Kosovo on Thursday declared two groups operating in the Serb-majority north of Kosovo Civilna Zastita (Civil Protection) and Brigada Sever (North Brigade) terrorist organisations.
Prime Minister Albin Kurti said: “Based on the evaluations of the Kosovo security institutions, the illegal formations, Civil Protection and its component North Brigade pose a serious and direct threat for the constitutional order and security of Kosovo.”
According to Kurti the formations have “recruited and trained members to use weapons and combat methods at military bases in Serbia with the purpose of carrying out attacks against local institutions and international missions in Kosovo”.
After the government meeting, Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla, said: “They committed illegal acts, such as the attack against the officials of the KKZ (Municipal Election Commission), KFOR and EUEX, the burning of cars with legal license plates, attacks and threats with the purpose of intimidation and non-participation in elections, attacks against journalists, attack with hand grenade against facilities and against the static point of the police last night,” in North Mitrovica, Svecla claimed.
Svecla said the activities of the formations must immediately stop after the government’s decision to declare them terrorist.
On June 13, 2023, Kosovo police arrested Kosovo Serb Milun “Lune” Milenkovic on suspicion of orchestrating attacks against NATO peacekeepers at the end of May, where 30 soldiers and around 50 protesters were injured. According to Svecla, Milenkovic is the leader of Civil Protection “and the leader of criminal gangs” in the north.
However, the Minister for Communities and Returns, Kosovo Serb Nenad Rasic, was against the decision, claiming it is premature and could have consequences in Kosovo’s relations with ethnic Serbs in the north.
Rasic told BIRN that the decision “makes our citizens in the north even more scared and insecure”.
Rasic said also that this decision was taken under the “other” point in the government session agenda.
“Such decisions should not be adopted in such a way that you do not already have some serious … documentation, some serious legal framework, on the basis of which you can decide such things,” Rasic told BIRN after the government’s meeting.
Rasic said the Interior minister told him during the government meeting on Thursday that this decision will not affect people who previously worked in Civil Protection but who in 2015 become part of Kosovo institutions.
Civil Protection is one of the parallel structures operating in the north of Kosovo and has not been recognized as an official formation by Kosovo authorities.
It first publicly appeared in 2011 and operated as a de facto security force in the north, until a Kosovo-Serbia agreement was reached in Brussels in 2015, within the EU mediated dialogue. Civil Protection formally played a humanitarian role, assisting the civilian population in crises and extraordinary situations, however, Kosovo authorities considered the formation a threat to its sovereignty.
Based on the 2015 agreement, members of Civil Protection were integrated into Kosovo institutions, however, suspicions remained that the formation did not cease to exist.
According to Rasic, 500 members ofCivil Protection had integrated in Kosovo institutions since the 2015 Brussels agreement.
Rasic warned that between the decision of the Kosovo government and applying it in the field “many different interpretations may occur” if there are no clear guidelines what to do.
“Implementation has always been a problem and there may be interpretations that are not appropriate and this will certainly reflect on our citizens,“ he told BIRN.
Kosovo’s Criminal Code defines “terrorism, terrorist act or terrorist offense” as the commission of one or more of the following offenses: murder, taking hostages or kidnapping, supplying, transporting and using weapons, explosives or chemical, biological and other weapons “with an intent to seriously intimidate a population, to unduly compel a public entity, government or international organization to do or abstain from doing any act, or to seriously destabilize or destroy the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of the Republic of Kosovo, another State or an international organization”.
A terrorist act is punishable by a minimum of five years imprisonment, unless it results in serious bodily injury, when it can be punished by no less than ten years imprisonment. If the terrorist act leads to the death of a person, it can be punished by a minimum of 15 years imprisonment. Assisting in terrorist acts can be punished by up to 10 years’ imprisonment, whereas recruitment and training brings up to 15 years imprisonment.
People found guilty of organising and leading a terrorist group are punished with a fine up to 500,000 euros and up to 20 years’ imprisonment.
The North Brigade is less known and its existence has mainly been known since August 2022 when Brigada Sever graffiti were seen in North Mitrovica.
Source : Balkan Insight