Russia: “International Guarantor” of South Ossetia and Abkhazia? (Or: What does Russia really want?)

Presidenant Dmitri Medvedev’s pronouncement today that Russia would serve as the “international guarantor” of South Ossetia and Abkhazia certainly sent shockwaves to those in the world that are afraid of the resurgent Russian bear.  This pronouncement came just in time as President Bush sent American troops to Georgia for a major “humanitarian mission.”  Given the events of the last week, coupled with these two recent events, and one might think that World War III is imminent.  Russia will storm Georgia’s capital and then the Americans will fight and then we have World War III.

The above hypothetical fact pattern has a better chance of happening in a made for t.v. movie than it does in real life.  To be sure, certainly one wouldn’t be off-base to feel uncomfortable when two military superpowers beat their chest within earshot of each other.  No one wants that.  While some news outlets like CNN and Fox News are urging the public that these recent events are a prelude to war, they are, in fact, a prelude to a diplomatic solution — one that is favorable to the Russians and, obviously, by extension, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

All of this may seem like a dangerous gamble the Russians are playing.  But, in my opinion, the dangerous gamble has to do more with their political stake in the world than it does with any military confrontation.  Given the American “advance” into Georgia, Russia has no actual plan to invade the country (notwithstanding South Ossetia and Abkhazia).  That would be suicide, not because the Russians will lose per se, but it’s not a conflict that either the Americans or Russians want.  Nonetheless, the Russians have to get close, perhaps dangerously close, for the world to believe that they are ready, willing, and able to advance to the capital, so that Russia can obtain the diplomatic solution it wants.  It sounds a bit like a crazy plan, but it’s one they inherited as opposed to one they had premeditations about.

What is that plan?  Well, the Russians and the Americans will sit down for diplomatic talks, as they are already — unofficially.  These diplomatic talks will go really nowhere.  Americans will want the Russians to leave South Ossetia and Abkhazia.  The Russians will not do so, because, they will say, how can they guarantee the safety of the “citizens” of those regions?  Back and forth.  Then, in short order, a European country, most likely France, will strongly suggest that UN peacekeepers come in to safeguard South Ossetia and Abkhazia.  The initial ultimate goal would be for these regions to become UN protectorates. 

What Russia wants is similar to a Kosovo situation.  You may ask yourself that Russia didn’t do so well with Kosovo, as Russia and Serbia lost Kosovo to, well, Kosovo.  But this situation is much different and, at least in the short term, puts Russia, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia in the driver’s seat — all of which was prompted by the politically unguided yet principled decision by Georgia’s president to “take back” South Ossetia.  When the UN comes in, as it eventually will after some tense diplomatic moments, the region will have legally protected autonomy that it didn’t have under Georgian rule.

And, in the end, this is exactly what Russia wants.

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South Ossetia: Saakashvili’s Gamble and his failure to learn from Kosovo

If you were to watch American media, then you would think that Russia, on its own accord and without any provocation, has grandoise plans to invade Georgia and then work its way West towards Europe before landing on the shores of New York, all in its quest to take over the world.  Of course, things are never as simple as they seem, but the American media’s attempt to portray the situation in South Ossetia as mere Russian aggression — some perverted attempt at a domino theory — patently ignores the political realities on the ground.

I am not going to get into a protracted description of the history behind South Ossetia.  I’ll leave that for later posts or, if you’re impatient, you can simply do a search on google and get your share of information about South Ossetia.  But for the sake of this post, some facts to keep in mind that aren’t so apparent if you were to watch CNN or read the New York Times or watch Good Morning America for your news:  South Ossetia is part of Georgia yet, like Kosovo is/was to Serbia, demands its independence from Georgia.  South Ossetia has wanted its independence from Georgia for many years.  In fact, South Ossetia declared its independence from Georgia in the early 1990s.  South Ossetia also is aligned with Russia and, not surprisingly, Russia supports South Ossetia’s independence — both implicitly with financing and military support and explicitly with political speeches and state sponsored news articles.  Despite the fact that the majority of the international community does not recognize South Ossetia as an independent country, but rather a part of Georgia, the international community also acknowledges that the region is a disputed area. 

