1. FRY/ Kosovo: DEMOCRATIZATION BEFORE INDEPENDENCE
An interview with Ylber Hisa
By Stojan Obradovic
2. The Czech Republic : THE PAST ON TRIAL
By Petruska Sustrova
3.Azerbaijan: POLICE VIOLENCE AGAINST THE JOURNALISTS
By Mustafa Hajibeyli
Yiber Hisa is a well-known Kosovar journalist and
has been an editor in Pristina's weekly and daily newspapers KOHA
and KOHA DITORE. At present he is the executive director of the
non-government organization KACI (Kosovar Action for Civil
Initiatives) established in 1989. KACI is one of the most
prominent think-tank institutions in Kosovo, which analyses
political events in Kosovo and publishes the well-known magazine
Kosovo & Balkan Observer.
Q. What have these elections changed in Kosovo, both for the
Albanian and Serbian side? What do you think about their results?
A. Well, these elections have a chance for everybody in Kosovo,
meaning Albanians, Serbs and others to live here. Before I explain
it, I would like to emphasize that the elections were acknowledged by
many to be the best elections in the region. They passed without
irregularities or incidents. On one hand, they were most heavily
monitored, with over 13,000 local and international observers. It
is about 1 per cent of total voters.
On the other hand, they were very inclusive, all encompassing.
They enabled minorities to have 20 reserved seats ("set aside
seats"). Out of 120 seats in parliament, 20 were automatically
given to minorities. Not only that, but it is also a very
favorable election system, an advanced model of positive
discrimination. By participating at the elections, Serbs won 12
seats plus the 10 already reserved for them. It means that the Serb
coalition "Return" won a total of 22 seats, which is a very strong
parliamentary group, third ranking in the new Kosovar parliament.
In other words, these elections gave everybody a real chance
to make democratic institutions which will create a new political
reality of postwar Kosovo. These are the first parliamentary
elections in Kosovo, therefore one can rightly say that nothing
will be the same after November 17th. In fact, Kosovo received a
mechanism for creation of its own identity.
Q: How will the Kosovar government be formed? Will Rugova form a
wide coalition, or will deepening of internal political divisions
and potential conflicts continue?
A: Well, one of the interesting circumstances coming from
elections results is that no party will have enough votes to form
government alone. It means that parties will have to negotiate and
set coalitions together. Until now, there have been several
intensive attempts, especially among the three leading Kosovar
Albanian parties, but there are no results so far. In theory,
coalitions are possible among three largest Kosovar parties or one
of them combined with Serbian coalition "Return". Anyhow,
temporary constitutional framework is automatically allowing Serbs
and other minorities to participate in the division of power, so
that one out of 9 ministries is reserved for Serbs, and yet
another for a representative of other ethnic minorities.
Q: Elections are conditions for the formation of a government.
What needs to be done now in order for that government to
function normally throughout Kosovo? Are present political groups
able to ensure that? What are the most necessary reforms that need
to be done at this moment and what can new authorities do about
A: Above all, one needs to say that these are the first free
elections in Kosovo. Therefore, I see at least three groups of
problems before a normal parliament and government can function.
First, there is a lack of experience for working in multi-partisan
and democratic institutions. Kosovo has been living under an apartheid
system and repression for ten years.
Second, temporary constitutional framework also produced many
limitations for new Kosovar institutions - Special Envoy of the UN
Secretary General Mr. Haekkerup has the right of veto on any
decision of the parliament. Of course, it wouldn't be good nor
popular for the first person of the UN administration in Kosovo to
overuse that measure, because it could create a parliamentary
crisis. Therefore we need to find a balance between institutions
stemming from free elections and international officials.
Third element that could disrupt work of these institutions is
that Albanians and Serbs will be sitting together in the same
institution, Kosovar Parliament, from which Albanians were thrown
out ten years ago, which some analysts take as a symbolic start of
bloody disintegration of the former Yugoslavia. That is a
psychological and emotional barrier that should be passed.
On the other hand, Kosovar institutions should continue
economic, social and democratic reforms in the country. It is not
an easy task in the only place of the former communist bloc where
privatization hasn't started yet. However, Kosovars proved to have
huge resources for small investments and reconstruction after a
destructive war. That energy should be helped with new laws as
well as guarantees for investments. Newly opened banks in Kosovo
could have a very positive role in that.
Q: How much aid from the international community is needed for
Kosovo at this time? Do you expect that international patronage
could soon end in Kosovo?
A: Of course, Kosovo as well as the region as whole will have
need for western aid, not only in investments but also in general
support. One of the key UNMIK segments is the European Union,
which is also helping with economic and social reform. However, one
must still say that progress has been made in Kosovo. The Kosovar
budget is being filled with 70 per cent local resources only two years after
the war. There were 120,000 homes destroyed, meaning that a half
million people out of a total two million citizens were left homeless).
