This lecture is my last contribution informing the public in Kosovo especially the younger generation. The lecture consists of two parts one part is text from my oral presentation, the other part is a PowerPoint slideshow linked to the oral presentation. My hope is that this publication will be used in the educational system both in Kosovo and Serbia.
LECTURE AT THE NATIONAL LIBRARY PRISTINA
A narrative about a war documentation and a suggestion how it can be useful activating.
A short narrative about my war documentation and a suggestion of how it can be useful for the future.
Welcome and hello my friends.
Why am I doing this presentation? Well, I feel compelled to take up this issue concerning war crimes, because in my opinion next to nothing has been done in order to initiate a process for normalizing relation betweens Albanians, Serbs and Romas regarding war crimes.
By normalizing, I mean agreeing on what took place during the 1998-99 war /conflict. Clearing up, together with the Serbs, what happened could pave the way for a new beginning; Kosovo and Serbia need a new beginning.
Today’s younger generation in both countries has a unique chance to shape the future for themselves, their children and grandchildren—such a chance does not come often.
By educating yourself, you and the younger generation especially about my web page www.kosovotrilogy.com, you can discover the truth about war crimes committed, and begin asking questions about why this chapter of your contemporary history has not been dealt with properly.
Moreover, if not dealt with quickly, the chance for peace with your neighbor will diminish and for sure end up in a sort of catch-22 situation, i.e. having no way out due to pride and not wanting to lose face.
This lecture is my latest contribution to informing the people of Kosovo and now especially the younger generation .
I have divided this lecture in two parts: The first part deals with my findings regarding the civilian victims.
The second part deals with my experiences and lessons learned. In addition, I will share how I think you can use the trilogy as a basement for seeking a common truth with Serbia.
The Balkans needs to establish a common truth concerning war crimes committed in Kosovo 1998-99 and from there either seek reconciliation and forgiveness or “heal the wounds, ” as Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated in June 1999 when UNMIK took over in Kosovo.
The younger generation deserves, in my opinion, a better prospect for the future than what has been given to their forefathers , whom, over the last hundred years, built their perceptions on a fragmentary history. This history, in my opinion, is not accepted by all living in the same region and can cause hostilities.
In July 1999, we regarded the Area down There as Yugoslavia, which had managed relatively well to be a former communist country. Well, we also noticed that trouble started in Yugoslavia in the 1980-s after Tito’s death and it escalated very fast into a full-scale civil war, as we in Scandinavia saw it. (point with light pen if necessary)
The Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) called me during the first week in July 1999 for a meeting. In the meeting, they laid out an emergency program, which they had been given by UNHCR to execute. The task was to pick up dead bodies from wells all over Kosovo, identify, report to ICTY, bury the bodies and clean the wells i.e. set them back in order again. Right after the withdrawal of Serbian civilian and military personnel from Kosovo in June 1999, numerous messages came to UNHCR about dead bodies in wells.
Many people were missing in June 1999, so it became a first priority to find out who were in the wells. ICTY and UNHCR had issued a statement that all dead people in connection with mass graves and similar sites could only be handled by international forensic teams or international teams set up for specific tasks.
Lessons learned from three other recent conflicts or wars in former Yugoslavia indicated that this process would be the best way in order to avoid any accusations from parties involved in the findings.
At my presentation of “The Wells of Death” at the Grand Hotel in June 2006, Dr. Prof. Hakif Bajrami, a historian you probably know, attended. I did not know him from before, so after my presentation, he approached me and gave me a copy of Leo Freundlich’s book from 1913, Albanian Golgotha, which I did not know of. Leo Freundlich was a Jewish journalist and writer living in Vienna born in Bielitz-Bialia (Poland) in the then Austro-Hungarian Empire, one of very few, besides Edith Durham a British writer and anthropologist, who wrote about what transpired in this area between 1912-13 regarding atrocities against the Albanians.
A day later, Salih Maqedonci, English teacher and writer, whom I did not know before gave me an English copy of the same book, Albanian Golgotha.
He wrote me a message in the book urging me to write another book about Kosovo without pointing at any specific subject. Other friends like Ridvan and Margita Pakashtica also urged me to do another book. However, I did not know much about writing, so I felt unsure doing another book.
One week later in 2006, I contacted Arkivi i Kosovws, Director Dr.Jusuf Osmani and Institute of History, Director Dr.Jusuf Bajraktari and asked them what the official Kosovo goverment had done regarding documentation about civilian victims of the war 1998-99.
