In the Focus
THE REGISTRATION OF REFUGEES IN SERBIA
In Serbia, the third phase of registration of refugees from the region of former Yugoslavia, that is, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Slovenia, which also envisages the revision of that status. Our collocutor on the topic of he new methodology of registration is Savo Strbac, the director of the documentary-information center VERITAS, and a refugee himself.
We learn from Savo Strbac that refugees come to VERITAS on a daily basis, or call by phone, to ask about the new methodology of registration, worrying about what will they gain or lose after the registration. Our collocutor points out that this part of the population is aware that censuses like this are necessary, but they are also bothered with the question of what will happen if they lose their status, that is, how will they live in an environment where they found shelter after war conflicts that marked the end of last century. In short, they are wondering whether the citizenship and personal ID of the Republic of Serbia will resolve problems of those who got it? For the majority, those issues are still open, says Strbac, adding that refugees wonder if that would mean they will be able to return to Croatia, and what about their property and flats?
Strbac reminds that they are poorly informed on all those issues, therefore the uncertainty on the consequences of the new registration. An open question remains on who will have more damage from an unobjective census. I think, says Strbac, that along with every refugee, this country might be damaged as well, but I fear that this registration could satisfy only the international community.
Namely, fewer numbers of refugees in Serbia and Montenegro would imply that the international community’s mission has been successful, although numerous problems of the refugees remain unresolved, says Strbac. For former citizens of Croatia, the issue of tenants’ rights is still primary, as well as the reconstruction of destroyed houses and the return of property. The fact that there are more than 50,000 of those cases witnesses of the extent of this problem. At the moment, Croatia offers the former bearers of tenants’ rights only the necessary lodgment, and even that only to those who have returned to their former place of residence. That way, according to Strbac, an economic category is replaced with a social one. The mass return is also being prevented by trial proceedings against Serbs in Croatia, as the list of 2,000 suspects, indicted and imprisoned persons has been published only recently. According to VERITAS’ data, there are another 1,200 reports in drawers in police stations. Also, according to Strbac, the registration is an opportunity to draw public attention once again to problems and issues that refugees are facing, regarding the return to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo-Metohija, in which they will have the assistance of VERITAS.
CHARGES FILED BY THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH WITH THE COURT IN STRASBOURG
The Bishopric of Raska and Prizren of the Serbian Orthodox Church has filed charges with the International Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, concerning the destruction of monasteries and churches of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo-Metohija. More by Ljiljana Sindjelic Nikolic.
'We have on several occasions during the past five years talked about the suffering of the Serb people and destruction of our churches and monasteries in Kosovo-Metohija. We have discussed this with representatives of the international community in Kosovo-Metohija, and all over the world, we were in the US, many European countries, and Russia. But all our testimonies were just a desperate cry in the wilderness,' says the Bishop of Raska and Prizren Artemije, adding that they had to take a decisive and daring step to find a solution for the problem in Kosovo-Metohija, at least regarding the past five and a half years when numerous Christian sanctities were destroyed. Through consultations with experts in international law and with support of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Bishopric of Raska and Prizren has intiated court proceedings before the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg, for damages inflicted upon religious objects in Kosovo-Metohija, by extreme elements of Kosovo Albanians, and under the rule and presence of international forces KFOR and UNMIK. The charges are based on Article 34 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Rules 45 and 47 of the court. Charges were raised against four European countries Germany, France, Italy and Great Britain, who are responsible for the sectors in Kosovo-Metohija where their armed forces are situated. Charges were not filed against the US, as the court in Strasbourg is not competent for US forces. The charges were filed with the aim of securing legal protection and just compensation for damages suffered by the Serbian Orthodox Church for the damage or destruction of all types of church property both movable and buildings, as well as compensation for mental pain and anguish of all members of the church, clergy, monks and believers suffered from June 12, 1999 until now, as that suffering resulted from circumstances which contributed to the breach of the international Convention on Human Rights. The charges relate directly to the incompetence and failure of the relevant countries, signatories of the Convention to fulfill their obligations towards this document. The charges are based on independent sources from the US, the UN Secretary General, international institutions and organizations. The court proceedings themselves are a precedent in international law, as the Church is the plaintiff in this case requesting to have its rights protected.
