Sunday, August 30, 2009

In case you forgot ...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Germany warns Montenegro over media freedom shortcomings

August 20, 2009, Podgorica, Montenegro - Berlin criticized Montenegro over what it said were shortcomings in media freedom, the German embassy in Podgorica said Thursday.

The embassy warned that it had "increasing concern" about physical attacks on reporters critical of the authorities, echoing earlier objections by the United States, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and international media organizations.
This follows a brutal attack on a reporter from Vijesti by Podgorica's mayor and his son, who were being investigated for their role in a corruption scheme that would have exposed officials in the highest rank of government.

Germany also urged Montenegro to clarify legal criteria for permits to broadcast and said it would "closely monitor" freedom of media, an "indicator of democratic maturity," in the context of Podgorica's bid to join the European Union.

One case that has raised concern among press freedom advocates is the government's refusal to grant a license to the private media house Vijesti, which is seeking to launch the first independent nationwide TV channel.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

U.S. citizens freed from Montenegrin Prison

August 17, 2009, TUZ, MONTENEGRO - After nearly three years behind bars, three Albanian men were released yesterday from a Montenegrin prison after serving their sentences for unwarranted accusations stemming from their involvement in a scheme to carry out acts of "terrorism" against Montenegro.

U.S. citizens Kol and Rrok Dedvukaj, along with Pjeter Devukaj were hauled off to prison on September 9, 2006, on the eve of parliamentary election in Montenegro. The charges stemmed from arms possession to plans to commit "terrorist" acts aimed at creating a separate Albanian region within Montenegro. But as the highly televised trial pressed on for nearly two years, the prosecution was never able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these men were in any way connected with the crimes they were being charged. In fact, all the evidence that was gathered during the trial was never tied with any one suspect. Nonetheless, as the proceedings went forward, unsubstantiated claims of "terrorist aggression against the state" was broadcast throughout this tiny country leading to a publicly televised verdict of "guilty."

Montenegro was immediately able to frame public opinion and consciousness that (1) Albanians in general were aggressively pursuing secession, (2) the Albanian Diaspora was behind this, (3) that Montenegro was an ally in the fight against global terrorism and these arrests were no different than others around the globe, (4) that Albanians were connected with Muslim fundamentalists in the Middle East [although all the accused were Catholic], and (5) that the protections in the Montenegrin constitution did not apply to these people.


Family members of these gentlemen were elated after their release, but the celebration was clouded by several factors that will have a lasting effect on the lives of the Dedvukaj's and those that continue to serve sentences. The mental and physical pains will endure forever; Kol Dedvukaj was diagnosed with diabetes while in prison and suffered severe mental lapses attributed to daily beatings. With his sudden weight loss, Rrok has complained of enduring headaches and amnesia, also attributed to nearly three years of physical and mental anguish. What is just as disturbing was the mental torture that all the prisoners went through; constant harassment related to their ethnicity followed by tormenting that the United States did not care that their very own citizens were being held and tortured by a corrupt regime.

Although they have finally been released, and now united with their families, their road back to the United States will be coupled with an even longer road to mental recovery. Returning to a country they entrusted would come to their rescue, when in fact it did not, will be hard to swallow. But what is harder to comprehend is how three innocent men visiting relatives in their homeland could be illegally arrested, brutally beaten, ethnically discriminated, mentally tormented, and physically tortured by a country that continues to propagate that it is meeting all democratic principles en route to EU membership.

Whatever the case may be, "Eagle's Flight" will forever be a thorn in Montenegro's side until she decides to confess that this whole ordeal was strategically planned to quash the efforts that Albanians have for decades believed in -- the constitutional freedom to express themselves and participate without any obstructions by the majority and the state.

Detroit rally protests [Albanian] student’s deportation

AUGUST 17, 2009, DETROIT - More than 100 people rallied Monday night at Hope Community Church in Detroit in an effort to prevent a University of Detroit Mercy student from being deported to Albania.

Herta Llusho, 19, of Grosse Pointe Park, said she came to the United States in 2001 from Albania, along with her family, on a tourist visa. They were denied political asylum and, now, Llusho and her mother must leave on Wednesday.

Advocates say that college students like Llusho should be allowed to stay in the United States because of their potential. They’re asking the Department of Homeland Security to grant her a deferment.

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin wrote a letter Friday to the department, asking that Llusho’s deportation be deferred.

A spokesman for the Detroit office of the Department of Homeland Security did not comment Monday.

Detroit Free Press

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Massive clashes between Macedonians and Albanians in Skopje

DPA News Category :

17 August 2009, Skopje - Several persons were injured Sunday in violent clashes in the center of the Macedonian capital of Skopje between Slavic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians.

