Apr 16, 2007

Albanians in Macedonia: ICTY Hears Case

Two Macedonian officials go before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia this week, where they face criminal charges.

Below is an excerpt from an article written by Garentina Kraja published by Howell Times and Transcript:

Residents of this close-knit, predominantly ethnic Albanian community still remember the day when they say police stormed their village tucked between green fields and snow-covered mountains, killing seven men.

On Monday [16 April 2007], Macedonia‘s former interior minister and a senior police official go before the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague , Netherlands, on charges of murder, wanton destruction and cruel treatment in the operation.

The trial, which is expected to hear opening statements Monday [16 April 2007] before adjourning until May 7, may test the reconciliation between the Macedonian Slavic majority and the ethnic Albanian minority.

According to the U.N. indictment, seven civilians were killed in house-to-house police searches on Aug. 12, 2001, and officers gutted 14 homes with hand grenades or fire and destroyed other buildings with shelling. Villagers who fled were stopped at checkpoints and beaten.

The operation was apparently launched in retaliation after eight Macedonian soldiers were killed when their truck hit a land mine.

Both men have pleaded not guilty. Boskovski‘s lawyer, Edina Residovic, argued in a pretrial brief that there was no war in Macedonia at the time and it was impossible for the men to have committed war crimes. The brief added that none of the alleged killers had been under Boskovski‘s control at the time.

Macedonia, a landlocked country of 2.1 million people, split from Yugoslavia in 1991 with Croatia and Slovenia. Macedonia remained at peace as a brief armed attempt to prevent Slovenia‘s secession failed and fighting in Croatia killed up to 10,000 people.

In 1999, hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians poured into northern Macedonia from neighboring Kosovo to flee former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic ‘s troops. […]

Isufi is expected to travel to The Hague to testify in the case, despite the fact he is paralyzed and frail. He said he hopes to see Boskovski and Tarculovsky punished.

The next day, Rami was hit by a string of bullets allegedly fired by police officers who had forced their way into the family‘s yard. According to the indictment, he was unarmed and was shot at close range in the stomach.

"It will never satisfy me," he said of the possible punishment of the defendants. "It will lessen my pain a bit, because at least it will be known who is the guilty one, so that this crime is not covered up."

Sadik Qaili, whose cousin Atullah died of injuries from beatings he received during the raid, said reconciliation between the village‘s ethnic Albanians and Macedonians was difficult to imagine.

"We‘re waiting day and night to see how The Hague tribunal will decide," he said. […]

Many Macedonians regard Boskovski and Tarculovsky as heroes. On Sunday, hundreds of supporters attended a nationally broadcast service outside the main cathedral in the capital, Skopje, and demanded a fair trial.

Vera Gluvceva, an 83-year-old Macedonian, said she believed the charges had been invented. "I think they want only Macedonians to be blamed for the conflict," she said.

Macedonia‘s government said Sunday it expected a "fair, transparent and objective" trial and pledged to continue giving moral and financial support to the two men and their families, according to a statement.