news 24 Jan 13

Kosovo to Pay for Demolished Serb Graves

Pristina said it would repair more than 60 Serbian memorials vandalised in apparent retaliation for Belgrade’s removal of an Albanian monument.

Edona Peci, Marija Ristic
Pristina, Belgrade

The Kosovo government said in a statement that it would pay to restore the desecrated Serb cemeteries but gave no details about how much it might cost.

Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hashim Thaci meanwhile reiterated his condemnation of the attacks.

“The desecration of graves and monuments in some places in Kosovo is embarrassing, despicable and unacceptable,” Thaci said on Wednesday, calling for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

Twenty-seven Serbian graves were demolished this week in the municipality of Klokot, 18 gravestones were attacked in the town of Prizren and 20 others moved, while several more were reportedly damaged in other parts of Kosovo.

Police have so far made no arrests over the cemetery attacks.

However three people have been detained and five police officers suspended over the demolition of a World War II memorial in the Kosovo town of Vitia/Vitina on Monday.

The vandalism was apparently sparked by Belgrade’s forcible removal of a monument to ethnic Albanian fighters in the south Serbia town of Presevo on Sunday.

Thaci accused his Serbian counterpart Ivica Dacic of raising tensions by taking down the monument in Presevo, saying that “his intention was to provoke reactions in Kosovo”.

The monument commemorated guerrillas who died in an attempt to unite parts of southern Serbia to Kosovo during a brief conflict with government forces in 2000 and was considered by Belgrade as an incitement to separatism.

Dacic said on Wednesday that there were no parallels between the grave desecrations in Kosovo and the Presevo situation because the monument in south Serbia was illegally erected and dedicated to “terrorists”.

“And in Kosovo they destroyed graves and churches, which didn’t happen in Presevo,” Dacic told journalists.

He also warned international organisations operating in Kosovo that “it is their job to secure peace and safety for all citizens, their property and cultural heritage”.

The European Parliament’s rapporteur for Serbia, Jelko Kacin, called on the Kosovo authorities to find the perpetrators as soon as possible.

“Respect to those who are dead and their graves is a fundamental right and standard of all civilised societies,” Kacin said.

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