Detention in Kosovo, the official complaint

From Kristian Kahrs, Norwegian citizen

To: Kosovo’s Interior Ministry:
Kosovo Police: info@kosovopolice.com
EULEX: info@eulex-kosovo.eu, press@eulex-kosovo.eu,
The Human Rights Review Panel: office@hrrp.eu

Copies to: The Royal Norwegian Embassy in Priština and my lawyer Bogdan Vladisavljević in Leposavić.

Belgrade, Aug. 17, 2012

 Official complaint about the Kosovo Police and Priština Municipal Court

The Kosovo Police (KP) tries to threaten and intimidate me by throwing me in jail and giving me fines, confiscating my computer, phones and camera and threaten me with more jail and fines. However, it is obvious that they do not know me if they think I will give up my fight for freedom of speech and the basic human rights for Kosovo’s minorities.

I have been hesitant to tell the full story of the latest events as long as KP had custody of my property, but yesterday, I picked up my stuff at the Norwegian embassy in Priština. Even if I regret the fact that Norway recognized Kosovo and has an embassy in Priština, the Norwegian diplomats have been very professional and helpful in their contacts with the Priština Municipal Court.

Below you can see my video and message to Kosovo’s authorities, Detention in Kosovo, a message to the police shot outside Kosovo’s parliament and government building in Priština.

My motivation to defeat the government in Priština and the KP in a class action lawsuit for discrimination and harassment has never been stronger, and a good partner in this is my friend and political analyst Obrad Kesić. He is very important in gathering an excellent legal team to sue KP for violation of their own Constitution (на српском овде, shqiptar këtu).

Internationals helped the Albanians to write the constitution for Kosovo from 2008, and it is not bad at all with generous protection for Kosovo’s minorities, for example in articles 57, 58 and 59 where Serbian flags and Cyrillic letters are protected. The problem is only that the KP and the Kosovo authorities do not respect their own laws.

In my previous article, Arrested, charged and convicted, I outlined what happened to me at the Gazimestan monument outside Priština. Here I wrote about the Serbian policewoman Gordana Grujić who is now working for the Albanian-dominated KP. After this article has been published in different media, both Grujić and I have received threats. For instants, I have received the following threat on SMS from a Kosovo Albanian, written in very bad English:

Hey muther fucker you called us monkey! Didnt you told that to our police? Prepare to be killed when you step another time in USA (United States of ALBANIA) fuckin gipsy of fuckin norway state that produce whores and we Albanians fuck them and than we throw them like gardbage. Remember we never forget

Yesterday I called this guy and proposed that I would pay a cup of coffee instead of him killing me, but he was not very interested in nurturing any relationship with me. However, I think it is important to tell him that I am not at all intimidated by his death threats. This case has also been reported to the KP, but I do not have any confidence that they will investigate these threats properly.

Grujić also received threats when someone had published a manipulated picture of her with blood on her face. On July 9, Grujić contacted me to talk the threats against her, and of course I agree with her that there is no place for threats. The relevant institutions for this complaint can see the Facebook correspondence between Grujić and me. I replied immediately to Grujić, but I never heard more from her.

On Aug. 3, I went to police station #3 in Priština, hoping to have a chat, maybe a coffee with Grujić. My idea was for us to take a picture together with a short text stating that we disagree in many matters but that we agree that threats have no place in the public discourse. I thought it would be good to reduce the threats against both of us.

However, my peace proposal was not well received at all from the KP. Apparently, I was on a secret list demanding my arrest, and the charge as far as I understand it is that I took pictures of the KP without permission. The police chief of station #3 told me that I was suspected of violating article 171, I presume of the Kosovo Penal Code.

How it is possible to charge me with a criminal offense because I was taking pictures of a public event is beyond my understanding, and furthermore, I had already received a conviction for the same thing on June 29 having to pay a fine of 500 Euros. I am not a legal expert, but they are charging me for the same thing twice. In my first conviction, they said I was having the microphone too close to the face of the officers, and now the charge was that I was taking pictures without permission.

