Pristina, Oct. 18, 2000
Lost Baggage and other Kosovar Difficulties
Me getting a shave at a local barber in Pristina. Life is very different as a civillian than as an army officer. Now I have to take care of everything myself. Photo: Selfportrait.
But I didn't arrive without difficulties. After 22 days in Kosovo, I could finally pick up my suitcase and my backpack at the KFOR HQ in Pristina. I think the problems started in Zurich where the plane for Skopje, Macedonia was cancelled because of much fog at the airport. Since my final destination was Pristina, Kosovo and not Skopje, I was rebooked on an Albanian Airlines flight directly to Pristina. I don't know if I should blame Swissair, Albanian Airlines or both of them for the lack of communication, but Swissair finally found my baggage and shipped it to the KFOR HQ. I spent a lot time and a lot of money on phone calls, but I guess it's not supposed to be easy, at least not in a region like Kosovo.
The political engagement is sky-high in Kosovo, but it is also mixed with nationalism, and that will take some time to deal with. Most Albanians feel very grateful to the United States for leading the bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, and American flags are seen everywhere, alongside the red Albanian flag with a black eagle.
One example can be the legal system in Kosovo. The United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) has a mandate from the United Nations Security Council to create a new legal system, and today, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) presented a pretty harsh report, a report of the criminal justice system in Kosovo. According to the report, Kosovo's justice system does not yet meet international standards for an acceptable and fair treatment in many cases.
Some of the problem seems to be that the local judges and prosecutors have not practiced law since 1989. That was when Slobodan Milosevic took away Kosovo's autonomous status, and the legal system was controlled by Serbs. In addition, there has not been so many international judges as UNMIK had hoped for. However, I don't know if it would be possible to do it any better, and that also seems to be the view of the OSCE who was responsible for the report.
"We started from scratch, and if anyone is to be blamed for the failure, it must be those who expected a perfect system overnight," commented Rolf Welberts, Director of Human Rights and Rule of Law in the OSCE in a press conference Wednesday. Anyway, this report will be in the news for a while.
But there is a lot of news a few miles north of here as well, and it seems like I've been in the wrong place at the wrong time to witness the changes in Belgrade. At the moment I'm looking at the possibilities of moving to Belgrade and work from there. I'd like to be there to witness the reconstruction of Serbia and Montenegro after 10 years of mismanagement and NATO bombing. Yugoslavia's new president Vojislav Kostunica says journalists are once again welcome. I hope I can get a visa, even if I have been a part of the hated NATO alliance. I believe Serb intelligence know very well who I am, but I can promise that I will be fair in my coverage of the conditions in Serbia. And being fair does not necessary imply that I will not be critical. Serbia today is not what most of us think of as a democracy, and Kostunica will have some time to prove that he is a democrat. Some of the first UNMIK urges him to do, is to release 650 Albanian political prisoners in Serb jails.
Well, soon it is time for me to go down to the Internet cafe where I connect my laptop. My favorite soccer team Rosenborg is playing a game in the UEFA Champions League against Helsingborg tonight, and I'm going to tune into the local radio station to get a live report of the game over the Internet. Internet cafes, taxis and auto larjes or car wash is something there are not a lack of in Kosovo.
At last a practical note. Today I have reconstructed my address list, and it may not be very current. If you would not like to receive reports once and a while, please give me a note, and I'll take you off my list. And I'd be very happy if you spent a minute to write me a little note. I haven't seen many of you for a long time, and it would be nice staying in touch with you. I promise to write back soon if you drop me a note.
See you soon again
Kristian Kahrs, freelance journalist, Kosovo
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