January 16, 2012
Twenty-five NGOs have called a protest on Monday in response to the tactics used by Kosovo riot police against protesters on Saturday near the Kosovo-Serbia border at Merdare and Dheu i Bardhe. More than 50 persons, half of them reportedly police officers, were injured when clashes erupted as police tried to remove the protesters from the Pristina-Podujevo highway as well as Gjilan-Kamenica highway. Civil society activists said the police action to free the road from the demonstrators, led by the opposition Vetevendosje (Self-determination) Movement, was unjustifiable.
| Monday, January 16, 2012 | The IndependenT NewsweeK |
The organizations from civil society strongly condemn the brutal violence ordered by the Kosovo Government and implemented by the Police on citizens on Saturday’s protest organized by Lëvizja Vetëvendosje!
In addition, they expressed their revolt toward the positions taken by the international community, which through its declarations legitimated the violence of the Kosovo Government toward citizens.
“Saturday’s protest was a manifestation of the will of citizens and an entirely democratic instrument. Such a right is guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo and international acts.” Says the Kosovo civil society representative today. “Such a violent intervention is a direct attack on democratic principles, values and practices,” ended the stance.
In order to oppose the brutality of government violence toward Kosovo’s citizens, civil society called for citizens awakens to protest against violence. The protest held on Monday 16 January in front of the Kosovo Government building.
“Thieves, Thieves, hard mafia and criminals” the crowd of the Kosovo Albanian protesters yelled to the Kosovo leadership today in Pristina.
Kosovo riot police didn’t spare even media reporters, they pepper sprayed reporters in northeastern Kosovo-Serbia border Merdare, as well as swoon beating down a freelance photojournalist who was covering British news agencies in southeastern Kosovo-Serbia border of Dheu i Bardhe.
Association of Kosovo Professional Journalists (AGJK) and Union of Kosovo Journalists (UKJ) condemned the violence exercised by the Kosovo Police against photojournalist Vedat Xhymshiti during the action at the border crossing in Dheu i Bardhë.
The two organizations called upon the Police Inspectorate to take measures against the police officer who attacked the photojournalist, by beating him up until he lost his senses. APJK and UKJ believe that the attack against photojournalist Xhymshiti is a direct police threat against freedom of speech and against the work of journalists in general.
Kosovo police clashed with anti-Serb protesters on Saturday
Police in Kosovo have fired tear gas and a water cannon at hundreds of Kosovo Albanian protesters who tried to blockade the border with Serbia, arresting 146 demonstrators. At least 52 people, reportedly including 31 police officers, were injured in clashes on Saturday at two border crossings, police said in a statement.
They said they were “forced to react” after being pelted with stones and metal objects by members of the Kosovo Albanian Self-Determination movement, which opposes any contact with Serbia.
The group, led by hardliner opposition leader Albin Kurti, had announced plans to temporarily block the border in order to bar Serb products from entering the breakaway territory.
Kurti joined protesters waving Albanian flags, saying: “Serbia is an enemy country for Kosovo, that is why our motto is ‘Serbia will not pass through’.”
After an hours-long confrontation, police managed to disperse the protest and restore traffic on the road leading from the border to the capital city, Pristina, allowing two trucks from Serbia across under police escort.
Police had earlier cordoned off the road outside the northern town of Podujevo, some six kilometers from the border with Serbia, to prevent the movement from blocking two border posts.
|Police said that they were “forced to react” after objects were thrown at them by demonstrators [Reuters]|
In an initial clash, security forces pushed the crowd back with batons and pepper spray. Later in the day police and protesters also clashed near another border post, Konculj, some 70km east of Pristina. The government in Pristina denounced the blockade, and Hashim Thaci, Kosovo’s prime minister, has said his government would do its best to prevent it.
In a statement released after the protest, the Kosovo government urged the leaders of Self-Determination “to restrain from the use of violence and attempts to block the freedom of movement guaranteed by the constitution”. At a post along the Albanian border, Kosovo police earlier stopped several busloads of Albanians on their way to join the protest, a police spokesperson told reporters in Pristina.
But, according to local media in Tirana, dozens of protesters nevertheless managed to break through and take part in the demonstration. Belgrade and Pristina have been at loggerheads over bilateral trade ever since Kosovo, which has an ethnic Albanian majority, unilaterally proclaimed independence from Serbia in 2008.
However in September, after months of EU-mediated negotiations, the two sides agreed to implement a free trade agreement.
Neither Kosovo’s minority Serbs nor Belgrade recognize Pristina’s 2008 declaration of independence, accepted by most of the European Union and many other countries, considering Kosovo still to be a province of Serbia.