In station #3, they tried to contact my Serbian lawyer Bogdan Vladisavljević from Leposavić. He was helping me to formulate an excellent appeal on my first conviction, and there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted Vladisavljević to represent me. However, he was not available, and then I said I wanted a Serbian lawyer or a lawyer who spoke fluent Serbian.

The KP gave me a lawyer, who spoke Serbian, but she was not at all fluent, and she told me that her written Serbian was not good. She also did not give me any advice how I should defend myself, and she was very passive towards the police officers. This lawyer never gave me her name, and when I had given my statement, she simply left without giving an explanation.

There was also another Albanian present in station #3 who was supposed to be a professional translator from Albanian to Serbian. He wrote my statement in Serbian on a computer, but when I was checking what he wrote, I was amazed by the number of errors he made. Even if Serbian is my third language, I corrected a lot of errors. Still, despite my corrections, the statement was far from perfect, and I have never received a copy of my statement. The arresting officer was also very impatient and to me that there was no time to correct the mistakes.

I came to station #3 at 1000, and at 1430, officers from KP’s cyber crime division. Several times during the interrogation, I offered to open up my computer and give them all relevant evidence concerning my pictures and the stories I have published concerning Grujić and the KP.  But my cooperation was not what the KP wanted, and therefore, they confiscated my laptop, two Samsung Android phones and my Nikon D200 camera.

I am not sure what kind of evidence the KP is looking for, but to confiscate my computer like that is an invasion of my privacy, and they have no business in assessing the private information on my laptop. Had this been in a normal country with respect for rule of law, I would not have had so big problem with police officers looking at my laptop, but I have no faith at all that the KP will respect my privacy because their clear agenda is to harass me and threaten me not to write negatively about the KP and Kosovo. Who knows what kind charges they will make up next time?

I highly doubt that the KP acted according to the law when they confiscated my property, and let me quote Article 36 in the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo:

[Right to Privacy]

  1. Everyone enjoys the right to have her/his private and family life respected, the inviolability of residence, and the confidentiality of correspondence, telecommunication and other communication.
  2. Searches of any private dwelling or establishment that are deemed necessary for the investigation of a crime may be conducted only to the extent necessary and only after approval by a court after a showing of the reasons why such a search is necessary. Derogation from this rule is permitted if it is necessary for a lawful arrest, to collect evidence which might be in danger of loss or to avoid direct and serious risk to humans and property as defined by law. A court must retroactively approve such actions.
  3. Secrecy of correspondence, telephony and other communication is an inviolable right. This right may only be limited temporarily by court decision if it is necessary for criminal proceedings or defense of the country as defined by law.
  4. Every person enjoys the right of protection of personal data. Collection, preservation, access, correction and use of personal data are regulated by law.

I highly doubt if taking pictures of Gordana Grujić constitutes a serious risk to humans and property.

It was immediately clear to me that the Kosovo Police tried to get access to my email, but fortunately, I had changed the passwords.

It was immediately clear to me that the Kosovo Police tried to get access to my email, but fortunately, I had changed the passwords.

When I got my computer back, they tried to make it seem like they had not opened it, but I could immediately see that they had bypassed my personal password and taken my computer online. That I know because there was a box saying that they had tried to enter my Gmail account with the wrong password. This can be witnessed by a diplomat at the Norwegian embassy in Priština who was present when I opened my computer.

According to the documents I have received, I cannot see that Judge Fazliu or any other court in Kosovo has approved the confiscation of my property beforehand or retroactively. Therefore I demand that the KP immediately deletes any copy they might have taken of the data on my phones or computer.

On Aug .10 the Norwegian embassy gave this letter to Priština Municipal Court where I asked about an assessment of the legality of the confiscation of my property according to Article 36 in the constitution. Yesterday, I received my property, but no reply to my letter. I therefore demand that Priština Municipal Court replies to this letter as soon as possible. They can give the letter to the Norwegian embassy in Priština.

