Russia to Kosovo: No U.N. For You!

Russia, in a return to true iron fist form, not only used its veto power to thwart Kosovo independence through the Security Council, but promised to do all it can to shut Kosovo out of all international groups, such as the United Nations.  Put another way, Russia said to Kosovo, “No U.N. for you!” When the foam from the mouth of Russia’s ambassador to the U.N. Vitaly Churkin cleared, Boris Tadic took his turn at the podium at the U.N., vowing that Serbia will never ever ever ever recognize Kosovo’s independence.

A lot of table thumping.  A lot of beating chests.  A lot of fighting words.  But this was certainly no Adlai Stevenson moment.  It was something a lot more anti-climactic. 

To put it simply, it was just noise.  Or more precisely, it was just a competition between Russia and Serbia of who could become the most irrelevant in the future status of Kosovo.  I think Russia won that battle.  Serbia is not too far behind. 

Those thoughts, too, must have passed through Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hasim Thaci’s mind when he was at the U.N. podium.  With both a smile and a tempered tone, Thaci was not baited by either Tadic or the earlier statement by Churkin.  He had the confidence of someone who has all the right chess pieces in place and, like a professor to a student, knew that the tirades came from those whose King was in a near mate position.

After all, Kosovo has the backing of both the European Union and the U.S.  Thaci knew he had two Queens on his board to Russia and Serbia’s zero queens.  To Thaci, he needs neither Russia nor Serbia in his pocket for Kosovo to gain independence.  Surely, no matter what Kosovo did, Russia and Seriba would never be on Kosovo’s side . . . so why bother?  Why continue negotiating?  Enough is enough. 

If you could visualize it, that was the expression on Thaci’s face. 

Russia, which has used its UN Security Council veto powers to stall Kosovo independence, promised to go one step further. If the rebel province declares independence from Serbia, Russia will see to it that the country is shut out of international groups.

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin said on Wednesday, Jan. 16, Kosovo “would not become members of the United Nations, they would not become members of international political institutions if they go down the road of unilateral declarations.”

Serbian President Boris Tadic confirmed those sentiments the same day in a speech to the UN Security Council vowing that his country would never recognize the country’s sovereignty. Talks between Serbian and Kosovar leaders held in 2006 and 2007 failed to bring the hostile sides any closer to a mutually acceptable outcome of the province. The US and Britain reaffirmed their support for Kosovo’s independence at a UN Security Council meeting Wednesday. The meeting replayed a December debate about Kosovo’s future.

The UN and NATO have administered the province since 1999.
Russian and Serbian threats have failed to dissuade Kosovo from pushing for independence. The newly-elected government has indicated the country will declare independence after the first round of elections in Serbia’s presidential race on Jan. 20.

“I am sure that the decision will be taken very soon,” Kosovo’s newly elected Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said in addressing the UN body Wednesday.  Kosovo is counting on backing from the US and Europe, which have both said they would support a plan for European Union-supervised independence.

Any resolution on Kosovo’s status requires both Belgrade and Pristina’s support, Russian President Vladimir Putin was quoted by the Kremlin as saying on Thursday.  “Our position is extremely clear. Any resolution on Kosovo should be approved by both sides,” Putin said. “It is also clear that any resolution on Kosovo will set a precedent in international practice.”  (This article was published by DW-World.De and can be found here,

Serbia: It’s Not All About Kosovo

With so much talk about the future status of Kosovo and Serbia’s stance on it, people outside of Serbia sometimes forget that there are living, breathing, reasonable people there.  More importantly, there are many people in Serbia who are not living and breathing Kosovo every minute of every waking hour. Rather, as a recent poll has shown, the big concern for people is not the future status of Kosovo, but jobs.  At the end of the day, the question is whether you have enough money to put food on your table.