What does this mean in plain english?  It means that the question of who rightfully “owns” South Ossetia — Georgia or South Ossetia — is not in any way, shape, or form, cut or dry.  That is the precarious balance South Ossetia has been in for many years.

President Saakashvilli of Georgia, like many of Georgia’s leaders, made a campaign pledge to “reunite” South Ossetia with Georgia.  Rhetoric is one thing.  That’s what politics is all about.  Beat your chest.  Pound your fist on the table.  But transforming rhetoric to practice is an entirely different thing.   And, on August 8, 2008, when Georgia “went into” South Ossetia to “take it back,” it failed to consider the political reality, none of which, fortunately or unfortunately, had to do with the concept of its own territorial integrity.

For one, as noted, the disputed area of South Ossetia is not some fly-by-night movement conceived by some nutcase two months ago after a long night at the bar.   Even before the claim for independence in the 1990s, South Ossetia was an autonomous oblast of the former Soviet Union . . . in 1922.  The history goes even father back when one talks about Ossetians generally.  The bottom line is that there’s history — real history — behind this region.  And, for the other, South Ossetia is a disputed area, even though the majority of the international community concedes that South Ossetia is part of Georgia.  The previous statement may seem like a contradiction, but what this really underscores is the situation in South Ossetia is a political one.  That is the reality.  Take it or leave it.

Now, put these two things together and ask yourself:  what the hell was President Saakashvilli thinking?  To be sure, he certainly had the principle behind his actions, i.e., that South Ossetia is part of Georgia, and South Ossetia’s continued attempts to cede, even with the implicit or explicit help of the Russians, should be met with force, as the action was a threat to its territorial integrity.  But political diplomacy, whether one likes it or not, is more than just principle.  The other equally compelling question that President Saakashvilli failed to ask, or perhaps failed to ponder more, was whether there was political will to support the action his army took.  President Saakashvilli took a jump off the diving board hoping someone would follow.  No one did in the way he wanted.  Perhaps it was a miscommunication, overconfidence, or simply incompetence.  Whatever the explanation, he’s in the water by himself, with the U.S., NATO, and the EU, at most, shouting words of encouragement from a distance not close at all to his proverbial pool.

For Russia’s part, its response was predictable.  In fact, the Russian response to the Georgian “incursion” into South Ossetia had less to do with wanting to protect its oil pipeline than it had to do with its support for South Ossetia’s independence.  If anything, it’s now more clear than ever that the implicit support Russia could neither fully confirm nor deny regarding South Ossetia is now just plain explicit.  But if the Georgians had to bring their army into South Ossetia to figure that Russia’s support for South Ossetia was truly explicit, then either Saakashvili is thickheaded or just failing to see reality.  Georgia’s actions gave Russia a blank check to do what it wanted.  Russia had 1001 perfectly valid reasons to respond.  To protect the peacekeepers.  To protect civilians.  To protect the status quo.  To protect.  To protect.  To protect. 

The status quo is what President Saakashvilli grossly misjudged.  The status quo are the “grays” in an ideal world of black and white.  The “grays” are the nuances when “black” and “white” solutions can’t be agreed upon.  Countries keep the status quo until it becomes so thoroughly unworkable that the status quo has to change.  Saakashvilli thought that South Ossetia’s current situation — the status quo — was simply at a breaking point.  Maybe in his mind it was.  Maybe in the political landscape of rhetoric it was.  But the breaking point in the political landscape, particularly when it relates to countries with objectively meritorious claims for independence (even if misguided), has a much, much higher breaking point.  I know supporters of Georgia may not want to hear this, but South Ossetia was anything but at a breaking point.  This was not a Kosovo.  The reality from the beginning was that Saakashvilli was going at this alone. 

