International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

US State Department notes religion-related incidents in annual report

June 11, 2020

The US State Department 2019 Report on International Religious Freedom, which was presented by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, noted several incidents of violence and intolerance in Serbia.

It said that some religious groups, which are not required to register with the government, reported difficulties with property, bank accounts and other business while the Jehovah’s Witnesses reported verbal threats, physical assaults and inadequate response by the police and prosecutors as well as death threats by an off-duty Gendarmerie officer in Belgrade and obstruction by local authorities.  

“Smaller groups, mainly Protestant churches, said they encountered public distrust and misunderstanding and said members of the public frequently branded their religious groups as “sects,” which has a very strong negative connotation in the Serbian language,” it said and added that anti-Semitic literature was available in some bookstores.  

“The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) did not act to resolve contested religious registration claims by different Jewish groups, which Jewish leaders said contributed to an ongoing rift in the community,” the report said.  

The section of the report on Kosovo said that the Kosovo Protestant Evangelical Church (KPEC) complained that local authorities did not treat religious organizations equally on property issues, including in the granting of building permits and allocation of burial space in public cemeteries. “KPEC and others also stated the Kosovo Islamic Community (BIK) held contracts to run many municipal cemeteries and discriminated against minority religious groups in the allocation of burial plots and provision of services and discrimination against practicing Muslims,” it added.  

It said that the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) reported violations of its property rights by the government, including refusal to implement a three-year-old court decision to recognize its ownership of land around the Visoki Decani Monastery and.  

The Kosovo police reported 61 religiously motivated incidents, most targeting religious sites, including cemeteries, in the first nine months of the year, many of them linked to ethnicity as well as religion.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a608797/US-State-Department-releases-Religious-Freedom-report.html

KRIK reporter harassed for taking picture of president’s son

June 11, 2020

A reporter with the KRIK investigative journalism portal had her mobile phone taken away when she took a picture of the Serbian President’s son Danilo Vucic in the company of an alleged criminal figure.

The KRIK portal said that reporter Bojana Pavlovic’s phone was grabbed from her hands by an unidentified man when she took the picture of the younger Vucic and Aleksandar Vidojevic, a member of the FC Partizan supporter group Janjicari and alleged member of the Kavacki clan organized crime group. The phone was returned to her after a short verbal exchange with the unidentified man Vidojevic ordered him to return the phone.  

Both of Serbia’s main journalist organizations (the NUNS and UNS) demanded an investigation into who grabbed the KRIK reporter’s phone from her and called the Internal Affairs Ministry to protect her from any further harm.

The portal said that there were police present but did not react and called the Internal Affairs Ministry to determine who the man was.

Pavlovic was told by a KRIK reader that Danilo Vucic and Vidojevic were in a central Belgrade café watching the Red Star – Partizan football match. She took the picture standing on the street outside the café and was stopped as she left by three men who said they were there in an official capacity. Pavlovic produced her press card and was told that a police patrol would arrive to arrest her. The men demanded that she delete the pictures before the phone was grabbed from her hands. Vidojevic walked up and told them to give back the phone. He told Pavlovic that the KRIK stories about him were putting him in danger for his life.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a608777/KRIK-reporter-harassed-for-taking-picture-of-president-s-son.html

Sarajevo Canton MP explains how "assembly votes are being sold"

June 10, 2020

An independent lawmaker in the assembly of the Sarajevo Canton, Damir Niksic, told N1 on Wednesday that votes in the assembly are being sold and that he has figured out how - it is done slowly, not at once.

"It’s not done explicitly,” he said, adding that he wondered for a long time how the alleged trade with votes was being done.

“Nobody has ever approached me with a suitcase with half a million, a million or a million and a half in it. What’s a million if you will gain power thanks to it,” he said.

The procedure is completely different, he said.

“You sacrifice yourself for a politician, you do something for him, maybe you sit in jail for a while, but they do not pay you right away,” Niksic said.

“They find you a job, there are various options, and then for years you earn 15,000 (Bosnian Marks) a month and once you have earned a million, they say, we gave it to you,” he said.

“I thought you get a million and a half and then you get a vacation in Hawaii…” he said jokingly, adding that “time will tell who will be taken care of and how.”

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a440022/Sarajevo-Canton-MP-explains-how-assembly-votes-are-being-sold.html

Dodik to attend Moscow Victory Day Parade at Putin's invitation

June 10, 2020

Bosnian Serb leader and member of the State tripartite Presidency, Milorad Dodik, will travel to Moscow on June 24 to attend the Victory Day Parade at an invitation of Russia's President Vladimir Putin, Srna news agency reported on Wednesday.

