The Kosovo government has opened a broad dialogue aiming to address war atrocities and reach reconciliation between Albanians and Serbs, 13 years after the armed conflict.
By Safet Kabashaj for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 02/06/12
Building this country cannot be complete without reconciliation, said the International Civilian Representative in Kosovo, Pieter Feith. [Reuters]
Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci is proposing a regional truth and reconciliation commission for the former Yugoslavia that would investigate war atrocities from the 1990s conflict.
"We'll start and work on this issue as far as we can, try hard to engage and co-operate with the countries in the region," said Deputy Prime Minister Hajredin Kuci.
The commission would find out what happened in each war atrocity, establish a reparation programme for victims, victims' families and prosecute perpetrators.
Serbian Ministry for Kosovo State Secretary Oliver Ivanovic said that the EU facilitated dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade will lead to reconciliation between Serbs and Albanians.
"Each action in this regards makes reconciliation possible, which is needed on both sides," Ivanovic told SETimes, adding he is confident that the new Serbian government, still waiting to be formed, will resume the dialogue with Pristina.
"The reconciliation should take place between the two nations, so there must be a sincere approach from both sides, including the third, the international community," Ivanovic said.
According to him reconciliation is possible, but he said that the guilty parties on both sides must face justice.
"Those who are guilty from Serbia were either deported to The Hague or face justice at the national courts in Serbia. I'm desperately waiting to see when the Kosovo judiciary will take charge of war crimes cases committed against Serbs during the 1998 to1999 period," Ivanovic said.
The Serbian member of the Kosovo Constitutional Court, Judge Ivan Cukalovic, told SETimes that the idea is an important step for reconciliation, a precondition for a joint future.
"If we are sincere, something I believe is being built, step-by-step; on their own Serbs and Albanians can find a solution and surprise the international community," Cukalovic said.
Different experiences and war suffering reflect the position of different ethnicities over the initiative. Haki Kasumi, the head of the association for missing Albanians, thinks other actions should have taken place prior to this government move.
"It's still early, because first the guilt must be admitted, apology expressed, and then we could proceed with this initiative," Kasumi told SETimes.
He acknowledged the idea is a positive one, important for the families of all victims. "We sincerely want to find the whereabouts of our missing people, find the perpetrators, so they receive the sentence they deserve, but the work must be done differently."
The government initiative is a positive message to the families of all war victims, Nebojsa Peric, whose father was kidnapped in October 1999 and found dead 13 days later, told SETimes.
"Finally, 12 years after the war, we have concrete steps and measures from official institutions, and it's of great importance that state institutions in Kosovo gain confidence from the families of the victims," said Peric.
Catherine Cisse van den Muijsenbergh, the executive director of the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation in The Hague, justified Pristina's initiative.
"In Kosovo, there is a high sense of ownership in this issue in dealing with the past: because nobody else is going to do it, Kosovo has to do it itself," she told SETimes.
Initiatives in forming the truth and reconciliation commissions in the former Yugoslavia republics have so far failed.
In March 2001, days before the arrest of Slobodan Milosevic, politician Vojislav Kostunica established the truth and reconciliation commission with the aim to find the truth about atrocities committed in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. The commission was shut down by the Constitutional Commission in March 2003.
There were a number of unsuccessful attempts in Bosnia and Herzegovina to start an initiative. In the early 2000s the civil society was determined to establish a commission for truth and reconciliation, but missed the required support from the governments.
As a result, an estimated 1,800 NGOs from the former Yugoslavia formed a joint association, KOMRA, with the aim to determine the truth for every atrocity in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. One of their focuses was to engage governments in the initiative.