In the end, what did Saakashvilli achieve?  Everything that Saakashvilli did not want:  an independent South Ossetia.  Georgia’s actions only went to push the political reality of the South Ossetia status quo much, much closer to an actual decision one way or the other:  independence or no independence.  And while we all wait for that answer, which may take many, many years, South Ossetia will become more of an autonomous province than it has since it declared independence in the early 1990s.  If the Georgians think its grip on South Ossetia was tenuous, then look at it now. 

If you want a real world example of a similar situation, you only have to look so far as North Mitrovica in Kosovo to see what will happen and what is happening to South Ossetia.

Croatia Airlines To Fly To Pristina, Kosovo

In Kosovo’s attempt to become more “European,” one thing, apart from obvious statehood, has held Kosovo back:  airline flights.  Airline flights?  If you want to go to Kosovo, you’re only bet other than a NATO flight, is to catch a connecting flight to Pristina from Vienna on Austrian Airlines or Budapest on Malev Airlines.  And, if you want to leave Kosovo to visit other parts of Europe or the United States, you have to do the same thing:  catch a connecting flight from either Vienna or Budapest.

To be sure, there is a wider selection of choices at Skopje Airport . . . but that’s in Macedonia.  Unless you have a free ride, you’re out on at least a 120 Euro taxi ride, not to mention anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours at the Macedonian border.  There’s also cheap and convenient flights from Belgrade . . . but the visa situation for a Kosovo traveler is extremely difficult (a traveler cannot come into Serbia directly from Kosovo without a prior “entry stamp”).  There’s also special charter flights to Germany and Switzerland run by Kosovo Airlines, but they run only once a week.  There is one true bright spot:  a quick flight to Istanbul, which has direct flights to many other places, for a roundtrip which will sink you back no more than 185 Euros.

For Kosovo to become more integrated with the rest of the world, people not only need an easier way to come to Kosovo, but also an easier way to get out of Kosovo.  Although many people can’t point to Kosovo on a map to save their lives, Kosovo is in a highly accessible place by way of the crow.  It’s a stones throw to Bulgaria, a coffee spill to Greece, a whisper to Albania or Montenegro, and a football pass to Italy.  But to get to these places by plane is either ridiculously expensive or ridiculously inconvenient.   Often times, a traveler from Pristina will have to travel to Central Europe before he or she can reach a major capital in the Balkans.

Cheaper and more varied travel options need to be provided, particularly for flights within the Balkans.  You have to take a 10 hour plus bus to get to Budva or Sofia.  A 15 hour bus ride to get to Sarajevo.  Imagine if there were more travel options than slaving in the chicken buses. 

Croatia Airlines has joined the bandwagon.  It will have flights three times a week from Zagreb to Pristina, starting June 16.  I checked the website and a roundtrip flight will cost you about 4200 Croatian Kuna, which is about 575 Euros.  True, this is ridiculously expensive but at least the airlines are coming in with flights.  That’s the first step.  Get the planes in.  Hopefully the next step will be lower prices.

Pristina Airport is ready for more traffic.  True, they need an air traffic control system to support the new renovations at their airport.  But they’re ready.

It would also be beneficial if the former Yugoslavia had a more integrated train system.  This may be difficult given the amount of mountain passes.  But as many of the countries in the Former Yugoslavia seek membership in the EU, a revamped train system could do  wonders in helping the economy, cleaning up the environment, and opening up the doors to visitors who have never experienced the Balkans.

Kosovo’s Justice System: Two Ideas For Reform

From 1999 until now, a slew of articles and pundits have addressed everything that  is wrong with Kosovo’s justice system, such as its lack of transparency or lack of independence.  Many of these articles, particularly those from Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch, make some very important observations about Kosovo’s judicial system.  You can find these reports online by simply visiting their respective websites.

