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Kosovo: UN mission chief meets with Yugoslav leaders about Serb vote in elections

Kosovo: UN mission chief meets with Yugoslav leaders about Serb vote in elections

The head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) has discussed with Yugoslav leaders the need to take action to ensure maximum participation by Serbs in the province's upcoming elections.

In a statement issued today, the UN Mission said Hans Haekkerup had held a series of meetings with Yugoslav officials in Belgrade yesterday on the possibility of a joint declaration that would encourage Serb participation on polling day. Both UNMIK and Belgrade presented proposals on such a declaration, but did not reach agreement on a text.

The statement also said Mr. Haekkerup had held a "productive" one-on-one meeting with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, in which they agreed on the need to conclude a joint declaration.

At a press conference after his meetings, the UNMIK chief said Serbs had five reasons to come out to vote - to end their isolation, to strengthen their security, to bolster democracy, to enable further returns, and "because there is no alternative to moving ahead."

In another development, UNMIK announced today that it had signed a regulation that improves the rights and protections of persons arrested by law enforcement agencies, thereby filling a void in the law and allowing for the provision of substantial protection to detained persons before their initial appearance before an investigating judge.

The regulation, which will go into effect on 1 November 2001, is a combined effort by the Department of Judicial Affairs, the Organisation for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE), UNMIK Police, the Kosovo Bar Association and other human rights organizations. Specifically, the regulation stipulates that detainees have the right to be informed of the reasons for their arrest, the right to remain silent, the right to an interpreter, the right to receive the assistance of defence counsel free of charge, the right to notify their family members and the right to receive medical help.

Along with the resolution, an administrative direction was approved to establish a list of registered defence counsel and a system of lawyers on call, which will be implemented by the Kosovo Bar Association.

"These two pieces of legislation will mean a significant change in the procedures to be followed regarding persons in police custody," the UNMIK statement said.