Hey, wait a minute, that concern is not too different than anywhere else in the world.  Unfortunately, and unfairly, sometimes a country is so defined by the words of its most divisive politicians — dead (Milosovic) and alive (Kostunica and Nikolic) — as opposed to the people that make it run: the workers and those who have to struggle each day to make ends meet.  Too, the press also has to do more than always framing the Kosovo question on every story on Serbia.  By framing most articles this way, along with the polls, the press is framing Serbia by its stance on Kosovo.  Serbia is a lot richer of a country than to limit it to Kosovo. 

In the same way that Kosovo leaders need to do more than simply repeat the mantra of independence as a panacea to all problems, Serbia’s politicians, too, have to do more than consistently frame the paradigm that Serbia’s ultimate survival as a country depends on keeping Kosovo.  The true investment of a country is not its name or its flag, but its level of tangible investment in people.

Serbia does not face the same magnitude of economic problems that Kosovo does.  Nonetheless, Serbia does have economic issues to deal with, particularly in Nis.  What is it doing to help people without jobs?  What is Serbia doing to help improve the standard of living?  What is Serbia doing to help ease the gap between the haves and have-nots, as well as the disparity of opportunity between Belgrade and other cities? 

In the end, the security of Serbia, as it is with the rest of the region, is economic stability.  Of course, economic stability follows good government, and let’s hope that the upcoming elections provide Serbia with politicians who have more vocabulary than just “Kosovo.”

There may be nine candidates in the race, but virtually all analysts agree that it boils down to a race between the current president and the hardline nationalist [Tomislav Nikolic]. The election comes at a crucial time for Serbia, with the issue of Kosovo hanging like a black cloud over the country.
Although the presidential candidates’ speeches have been peppered with references to Kosovo, and countless newspaper column inches written about the breakaway province, Kosovo is not uppermost in voters’ minds, according to political analysts. 

“Kosovo is definitely not the most important subject for most people. The top issues are improving living standards, employment and the fight against corruption. We found in our survey only 26% of people thought Kosovo should be the number one priority of the government,” says Marko Blagojevic.Serbia’s third city, Nis, down in the south and not far from Kosovo, has seen its fair share of election rallies. But despite Kosovo’s proximity, other issues are on people’s minds. “For me, and for other young people, having a better visa system so we can travel abroad more easily is the most important issue,” says Maja, 27, a teacher. 

Ljubisa, 56, selling wall calendars from a stall on the main pedestrian street, says she only gets 70 euros (£53; $104) a month as a pension.”I can’t live on that. There are just no jobs. Industry has been privatised and there are no more jobs. That’s the main problem,” she says.   Dragan, 41, who works for the Serbian military, says Kosovo is a side-issue. “In Nis, there is high unemployment. The priority is to get more jobs here. Belgrade takes most of the industry and money. More should come here.” (Article published by BBC and can be found here.)

Russia’s NATO Ambassador — Dmitry Rogozin — to Kosovo: Pay, You Terrorists!

Russia’s newly appointed ambassador/attack dog to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, demanded a special UN conference when Kosovo declares independence.  The purpose of this conference would be dedicated to “setting up of rules in cases where secessionist movements” seek independence. 

Viewed in the light most favorable to Rogozin, his concern for the “setting up of rules” is surely a laudable and apolitical one, right?, even the best intentions are marred by reality, and in this case, it is Russia’s vitriol for everything and everyone that does not go their way.  When you hear what Rogozin says, you wonder whether he took a page out of PM Vojislav Kostunica’s Book of Things To Say That Make You Look Like a Xenophobic Neanderthal or vice versa.

To be fair, Rogozin starts out pretty tame when he says the first principle he would “suggest” in the rules on “secessionist movements” is anyone seeking secession has no right to use violence.  Okay, I think we’re all on the same page there.  Then, the attack dog comes out — as we all expected. 

Rogozin states that those who already resorted to violence, “such as [Kosovar] Albanians, with the blessing of their Western backers,” must first reconstruct everything they destroyed.  The Kosovar Albanian “secessionists,” according to Javnosti, must also pay full compensation to the Serbian victims for declaring independence.