I don’t intend to repeat here word for word what already has been said about Kosovo’s justice system or provide a laundry list of complaints.  I will just focus on two issues that can go a long way to improving an emerging system.  There are other issues, but for the sake of this post, I will rely on two.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Kosovo’s justice system has made improvements, but much is left to be desired.  Of course, no justice system is perfect and we shouldn’t judge Kosovo by that standard.  But for a new emerging state, the choices leaders and internationals make now in Kosovo (and dealing with decisions that should not have been made before), are critical to the question of whether Kosovo’s judicial system will be an independent, fair, and an effective institution.

1) Mentoring:  Too Little, Too Late:  UNMIK Regulation 2000/64 provided International Prosecutors with the power to remove cases from local prosecutors and judges.  The basis for this regulation stemmed from the failure of local prosecutors and judges to handle certain cases with either the impartiality or competence required.  Local prosecutors and judges demonstrated a complete failure to apply the rule of law and, instead, placed ethnic nationalism over that.  For instance, a Serbian who threw a rock at a passing car driven by an Albanian would be charged with attempted murder.  In other cases, an Albanian perpetrator who committed murder or some other serious crime would not be prosecuted past the “investigation” stage.  International Prosecutors soon were handling the most serious of Kosovo’s cases, i.e. war crimes, and inter-ethnic cases, either between victim and perpetrator, or perpetrator/victim and prosecutor (i.e., Serbian defendant; Albanian prosecutor). 

While this was a unique opportunity to establish the Rule of Law — and, in fact, was the first time such a model in which an international prosecutor could remove a case from the local judiciary existed — it did nothing to empower the “local” judicial institution.  International prosecutors and judges were dealing with the most serious and complex of cases while local prosecutors were left with the “easier” stuff.  It quickly created a dependency by the “local” judicial institution.  You have too much work in your case?  Well, it must be too complex.  Hey, give it to the International Prosecutors to handle.  

This bifurcated system created no incentive by local prosecutors or judges to “own” their cases.  Further, there was no communication between the “local” and “international” system.  One generally didn’t know what the other was doing.  So, while on paper, the Rule of Law was being improved because there were War Crime or Inter-ethnic investigations and indictments and trials, the “locals” were being left behind.  The “international” system was arguably improving, but the “local” system?  Far from it.

Only in 2007, six years after the creation of International Prosecutors and Judges, did the Internationals decide it was time to start a mentoring program, under the guise of the Kosovo Special Prosecutor’s Office.  These Special Prosecutors were supposed to be the best of the best of Kosovo’s local prosecutors.  KSPO prosecutors were going to be mentored by International Prosecutors.  In theory, despite the late implementation of such a program, it’s a good idea. 

Mentoring helps because it integrates the “international” and “local” system and provides education for local prosecutors on how to better handle certain types of cases.  In practice, it’s not enough.  The KSPO consists of about 7 – 10 special prosecutors.  They are all based in Pristina.  What about the other regions?  What about the other prosecutors in the other five regions, including t he local prosecutors in Pristina?  How were they improving?  How were they integrating into the UN goals of improving the Rule of Law?

To be sure, US Aid, US DOJ and other organizations ran lectures and trainings for local prosecutors and judges.  But, frankly, that should have been the UN’s job.  It was the UN’s priority to establish the Rule of Law, not simply on paper, but to empower those who have most ownership in Kosovo — the local prosecutors and judges — to carry on with those ideals once the internationals left the scene.  Organizations such as US AID can only hope to supplement skills and education that local prosecutors and judges should have been learning from day one.  Instead, these organizations, rather than the UN, are providing the substantive work.  UNMIK’s DOJ has its priorities mixed up and is been sitting on its hands for too long.

Hopefully, the new EULEX mission will change all that.  There will be more of a mentoring/monitoring role of international prosecutors and judges.  International prosecutors and judges will not all be in Pristina but in all the regions.  It’s a shame that the mentoring/monitoring idea has only started to come into fruition now.  This doesn’t make much sense, as the police utilized the mentoring/monitoring model almost from day one.  Kosovo’s Police Service is in a much better position to run things independently than local prosecutors or judges.  In fact, KPS has taken over some enforcement responsibilities completely from UNMIK’s International Police.   

