Kosovo veterans angry with new benefits law

30/01/2012

KLA veterans continue to oppose a law on benefits, saying it is discriminatory.

By Muhamet Brajshori for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 30/01/12

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KLA veterans say the new law is discriminatory. [Reuters]

The Law on War Veterans in Kosovo -- which entered into force this month -- cannot be implemented financially and does not cover benefits for all deserving parties, Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) organisations say.

Under the law, veterans' families and not the veterans themselves receive financial benefits.

"Under this law, the War Veterans of KLA are excluded from benefits and their rights, while martyrs, invalids and their families are considered as a social category," War Veterans Organization of KLA Chairman Muharrem Xhemajli told SETimes.

But Xhemajli said the problem does not just rest with benefits.

"The law denies a part of history, a part of the commitment of the KLA, it is about those who are qualified as martyrs. [The law] says those who were killed between 1997-1999 are martyrs," Xhemajli said, pointing out the KLA was created in 1994.

The KLA was a national liberation organization that sought the separation of Kosovo from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Its campaign against Yugoslav security forces precipitated a major Yugoslav military crackdown, which led to the Kosovo conflict in 1998–1999. In 1999 the KLA was officially disbanded.

Vetvendosje Party MP Rexhep Selimi -- a former KLA senior official -- says that this law will not resolve the status of veterans in Kosovo.

"This is not a law for veterans, [it only serves as a tool] to [bide] time to regulate the issue," Selimi told SETimes. "Three issues should have been resolved … clarification of the status of veterans, the statute of the organization of veterans, and verification of veterans lists."

Selimi said many have abused the system by calling themselves veterans.

"The lack of criteria and the lack of a precise number of veterans makes [the law] even more unacceptable. The number of war veterans is about 15,000 or 16,000 -- not the 46,000 that are registered now," says Selimi.

In November, the IMF interrupted its standby agreement with the country, in part due to the new law.

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Without knowing the real number of veterans, the Fund said, expenditures for their benefits could not be increased.

Behxhet Shala head of the Council for Defending Human Rights and Freedoms, a leading NGO on human rights in Kosovo, told SETimes that this situation was expected.

"All countries in the region have resolved this issue, but all [those] states have had strong financial resources. They do not get opposition from the international community, namely the IMF, which is a trustee or guard of the budget that monitors spending money," says Shala.

"We have many other social categories that have been unable to get needed benefits. The association of veterans was supposed to have an accurate list of those who are really veterans, in order to be fair," says Shala.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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