Interesting.  I wonder if those rules Rogozin “suggests” would apply to Russia in its backing of Transnistria’s bid for universally recognized independence.  Or do Rogozin’s suggestions only apply to non-Muslim, Russian-supported “secessionist movements”? 

Rogozin then goes on to suggest that even if Belgrade did not oppose Kosovo’s independence, the EU would have to take into consideration that Kosovo is a “laboratory of drugs,” and that by preventing power to go into the “hands of terrorists and criminals,” the EU would be “defending its own standards and civilization values.”

Of course, why hasn’t anyone thought of that before?  What planet is Dmitry Rogozin from?  Oh, that’s right:  Russia.

Russian’s newly appointed ambassador to NATO [Dmitry Rogozin] explained that the gathering would be dedicated to the protection of international law and setting up of rules in cases where secessionist movements seek independence.  In an interview with the Belgrade daily Glas Javnosti, he told Serbia that it “has to remain resolute and principled as far as the Kosovo issue is concerned.”  According to Rogozin, the first and principal rule for anyone seeking secession ought to be that they have no right to use violence. Then, the Russian diplomat said, those who have already resorted to violence, “such as [Kosovo] Albanians, with the blessing of their Western backers,” must first reconstruct everything they destroyed.

The rules Russia would propose to such a conference would also state that a secessionist movement that has incurred damages to the state where they live must pay full compensation to its victims, the Russian NATO ambassador explained.  “And a very important rule would be that there must not be any foreign military bases in the territories seeking secession. With foreign bases present, only a protectorate and an imitation of independence can actually be obtained.”

Asked whether a Russian demand to organize such a conference “would suffice”, he answered by expressing hope that it would, particularly, as he put it, if Serbia continued to be decisive, tough and principled in refusing to accept Kosovo’s possible declaration of independence.   However, Rogozin said, he “fears that Serbia was still somewhat divided concerning that issue.”  Serbia may be heading for a change of the regime, the Russian diplomat said, and if this happens, “the ones to be held responsible for this will be Americans and those Western European countries which, in cooperation with them, are strangling Serbia.”

According to Rogozin, even if Belgrade did not oppose Kosovo’s secession, the European Union “would have to take into consideration the fact that tiny Kosovo is a laboratory of drugs, and that by defending Kosovo Serbs and preventing the authorities in Priština to be transferred into the hands of terrorists and criminals, it would be defending its own standards and civilization values.” (This article was published by B92 and can be found here.)

Serbia’s “X” Factor: Oil (Or: How The EU Is Trying To Sell Serbia a Seat At the Table)

In its potential path toward membership with the European Union, Serbia’s cooperation with handing over war criminals, particularly Gen. Ratko Mladic, is most often discussed as a necessary precursor.  But looming beneath the surface of EU idealism is a more bottomline concern that should serve as no surprise:  Serbia’s oil monopoly. 

Put another way, Serbia has an oil company, and the EU wants it.  

The oil issue recently came to the forefront when Russia’s famous (or infamous) uber energy giant, Gazprom, made a bid to buy Petroleum Industry of Serbia (NIS) for a paltry 400 million dollars. proposed to purchase NIS through a single-bidder process, which would effectively eliminate any other company from making a bid.  The “company” also proposed a ban on imports of oil products into Serbia for at least five years.  In the end, Gazprom would then have unlimited access to the planned South Stream pipeline. 

Why is the Gazprom “offer” significant?

For one, NIS is worth close to two billion dollars.  Gazprom’s paltry offer strongly suggests that Gazprom and by extension, Mother Russia, will be filling in the price gap with political and other types of support/pledges to Serbia.  For the other, several competitors from EU nations, such as Austria’s OMV, Greece’s Hellenic Petroleum Group, Hungary’s MOL, Polish PKN Orlen, and Romania’s Rompetrol, are also vying to purchase NIS as well.  These EU companies will lose a tremendous deal in market share if NIS goes to Gazprom.  Further, it goes without saying that the EU has an interest in controlling the oil market in Eastern Europe, both for the tremendous profit boon and energy security.