2)  Before Independence, There Must Be Competence:  The big mantra by any group or pundit or politician, like Thaci, is, “Kosovo’s Judiciary Must Be Independent!”  This is hard to argue with.  An effective judicial system does require independence.  Independence from political pressure.  Independence from corruption.  Independence between prosecutors and judges.  The list goes on. 

But one thing that isn’t discussed too often is independence from incompetence.  Before a judicial system can be truly independent, you must first have competent prosecutors and judges.

More focus and resources must be placed not simply on fixing the structure of Kosovo’s current judicial system, but improving Kosovo’s legal education model.  The majority of local judges and prosecutors of today are trained under the old communist Yugoslav model.  There is nothing wrong with this model but its a different world.  What worked then really won’t work now. 

If you want to get a taste of the competence of local prosecutors and judges, step into any courtroom in Kosovo.  You will see lawyers who have no idea how to either make a legal argument or to ask questions to a witness.  Sure, training can help improve the legal acumen and trial skills of local prosecutors and judges, but the real foundation must start with proper legal education.  Training works best when there is a foundation to start with.  For many prosecutors and judges, you might as well be speaking Greek to them when you start talking about the most basic of legal concepts.  This must change and those leaders in Kosovo’s goverment should start making education more of a priority rather than passing the buck to international organizations.

* * *

In the end, much work is left to improve Kosovo’s judicial system.  But these two reforms are probably the easiest and quickest way to get Kosovo on the road  to an effective and independent judicial institution.

President Bush Authorizes Supplying “Kosovo” With Weapons (Or: Cold War? Too Early To Tell)

The “big” news yesterday was President George W. Bush authorized a supply of weapons to Kosovo.  Almost like clockwork, Serbianna.com and others began characterizing the U.S. supply of weapons to Kosovo as either a) a provactive escalation of a proxy arms race between the U.S. and Russia, leading to “one-upmanship” which leads to Cold War,missiles.jpg b) an arming of jihadist terrorists making up the “narco-state” of Kosovo, a country which is the root of all drug trafficking, organized crime, and human trafficking on the planet, bent on destroying everything Christian and Jewish or c) a combination of both.  As with most things, I think we have to look past the headlines and the knee-jerk reaction conclusion and to assess the facts as they truly exist.

You may be wondering why I used quotes for “Kosovo” in the headline.  Well, if you just read the headlines, one may think that the weapons are going to the Kosovo government or the Kosovo military (or, if you Serbianna is on your “favorites” list, then to jihadist terrorists/criminals).  But there is no Kosovo military.  Of course, there is KFOR, which is a multi-national military force that protects Kosovo under the NATO Umbrella.  KFOR has the sole responsibility for the protection of Kosovo. 

To be sure, as some may point out, there is a 5000 strong Kosovo Protection Corps (TMK).  What do they do?  They do what most protection corps do in other parts of the world:  provide disaster response, humanitarian assistance, etc.  More importantly, what do they not do?  They have absolutely no authorized role, under either UN Security Council Resolution 1244 or the Ahtisaari Plan, in either Kosovo’s defense, law enforcement, riot control, internal security or any other law and order task.  Kosovo will have, under the Ahtisaari Plan, a lightly-armed NATO supervised/controlled security force.  And, finally, under UN SCR 1244 and Ahtisaari Plan, there is the Kosovo Police Service, which is about a 7,000 member strong police force, which critically is subordinate to the UNMIK Police.  

Under the circumstances, while it appears that the weapons are going to “Kosovo,” they are really going to the international forces which ultimately have supreme control and power over Kosovo despite its declaration of independence on February 17, 2008.  In two words, this legal mumbo jumbo is called: “supervised independence”.  So, when you read Serbianna, please do not get the mistaken impression that nuclear weapons or stinger missiles are going to be handed out free to anyone in front of the Grand Hotel in Pristina at 12:30 p.m. this Friday.

