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Friday, 10 December, 1999, 17:56 GMT
Kosovans demand Serbian prison releases

The banner reads: "Find the Missing People"

Thousands of people have demonstrated in the Kosovan capital Pristina to call for the release of prisoners held in Serbia since the end of the war.

The war in Kosovo
Holding up pictures of political prisoners and people still missing, the protesters rallied outside the province's first human rights conference.

They called on international officials to act on behalf of the 1,700 people they believe are being held in Serb prisons.

Those who stand so bravely against oppression must be encouraged and protected and supported
Daan Everts of the OSCE
The head of the United Nation's administration in Kosovo, Bernard Kouchner, said the hearts of all UN staff and international delegates at the conference were with the detainees.

He also warned that ongoing violence in Kosovo "affects all ethnic groups".

The head of the OSCE mission in Kosovo, Daan Everts, called on Kosovans to testify against crimes committed by any ethnic group.

"The just war was not fought for an unjust peace," he said.

The case of Dr Brovina

Flora Brovina's son, Uranik Begu, demonstrating earlier this year
Many demonstrators held signs calling for the release of Flora Brovina, a human rights activist sentenced on Thursday in Serbia to 12 years in prison.

Dr Brovina, whose case has been taken on by Human Rights Watch and the US State Department, has become a symbol for those trying to win the release of prisoners held in Serbia.

Her son, Uranik Begu, insisted that his family and other human rights activists would continue to press for her release.

"For me personally, this was a case against conscience, against freedom, against the stability of the region," he said.

Pristina conference agenda
detainees in Serbia
missing persons
housing and property disputes
democratic policing
the protection of minorities
post-war justice
Dr Brovina, a 50-year-old paediatrician, was accused of joining groups "with a view to carrying out terrorist activities" in support of Kosovo's campaign for independence.

Her case was also raised inside the conference hall.

Mr Everts said: "I call upon all those at this conference to condemn this and other outrages against human rights; to remember that oppression left unchecked will not cease, and finally to remember that the role of a human rights defender is never an easy one.

"Those like Flora Brovina who stand so bravely against oppression must be encouraged and protected and supported," he said.

Criticism of K-For

One of the banners held up at the rally read: "The Albanian in the prisons are hanging between life and death. Act."

"What are K-For doing here? Our children don't need the toys the world gives them, they need their parents," one of the demonstrators, 45-year-old Ferdeze Mullahasani, said.

"K-For could get our people back if they wanted to," said Luan Zogaj, whose brother is jailed in Serbia.

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See also:
09 Dec 99 |  Europe
Serbs convict Kosovo Albanian doctor
06 Dec 99 |  Talking Point
Kosovo: Can there be forgiveness?
10 Dec 99 |  Europe
Serbs feel the heat in Kosovo
06 Dec 99 |  Europe
Horrors of Kosovo revealed
06 Dec 99 |  Europe
Protection demanded for Kosovo Serbs

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