And it is here where the mumbo jumbo begins.  The majority of the European press wants to make it appear that the controlling prerequisite for Serbia’s inclusion into the EU is bringing war criminals to justice.  Within the last few days, the EU again met with the Chief War Crimes Prosecutor over Serbia’s failure to bring Gen. Ratko Mladic and others to justice.  Add to that for flavor the future status of Kosovo.

We’re the EU and we have ideals! 

But what the European press is not making clear — and the issue that PM Vojislav Kostunica is harping about — is the significance of the NIS negotiations to Serbia’s EU membership.  After all, the EU has an extremely strong interest in having NIS controlled by a member state — both for financial and security reasons.  More specifically, if NIS goes to Gazprom, Russia will have both unimpeded control over the South Stream Pipeline and Serbia squarely in its pocket.  

The question is whether Serbia will bite at the EU’s price for membership?  NIS is the true wild card Serbia has in its pocket and, unlike its negotiations on the future status of Kosovo, it is using the oil card well. 

The EU is willing to overlook Serbia’s failure to bring war criminals to justice.  The EU is willing to overlook Serbia’s position over the future status of Kosovo.  Why?  Because in the end, money talks.  And if Serbia sells NIS to Gazprom and goes with Russia, the EU has the fail safe of idealism to protect its dirty oil motivations.

Russian gas monopoly Gazprom’s recent announcement that it intends to buy Petroleum Industry of Serbia (NIS) worries the Serbian oil monopoly’s European suitors. Not only does the Russian behemoth have unlimited access to the planned South Stream pipeline, but Russia is also Serbia’s main ally in the dispute over the future of Kosovo, giving Russian President Vladimir Putin, who wants to expand Russia’s energy policy before he leaves office, the chance to put the squeeze on the Serbian government to choose his favourite company or at least pick the other Russian contender, LUKoil.

EU companies — Austria’s OMV, Greece’s Hellenic Petroleum Group, Hungary’s MOL, Polish PKN Orlen, and Romania’s Rompetrol — have also expressed their interest in the tender. The Serbian government has planned to tender out 25 percent of NIS shares through a competitive bidding process. It is also offering a majority management and the option for the strategic investor to acquire an additional 24 percent stake over the next three years, provided that it invests approximately 200 million Euro in the company.

OMV is considering launching a joint bid for NIS with Hellenic Petroleum. The Greek company, which has bought Skopje Refinery, wants to expand into Serbia. Director General of International Affairs of Hellenic Petroleum Michalis Myrianthis told New Europe on January 9 that his company has expressed its interest in acquiring NIS many times in the past. He also confirmed that “there is also the intention of Hellenic Petroleum to make a joint European bid with Austria’s OMV, something that OMV does not exclude.”

Gazprom told New Europe on January 9 that the company is interested in acquiring a stake in NIS and is in on-going negotiations with the Serbian government. “This is a good business opportunity for Gazprom, but the decision if and how to sell is entirely up to Serbian government,” Gazprom’s Information Directorate said. In response to a New Europe question whether Gazprom is offering Blue Stream passage through Serbia as an incentive, the Russian company noted that at the moment, two possible routes of the South Stream pipeline are being considered. “Both of them (northern and southern) pass through the territory of the EU. However, final routes and volumes of gas supply will be accepted in the framework of a technical and economic assessment, which will be performed by a SVP set up by Gazprom and ENI.

In a bold offer, Gazprom proposes to take over NIS through Gazpromneft on a single-bidder process, ruling out a competitive tender. It has also proposed a ban on imports of oil products into Serbia for at least five years and offered a mere USD 400 million in cash and pledged USD 500 million in investments over the ensuing five years.  The estimated market value of NIS is nearly USD two billion. The Serbian government hopes to raise Moscow’s price offer. However, Belgrade is inclined to accept the other Russian terms for NIS, leaping at the South Stream bait.

The above quoted article was published by New Europe and can be found here.