Traditionally, the event was taking place on May 9, but this year it has been rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Russia's Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Petr Ivantsov, who was informed about the Presidency member's attendance by Dodik himself in their recent meeting, explained that June 24 was chosen as another date because Moscow's Red Square hosted the historic victory parade in 1945 on that date, led by Soviet Union Marshals Georgy Zhukov and Konstantin Rokossovsky.

More than 64,000 soldiers will take part in the parade.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a439836/Dodik-to-attend-Moscow-Victory-Day-Parade-at-Putin-s-invitation.html

Ex Defence Minister: We used to have a complete consensus on NATO in Bosnia

June 10, 2020

Obstructions of Bosnia’s efforts to join NATO that are coming from Bosnia’s Serb-majority region are the result of various forms of foreign influences, former Defence Minister and university professor, Selmo Cikotic, told N1 on Wednesday.

Cikotic said that before 2010 there was a consensus in Bosnia over the country’s future in NATO but that the same Bosnian Serb party that advocated it then is now opposing membership.  

NATO has given Bosnia three conditions for eventual membership: to destroy its surplus ammunition and arms, to increase its participation in peace operations and to register all military property as ownership of the state.  

The latter has been obstructed by the Bosnian Serb representatives for years.  

Bosnia’s Constitutional Court has ruled in favour of the state's appeal against decisions of the Supreme Court of the country’s semi-autonomous Republika Srpska (RS) region which rejected an attempt to register a military warehouse in Trebinje under the state. Nevertheless, top RS officials have been saying the registration will not happen.  

But registering all military facilities within Bosnia to the state is one of the conditions NATO has put forward for the country to activate its Membership Action Plan (MAP) - something Bosnian Serb representatives, especially those from the ruling Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), have been trying to prevent.  

Cikotic said that has not always been the case and the SNSD and their leader, who is now one of the members of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency, Milorad Dodik, were on board with Bosnia’s NATO accession.  

“We had a complete consensus on all of these issues. Back then, Dodik vocally advocated for NATO as an important security framework needed for overall internal democratic development, especially for economic development,” Cikotic said.  

Then, the Bosnian Serb leader changed course.

“We must understand that obstructions of this goal started in the years after that,” Cikotic said, stressing that a consensus on the matter was present at a time when there was an SNSD representative in the Presidency and when they were part of the majority in Bosnia’s Parliament and “dominated in representing Republika Srpska in state institutions.”  

“Problems emerged later, as they did for many other internal issues in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We have a presence of various international actors who encouraged representatives of Republika Srpska to stop Bosnia’s progress by obstructing this activity,” he said.  

Cikotic stressed that such foreign influence is present in many forms.  

“There is presence and influence coming from Russia and Serbia in a more or less direct way and we could argue that there were different forms of activities before the 1990s, during the decade and after it,” he said. 

“You could look at it from the perspective of geopolitics and use of force to resolve certain questions,” he explained, but argued that it would be a lot better if those issues would be resolved in a civilised manner and if agreements reached earlier would be respected as the alternative is “very problematic and hardly foreseeable.”  

“The Rule of Law is the substance of the legal and constitutional order of a state. So, decisions of constitutional courts in all states where there is rule of law represent a basis. Not all the decisions of Bosnia’s Constitutional Court have been implemented,” he said.  

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a439990/Ex-Defence-Minister-We-used-to-have-a-complete-consensus-on-NATO-in-Bosnia.html

Croatia reports two new Covid-19 cases

June 10, 2020

The national civil protection authority on Wednesday reported two new COVID-19 cases in Croatia, bringing the total to date to 2,249.

Over the past 24 hours, 234 persons have been tested. Seven patients are currently hospitalised, none of them on a ventilator.

The number of people who have recovered to date is 2,130 and the death toll is 106.        

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a439966/Croatia-reports-two-new-Covid-19-cases.html

Coronavirus cases spike in Bosnia with 53 positive tests in one day

June 10, 2020

Bosnia's both regions, the Federation (FBiH) and Republika Srpska (RS) region have recorded a new surge in coronavirus infections with both parts of the country reporting more than 20 new cases each over the last 24 hours, bringing the country's total to 2,775. The country has also seen one more fatality and the country's death toll now stands at 161.

According to Bosnia's Civil Affairs Ministry, of 2,775 confirmed patients 2,063 have recovered to date – 1,082 in RS and 965 in the FBiH.

Brcko District, a separate administrative unit in the north of the country has seen 20 confirmed Covid-19 patients, of which 16 recovered and four died.

Of 229 lab test performed over the last 24 hours, the RS healthcare authorities recorded 27 new patients.

The total of 1,082 patients has recovered in the region (69.05%), while 117 have died as a result of Covid-19.

FBiH healthcare authorities have reported 26 new Covid-19 patients. So far 965 patients have recovered and 40 died.

