Serbian human rights activist Natasa Kandic stated that Serbia, by not prosecuting war crimes, is proving that it is not ready to punish those responsible for the crimes committed in Kosovo. In an interview for KosovaPress, she says that the two countries should have a political agreement to resolve the issue of missing persons. According to Kandic, Serbia must also understand the fact that Kosovo’s membership in international organizations is in the best interest of Kosovo Serbs.
Kandic said that Serbia is not ready to accept the facts that seriously accuse it of crimes committed in Kosovo, which, according to her, presents difficulties for the final resolution of the issue of missing persons.
Kandic: Serbia is showing that it is not ready to punish those responsible for crimes in Kosovo.
“I think that Serbia, by not prosecuting war crimes, is in fact showing that it is not ready to accept to punish those responsible for major crimes, mass crimes, serious crimes committed in Kosovo. Serbia until 2011, I would say, has followed a good path in the prosecution of war crimes, one of the best trials was immediately after the dismissal of Milosevic, this is the trial for crimes against children and women in Podujeva, crimes carried out by the Scorpions police unit, but Serbia today is much different from post-October Serbia. Today, Serbia rarely files indictments, there are no new indictments for crimes in Kosovo, and if we consider it as a political rhetoric about what happened in the past, I would say that Serbia is not ready to accept the facts that seriously accuse it for the crimes in Kosovo, and this seems to me to be a problem, but without this connection with criminal responsibility, it is difficult to solve the issue of the missing”, says Kandic.
Kandic said that if there is to be future prosecutions in Serbia, the state will focus on the disappearance of Serbs and never of Albanians for the time when control in Kosovo was under Serbian police.
Kandic: Disappearance to be a criminal offense
“In addition, it would be important for disappearance to be defined differently in criminal legislation, to be a criminal offense, which is not in Serbia, but I am afraid that prosecutions in Serbia in the future will focus on the disappearance of Serbs and never on the disappearance of Albanians at a time when the Yugoslav army and members of the Serbian police had full control of Kosovo in certain areas,” she added.
The founder of the Humanitarian Law Center in Belgrade mentions the fact that the Government Commission for Missing Persons in Kosovo is not headed by a controversial person, while emphasizing that he in Serbia, Vejlko Odallovic, is being rightly regardes as controversial by Kosovo institutions and others.
She says Kosovo should continue to pressure by criticizing Serbia for keeping Odalovic at the head the Commission on Missing Persons.
Kandic believes that there should be a political agreement to resolve the issue of missing persons, and according to her, those who have information about the events should submit them.
Kandic: A political agreement is needed to resolve the issue of missing persons
“I think there should be a political agreement to resolve the issue of the missing, with all the consequences that will occur, and those consequences are, in that for a relevant number of missing, it must be said that the mortal remains have been destroyed. Where people were staying, mostly the elderly in the houses, in the beds, as the Serb formations expelled the entire population, and when they returned, a few months later, they found dilapidated houses, someone found some bones under the rubble, but most of them were not found. How would the archives resolve this issue of the missing? Only in the way that the responsible commands, should have some information somewhere, to extract that information, which in fact, either the elderly were burned with their homes, or something else happened, such as evicting the elders from their homes, and what happened with them. Therefore, I believe that such data are not found, there are no such archives in which they are found […] But that these people existed, and that these people after that were not found, but that remained alone in the houses, in areas where certain formations had complete control, and that means data, the fate will be clarified, if there is to be a political agreement to present that data, those commands, those battalions and units need to submit those reports. […] But for this there must be a special political atmosphere, an atmosphere which will aim at the final cessation of hostility between Kosovo and Serbia, allowing families to bury mortal remains, and if there is no such remains, then consider the erection of some monuments,” said Kandic.
In addition to the political agreement, Kandic believes that there should be an international professional commission that would contribute to resolving the issue of missing persons.
Kandic: There should be an international commission for the missing
“So, there are different categories of missing persons and this is why it is necessary to have a professional commission in addition to the political agreement, I think that the existing commissions, neither of Kosovo nor Serbia can, but there should be a commission which will be attended by representatives of national commissions, led by an international expert with experience and knowledge on the issue of missing persons,” she said.
Kandic adds that data should be collected in certain areas that, as she says, have been controlled by Serbian military formations, which would help clarify the fate of missing persons.
Kandic: There are no politicians in Serbia who keep their word
“This (data) can be collected, if there are sincere, credible agreements between the two parties, otherwise, having experience with politicians, especially in Serbia, even when it comes to missing persons in the wars of 1991, I would say that there are no politicians who keep their word, and here different interests always prevail, which contribute to solving the particular problem the least”, says Kandic.
As for the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, Kandic says that the preparation of Brussels does not look good enough.
Kandic: It is good that there are no more talks on exchanging territories
“Personally, I do not see how this can end with the recognition of Kosovo, what is clear is that there is no, so to speak, any secret conversation about the definition of territories by a special agreement, but we do not know what else is there on the agenda. It seems to me that the right address is to improve the framework and to specify the topics. The Brussels preparation does not look good enough, quite constructive, and it seems to me that it was expected that the (US) State Department would be more involved or the State Department envoy, but for now this is not being seen, we see that the situation has not changed, I think it is good that there are no more talks on the exchange of territory”, she says.
The Serbian activist opposes Serbia’s actions against the recognition of Kosovo by various countries of the world, for which there has been a fierce campaign by the Serbian state to prevent Kosovo from joining international organizations, in addition to the campaign against statehood.
Kandic: Kosovo should be a member of international organizations
“I think that Serbia should come to that position but I do not know how, to understand, to understand how important it is for Kosovo to be a member of the Council of Europe and various international organizations, because it is also in the interest of Serbs in Kosovo, and we must never forget that 100,000 Serbs live in Kosovo. That they should be politically integrated and that they will be more politically integrated if Kosovo is a member of the Council of Europe and various international organizations. Only in this way can the goal be achieved, normalization, is for Kosovo to become a member of the United Nations”, says Kandic.
Human rights activist Natasa Kandic has been praised for her commitment over the years, and in 2018 she was even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.