Article 22 in the Kosovo constitution, international conventions have priority over Kosovo law, and privacy is for instance protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 12 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 17.

Every Kosovo police station has a couple of EULEX observers, and therefore I was very happy when one Swedish and one Greek EULEX officer entered. But the meeting with these officers was a negative surprise. The Swedish officer, I believe her name is Pernilla Erickson, reminded the KP to confiscate my computer, and I would like an official reply from EULEX why their officers actively violated the Kosovo Constitution and international conventions when they encouraged the confiscation my private property.

The KP put handcuffs on me, and drove me to the Police Detention Center in police station #1 in downtown Priština. I wanted to read my copy of the Kosovo constitution and get copies of the exact charges and laws they were using in a language I could understand, but in my cell I had access to nothing, not a pen and a paper, and I was not able to read any of my material.

Since I had no idea who was my lawyer, the police officers tried to get me a new lawyer. At 2100 on Aug. 3, a woman came to be my lawyer. She showed me her business cards, but she tried to take them back when I tried to take one of them. She only allowed me to take card when the KP officer in the detention center said that it was OK for me to have one. I also asked for a private conversation with my lawyer, but police officers kept coming and going into that room.

When I told her that I had no confidence in the KP and asked her to change the passwords on Gmail and Facebook immediately, she told me she could not do that, and then she told me that I should have confidence in the KP. She also gave me a speech about the wonderful multi-ethnic Kosovo where Serbs could live without fair of harassment or discrimination, but she did not give me any advice how I could defend myself.

My lawyer also promised that she would contact my friend Samuil Petrovski in Belgrade and inform him about my arrest, but she never called, and she never sent an email. When she left on Friday night, I had a lot of questions how to prepare my defense. The KP officers in the detention center tried to call her all day on Saturday, but she was not available.

Now, a word of praise to a couple of the KP officers. Even if I have absolutely no faith in KP as an organization, there are good people working there. The officers who worked in the morning on Aug. 4 and 5, were officers #3156 and #3727. #3156 is a former militia officer from before 1989, a man who has problem with his blood pressure waiting for his pension next year. The shift leader, officer #3727,  is a 35-year old former UÇK fighter. Even if I was not allowed to have a pen and paper, they provided me with this in order for me to write my complaint. On Sunday morning, they made me coffee, and bought me breakfast in a nearby bakery. We were also able to have informed discussions about Adem Jashari, Operation Račak, and the Rugova cover-up.

But police officers came to pick me up from the detention center on Sunday morning, and they drove me to Priština Municipal Court, again in handcuffs. After over 48 hours in detention, I was a free man, at least in theory at least because I had never seen a judge the time I was in detention, but I was still wearing handcuffs in a holding cell in the court.

In the court, I had to do number 2 in the toilet, but the problem was that there was no toilet paper there. Therefore I asked police officer with ID # 0706 if he could provide me with toilet paper. However, the police officer suggested that I should wipe my butt with my fingers. “Would you use your fingers in your rear end after you have been to the toilet,” I asked him. “Yes, I’m a Muslim and paper is dirty,” he replied. Of course, I have tried to use toilet the Muslim way in Pakistan, but this toilet was not adapted to Muslim customs because the water only went down into the toilet, not up  to clean your vital parts. In the end, an assistant to the court provided me toilet paper, but this is only one of many examples that the KP does everything in their power to intimidate me.

But the police officers presented me to Judge Elmaze Fazliu at 1025. She told me that they could use one hour extra in addition to the 48 hours they wrote that they could hold me, but I never got a copy of any law that states that the court has more than 48 hours before detainees are presented to a judge.