But there are several questions that we still need answers to.  For instance, how many weapons are being sent to Kosovo and what kind of weapons are being sent?  Is it just “light weapons” like firearms or is it “heavy weapons,” such as missiles?  What measures are in place to ensure that the weapons do not get in the wrong hands?  Regardless of the answer, it would be interesting to see which defense firm or firms are getting this “Kosovo” contract — either because the defense firms could disperse these weapons at a loss and thus receive major tax benefits or disperse the weapons at an overinflated price to either conceal total losses or rake in major profit.  Indeed, that is a different inquiry altogether. 

Further, one must ask why President George W. Bush remained rather opaque in his statement about the weapons delivery.  Sure, his advisers or the State Department will likely cite security concerns, but the President could have certainly said a little more than: “I hereby find that the furnishing of defense articles and defense services to Kosovo will strengthen the security of the United States and promote world peace.”  What the hell kind of statement is that?  It sounds like a draft of a washing machine contract or a manifesto for the imaginary Country Island of Galacktigar that President Bush was too lazy to transform into a readable speech.  Perhaps he spent so much time on his “War Speech” yesterday that he forgot about this one. 

President Bush left too many questions that will undoubtedly leave those like Russia and Serbia vexed.  Of course, regardless of whether these two countries will always be vexed at the hip by U.S. policy, President Bush could have added more facts or assurances (hah, yes, these are different) about the nature of the weapons, who they were going to, and that the U.S. was not intending to start a proxy arms race.  But by leaving these issues completely unaddressed, countries like Russia and Serbia are certainly justified to think the worst.

As history has taught us, Cold Wars can start on faulty assumptions and quickly cascade into an arms race.  The idiot from NSA who probably drafted President Bush’s “speech,” should spend a little more time crafting better words for the President instead of trying to find justifications for the Iraq War.

One Of The Most Endangered Jobs In The World: Serbian Ambassadors

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With the recent announcement by Japan and Canada recognizing Kosovo’s independence, coupled with a list of countries which are expected to recognize Kosovo’s independence in the very near future, such as Bulgaria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Norway, Lithuania and Pakistan, Serbian Ambassadors should certainly start feeling a bit uncomfortable about their job security.  As most know, being appointed an ambassador by your government is a fairly plush job.  You attend dinners.  You have guests.  You hold meetings.  You give speeches here and there.  You write Letters to the Editor.  You get to be somewhere other than your home country.  And you get paid pretty well.  That’s why those who are appointed ambassadors generally are very well-connected to their home country’s government.  Indeed, an ambassadorship is often a prized job.

But as the list of countries recognizing Kosovo’s independence grows — particularly the ones that most would like to visit on a holiday — so has the unemployment line for Serbian ambassadors.  For every country that recognizes Kosovo’s independence, the Serbian government recalls their ambassador back to Serbia.

Ouch.  Hate to break it to the remaining Serbian ambassadors . . . but the list of countries recognizing Kosovo’s independence is growing not shrinking.  So, to the remaining ambassadors out there, if you haven’t done your “tour” of the country yet or tried the local cuisine, you better do so quickly.  Because once a country recognizes Kosovo’s independence, Serbia usually gives you no more than 48 hours to return home.  Thus, to the ambassador in Japan, I hope you had some good sushi; to the ambassador in Canada, I hope you had an opportunity to view some great hockey and to sip on some Labatts.

Here’s a list of countries that have recognized Kosovo’s independence as of March 19, 2008:

1. Costa Rica
2. United States
3. France
4. Afghanistan
5. Albania
6. Turkey
7. United Kingdom
8. Australia
9. Senegal
10. Malaysia
11. Germany
12. Latvia
13. Denmark
14. Estonia
15. Italy
16. Luxembourg
17. Peru
18. Belgium
19. Poland
20. Switzerland
21. Austria
22. Ireland
23. Sweden
24. Netherlands
25. Iceland
26. Slovenia
27. Finland
28. Japan
29. Canada