More particularly about the 400 mass graves, the Chief Prosecutor at ICTY, Carla del Ponte, back in November 1999, reported to Secretary-General Kofi Annan and UN Security Council.
Remember, seven years had passed since the war. They told me that nothing had happened so far regarding research about the civilian victims, and besides, no resources were set aside by UNMIK or the government for such activities.
They urged me to initiate my plan in order to get a hold of as much data and information as possible, because witnesses would die, move to other places, etc., and future generations would need information about the war of 1998-99 and its impact on the population.
No one could stop me from doing this since I was an International and Kosovo had been put under the UN protectorate. Director Osmani and Director Bajraktari did what they could do at that time to help, namely issue an official recommendation for my project on behalf of their respective institutions .
Main information sources:
An important task in the startup of my project was finding reliable sources, which no one would question later on.
The main decisive sources for me became:
- ICRC – Persons missing in relation to the events in Kosovo, 3rd. Edition, February 2004.
- ICTY (The International criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia)
- OMPF/UNMIK (Office for missing persons forensic / UNMIK)
- HLC, Belgrade, Fate of missing Albanians in Kosovo (remains found in mass graves in Serbia), November 2005
- OSCE, Kosovo Verification Mission report As Seen As Told, Volume I and II. Regarding the human rights findings issued in November 1999.
- Martinsen, Josef (2006) The Wells of Death
I found these six main information sources which I had full confidence in and were accepted internationally. For me, this was was very essential when taking on the job.
In addition, for supplementary and quality control sources, I used:
- CDHRF (Council for Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms, Pristina)
- Municipalities of Kosovo
- HRW (Human Right Watch)
- ICG (International Crisis Group, Brussels)
- NPWJ (No peace without justice)
- Indictment case No. IT/99/37/PT at the Hague Court 2001
- Indictment case No. IT/05/87/PT at the Hague Court 2006
- Svedoanstvo o Kosovu” (Hell mountain) (2003) by Svetlana Djordjevic
- Milosevic in War and in Hague (a documentation from the court proceedings over three years) by Nilsen, Kjell Arild (2007) a Norwegian journalist and writer.
- Privatization in Kosovo: The international Project 1999 – 2008 by Rita Augestad Knudsen.
The first seven listings are connected to the killings of civilians and statements related to the general situation during the war 1998-99.
The eighth listing is a book written by a Serbian woman who lived in Fushë Kosovë for five years and drove a taxi from 1994 to 1999. Her description of what took place in that period confirms the general suppression of, and atrocities, against Kosovo Albanians. Due to persecution and death threats against her after publishing the book in Serbia, she was given asylum in Norway.
The ninth refers to a Norwegian journalist who for three years attended the legal proceedings against the former President of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, in the Hague. His book gives a good picture of what took place and confirms the on-the-ground findings.
The tenth point refers to the privatization process that took place in Kosovo 1999-2008 and builds up under my skeptical views concerning UNMIK and the political leadership in Kosovo over the years.
My findings and the stories behind the war crimes committed is one contribution in the pursuit of the truth regarding what took place.
Together with other international accepted documentations and the proceedings, as well as verdicts at ICTY in Hague, my Trilogy about Kosovo 1998-99 will, I think, shape a picture of the war crimes committed, the victims, and who were the perpetrators.
This part of my presentation reflects my personal experiences and opinions after many years in close contact with people in Kosovo, Serbia, and Macedonia. It also reflects articles and reports made by journalists and reporters in newspapers and TV over the years about actual events that took place.
There are two people I would like to mention. One is journalist Marciej Zaremba, from Dagens Nyheter (newspaper, DN.se), Sweden, who wrote four interesting articles in Swedish, which were called “Koloni Kosovo” and translated into English in 2007, about his experiences and findings in the UNMIK-led Kosovo protectorate.
The other I would like to mention is journalist Rita Augestad Knudsen, who wrote Privatization in Kosovo: The International Project 1999 – 2008, a book published by Norwegian Institute of International Affairs which speaks about “disaster, almost a complete failure and as an economic failure regarding the Privatization process in Kosovo.”
In my opinion, the United Nations and the people of Kosovo had a once-in-a -lifetime opportunity to shape a good and just functioning state.
Unfortunately, the people of Kosovo failed to choose the right politicians after the war 1998-99 and the UN failed to vet and control the people they put in charge over the years. More precisely, the people available as coming politicians lacked the qualities required for building up a state from scratch and the people of Kosovo were not prepared mentally to choose the right people. They preferred to follow old patterns instead like family, clan and district.
