BLOG (3) 10 March 2011
Jonathan Welford-Carroll – Kosovo Diary
When I last wrote an entry for this Blog, it was late summer and I was just settling into the demands of mission life. I had good intentions of trying to write a short report of my activity here about every 8 weeks. Now it is the end of February, some 4 months later, coming to the end of my first Balkan winter, and I am only just managing to find the time to turn my attention to an update.
Things have developed at quite a pace for me in Kosovo. As I previously reported, I was posted initially to Prizren in the south of Kosovo. Prizren was a delightful place to work but after 3 months I was given the chance to transfer to Mitrovica in the north. This was an incredible opportunity which I enthusiastically grabbed with both hands. As is generally known, Kosovo suffered a significant and violent period of warfare in 1999, driven in large part along ethnic and religious grounds. I shall refrain from getting into the politics of that conflict in this blog. One of the sad consequences of that conflict was the so called “ethnic cleansing” that drove communities that had lived for generations in mixed environments into separate geographic groupings based along ethnic grounds. There is substantial international work seeking to create the circumstances in which victims of such enforced relocations can return, but, that work has a long way to go yet.
Mitrovica did not escape such divisions. However, Mitrovica is the principal place in Kosovo where the two main Kosovo communities still live in close, if segregated, proximity. The River Ibar flows through the centre of Mitrovica. The main bridge which crosses it was built by the French Army to represent a Dove as a symbol of peace. Sadly the bridge instead now stands as a symbol of division, with Serbs living in the north and Albanians in the south. The daily sight of cars stopping before the bridge and removing number plates before crossing to the other side is one of the distinctive features of life in Mitrovica. So Mitrovica is where many of the key challenges for the EULEX mission can be found and is currently at the cutting edge of the
The Court itself is based in the north of the city. Security can be an issue, but has largely not prevented us from doing our work. There has been a steady flow of cases that I have been involved in including murder, rape, organized crime and drug trafficking. In the near future, I will be the Presiding Judge of a panel trying a significant war crimes trial, linked to unlawful detention camps during the war. Ordinarily, because of the delicate political situation, I have not had the opportunity in Mitrovica to try a case with a local judge, cases here usually being tried by three EULEX judges. However, the decision to relocate the war crimes trial to Pristina means that the panel will comprise a local Mitrovica Judge. I am very much looking forward to working with a local judge on such an important case
Mitrovica itself is hardly a pretty place. It is an industrial town founded on mining and processing. There is a huge industrial plant on the edge of the town called Trepča which processed the locally mined zinc ore. Though once a major employer, it has been closed since the war and is slowly decaying. It stands as mute testimony to the social issues not just of Mitrovica but of the whole of Kosovo where unemployment remains at depressingly high levels. High above the town, a striking memorial to the miners serves as a reminder to its past and makes a sharp contrast to the medieaval castle which stands on the next peak.
Over the last 4 months, I have been made welcome at Mitrovica, both by my international and local colleagues, with a special mention for Judge
TO READ MORE ABOUT THE WORK JONATHAN IS DOING VISIT: http://www.eubusiness.com/news-eu/kosovo-justice.929