RESEARCH ON POVERTY
A research of a non-government organization AMITY and the Danish Council for Refugees has shown that some 83% of self-supporting families in Serbia are poor, bearing in mind the fact that they spend less than 6,000 dinar per month. Marijana Maljkovic has more.
On the basis of the research, which included 507 families in 30 municipalities in Serbia excluding the provinces, self-supporting families are eight times poorer in comparison with the general population. The situation is much more difficult when refugees and displaced persons are at issue and also those families with children with special needs. Almost half of the families with single parents live as tenants and one self-supporting family in three live in collective centres, Nadezda Sataric from the AMITY organization, stressed.
This research confirms that bread is the main food of the impoverished. Less than 20% of the households use meat and fish in their meals. As for the less educated population and refugees, the situation is much more difficult, as only 12% of those families eat meat as part of their meals, Sataric emphasized.
The research has shown that some 64% of single parents have secondary, college and university education, which is considerably below the Serbian average, Saratic says. One in three single parents is unemployed and 16% of them work only occasionally. Less than 30% of self-supporting families receive financial assistance, mostly children's allowance and the percentage among the refugee families is only 18%. Only 3% of the pollees reply that they have enough financial funds for buying toys for their children.
The lack of employment, money, lodging and the impossibility to exercise rights, particularly when displaced families, whose fathers and husbands have gone missing, are concerned, is the source of worry for single mothers, above all. Their ex-husbands often refuse to pay alimony and therefore it is necessary to set aside money from a specialized state fund. The children of single parents are compelled to work much more than other children and thus they have little time for learning and almost no time for play. The parents emphasize that their children also suffer from numerous emotional problems caused by poverty, such as sadness and a feeling of rejection.
According to experts, these problems can be overcome by giving privileges in employment, providing consultations and also through the self-organization of self-supporting families, the motivation of the community and the enactment of adequate regulations.
RAMUS HARADINAI - WAR CRIMINAL
The highest state officials of Serbia and Montenegro condemned the election of Ramus Haradinai Kosovo Prime Minister and demanded of UNMIK Head Sorren Jenssen Peterson to cancel that decision. The election of Haradinai is seriously jeopardizing the dialogue on the final status of Kosmet, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica told a press conference following an extraordinary session. Marijana Maljkovic has more.
The Serbian government assessed that the election of Kosmet Prime Minister is directly endangering the process of finding a solution to problems in that province. Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica emphasized that, under the façade of establishing democratic institutions in Kosovo-Metohija, a person with a heavy file of committed crimes in war and peace has been appointed Prime Minister, which can exert a negative influence on circumstances in the province and stability in the entire region.
Kostunica said that the appointment of Haradinai had been opposed by foreign governments, international officials and the State Department and supported by the UNMIK Head, who is applying double standards, and does not allow official Belgrade to take part in the decentralization of the Province.
The Serbian Government demands of the OSCE and the Council of Europe to voice their stand of the election of Kosmet Prime Minister, it is said in the conclusions to be sent to the Special Representative of the Security Council Secretary General, the Contact Group and the EU. The Government also demands that talks on decentralization and other key issues be initiated immediately and be monitored and directed by the Contact Group. The conclusions reached at the extraordinary Government session have been supported by Serbian President Boris Tadic, Serbian Assembly Speaker Predrag Markovic, Serbia and Montenegro Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic and Defence Minister Prvoslav Davinic and the President of the Coordination Centre for Kosovo-Metohija, Nebojsa Covic. The investigative judge of the War Crime Council with the District Court in Belgrade, Milan Dilparic, announced that an arrest warrant has been issued against Haradinai for crimes committed in Djakovica in 1999 and that 108 criminal reports have been issued against him.
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