Eighty per cent have been rebuilt by Kosovars themselves and
only 20 per cent came from international aid. It is evident that the strong
energy among the Kosovar people should be directed towards the rebuilding of
systems and institutions, in addition to the credits, economic aid and
political support of the west, which is very strong in Kosovo with the presence
of European and American structures.
Q: Evident is the preoccupation of Kosovar politicians with
independence that is at this stage unacceptable to international
community. Will it cause troubles, block political scene, some
necessary reforms, relations with international community and how
will it finally be resolved?
A: No, I don't think that will be the development. Kosovars
are for independence, and everybody knows it. However, they are
also very well aware of the political situation pointing out that
now we have to focus on building of functional democratic
institutions. We had a poll conducted, with most people answering that
current short-term priorities should be unemployment, the school
system and only then independence. It means that there is no wish
to oppose democratization process, on the contrary! Only after the
process could one start solving the status of Kosovo. Of course,
Kosovars cannot be imposed any such status, no one can come to it
without taking the will of Kosovar people into account. It means
that there is a social consensus that all forces should now be
concentrated to building of democratic and functioning
institutions in Kosovo and only then can we talk about final
In that sense, of course, opposition can also come from the other
side, even Belgrade, with attempts to render difficult the functioning
of such institutions or simply imposing their own problems into
new Kosovar post-war reality.
Q: Representatives of the Serbian ethnic community will
participate in the Kosovar parliament. In what way can productive
dialogue be reached between Serbian minority and Albanians in
order to stabilize situation in Kosovo?
A:Productive dialogue can be reached if there is a goodwill
from both sides to profit from democratic institutions that could
contribute to a more tolerant and democratic society in general.
Such contribution is possible only through mechanisms of
institutions based on temporary constitutional framework. If
Albanian and Serbian representatives talk only about the Berlin
Congress and Balkan Wars, which means bringing up issues
of the past, then of course, not much work will be done.
Q: Is there any hope for improvements in relations between
Kosovar Serbs and Albanians? What is the role of civil
organizations and how much can they help and contribute to easing
A: There has been no radical progress so far, it would really
be news were it not so. We shouldn't forget that is has been only
two years since a devastating war took place in which half of the
Albanian population was systematically forced out of Kosovo in
a planned ethnic cleansing executed by Belgrade. More than ten
thousand people were killed and massacred, thousand of women
raped, and mass graves are still being discovered. Such a past is
not an ally of a peaceful transition and painless democratization.
But not everything is so black It is important that there are
not so much inter-ethnic crimes, that is also some start. The
situation of other minorities has significantly improved. Of course,
reconciliation with Serbs won't come easy. One must say that
tribunal for war criminals could help it, and we almost haven't
seen such trials in Kosovo. Something that is called total
democratization and de-nazification in Serbia, meaning facing all
that has happened during the four wars Serbia led in past ten years
would not only help Serbian society, but also Serbian neighbors.
To conclude, it won't be easy, but the elections themselves gave
a new chance for democratization.
Q: Serbian representatives in the parliament emphasize that
they will lobby for integration of Kosovo into FRY? Is it
realistic and what results can it produce?
A: No, I don't see it possible. And this new post-war reality,
if Serbs can understand it, may prove very helpful to everyone.
What Serbs and others in Kosovar parliament should fight for is
what the parliament is able to implement. And that is building of
democratic institutions of self-government and not addressing the
final status of Kosovo. It is no secret that "Return" coalition is
still an artificial and loose coalition made out of various
political groups reflecting divisions in Belgrade itself, between
Mr. Kostunica and Djindjic. The list of coalition representatives
in parliament has been changed three times.
There will, of course, be some representatives, especially
from northern Mitrovica, a divided Kosovar Mostar, who will try to
obstruct parliament, in order to prove that democratization of
Kosovo is not possible. But there will certainly be some Serbian
representatives who are really ready to contribute to general
benefits and interests of community they come from.
Q : In what way and when might one expect a final solution to
the Kosovar issue?
A : Well, above all else, that depends upon dynamics of
Kosovar development, but also of regional progress, and general
attitude of the west towards this end of the world . Of course,
Russia which was very frightened of "negative precedents" that
could reflect on its interest, will also have a role. I believe
Russia's fears are wrongly addressed, because Kosovo is a different
kind of a problem.
But as a key issue I see democratization of Kosovo itself, or
what the Independent International Commission for Kosovo labeled
the project of Conditional Independence.
