Kosovo: UN envoy asks police chief to resign after deadly clash with demonstrators

14 February 2007

The top United Nations envoy in Kosovo today asked for the immediate resignation of the UN police commissioner there after the deaths of two people when police used rubber bullets against pro-independence demonstrators in the Albanian-majority Serbian province that the world organization has run since 1999.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative in Kosovo Joachim Rücker said the resignation of Commissioner Stephen Curtis does not prejudge the ongoing investigation into the two deaths. “The fact that I have asked for his resignation is in the course of principles and political accountability,” he added in a statement.

Mr. Rücker directed that a special prosecutor lead the investigation, which he pledged would be fully transparent and independent. “This loss of life is tragic regardless of the circumstances,” he said.

In a statement to the press, Mr. Curtis said he hoped his resignation would allay some of the fears that the public have about the police and the policing of Kosovo. “We are at a critical juncture in the history of Kosovo and nothing must be allowed to interfere in the confidence of those involved in this process,” he added.

The Deputy Commissioner for the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) Police, Trygve Kalleberg, told a news conference in the provincial capital, Pristina, that the police used rubber bullets during last Saturday’s demonstration by the ethnic Albanian Vetëvendosja (self-determination) group. “Our investigation focuses in particular on all aspects related to this issue of investigation of tactical reasons,” he said.

The demonstration followed this month’s unveiling of UN proposals for the future status of the province, where Albanians outnumber Serbs and others by 9 to 1.

The provisional plan, drawn up by Mr. Ban’s Special Envoy for the status process Martti Ahtisaari, calls for the province to have the right to govern itself and conclude international agreements, including membership in international bodies, with an international civilian and military presence supervising the new arrangements.

But it does not specifically mention independence, which Serbia rejects and which many ethnic Albanians seek. The UN has run the province ever since North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 amid brutal ethnic fighting.

 

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