Accessed 06/06/2000

Kouchner regrets Serb boycott of Kosovo Councils

JUN 5 -- Dr. Bernard Kouchner, head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), yesterday expressed his regret over the decision by the Serb National Council (SNC) to boycott this week's meeting of Kosovo's premier administrative and advisory councils.

The SNC said Sunday that it would absent itself from this week's meetings of the Interim Administrative Council and the Kosovo Transitional Council in protest at the recent spate of violence against Serbs in Kosovo which has resulted in a number of deaths. While regretting their absence, Dr Kouchner said he understood the decision as a protest and a sign of outrage, and himself condemned the violence.

"We anticipated a possible increase in tension at this particular period, which coincides with the anniversary of our arrival in Kosovo. Yet we cannot let this throw us off course," Dr Kouchner said in the statement released yesterday. He also said he would facilitate the efforts of the SNC to present their case at UN headquarters in New York.

In a related development, Dr. Kouchner ordered the temporary closure of a newspaper which had published an article that had put at risk the life of a Serb UNMIK staff member, who was subsequently founded murdered.

Petar Topoljski was murdered not long after the publication of his address and photograph together with an article accusing him of crimes against Albanians in the newspaper 'Dita'. UNMIK spokeswoman, Nadia Younes, told journalists in Pristina today that UNMIK police had closed down the newspaper's offices on Saturday, and it would remain closed for a total of eight days.

Ms. Younes said that the newspaper's editor had said in an open letter to Dr. Kouchner on 19 May that his paper would continue to publish the names of those it considered to be "involved against Albanians," a threat which he had since repeated. Dr. Kouchner had concluded that this was a violation of Security Council resolution 1244, and ordered the temporary closure of the newspaper, Ms. Younes said.

Resolution 1244 gives Dr. Kouchner, as the head of UNMIK, the power and a duty to maintain civil law and order, and to protect human rights, including the right to life, Ms. Younes said.

"Our rationale for invoking resolution 1244, was that there was no legislation available in the books specifically dealing with this sort of case," said Ms. Younes. She said that UNMIK was in the process of finalizing some limited and temporary emergency legislation to ensure that the media refrain from publishing details that could put people at serious risk from vigilante violence.



Document compiled by Dr S D Stein
Last update 06/06/2000
ęS D Stein

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