Besides, the UN did not make it easier to build a new State based on democratic ideals in respect for laws and justice.
To be precise, the UNMIK provided a shell structure for a future state and made plans for infrastructures such as roads, water and power supply, but, regarding the shell structure’s content, they either failed to fill in the right attitudes or they filled it with undemocratic practices.
Developing a state built on democratic ideals, like human rights and freedoms for all, which starts with equal rights, follows the laws and provides justice for all.
I would like to tell about the situation in Norway after World War II in 1945. We had many political parties with people who participated in the war or sat as prisoners of war in Nazi-Germany, all claiming to have the right medicine to build up a war torn Norway.
However, they realized that all positive efforts should work together to build up the country and help the people.
The political leaders agreed to put aside all political divisions over the coming 5 – 10 year period and concentrate all initiative, ideas and efforts into agreed upon plans. All political leaders kept a relative low profile and avoided exploiting their positions within the government and parliament.
Well, back to those who took charge in June 1999 – UNMIK and the head of UNMIK the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG).
Dr. Bernard Kouchner who became the first of seven governors or “gods” as some people called them. The SRSG-s encompassed all might and power in Kosovo, although I never saw or heard anything about control or assessments of the SRSG-s position.
I knew from history, and Secretary-General Kofi Annan/United Nations should have known from history, the fact that if you give one person an almighty position without control, the person is doomed to fail.
The UN has an internal audit body, but it does not work properly when it comes to controlling “gods” or ”small kings” within the administration.
Being almighty has an intoxicating effect on humans; it is almost like a physical law, they regard themselves as “more equal” than others, using a term from George Orwell’s book “Animal Farm”.
Dr. Bernard Kouchner, the first SRSG, became the first to violate the pre-conditions set by UN itself and by international laws regarding building a functioning community or state from bottom, namely;
Developing a State built on democratic ideals, like human rights and freedoms for all, which starts always with equal rights and following the laws and justice .
Bernard Kouchner set in a way a pattern for coming SRSG, and his biggest mistakes in my opinion were:
- Giving Kosovo’s first mobile telephone license to Monaco without a prior free internationally tender by this, he signaled that “I can do whatever I like, I am over the law.”
- He implemented a law or regulation giving immunity (X) to all UN-internationals and people working for UN in Kosovo over the years amounting up to app. 60,000 people, whom in fact were beyond reach for law and justice.
The people who were set to implement laws and justice were the first to set themselves over the laws which gave them “a license to steal and rob”.
Corruption flourish under such environment.
- This tragic start allowed a governance practice with close to zero transparency, which in turn, in my opinion, promoted greed and corruption in all shapes and forms.
These three points became, in my opinion, stumbling blocks for the “State builders,” whom I think honestly tried to do their best but were sidelined or bypassed by politicians and bureaucrats with hidden agendas.
The politicians in Kosovo did not cooperate in order to create a functioning state. Instead, they started to fight each other on all levels, literally shooting on each other.
In Norway, as I stated earlier, the politicians cooperated in order to build up a robust foundation for further development of country and people and transparency was paramount .
Marciej Zaremba, journalist of Dagens Nyheter in Sweden wrote four articles back in 2007 about “KOLONI KOSOVO”. They give you an insight you need to have in order to understand how things have developed.
It corresponds perfectly with my experience from talking with people and reading newspapers and watching TV over the last fourteen years. His articles pointed at a range of things that went wrong in Kosovo but his critics the establishment in Kosovo and UN effectively silenced.
I also highly recommend Rita Augestad Knutsen’s Report called “Privatization in Kosovo: The international Project 1999 – 2008.
You, the younger generation and people interested in doing something for Kosovo, your time is come and a time like this will probably never turn up again in your lifetime.
Looking at your present political situation, I see a continuation of political misfits. As I pointed out earlier now is your chance to involve take-charge build your state for your children and grandchildren, built on transparency and respect for the laws and justice for all.
Bill Clinton made the following statement when he visited Kosovo after the war:
We won the war for you – now you have to win the peace with your neighbour.
The following words are paramount if you want to build a just State:
Equal rights, communication, negotiation, understanding, tolerance and compromising.
Concerning raped women in Kosovo during the war 1998-99.
There is a matter of most importance – I would like you to focus on for a moment the female victims of the war “the raped women” whom have suffered since the war, they have not been given their obvious right to a pension they and their families need very much.
Kosovo has abandoned the women that stayed back in the houses during the war and took care of children, food, and clothing while the men went into the bushes and mountains hiding themselves. It’s a shame and disgrace.