A number of vehicles and store windows were damaged by stones and metal pipes in the fray.
The clashes were triggered by more than 100 Macedonian fans of the local FC Vardar, broadcasters in the city reported.

The vandals fought with Albanian ethnics who quickly organized their own defence.

Focus of the violence was the bridge between the city center and an Albanian neighbourhood.
Only the vigorous intervention by units of the special riot police avoided further blood-letting, reports said.

Arrests were made, and order was restored by late in the evening.

Monday, August 10, 2009

HUU: Podgorica's Mayor must not go unpunished

HOMELAND UNITES US, INC. -- Commission for Human Rights and Protection of National Minorities

TUZ, MONTENEGRO, Monday, August 10, 2009 – The recent attacks by Podgorica’s mayor on two high profile investigative journalists from the daily Vijesti has sparked outrage among domestic and international media outlets, including institutions responsible for reviewing Montenegro’s petitions for European integration. What will happen to Miomir Mugosa and his son is anyone’s guess, but if history is a prelude to the outcome, they will walk as have many other politicians caught up in government abuses of power.

Last week’s events are nothing new in Montenegro’s enduring battle to quash “freedom of the press” in investigative journalism, where politicians usually find themselves at the center of attention. But as Montenegro lobbies to be an adopted child of the EU, decision-makers in Brussels should take note of this latest incident and ask whether this very important element of democracy can be protected. International monitoring agencies have expressed their concerns, and if their predictions hold true, media independence, and as a result, government accountability, are far from meeting any pre-requisites for joining institutions with the label “democracy” attached to it.

In 2008, the Global Integrity Report, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of national-level anti-corruption systems, gave Montenegro a rating of “Very Weak” on the question: “Are journalists safe when investigating corruption?” The Report goes on to outline the history of media/journalist abuses, where many are committed by government officials still in office today:
September 2007 — Journalist Zeljko Ivanovic is attacked by three men. He later suspects former Premier Djukanovic orchestrated the attack against him, given his publications outlining corruption. Djukanovic sues Ivanovic for damage to his dignity and for mental strife stemming from the allegations.

November 2007 — Editor-in-chief of Radio Berane, Tufik Softic, is assaulted by two unidentified men.

December 2005 — The editorial staff of public television network TVCG (TV Montenegro) quits in protest after the radio and television council fires the station's director.

May 2004 — Prominent newspaper publisher and editor Dusko Jovanovic is gunned down in the street. His newspaper, Dan, frequently publishes accusations of corruption in the highest levels of government, and his murder heightens tensions in the country.

Correspondingly, the U.S. State Department recently highlighted similar abuses in their Advancing Freedom and Democracy Report for Montenegro in May 2009. On human rights violations, numerous public officials have been accused of “harassment of journalists,” including “widespread corruption in law enforcement and judiciary”; the latter making it more difficult to prosecute the former. The Report goes on to mention that corruption is so widespread in Montenegro that the U.S. has initiated programs to award investigative journalists to press for more government accountability, in the same fashion that led to the attacks last week.

How the government handles this and other incidents involving crimes committed by elected officials will determine Montenegro’s readiness to be part of the growing family of democratic states, but if Podgorica continues to ignore these clear signs on internal corruptive behavior, then the international community must act and demand that the state plays a meaningful role in protecting the rights of the abused while at the same time prosecutes the crimes of the perpetrators.

Earlier this year, a report presented by The National Democratic Institute on Transparency and Accountability in the Montenegrin Governance System found that “many laws (in Montenegro), while reflecting democratic intent, have few enforcement mechanisms to ensure compliance. In addition, parliament’s oversight of government is hindered by the legislature’s inability to obtain information about what the government is doing, despite legal provisions guaranteeing all citizens the right to information from the state administration.” NDI concludes in its Report that Podgorica take serious steps in making government officials more accountable for their actions.

In conjunction with other interested parties closely following these developments, HUU requests that Montenegro punish those involved with these illicit acts that are systematically designed to discourage the media from carrying out their constitutional rights of investigative journalism. HUU will continue to oversee these activities and report on any developments to international monitoring agencies for further review.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

U.S. Senator weighs in on human rights abuses in Montenegro

In response to a letter expressing concern on human rights abuses in Montenegro, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) responds to the Albanian-American Association's "Malesia e Madhe" concern on freedom of press issues after the Albanian newspaper Koha Javore was denied funding to continue its paper circulation. Koha Javore was the only Albanian language newspaper in Montenegro, and received funding from the Montenegrin state, but due to budget cuts a decision was made that Koha Javore was an "unnecessary expense" that was first on the cutting block.