Serbia Says “Get Out” To American and British Election Monitors

In an apparent attempt to improve their image abroad, Serbia’s electoral commission barred observers from the United States and Britain from monitoring its presidential election later in the month, because both countries have backed Kosovo’s drive for independence. Milenkovic, the electoral commission’s representative from the Serbian Radical Party, reasoned that the United States and Britian “want to destroy us and grab Kosovo away from Serbia.”  To be fair, President Boris Tadic voted to allow American and British election monitors, but PM Kostunica and his ultra-nationalist cabal defeated the measure.

Ultra-nationalism has again reared its ugly head in Serbia.  Surely, you have to ask yourself whether there is a voice of reason in Serbia.  Do the majority of Serbian’s agree with the road the Serbian Radical Party and its ultra-nationalist platform are planning on taking them?  Is it possible to slow down this runaway train?  Will the voice of reason triumph over calls for ethnic nationalism and collectivism?

Serbia has barred observers from the United States and Britain from monitoring its presidential election later this month because they have backed Kosovo’s drive for independence, an election official said. 

Slavoljub Milenkovic, the electoral commission’s representative from the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical party, said the U.S. and British monitors were barred “because their countries want to destroy us and grab Kosovo away from Serbia.”  The commission, which made its decision late Thursday, said it decided to allow 23 monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and three from Russia to observe the Jan. 20 vote.

Acting on an appeal by pro-democracy groups that said the blocking of U.S. and British diplomats from the election process would hurt Serbia’s image abroad, the commission dominated by nationalists on Friday again voted against allowing them to monitor the vote.  The election will pit Radical party leader Tomislav Nikolic against President Boris Tadic, who leads the pro-Western Democratic Party.

Milan Markovic, a Democratic Party government minister, criticized the election commission’s decision.  “No one should be barred from monitoring the vote because our elections are open and democratic and we have nothing to hide,” he said.

The election is considered crucial for Serbia as it decides whether to press on with pro-Western integration or return to the nationalist past, when the country faced international sanctions for fomenting the 1990s Balkan wars.  The decision to block U.S. and British monitors highlights the growing nationalism and anti-Western sentiment in Serbia as it seeks to keep Kosovo from breaking away.

The above quoted article was published by The Associated Press and can be found here.

Administration Is Rebuffed in a Ruling on Deportation (Or: A Small Win For Due Process)

It’s about time that a U.S. court insisted on transparency when it came to matters of the Bush administration.  Earlier this week, Thomas Vanaskie, a federal judge for Pennsylvania, prevented the government from deporting Sameh Khouzam to Egypt until the government was willing to subject itself to an “independent review” of Egypt’s torture practices.

The case, which will surely be appealed by the Bush administration, is potentially significant on many levels. one, a court has finally stood up to the Bush administration’s insistence to take anything it says at face value.  In its deportation proceedings, the Bush administration has consistently relied on “secret” diplomatic assurances by a foreign government that it will not torture a person.  The court determined that these “secret” diplomatic assurances by themselves were — contrary to the government’s position — not sufficient to satisfy due process.

What was needed for the proper due process?  Independent, judicial review.  To the Bush lawyers who have been living in the constitutional void for the last several years, due process is encompassed in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.  Nothing in those Amendments says anything about suspending “due process” for the purpose of “safety” or the “war on terror.”

To be sure, it’s not entirely clear what the scope of that “judicial review” will be.  Perhaps it will take the guise of an in camera review of the government’s “secret” diplomatic assurances.  Whatever guise it takes, the fact that the judicial branch has at least stressed for proper due process — i.e., judicial review and scrutiny over detention issues — is a victory, however small, for the rule of law.    

A federal judge in Pennsylvania on Thursday blocked the government’s efforts to deport a Coptic Christian who said he would be tortured if he were returned to Egypt. The ruling was a rebuff to the Bush administration’s practice of relying on confidential assurances to send people to countries that have been known to practice torture.