In that sense everybody would win, not only Kosovars. Of
course, independent Kosovo cannot be projected over an antique
19th century concept of sovereignty. Kosovo is not an island and
it has to cooperate with its neighbors. In that sense, independence
plus is a model which can be suggested in the near future as a concept
of regionalism which will see Kosovo and the Balkans in the united
Europe. Of course, that takes time, but one shouldn't wait and lose
A trial opened before one of the courts in Prague on Monday,
December 5, 2001. Those in the dock included Jaromir Obzina,
Federal Interior Minister in communist Czechoslovakia from 1977 to
1985, together with four high officials of his Ministry. They are
charged that between the years 1977 and 1985, these men ordered
the so-called "Sanitation" campaign, aimed at compelling people
who were uncomfortable for the communist regime to emigrate
At the beginning of January 1977, the media worldwide published
Charter 77- a document which protested against the violation of
human rights and demanded that the Czechoslovak regime abide by
international commitments which it had signed at the Conference on
European Security and Cooperation in Helsinki in 1976. More than
two hundred people from all walks of life in society (by November
1989 the number of signatories had risen to approximately 1,200)
had signed Charter 77; it triggered a propaganda campaign by the
regime. At the beginning of 1977 and later, all the media in
communist Czechoslovakia showered an avalanche of abuse on all who
had signed Charter 77.
In addition, the Czechoslovak political police launched fierce
repression against the Charter 77 signatories. Their telephones
were cut off, they were dismissed from their jobs, the police
confiscated their driving licenses, the authorities had their
disability pensions stopped and some of them were expelled by
force to leave their flats. A drive by the State Security (StB),
known as "Sanitation" (Asanace) was directed against dozens of
selected Chartists. These people became the victims of
particularly ruthless mental and physical pressure. The State
Police regularly summoned them for interrogation, their homes were
frequently searched, they were threatened and physical violence
used against them was no exception.
For example, Pavel Landovsky, a highly popular Czech actor,
repudiated the Soviet-led occupation of Czechoslovakia after
August 1968, and as a result had to leave his theatre. His films
were no longer screened, he was not permitted to appear on
television and in December 1976 he signed Charter 77. Soon
afterwards, "unknown men" attacked him and their insults and
threats gave him to understand that the attack was politically
motivated. He was attacked on a bridge across the river Vltava in
Prague and the brutes wanted to throw Landovsky into the river.
Although the actor managed to resist successfully, the men
nevertheless fractured his leg. Landovsky left his country since
he was scared for his life.
Similar treatment forced the singers Jaroslav Hutka, Vlastimil
Tresnak (on whom the interrogators used burning cigarette butts)
and threatened to kill him), Karel Soukup, the artist Zbynek
Benisek and the present Czech rabbi Karol Sidon, to leave their
country and emigrate. The pressure which overstepped even the
bounds of communist law of that time came to a head in 1980 and
1981, clearly because the Czechoslovak authorities were afraid
that events in Poland and the activities of the Solidarity trade
union movement could spill over to Czechoslovakia.
Ever since 1990, former Czech dissidents had been pressing for
a trial to be held It took more than eleven years before the Czech
authorities could be persuaded to start to act. But observers of
political and social events remain concerned and wonder whether
the court will actually pronounce an adequate verdict of the
defendants, former representatives of the communist Ministry of
There are certain precedents to the current trial of those who
ordered and carried out the "Sanitation" (Asanace) action. In 1999,
one of those, a former official of the secret police by the name
of Kafka, who had been closely involved in these outrages and who
tortured Vlastimil Tresnak during interrogations, was given a
suspended sentence. The trial was repeated several times: first of
all, the woman judge decided that the whole affair was
statute-barred, after that Kafka was sentenced to pay a fine of 50
thousand crowns (about $1,300) while the final verdict was a
suspended ten-month prison sentence. Another former member of the
secret police by the name of Zavadlik was also given a ten-month
suspended sentence; in the 1950s in Moravia had tortured
interrogated persons with the use of electric current and beating.
Many people in Czech society consider these sentences as far too
Another trial of those who had carried out the "Sanitation"
(Asanace) campaign is currently taking place at the moment. Two
former members of the secret police, Simak and Dudek, are accused
that in 1981 they tortured the artist Zbynek Benisek during his
interrogation, they beat him, poured water over him and strangled
him until he lost consciousness and a doctor had to be called in.
In the autumn of 1981, these two men assaulted Zina Freundova, a
signatory of Charter 77, in her flat in the middle of the night,
beat her up and threatened her. But proceedings in this trial had
to be adjourned three times when one of the accused failed to turn
up in court.
Jaromir Obzina and his co-defendants claim that they knew
nothing about the "Sanitation" campaign and that they had always
acted within the laws valid at the time. They argue along these
lines even though the court has documents of that time at its
disposal, which prove beyond any doubt that they were fully aware
of the persecution of the Chartists since they themselves had
issued orders to this effect. It is obvious that there is no
evidence in writing about these orders to engage in unlawful
physical violence; orders of this type were issued verbally or in
the form of allusions. But there exist marginal documents as well
as testimonies by the former dissidents who had been victims of
The Czech media are asking why it had taken so long for the
authorities to call to justice those who had violated the laws of
the communist state in persecuting dissidents. Certain
commentators claim that there was an alleged conspiracy, which
they argue, took place in 1989. The essence of this alleged
conspiracy was that the communists would give up power so to speak
peacefully and in return they would be guaranteed impunity.