According to official data provided by the Civil Affairs Ministry on a daily basis, the total of 73,379 coronavirus tests has been performed since the epidemic outbreak.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a608573/Coronavirus-cases-spike-in-Bosnia-with-53-positive-tests-in-one-day.html

Seven more coronavirus deaths in North Macedonia

June 10, 2020

North Macedonia Health Care Minister Venko Filipce said on Wednesday that seven more people had died of coronavirus-related ailments over the previous 24 hours.

The minister said in a Facebook post that 125 new cases had been reported, adding that there are 1,536 new cases including 203 patients in hospital eight of who are on ventilators.

He wrote that the number of COVID-19 deaths stands at 164 with the number of diagnosed cases at 3,364 and the number of patients who recovered at 1,664.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a608555/Seven-more-coronavirus-deaths-in-North-Macedonia.html

Coronavirus UPDATE: One death, 66 new cases

June 10, 2020

The Serbian Health Care Ministry said in its daily 3:00 pm bulletin that one more person had died of coronavirus-related ailments over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 251.

The bulletin said that 5,015 people had been tested since the previous bulletin, including 66 who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. A total of 12,031 number of cases have been confirmed to date and 287,064 people have been tested.

There are 432 active cases, including 14 patients on ventilators.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a608567/Coronavirus-UPDATE-One-death-66-new-cases.html

Serbian doctors warn of possible second wave of pandemic

June 10, 2020

Serbian doctors warned on Wednesday that the coronavirus pandemic is weakening but still has the potential to launch a second wave of infections, especially among sensitive groups.

Imunologist Srdja Jankovic told the Serbian stat TV (RTS) that the pandemic is subsiding in the country but that higher numbers of infections are still possible. He said that in this stage of the pandemic, the number of people with milder symptoms is growing. “The epidemic is weakening but we have to be careful because the virus still has the potential to harm sensitive people,” he said.

The doctor said that the current situation is something between the start and end of the pandemic. “This is the end of the first stage of the pandemic here. The potential for a second wave exists if we don’t implement protective measures and if a second wave does come we hope to break it up into smaller waves,” he added.

Dr Darija Kisic Tepavcevic, a member of the government pandemic Crisis Staff and deputy chief of the Batut Public Health Institute, told the pro-government TV Pink that the situation is much better with a downward trend evident.  

“There is an increasing number of days with no deaths,” she said, adding that the best indicator of the situation is the number of cases with severe symptoms.  

She refused to speculate about a second wave but said that a second wave can never be as strong as the initial outbreak.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a608429/Serbian-doctors-warn-of-possible-second-wave-of-pandemic.html

Spokesman says EU ready to continue Kosovo dialogue

June 10, 2020

European Commission spokesman Peter Stano told the Voice of America on Wednesday that the European Union is prepared to continue the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue immediately but added that the timing and scope of the talks will be decided by the two sides.

“Miroslav Lajcak, the EU special envoy for the dialogue, will travel to the region in the next few days to discuss aspects of the dialogue with the participants,” Stano is quoted as saying.  

Radio Free Europe reported that Lajcak is set to visit Pristina next week.  

Stano said that the talks should continue as soon as possible once the coronavirus pandemic allows it. “We have been saying for some time that the key thing is to restart the dialogue which would give the region a clear European perspective,” he said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a608629/Spokesman-says-EU-ready-to-continue-Kosovo-dialogue.html

Kosovo PM says he will head dialogue team

June 10, 2020

Kosovo Prime Minister Avdulah Hoti said on Wednesday that he would head Pristina’s team to the dialogue to normalize relations with Belgrade.

Hoti told members of the Kosovo Academy of Arts and Science that his cabinet has adopted a platform for the dialogue. “We have adopted a framework for the dialogue within our coalition and have informed the opposition. What everyone should know is that the declaration of independence is a permanent process which is not negotiable. There have been situations when the leaders in the process did not see that clearly,” he said. Hoti said a team of experts would be formed by his cabinet and that he would call parliament to form a commission for the dialogue.  

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci said that the government would resume the dialogue very soon because “Serbia no longer has an excuse to delay it” after the reciprocal measures were revoked.

The Prime Minister said that territorial integrity is not negotiable and added that an agreement has to stick to the spirit of the Kosovo Constitution which is not part of the negotiations.  

According to Hoti, the goal of the dialogue is permanent mutual recognition, not the two Germanys model, followed by UN membership and recognition by the five European Union member states that have not recognized Kosovo.    

The Voice of America was told by US special envoy Ambassador Richard Grenell’s staff that they have no concrete information about the resumption of the Kosovo dialogue.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a608623/Kosovo-PM-says-he-will-head-dialogue-team.html

Serbian election commission registers right-wing group

June 10, 2020

The Serbian central election commission (RIK) overturned its own decision to refuse registration to a right-wing group for the June 21 elections a day after it ruled that the Levijatan Movement failed to submit the required number of signatures in support of its candidates.