The judge ruled that the government’s unwillingness to allow an independent review of Egypt’s assurances denied him due process.  The man, Sameh Khouzam, 38, of Lancaster, Pa., was convicted of murder in absentia in Egypt. He denies the murder accusation, however, and contends that he was repeatedly detained and tortured in Egypt because he refused to convert to Islam.

Philip G. Schrag, a professor of law at Georgetown University and an expert on asylum issues, said the ruling was significant.“The importance of this case,” he said, “lies in its rejection of the Bush administration’s claim that secret diplomatic assurances by a foreign government that it will not torture a person preclude judicial review.”The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Mr. Khouzam, echoed that view. And Marc D. Falkoff, assistant professor of law at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb and counsel for 16 Yemenis held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, said the ruling could have sweeping implications for those detained at Guantánamo.

“It’s tremendously important,” Mr. Falkoff said. “It’s not a binding precedent outside the jurisdiction of the Third Circuit but the ruling has persuasive authority in any federal court and, without a doubt, it will be brought to the attention of any federal judge who has a case pending where a detainee or prisoner is challenging the government’s right to transfer him to a country where he might be tortured.”

Egypt’s government gave diplomatic assurances that Mr. Khouzam, who fled to the United States almost 10 years ago, would not be tortured upon his return. The office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement decided last June to deport him.  In June, a spokesman for the immigration and customs agency said the assurances made by Egypt were confidential.

In his ruling on Thursday, the judge, Thomas I. Vanaskie of the Middle District of Pennsylvania, said that without an impartial and binding review of those assurances, the procedures established to give protection under the Convention Against Torture “would be a farce.”  Groups like Human Rights Watch and the A.C.L.U. have argued that the use of torture in Egypt is so routine and well-documented that deporting Mr. Khouzam would expose him to harsh treatment and would amount to a violation of the Convention Against Torture.

Kelly Nantel, a spokeswoman for the immigration and customs agency, said that it was reviewing its appeals options and that it had won a five-day stay on Mr. Khouzam’s release from detention in York, Pa.  The Egyptian government denies that Mr. Khouzam faced persecution for his Christian faith, and a government spokesman said in June that Mr. Khouzam would serve a prison term upon his return, based on the murder conviction.

Mr. Khouzam first heard of the murder accusation when he arrived in the United States in February 1998. He was detained for the next eight years by immigration authorities. In 2004, a federal appeals court denied Mr. Khouzam asylum, but allowed him to stay in the United States because he risked being tortured in Egypt.  In early 2006, Mr. Khouzam was released and has recently worked as the controller for a real estate developer in Lancaster. He was detained when he went to immigration authorities for a routine visit on May 29.

The quoted article was published by the New York Times and can be found here.

Two Days, 500 Tombstones Toppled At Jewish Cemetery. Police Say: Not “Necessarily” Bias Attack. (Or: What the hell?)

Over the course of about a week, 500 tombstones at a Jewish cemetery in New Brunswick, N.J., were unceremoniously toppled.  First, on January 1, seventeen tombstones were toppled.  Three nights later, to finish the job they started, about 75% of the remaining tombstones were desecrated.

Four teenagers have been identified and charged with “vandalism” and “mischief.” But, according to Sergeant Richard Rowe of the New Brunswick Police Department, the mere vandalism “does not indicate it’s a bias crime.” 

Really?  What planet is Sgt. Richard Rowe from?

It’s one thing to topple one or two tombstones — or even seventeen tombstones for that matter.  It’s a whole different ballgame when you destroy close to 500 hundred tombstones.  And, it’s even still yet a different ballgame when it takes you two days to do it.  At the very least, the sheer number of tombstones destroyed and the amount of time it took to do it underscores the calculated intent of those taking part in the crimes.

What other purpose or message or motivation was there in destroying that amount of tombstones other than to scare and intimidate the Jewish population?  And, it doesn’t matter whether the suspects were Jewish or not:  the law draws no racial or religious prerequisite for committing a hate crime.  The controlling factor is whether the totality of the circumstances indicate the primary or substantial motivation for the crime was the victim’s religion.  If the very fact of 500 desecrated tombstones is not enough to suggest that improper motivation, then I don’t know what is.

