From: Bledar Qalliu
Serbian Director Wins Kosovo Culture Award in Belgrade Festival

Serbian director Ognjen Glavonić has won the “Mirëdita, dobar dan!” annual festival held in Belgrade for his documentaries “Dubina 2” (Depth Two) and “Teret” (The Load), organizers announced on Sunday.

The “Mirëdita, dobar dan!” festival includes “Good day” in Albanian and Serbian in its name. It aims to contribute to the “general aspirations of permanent peace establishment and normalization of relationships between Serbia and Kosovo.”

It was organized by the Youth Initiative for Human Rights (Serbia), Integra (Kosovo), Civic Initiatives (Serbia) on October 22-24, and supported by Open Society Foundation (Serbia, Kosovo), Rockefeller Brother Fund, Government of Kosovo. It shows films, exhibitions, and theatre plays related to Kosovo.

In their announcement of the winner, the organizers said that Glavonić’s documentaries “broke the ‘shameful vow of silence’ about the mass grave in Batajnica and thus made a big step in bringing Serbian and Kosovo society closer.”

The Batajnica mass grave was discovered in 2001 in the outskirts of Belgrade. The bodies of 941 Albanian men, women and children from Kosovo were found in mass graves in the area.

“The cause of their deaths, in most cases, was a gunshot wound, mainly to the head, suggesting that the victims did not die in combat but as a result of execution-style killings outside situations of combat,” the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Center described the state of bodies.

On its first day, the festival was interrupted by protesters in the audience, while dozens others protested outside. They held Serbian flags, banners reading “Kosovo is Serbia”, others showing orthodox monasteries in Kosovo, as well as calling Kosovo leaders war criminals.

The organizers’ announcement quoted Albanian and Serbian participants in the “Transitional Justice in Kosovo Today” debate on the last day of the festival, who among other topics discussed the “individual responsibility” of those who have committed war crimes. It failed to mention the Serbian state’s responsibility in the many massacres during the war.

The Serbian state killed or made disappear at least 8,661 Albanian civilians in Kosovo, expelled more that 850,000 from Kosovo to neighboring countries, several hundred thousands more displaced internally, 1,133 children were killed, over 20,000 Albanian women were raped by Serbian troops, nearly 40 percent (about 92 thousand) of houses, and about 50 percent of religious sites (225 mosques) were either damaged or destroyed.

There were 1,797 ethnic Serbs, 477 Roma, Bosniaks and other non-Albanians, who either got killed or disappeared from Kosovo during the war, according to the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Centre and the Humanitarian Law Centre Kosovo.

The focus of the festival being on Kosovo’s culture, the announcement exclusively quoted speakers stressing Kosovo’s alleged: “difficulties in dealing with the past”, “lack of information on what happened during the war and with the missing persons”, exclusion of the Serbian community from its institutions, Kosovo institutions’ lack of respect for laws, Kosovo’s “very problematic” attempts to appropriate the heritage of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and the need for its society to “move forward and seek the truth for the victims, regardless of ethnicity.”

More than 20 years after the war it waged, Serbia has not revealed the fate of the 1,643 persons disappeared from Kosovo during the war.

A high state official, the current speaker of Serbia’s parliament, former foreign minister Ivica Dacic recently threatened Serbs who disclose the mass graves of Albanians and Croats in Serbia.

In an attempt to equate Serbia’s state atrocities with crimes committed by Albanians against Kosovo-Serbs during the war, President Aleksandar Vucic, a former Milosevic minister, demanded Kosovo’s Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti, during the dialogue in July, to open the alleged Kosovo Liberation Army archives to see the locations where Serbs were killed. No such archives are known to exist, but Kosovo has created a special court, located in The Hague, to investigate possible war crimes committed by former KLA members during the war.