Decision on the confirmation of Decani Monastery’s ownership of 24ha not implemented 3 years after it was reached

Manastir Visoki Dečani
Foto: Lazar Rakić

The US ambassador to Pristina, Philip Kosnett and the Head of the EU Office in Kosovo, Nataliya Apostolova sent an appeal to the Kosovo authorities to implement the 2016 decision of the Constitutional Court of Kosovo which confirmed Decani Monastery’s ownership of 24 hectares of land used by the monastery.

After 16 years of dispute over the ownership of the monastery land in the municipality of Decani, the Constitutional Court of Kosovo reached a decision in May 2016 to confirm the previous decision of the Supreme Court in 2012 on the confirmation of Visoki Decani monastery’s ownership rights of the 24 hectares of land.

The decision caused conflicting reactions in the Kosovo society, with the harshest criticism arriving from the municipal leadership, which still refuses to implement the court’s decision and to register the monastery’s ownership of the land in the cadaster.

„Three years of failure by the Government to enforce Constitutional Court’s decision on the Decani land case is a blow to equal justice. Can any citizen – or any potential foreign investor – rely on the Kosovo courts when the Government can choose to ignore the courts’ authority?” Kosnett tweeted on Friday.

The clergy of the Visoki Decani Monastery are using the land for cereal cultivation and livestock grazing. They state that local authorities cannot prevent them from using the land because the area around the monastery is under the protection of KFOR. However, the failure to comply with the decision to enter the monastery’s ownership of the land into the cadaster „creates a feeling of insecurity and discrimination among the clergy and it shows that we are living in a situation of lawlessness and the non-functioning of institutions which are supposed to respect and protect our property rights, and not jeopardize them,“ the Decani Monastery clergy told KoSSev.

The Head of the European Union Office in Kosovo, Nataliya Apostolova reacted yesterday to the fact that the Decani municipality did not implement the decision of the Constitutional Court three years after it was reached.

„The EU expresses deep concern on the lack of implementation of the 19th May 2016 Constitutional Court ruling on the land dispute case in Decani and others affecting properties of members from non-majority communities. Decisions by Kosovo’s highest legal authority are final and must be implemented without further delay. The EU calls on authorities at all levels to strongly uphold the rule of law as a fundamental democratic principle,“ Apostolova wrote in a statement.

700 ha of land taken from the monastery in 1946

Seven hundred hectares of land were seized from the Visoki Decani Monastery in 1946. However, the state of Serbia returned 24 hectares to the monastery in 1997. The monastery, when combined with the twenty hectares it previously owned, then owned 55 hectares of land.

This return of 24 hectares was regularly recorded in the cadaster, but since 1999, the local Kosovo authorities do not recognize that this land belongs to the monastery. Although the monastery continues to use the land, municipal authorities are beginning to challenge the ownership of the monasteries over these 24 hectares.

UNMIK then decided that the monastery would continue to use this property until the dispute is settled in court.

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