Other commentators believe that many years had to pass before
the Czech authorities extricated themselves from a stereotype that
claimed that members of the communist regime were always right.
They argue, for example, that even in the West Nazi criminals are
sentenced only many years after the event.
The stereotype surviving among the Czech authorities was borne
out by the fact that on Wednesday, November 28, 2001, the Czech
police detained Muhammad Solich, a member of the Uzbek opposition
who arrived in Prague at the invitation of Radio Free Europe.
Solich, who has for several years been living outside Uzbekistan
and two years ago was granted political asylum in Norway, had been
sentenced in Uzbekistan two years ago to fifteen and a half years
imprisonment. After that, the Uzbek authorities, in collaboration
with Interpol, issued an international arrest warrant - and it was
on the basis of this arrest warrant that he was detained in
Prague. A number of international institutions as well as
individual persons are concerned about his future fate. All who
are familiar with the situation in Uzbekistan know only too well
that his opposition to President Islam Karimov would definitely
result in a death sentence.
A number of international organizations, involved in the
defence of human rights, have protested against the detention of
Muhammad Solich; the Czech Helsinki Committee has approached
President Vaclav Havel with the request that he intervene. But
Havel is unable to intervene directly since no criminal
proceedings, which the President could suspend, are in progress
against Solich in the Czech Republic. Norway refused to hand over
Solich to Uzbekistan three times and it now urges the Czech
authorities to release Solich. In spite of this Muhammad Solich
remains in jail in Prague.
A protest action held under the slogan of "Free Speech"
brutally broken up.
The protest action of the Azeri journalists held on December
12th in front of the HQ of the ruling NAP (New Azerbaijani Party)
was brutally dispersed by the police forces. The action was
organized as a protest sign to the recent pressures of the
government circles on the media and should be held under the
slogan of "Free Speech". But still before the beginning of the
protest action, the policemen used violence against the
journalists gathering in front of the NAP's office. As a result of
police violence, tens of journalists, as well as a woman journalist,
were injured. According to the half-exacted news, less than three
journalists- Rauf Arifoglu, Chief Editor of the "Yeni Musavat"
newspaper, Azer Hasret, chairman of the Union of Protection of
Journalists' Rights, and Elman Maliyev, a correspondent of the
"Express" newspaper, were detained and taken to the 39th police
station of Baku's Yasamal district Police Department. The
policemen have not even permitted the journalists to hand the
solution of the protest action to the NAP's office.
The reason of journalists' effort to hold a protest ceremony
just in front of the NAP's HQ with the slogan "Free Speech" was
the recent attacks on the media by this party. It is notable that
at the extraordinary congress of the NAP held two weeks ago,
Heidar Aliev, the president of the country and chairman of the
mentioned party, has called all the functionaries of the party and
government officials, besides the opposition forces, to struggle
against the independent newspapers, as well.
In his speech Aliev has expressed his anger concretely on the
activity of the "Yeni Musavat", "Huriyyat", and "Azadlig"
newspapers. The "necessity of strengthening struggle" against the
mentioned newspapers was even put into the resolution of the
congress as a provision. After that speech of Aliev, there have
been strengthened pressures generally on the independent media, in
particular, on the "Yeni Musavat", "Huriyyat", and "Azadlig"
newspapers. The private publishing companies bewaring of the
pressures of the government circles have already refused
cooperating with the mentioned newspapers. The correspondents of
the above-mentioned newspapers are not permitted to several
ceremonies, as well the traditional press conferences held in the
Last week, Shahnaz Matlabkizi, a correspondent of the "Yeni
Musavat", was brutally beaten by the unknown persons while
returning home. The attackers put a knife on the correspondent and
threatened her. Observers stress that this violence was committed
by the persons related with the government. Because those persons
suggested Matlabkizi henceforth "to work in favor of the
government". All of these have made the journalists to use of
active struggle methods for their rights. Four journalists have
begun a hunger strike since December 9th.
The protest picket conducted on December 12 was one of those
methods. After the breaking up of that action, journalists
gathered at the conference hall of the "Azadlig". There was stated
that the protest action took place despite of all the violence
ordered by the government authorities. In addition, they have
adopted decisions on the works planned for releasing the
journalists detained during the action and in general, the future
steps of media representatives at the meeting.
P.S. From the last minute: Rauf Arifoglu, Chief Editor of the
"Yeni Musavat" newspaper, was released.