news 22 Nov 12

Kosovo ‘Must Not Forget Serbian War Damage’, Experts Say

Kosovo should not neglect to seek compensation from Serbia for war damages, although the country cannot sue Belgrade through the UN, a debate heard.

Edona Peci
BIRN
Pristina

Kosovo should not remain silent on the issue of seeking compensation for damages caused by Serbia in the 1998-1999 war, a group of economic experts, E15, told a debate in Pristina on Wednesday.

The cost of the damage inflicted on the public and private sector in Kosovo, according to the group, is worth around 20 billion euro, though no official data are available.

As Kosovo is not a member of the United Nations and other international organizations, “it cannot sue Serbia, but if this problem remains unsolved we should not keep on doing nothing,” Muhamet Mustafa, one of the group, said.

“Kosovo has to highlight this issue in the international community,” he added.

The issue of economic compensation and indemnification was first discussed between Pristina and Belgrade during talks in Vienna in 2006.

Both parties then agreed to start the process once Kosovo’s final status was resolved.

But after Kosovo in 2008 declared independence, which Serbia has vowed never to recognize, hopes faded of resolving the issue.

In March 2011 Kosovo and Serbia started talks facilitated by the European Union on normalizing relations.

“If nobody works on this issue, it will be necessary for those damaged to issue indictments for indemnification at the relevant courts,” Mustafa added.

Kosovo citizens affected by the war, according to the Group, could bring lawsuits for damage to property, pensions and other financial damages at the European Court for Human Rights.

Ismet Salihu, from the government’s Institute for War Crimes, warned that such individual actions had little chance of success.

He proposed establishing a mechanism to deal with compensation and indemnification of damages.

He recommended “a mechanism or association which, in the name of all those who’d been damaged, would start working during the upcoming one, two or five years, until all options are analysed in Kosovo and with regard to Serbia”.

Bejtush Isufi, one of the members said preparations should also be made in order to bring lawsuits in the Serbian courts.

“The time will come when individuals will be able to sue the Serbian state at the court in Strasbourg,” he added.

E 15 said economic damages should be treated like other human rights violations during the Kosovo conflict, as “there is no greater violation than destruction of houses”.

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