Serbian, Kosovo Officials Demand Capture, Punishment of Elderly Couple's Assailants

30/03/2005

Condemning Monday's attack against an elderly Kosovo Serb couple, officials in Belgrade and Pristina called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

(UNMIK Local Media Monitoring - 30/03/05; AP, Reuters, AFP, One World - 29/03/05)

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"Dialogue is not only the right platform for resolving all practical issues but also a good way to build mutual confidence and trust as Pristina and Belgrade are moving closer to the issue of status," said UNMIK chief Soren Jessen-Petersen. [UNMIK]

Calling for the perpetrators to be quickly apprehended and brought to justice, officials in Belgrade and Pristina on Tuesday (29 March) condemned an attack carried out the previous day against an elderly Kosovo Serb couple.

Nedeljko and Nevenka Vucic, 71 and 73, were taken to hospital in the Serb-run northern section of the ethnically divided city of Mitrovica on Monday, where they are being treated for multiple wounds and broken bones. The two were severely beaten and stabbed by unknown assailants outside their house in the village of Crkolez, about 50km northwest of Pristina.

Voicing "outrage and concern" Tuesday, Serbian President Boris Tadic demanded that UN police in the province react urgently and punish the perpetrators. In a statement issued by his office, the president also said that such attacks "don't contribute to stabilisation of the situation in Kosovo", adding that improved safety is a precondition for refugee returns.

In Pristina, the government of Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi also called for immediate action to capture and punish the attackers in accordance with the law. In a declaration adopted Tuesday, the cabinet warned about the impact such incidents can have on political processes in the Kosovo.

"Such acts of violence … contribute to a deteriorating situation and seriously damage processes and the image of Kosovo," the local press quoted the declaration as reading Wednesday.

The attack, which occurred on the second day of UNMIK chief Soren Jessen-Petersen's visit to Belgrade, was also condemned by the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo and a Kosovo-based rights watchdog founded in 1989, comprising members of all ethnic groups in the province.

"The fact that the act has taken place at a time when there has been emphatic progress in the process of return and reintegration of displaced people and when the security situation and freedom of movement has significantly improved, it gives to understanding that this is bothering someone," the Council for the Defence of Human Rights and Freedoms said in a statement.

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Last year saw the outbreak of the worst ethnic clashes in the province since the end of the 1998-1999 conflict. The March 2004 riots left 19 people dead and hundreds of Serb houses damaged or destroyed. While the situation in Kosovo has improved substantially over the past 12 months, UN officials and diplomats in the province are concerned about a steady rise in the number of attacks in recent weeks.

"There's been an increase to almost one per day," Reuters quoted Kai Vittrup, the Danish head of the 3000-strong UN police force, as saying. According to him, the incidents appeared to be a "warning" by groups unconcerned about the democratic process.

In mid-March, Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova escaped an apparent assassination attempt unhurt. Other incidents have included a hand grenade thrown at a UN vehicle and a blast outside the main UN compound.

Talks on determining the province's final status are widely expected to start later this year. However, the process depends on achieving a set of standards outlined by the UN, including rule of law, and protection of human and minority rights.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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