Protesting Violence: Kosovo NGOs Condemn Police Action
By Linda Karadaku
Representatives of 25 Kosovo NGOs protested peacefully Monday (January 16th) in front of the Kosovo government building against police intervention towards activists and supporters of Vetevendosje on Saturday.
“We are gathered here today to condemn the brutal violence that was exercised from the Kosovo Police in the protest Saturday, and to express our deep indignation with the international community. Its position has legitimised the violence against the protesters,” Lorik Bajrami, from the Cohu (Stand Up) NGO, said, addressing the protesters on behalf of the group.
Police used pepper spray, water cannons and tear gas Saturday against demonstrators marching to protest at two border crossings with Serbia, in Merdar/Merdare and Dheu i Bardhe/ Bela Zemlja.
“We consider [Saturday’s] protest as a manifestation of the will of the citizens and a democratic method. This right has been guaranteed to us by the constitution as well. Therefore, use of violence against the protesters was totally unacceptable, and we condemn such an act,” Besnik Ramadaj, public relations officer of the Kosovo Democratic Institute, one of the NGOs protesting Monday, told SETimes.
Vetevendosje said that police intervened violently against the peaceful protesters, “despite several calls that the police do not attack us”.
The movement, which says the ruling PDK has failed to implement parliament’s decision to impose full political, economic and trade reciprocity with Serbia, accused the government and police of having “a strategy for violence”.
“The next peaceful protest to block the Serbian goods and cars will be held a week after, on January 22nd,” Vetevendosje said, repeating that if the government starts implementing full reciprocity with Serbia this week, the protest would be scrapped.
But Kosovo Interior Minister Bajram Rexhepi told the media that police used proportional, minimal force Saturday. He said the police were very professional, and that the police’s intention has been at all times to clear the roads and to enable freedom of movement.
“We would have liked that these requests and ideas of Vetevendosje be presented in the parliament and proper solutions be found. If there will be protests again blocking the freedom of movement for people and goods, Kosovo Police will be forced to act in conformity with the mandate and the legal obligations as law enforcement [agency],” Rexhepi told SETimes on Sunday.
Theopposition party Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) said Saturday’s violence was unreasonable.
Party leader, Pristina Mayor Isa Mustafa, said the decision on reciprocity with Serbia should be fully implemented, but in an institutional way and not out on the street.
Klan TV station manager Baton Haxhiu says both sides are at fault.
“The two political parties, [PDK and Vetevendosje] feed each other for the mobilisation of their membership. These two extremes use in fact the same language, the same political way of action, each from their own position: the government from the position of the use of force and Vetevendosje from the position of political extremism,” Haxhiu told SETimes.
He adds that the effect of all this is not the clash between these two parties, but the marginalisation of the rest of the opposition, which seem unable to break through the dualism of the conflict.
“I think the biggest losers out of this are the LDK and the AAK,” he says.