The police response that the desecration of the 500 tombstones is “not necessarily a bias attack” is simply ridiculous.  What law book did the New Brunswick Police Department pick up?  The Penal Law According To Hitler

Sure, the police have to do their full and complete investigation, but what the hell else would they need in their book to consider preliminarily that what has happened at Poile Zedek Cemetary to be anything other than a bias attack?  The paradigm of the investigation should start with the premise that what has occurred is a bias attack.  After all, they are police conducting what I would hope to be an open-minded investigation, not lawyers presenting a case at trial before a jury. 

You can’t help but ask why not more was done to protect the cemetary after the first attack, when seventeen tombstones were desecrated.  How could the suspects parade unabated to the same cemetery three nights later and unceremoniously destroy seventy-five percent of the cemetary’s tombstones?

It makes no sense.  And neither does the police response.

The police have arrested four teenagers who they said toppled nearly 500 tombstones at a Jewish cemetery in New Brunswick, N.J., on two separate nights of mischief. The police said, based on preliminary evidence, that the vandalism did not appear to be a bias attack.

“Based on the facts we have at hand, there’s nothing to indicate it’s a bias crime,” Sgt. Richard Rowe of the New Brunswick Police Department said on Thursday, adding that the investigation was continuing.“That’s not to say that won’t be changed, based on other information we uncover or if other arrests are made,” Sergeant Rowe said.  The four arrested youths — a 15-year-old, two 16-year-olds and a 17-year-old — were charged on Wednesday with juvenile delinquency. If charged as adults, they could have faced charges of desecration of venerated objects, conspiracy to commit desecration and criminal mischief. They are being held in the Middlesex County Juvenile Detention center awaiting an appearance in Middlesex County Family Court, Sergeant Rowe said.

The first of the two acts of desecration, which captured worldwide attention, occurred on the evening of Jan. 1, when three of the four New Brunswick teenagers went to the Poile Zedek Cemetery on Joyce Kilmer Avenue and knocked over 17 gravestones, the police said. Then, three nights later, they returned with a fourth youth and toppled more than three-quarters of the cemetery’s tombstones, some of which date back to the 1920s, and broke many of them.

While people in the Jewish community expressed relief at the apprehension of the suspects, some wondered if others were involved and continued to ask what motivated so much damage.  “It’s very hard to believe that four kids could have toppled all these gravestones,” said Rabbi David Bassous, whose Congregation Etz Ahaim of Highland Park, N.J., has about 200 members buried in the cemetery. “I have every confidence in the police and the prosecution and hope they uncover the whole picture and not just the tip of it.”

Rabbi Abraham Mykoff of Congregation Poile Zedek in New Brunswick said he took comfort in learning that it was the act of teenagers and not of an organized hate group. Nevertheless, he did question the suspects’ impulses.  “There is still a strong question of how they could do such a thing by themselves and what the motivation was if not hatred,” Rabbi Mykoff said. “Unfortunately certain individuals have no sensitivity for humanity.”

Since the news of the desecration broke, Rabbi Mykoff, whose congregation shares the cemetery, said he had received calls from news organizations in Paris and Jerusalem seeking comment, and from Jews across the country offering condolences.

Etzion Neuer, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said he, too, had heard from strangers from around the country who called to share their stories of persecution or to offer assistance.  “This is an incident that has provoked a very strong reaction from the Jewish community worldwide,” Mr. Neuer said. And while he said his organization was “extraordinarily pleased” with the effort that law enforcement agencies had put into solving the crime, Mr. Neuer expressed concern that the final outcome might be wanting.

“What may ultimately be unsatisfying here is the penalty,” Mr. Neuer said. “Because it is juveniles, they may not face the full consequences of the law. They may be shielded from appropriate punishment.”

The quoted article was published by the New York Times and can be found here.