This is to my opinion a matter of Honour for Kosovo to fulfil.
Your government and parliament seems so easily accepting that outrage which not fall on themselves.
Prime minister and President of the state or the caretaker state administration: give these women and families now the means to survive – in the decent manner they deserve. Do not hide behind bureaucratic excuses
NORVEGIAN ACTIVIST JOSEF MARTINSEN HELD A LECTURE IN PRISHTINA
Martinsen: Kosovars failed in electing the politicians
Prishtina, 20 October – The end of the last war in Kosovo should have resulted with the creation of a democratic state. But, according to Josef Martinsen, Kosovo has failed in this attempt. He blames the people for this, that “have not elected the right political leaders”, but part of the blame he lays on the internationals also.
He made these declarations on Monday, in the lecture held at the National Library of Kosovo with the subject, “Kosovo Trilogy 1998-99”. On this event Martinsen, who since July 1999 until March 2000 has worked as a coordinator of UNHCR and Norwegian Church Aid in the emergency program, “The taking out of the bodies from the wells in Kosovo”, also presented his work for Kosovo.
“Kosovo has had the opportunity to build a democratic state. Unfortunately, Kosovars failed in electing the right politicians after the war. UN failed in controlling the people they had put in power, and this happened for 10 years. The people that were available did not show the right qualities in creating a state from the beginning”, said Martinsen, as the blame for not commanding law and order in the country he lays on the internationals also.
The greatest blame he lays on the former head of UNMIK, Bernard Kouchner.
“He managed to bypass all of the rules. All of the laws that the UN had said that should be respected. The first thing he did was the taking the right to your cell phone company and selling it to Monacco. Because it didn’t go through a bidding process, it caused you to lose a lot of money”, said Martinsen. According to him, a regulation that Kouchner would enforce was, that no international would be subject to the laws of Kosovo. This way they would have full immunity.
“For 10 years there were 60 thousand people that worked for the UN, which went through this system within Kosovo. Police and the judiciary couldn’t do anything, even in cases when they committed evil deeds. Those that had come to establish laws, were the first to be breaking them”, said Martinsen, as he shared that this was an ideal opportunity for corruption to flourish.
Besides corruption and other things which impacted the state-formation of Kosovo, Martinsen also blamed the governing bodies for not solving the fate of the missing people, as well as the negligence of the raped women in Kosovo. For Kosovo and its history he is well informed. For the first time that he would visit Kosovo would be in 1999, with the “Norwegian Church Aid organization:, which dealt with the cleaning of wells in Kosovo. This organization would perform the pulling of the lifeless bodies of the Albanians killed by the Serbian forces.
“When I came to Kosovo I was engaged in the cleaning of wells, which included the taking out of the corpses, the identification and in the end the cleaning of the water. In 1999 much information regarding wells full of corpses came out from all over Kosovo. At the time, there were thousands of missing people, and it became our priority to shed light on these people’s fate”, said Martinsen, who in 2005 would publish a book titled “Kosovo: The Wells of Death”. A year later when invited for another lecture, he would author another book due to the fact that seven years after the war nothing was done in discovering the massive graves and uncovering the crimes committed over the civilian population in Kosovo.
For four years he would gather documents to write a part of history that few people dealt with. A letter that Carla Del Ponte would sent to the then General Secretary of United Nations, Kofi Annan, regarding the 400 mass graves, would be the trigger for him to start the research.
“UN had done nothing to verify about 400 mass graves registered by the International Tribunal in Hague and sent to the UN”, said Martinsen, who has been educated in the Norvegian army, where he served as a major for seventeen years. In this book on black ink are written the names provided by various NGOs that contain records, and on blue ink are the names of the unfound people. These names, collectively, are found in the book “What Happened in Kosovo 1998-1999”. In there are documented the names of the victims. In over 400 pages in this book published in 2010 are summarized multiple information and documents that he has already turned in to the Kosovo Archive. Regarding this he has also made a documentary with the help of a Norwegian company. In over an hour in it are presented parts of the research work that Martinsen and his team from Kosovo have done. In it are also included the interviews of the survivors of various families. This documentary titled “The Process After a War” he did in 2011, which he showed again on Monday, to indicate that what he has researched has not moved anything from its place.
Arrangement group for this lecture at The National Library from left:
Margita Kukalaj Pakashtica, Josef Martinsen, Arijeta Ajeti, Liridona Berisha, Lirak Gjoshi
Photo : Suela Gjoshi