Kosovo: PDSRSG Larry Rossin Is A Mentiroso

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Principal Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Kosovo, Larry Rossin, is a mentiroso.  Let me show you how. In a recent press conference, PDSRSG Larry Rossin stated:

I personally spoke to Minister Samardzic on Friday evening to . .  .underscore that while we hoped and wanted to resolve this situation peacefully and without any resort to force and through persuasion, that we were disinclined to permit this occupation to continue indefinitely or for very long . . .I know that there has been some statements to the effect that somehow there was an implicit or explicit agreement that we would not move until he visited. That was not the case. I made it clear that we would move at a time of our own choosing . . .I further made it clear to him when I spoke to him yesterday morning, while events were going on in Mitrovica, that we had not had such an arrangement and in fact he agreed with me in our private telephone conversation, that there had been no such agreement.

Okay, it seems pretty clear from Mr. Rossin’s statement that there was no “private” agreement whatsoever regarding when the police would move in to remove the protesters inside the Mitrovica courthouse.  But was there any “private” agreement dealing with the protesters that were arrested?  That question apparently was not asked to Mr. Rossin and therefore not answered by him. 

Larry Rossin went on to say the following:

That being the case and after planning and consultation with COMKFOR and with the Police Commissioner, I authorized the operation that took place early Monday morning to reassert our control of the courthouse and to re-establish legality and law and order in North Mitrovica at the courthouse.

Okay, Mr. Rossin “authorized” the operation. Without commenting at length on how a PDSRSG becomes the person in charge of “authorizing” a police action, it is clear that at least in Mr. Rossin’s mind, he believes to be in charge.  Fine, give Napolean his due. 

Here is where it gets interesting.  Here is where most newspapers are going to get it wrong.  And here is where lying by omission becomes tangible.  Larry Rossin then quickly said the following:

According to the established Kosovo law, thirty-two of the court occupiers were temporarily detained, processed, and then released back to north Mitrovica. Criminal investigations into all these illegal acts, including murder and attempted murder, perpetrated on UNMIK and on KFOR soldiers are ongoing and we firmly intend to bring those responsible for these crimes to justice.

It’s interesting that all the questions by the press dealt either with the “agreement” Larry Rossin had with Minister Samardzic or what the UN plans on doing in Mitrovica. The real issue here deals with Rossin’s statement about “thirty-two of the court occupiers” who were “temporarily detained, processed, and then released back to north Mitrovica.” Mr. Rossin smoothly talked past this subject with the same ease as Bill Clinton.  Suprisingly or perhaps not surprisingly, no one picked up on it.

Doesn’t anyone find it the least bit interesting that thirty-two protesters were only “temporarily detained” after they were apparently “arrested.” As I mentioned in an earlier post, the police have no more than 72 hours to detain an individual who has been arrested. The policy reason behind the “72 hour rule” is to allow the police to gather additional evidence. 

Now, answer me this, Mr. Rossin:  what could the police truly have gathered on 32 protesters if they were only temporarily detained? Nada.  Further, how are the police going to find the thirty-two protesters in North Mitrovica to continue with their investigation?  Good luck with that. 

Essentially, these 32 protesters were released without a full and thorough investigation.  What kind of message does this send about the rule of law?  In many ways, the message is that violence works.  Shoot at police and throw grenades at police anytime anyone gets arrested.  So much for taking a stand.

The question is, why? Mr. Rossin’s version of events makes absolutely no sense. Let’s break down his statement:

1) There was no implicit or explicit agreement with the Serbian Minister;

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2) The situation of the protesters in the building was a serious one because they were there illegally and had to be removed to establish the rule of law;

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3) Rossin authorized an operation to remove the protesters;

-EQUALS-

Protesters are removed and then released later that day back to North Mitrovica.

Huh?  This doesn’t add up. Someone from Reuters should ask Larry Rossin directly about why the thirty-two protesters were only temporarily detained and not arrested. Someone should ask Larry Rossin whether he had anything to do with why the thirty-two protesters were only temporarily detained and not arrested?