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News 02 Jul 13

EU Mission ‘Failed to Protect Serbs in Kosovo’

The EU rule-of-law mission in Kosovo, EULEX, was accused by its own human rights panel of not protecting Serbs from violent attacks at an event to mark the historic ‘Battle of Kosovo’ .

Edona Peci BIRN Pristina

EULEX’s independent human rights panel said on Monday that the mission had not done enough to ensure the security of Serbs who gathered a year ago to mark the anniversary of the ‘Battle of Kosovo’ in 1389.

The annual commemoration event last May in Gazimestan on St. Vitus Day, celebrated by Serbs as Vidovdan, came after clashes between Kosovo police and Serbs which left more than 60 people injured.

The human rights panel found that EULEX “had allocated insufficient resources to ensure respect for human rights by the Kosovo authorities and third parties during the Vidovdan security operation”, it said in a written statement.

“The complainants submitted that they were the subject of attacks, which included, inter alia, the throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails at teenage children who were travelling on buses from Gazimestan to Gracanica/Gracanice at the conclusion of the Vidovdan celebrations,” the statement said.

“Moreover, the panel found that EULEX failed to conduct a thorough and adequate investigation into the allegations of human rights violations,” it said.

Hundreds of Serbs travelled to Kosovo for the Vidovdan celebrations last year, some wearing nationalist T-shirts and singing Serbian nationalist songs.

On arriving at Gazimestan, they were stopped by police and forced to remove any nationalist symbols.

This provoked groups of mainly Serbs to sing nationalist songs and chant the names of Bosnian Serb military and political chiefs Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, who are on trial for alleged war crimes in The Hague.

Kosovo Serbs gather every year on June 28 to honour St. Vitus, a fourth-century Christian martyr, at the site of the Battle of Kosovo of 1389.

The battle, which Serbia lost to Ottoman invaders, is seen as a crucial moment in Serbian history and has inspired much of the country's epic poetry.

The commemoration event at Gazimestan this year passed off without incident.

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