Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wedding Season

The months of July & August have been deemed “Wedding Season” due to the large influx of Kosovo expats who flood back in their shiny BMW, Audi, and Mercedes and evenings punctuated with automatic “happy fire” from weddings.  Celebratory gunfire is just one of those things that probably will never be considered against the norm in Kosovo.  Occassionally people do get injured by stray bullets but I imagine that until a child is tragically killed there won’t be much public outcry against the AK-47 “happy fire”.  Despite the negative aspect of celebratory gunfire, a neat thing about Kosovo weddings is the vehicle procession.

It is hard to give true justice to a Kosovo wedding vehicle procession in describing it but I’ll try…basically, you gather all your relatives and friends who have vehicles.  You decorate the lead vehicle with the biggest (and I mean BIG!) Albanian flag you can find and some plastic flowers/streamers if you can find some.  All the other vehicles that will follow the lead vehicle will put bath or dish towels under their windsheild wiper to signify that they are part of the wedding party.  If your guests have a sunroof, someone must be poking out of the sunroof, dancing to the traditional Albanian music blaring from everyone’s car stereos.  If you don’t have a sunroof, you are obligated to either sit on the windowsill of the moving vehicle, put your arms out the windows, or dance in place in the car.  Don’t forget to honk and flash your lights at oncoming traffic…  Like I said, it’s hard to give the experience justice for those who have seen a wedding procession here!

ICJ Ruling Leads to More Questions than Answers?

The recent International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling on Kosovo’s declaration of independence seems to have lead to more questions than answers in the aftermath of the court’s non-binding opinion.  There have been both humorous takes such as If Kosovo can secede, what stops Mexifornia from declaring independence from the US and more serious articles such as “New Politicial Situation” according to Karabakh President. Whether the international court and players like it, people are seriously looking at the court’s opinion and asking “how does this relate to me” or “how can I use this to my advantage?”

Of course, depending on who you ask,  the ICJ ruling can and cannot be applied to other frozen conflicts around the world from Indonesia to the Russian Federation republics.  Here is a collection of various articles from both sides on the issue:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

ICJ Issues Opinion on Kosovo & ICTY Rules on Haradinaj Acquittal Appeal

The International Court of Justice, the highest court of the United Nations, has issued a non-binding opinion on the declaration of independence by Kosovo stating that international law does not prohibit declarations of independence and therefore Kosovo did not violate international lawwhen unilaterally declaring independence from Serbia in 2008.  Kosovo is expecting a rash of new recognitions following the ruling which has bolstered its stance that there is no further need for status negotiations with Serbia.  Serbia on the other hand has warned that the ruling will lead to a dangerous precedent of unilateral declarations of independence and destabilization of troubled areas.  Almost immediately following the announcement of the decision, there were a few bursts of fireworks (at 4:20pm it was a little hard to see them but I am sure there will be more tonight as the celebration in Pristina starts to kick in!)

In other very important news, the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY) has ruled that Ramush Haradinaj and Idriz Balaj must re-stand trial for war crimes following their acquittal.  Judges dismissed the charges against Haradinaj and Balaj for lack of evidence and prosecution cited witness intimidation.  In the appeal, the Tribunal President said that the trial judges failed to see the significance of intimidation which lead to a “miscarriage of justice“.  It is still unclear if the alleged intimidated witnesses will testify during the new trial which will take place in front of a new panel which still has yet been chosen and date set.  Haradinaj was taken into custody following the announcement but Balaj was not present in court and so far has not been taken into custody.  Both the Kosovo government and KLA Veterans Association issued statements of support for Haradinaj and concern that the retrial harms the political process in Kosovo.

As a follow-up to the news about the arrest and release of suspected terrorist Bajram Asllani, a panel of EULEX judges has upheld the decision not to extraditehim to the US stating that the Kosovo legal code does not permit extradition to other countries when the alleged crime has been committed in Kosovo.  The case is now being referred to the Kosovo Supreme Court.  It is not yet known if Asllani will face a similar situation regarding the 2009 court conviction for terrorism by Serbian courts as that information appears to be just given as a side note in most news rather than a disturbing fact to be corrected.

EULEX has continued its fight against corruption in Kosovo by putting focus on the Post and Telecom Company(PTK).  EULEX and the anti-corruption task force conducted raids in Pristina and Peja last week in various locations including the company’s top official, Shyqyri Haxha.  In addition to accusations of embezzlement, the company is under scrutiny for fraudulently issuing a contract to the Dardaphone Company “Z Mobile” for a multi-million Euro contract.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

EULEX Arrests Health Ministry Official for Corruption

The fight against corruption by EULEX continues with the morning arrest of the former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health and current advisor, Ilir Tolaj, for tax evasion.  A joint task-force of EULEX and the Kosovo Police anti-corruption force are reported to have searched three different locations including the University Clinic of Pristina.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Blast Kills One in North Mitrovica

A blast ripped through a crowd of Serb demonstators in the North of Mitrovica on Friday killing one and injuring 11 others.  The protestors gathered to demonstrate against the opening of a civil registry office in the North by the Kosovo government.  Blame for the incident has been laid at both doors with “carelessly armed Serbs” being blamed by the Kosovo Interior Minister, Bajram Rexhepi, and the Serbian National Council calling it a terrorist action by “Albanian separatists”.