Breaking: Earlier this morning at about 8:30, several hundred Serb protesters took over the District Court in Mitrovica by overrunning and attacking UNMIK Police. The Serb protesters broke through the entrance gates and replaced the UN flags with Serbian ones. These are the same protesters that have been outside the Court for several weeks, taunting and preventing Albanian court workers from entering the building, not to mention forcing numerous cases, such as murder, terrorism, and war crimes cases to be either put on hold or transferred to other court houses.
One of the protesters, who is apparently a defender of the rule of law, stated,”We have returned to a building that belongs to us, and in which we worked until 1999.” This protester is Milan Bigovic, a municipal public prosecutor. Great. I feel much better already.
This action seems coordinated with statements by government officials in Belgrade, who expressed their intent to resume control of North Mitrovica.
There are approximately 300 protesters inside the Court right now. No one has been seriously hurt — either police or protesters. But that situation can rapidly change. After all, police found a grenade (unexploded) outside the court but within the courtyard. Thus, although it is for the most part nonviolent, the capacity for serious violence and injury is present. KFOR is expected to deal with the situation very soon.
Let’s hope for everyone’s sake that all of this is resolved peacefully and in a timely manner.
Here is a press release by the SRSG:
The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Kosovo (SRSG) Joachim Rücker condemned in the strongest possible terms this morning’s attack on the UNMIK District Court building in North Mitrovica. A large mob used force against UNMIK Police to enter the building at around 8:30am.
“Those who turned to violence in have crossed one of UNMIK’s red lines. This is completely unacceptable. I have instructed UNMIK Police to restore law and order in the North and to ensure that the Court House is again under UN control,” said the SRSG.
This morning, the SRSG informed the Serbian Government of the unfolding events and asked them to prevent such attacks. He once again stressed that any differences of opinion should be dealt with in a civilized manner and that violence would not be tolerated.
“I expect that the perpetrators of today’s attack will be brought to justice. Once again, I appeal to all communities to refrain from violence and to help us ensure a safe and secure environment in Kosovo. UNMIK will defend its mandate throughout the whole of without exception,” said the SRSG.
The SRSG has informed both President Fatmir Sejdiu and Prime Minster Hashim Thaçi of the latest developments and of UNMIK’s course of action.