Fazliu told me that I allegedly had violated article 171, I presume that law is the Kosovo Penal Code, but I did not receive have received a written confirmation in Serbian, an official language in Kosovo, until I received a copy at the Norwegian embassy yesterday. Several times I asked to get a copy of this law, but I never received anything.

After I had been five minutes with Judge Fazliu, my second lawyer showed up in court. I thought we would use Saturday to prepare my defense, but as mentioned above, she was not available.

I thought a defense attorney is supposed to represent defend her client to the best of her ability, but both my lawyer and and the judge told me to be silent. I was not allowed to challenge anything because everything was decided beforehand. If I would have had a competent lawyer, she would be able to challenge the legality of the harassment I have been a victim of, but Judge Fazliu and my lawyer told me that I had to be thankful that they were working on a Sunday, and I should be thankful that she gave me a minimum sentence of 352 Euros and that she gave me enough money for a bus ticket to Belgrade.

I therefore asked for a private conversation with my lawyer, and I told her that I was extremely disappointed with her, but her response was to threaten me with lawsuits if I wrote anything negative about her in media. I would very much like to mention her name publicly, but for now, it might be wiser not to publish her name. I can never be sure what the next charges against me in Kosovo will be.

When I was asking for a Serbian translation of the confession in Albanian I was forced to sign, Judge Fazliu told me that I would have to wait two or three days more in detention while waiting for the translation. I could have taken more days in jail, but then I would not be able to protect my privacy, contacting Norwegian authorities and EULEX to ask them to supervise what the KP did to my computer.

After we were finished in court, I thought I was free to contact my embassy or EULEX in Kosovo, but the KP had other plans. They drove me to the border with Serbia, in Merdare. When we were passing Podujevo, we saw that the Serbian names of the places we passed were crossed out by Albanian nationalists. “You have a wonderful multi-ethnic community,” I remarked ironically. I am not sure if officer # 0706 understood the irony, and he replied, “No, there is no multi-ethnic Kosovo. It is 99 percent Albanian,” he replied.

# 0706 and his colleague dropped me on the border without my phones, computer or camera, and I was not able to contact anyone before I got back to Belgrade. In Merdare, there is very little public transportation to Belgrade, and it would have been much easier for me if the police officers had driven me to Mitrovica where the communication with Belgrade is much more regular, and I was forced to hitchhike back to Belgrade.

I got a ride with a very nice Kosovo Albanian truck driver, and he understood my situation very well. “They had to arrest to because they are scared of you,” he said.

Back in Belgrade, the first thing I did was to change the passwords on my Gmail and Facebook, and then I immediately called EULEX to ask them to monitor every step KP took with my computer. The press spokespersons Nickolas Hawton and Irina Gudeljević, or any other in the press office, never replied to me, and I never heard anything for any case officers in EULEX. Therefore I cannot be sure that EULEX is doing anything to protect the victims when the KP invades the privacy of their detainees.

Irina Gudeljević, the Serbian spokeswoman for EULEX.

Irina Gudeljević, the Serbian spokeswoman for EULEX.

I also received very poor answers from Gudeljević, the Serbian spokeswoman in EULEX when I asked how they reacted to the KP in Gazimestan on June 28. “Our report has been handed over to Kosovo Police as part of our MMA (monitoring, mentoring, and advising) role. It is  not a public report,” she wrote. I really do not know what EULEX is doing in Kosovo if they sweep such reports under the carpet. If EULEX wants KP to be an open and democratic police force with respect for basic human rights and the right of expression, as mentioned in Kosovo’s Constitution article 40, their secrecy is very regrettable.

Even if the KP does not respect the rule of law, we must do everything in our power to fight for basic human rights, for the sake of Kosovo’s minorities and also those Albanians who are KP’s victims. My promise is that I will travel to Kosovo as often as necessary, even if this could cost me more fines and more jail time.

Sincerely

Kristian Kahrs

Edit: Since I published this article, I was also became aware of the systematic lies from the Kosovo court and police. This I have outlined in my article Court lies in Kosovo.

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