The RIK initially refused to register Levijatan’s list of candidates because the group had not submitted the required 10,000 voter signatures and instructed it to submit the rest to meet the requirement. When Levijatan came up with almost 4,000 signatures the RIK ruled that it could not have collected them on its own in the short time between submissions and refused the registration.  

Levijatan is alleged to have the support of the Serbian authorities.  

Acting on an appeal at a third meeting on the night of Tuesday-Wednesday, the RIK decided to accept the signatures and register the list of candidates for the parliamentary elections. RIK Chairman Vladimir Dimitrijevic told the meeting that Levijatan had submitted 10,847 voter signatures.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a608419/Serbian-election-commission-registers-right-wing-group.html

The Hague chief judge: Final verdicts for war crimes in ex Yugoslavia in 2021

June 9, 2020

Two remaining processes before the UN's court for war crimes in former Yugoslavia will be finalised in the first part of 2021, court president Carmel Agius confirmed in his biannual report to the UN Security Council on Monday.

The delays in trials of Bosnian Serb wartime general Ratko Mladic as well as former Serbian State Security Service chiefs Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic, which were expected to be over by end of this year, were caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Agiues said.

Also, the hearing on appeals to the first-instance sentence for Mladic, charged among other things with genocide, the expulsion of non-Serb population and taking the UN troops a hostage, was first delayed due to his health issues and then again due to the pandemic.

“The Appeal Chamber is ready to hear the appeals in Mladic case as soon as it becomes safe and possible. It is planned to have the final verdict nine months after the appeal hearings,” said Agius, the President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT), legal successor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Serge Brammertz, the Chief Prosecutor, also reported to the UN Security Council, warning that denial of crimes and glorifying of war criminals is still present in the region and that “the denial and glorification are often encouraged or supported by politicians and officials across the region.”

He called on all public figures to act responsibly and to put the victims and sufferings of the civilians to the forefront of all commemorations marked this year.

“25 years later, the rhetoric of the past was supposed to be over long ago, he stressed, adding that what is necessary now are the leaders who will be advocating reconciliation and peacebuilding.

International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals was established in 2010 to take over the remaining work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) following the completion of those tribunals' respective mandates.

A total of 161 were indicted before the ICTY, with final indictments issued in December 2004 and last fugitive arrested in July 2011. The final judgement was issued on 29 November 2017[3] and the institution formally ceased to exist on 31 December 2017.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a439536/The-Hague-tribunal-chief-Final-verdicts-for-war-crimes-in-ex-Yugoslavia-in-2021.html

Migrants set up camp in the ruins of Sarajevo's pre-war retirement home

June 9, 2020

Many of the 5,500 migrants currently in Bosnia and Herzegovina are living at various locations outside migrant centres, including in the ruins of a former retirement home in Sarajevo’s Nedzarici neighbourhood which was destroyed during the 1992-1995 war.

N1 found 11 of them at this location, some of them sleeping in an improvised living room.

Among them was Nasuf, a 27-year-old Morrocan who hopes to live in Italy with his family one day.

“We are doing fine here for now,” he said.

“I tried to cross the Croatian border several months ago, we reached Slovenia. Slovenian police then caught us and took us back to Croatia, where we were beaten and sent back to Bosnia, to Buzim,” Nasuf said, adding that he will “never forget the people in Buzim.”

“They fed us after we had not eaten for three days. They took care of us as they would their own children, we spent four days at their house, they gave us clothes. I will remember Bosnia for all the good things, I will forget the bad things,” he said.

Volunteers from the local Red Cross and the Danish Refugee Council help the migrants every day, bringing them food, clothes and providing first aid. They told N1 that they tended to the wounds of one of the migrants who had been stabbed during a so-called “Game.”

“Sometimes no medical intervention is needed, but only a conversation with them. Through those conversations, psychological evaluations and consultations, we are trying to help them overcome their trip, and we know how long they have already been travelling,” said Jasmin Niksic, from the Red Cross of Bosnia’s Federation (FBiH) region.

He explained that most of the migrants share sad stories of them leaving their loved ones behind and enduring various forms of “torture” on their path to a better future.

“Every time, they say ‘thank you’ for every package we deliver to them. That does represent satisfaction for us, but it is also our obligation,” he said, calling the migrants “friendly.”

“I would advise everyone that we must get to know something unknown, that their (migrant’s) stories and fates may be difficult but once we get to know them, we realise that they are living beings as well and that they have, unfortunately, found themselves in this situation,” said Dino Pehic, from the Danish Refugee Council.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a439734/Migrants-set-up-camp-in-the-ruins-of-Sarajevo-s-pre-war-retirement-home.html

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