July 8, 2009

United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510-2202

Carl Levin

Mr. Gjergj Ivezaj
Albanian-American Association “Malёsia e Madhe”
49920 Van Dyke
Shelby Township, MI 48317

Dear Mr. Ivezaj:

Thank you for contacting me regarding human rights abuses in Montenegro. My office receives a significant number of constituent updates on human rights abuses abroad. These are all very serious situations and I appreciate the diligence with which you monitor them.

Human rights violations not only harm the citizens they are perpetrated against, they also threaten the development of democratic societies. To prevent these types of abuses, we must encourage compliance with international standards on human rights and consider a country’s record on human rights in our diplomatic relations and in determining foreign and military aid issues.

Again, thank you for your update. I will continue to monitor this situation as it develops. Best wishes.


Carl Levin

Friday, August 07, 2009

Podgorica Mayor Assaults Reporter

Podgorica Mayor Miomir Mugosa assaulted a newspaper editor and his photographer while they were working on a story on Wednesday night, Beta news agency reports.

The incident occurred when Mugosa caught reporters from daily Vijesti taking pictures of his car,Tanjug reports.

Mihailo Jovovic, the deputy editor of the daily, and photographer Boris Pejovic allege that they were beaten by the mayor, his son and his driver while working on a story about the mayor's car being parked illegally in front of a cafe.

The Montenegrin State Prosecutor's Office has filed criminal charges against the mayor's son, Miljan Mugosa, and Jovovic.Vijesti announced on Friday that it would file criminal charges against both Mugosas and the driver. The reporters also claim that Mugosa's son drew a gun during the fight.

Website reports that the mayor denies the accusations, saying he was attacked by people who had been "following him for days and hiding in bushes and doorways".

Montenegrin Interior Minister Ivan Brajovic issued a statement on the incident that did not directly discuss the counter-claims, sufficing with: "everybody is equal before the law".

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Model for "Malesia Region": "Presevo Valley Region" Seeks Self-Determination

AUGUST 4, 2009 -- Opinions differ over whether the Presevo Valley in southern Serbia should gain the status of a region with its own institutions and organs.

While ethnic Albanians from the south consider this as the only solution to keep their national, cultural and religious identity, Serbian politicians refuse their demands and are pushing ahead with plans of their own for the south. The ethnic Albanian proposal was raised on Saturday in the assembly of the Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac municipalities and envisages the creation of an ethnic Albanian-led governance structure for the Presevo Valley area.

Riza Halimi, leader of the ethnic Albanian Party of Democratic Action, told Balkan Insight that the proposal confirms a 2006 declaration, which envisaged giving ethnic Albanians in the region the right to self-determination.

G17 Plus party Whip Suzana Grubjesic told Tanjug news agency on Monday that the formation of ethnic regions would lead to the destabilisation and possible disintegration of Serbia.

“There are absolutely no conditions for any national minority in Serbia to form its own region. It would be opposed to the idea and main purpose of the regionalisation process, which is to defend [against] any kind of separatism,” the agency quoted Grubjesic as saying.

The head of the Presevo municipality, Ragmi Mustafa, told the Borba daily that the Serbian public is not well informed regarding Serbian government policy towards the south.
He said that reasons for creating the "Presevo Valley Region" are numerous and include political, economic and developmental imperatives.

“The political reason is the 1992 referendum, when a majority of local citizens voted for political, cultural and territorial autonomy along with closer relations with Kosovo,” the daily quoted Mustafa as saying.

Borba reports that Mustafa did not exclude the possiblity of a territorial exchange between Serbs and Albanians in which areas of northern Kosovo in which Serbs form a majority are swapped for areas of southern Serbia in which Albanians are the predominant ethnic group.

Serbia's state secretary for Kosovo and Metohija, Oliver Ivanovic, told Tanjug that the Serbian government will not consider dividing Kosovo, or a so-called exchange of northern Kosovo for south Serbia, since both "Kosovo and south Serbia are part of Serbia’s territory and no one in Belgrade can think of it in that direction".

State Administration and Local Self-Government Minister Milan Markovic thinks that Saturday’s proposal for the establishment of a separate region in the Presevo Valley area will not resolve problems ethnic Albanians are facing in the south. He underlined that the Serbian government will continue with its existing policies regarding the area, which is slated for incorporation in a new southern region.

The president of Bujanovac municipality, Saip Kamberi, believes ethnic Albanians demands are reasonable and marry with the EU integration process.

Coordination Body for Kosovo representative, Branko Delibasic, disagrees saying that the "Presevo Valley" is a newly created term, which does not exist in geography schoolbooks. The geographical term for the region is Vranje-Kumanovo basin, he claims.