minority to speed up process of getting substantial number of Serbian returnees, and legitimate demands of Albanian families to get bodies of loved ones, which are being kept in Serbia.

The reality is that Kosova Albanians can not get from Belgrade even dead bodies of their members of families and same time we are asking them to welcome live Serbs. This is our reality. But we are committed to work with you and other democratic countries to change this reality.

Belgrade authorities just announced that near Belgrade are new mass grave, which have to be explored. But still they are not delivering the bodies of previous mass graves.

We welcome that the right of Serbian authorities to show the interest for Serbian minority rights in Kosova, but we oppose Belgrade making decisions on behalf of Serbian minorities in Kosova. This has happened during the process of forming the Kosova Government. Serbs who are in Kosova should make decision on its own; they should do that for their own interest and not for the political gain of Belgrade authorities.

We do strongly oppose Belgrade’s interference in UNMIK and its administration. We are committed to work with United States and UNMIK to extend the authority of UNMIK and KFOR through the entire territory of Kosova.

In Kosova we need role of law. It’s hard to believe that NATO forces are not able to disarm and arrest Serbian gangs in North Mitrovica, which openly operate as paramilitary forces.

We are interested in having good neighborly relations with Serbia. Instead, on a daily basis we face sabotage of the effort to integrate the Serbian minority in Kosova institutions. The best demonstration of that is investment of Serbia in creation of parallel institutions in Kosova.

Freedom based on responsibility is real freedom. Therefore we are asking fore more responsibility for elected people. There are many issues for which Kosovars are being blamed that lie within powers reserved to the Special Representative of Secretary General.

The activities over the last several years of the United States Institute of Peace and the United States Mission in Kosova and its Head of Mission Honorable Ambassador John Menzies to bring together all ethnic groups have been crucial. The USIP meeting that I attended last week with other Assembly members was an important step down the road to greater understanding and democratic governance.

Let me just say in the end that for peace and justice in Kosova and wider in the region American presence and leadership role is crucial. There is no European security and stability without strong NATO presence in the region from where I come.
Thank you, very much for your attention.