Diocese, Quint, and the EU: 6 years later, the decision to return 24ha of land to V. Decani has yet to be implemented

visoki dečani
FOTO: KoSSev

Six years have passed since the Kosovo Constitutional Court, which followed a 16-year-long court proceeding confirmed the decision of the Supreme Court of Kosovo to return 24 hectares of land to the monastery of Visoki Decani. The decision, however, has not been implemented to date, i.e. the land has not been registered in the cadastre books. The ambassadors of the Quint countries and EU countries, as well as the Diocese of Raska and Prizren, have once again urged Kosovo authorities to implement this decision, while Pristina remains silent.

Six years ago, the ownership of the monastery over 24 hectares of land was finally confirmed, the Diocese of Raska and Prizren recalls.

„The Diocese of Raska and Prizren expresses deep concern over the contempt of the decision of the mentioned court and the persistent violation of the property rights of the SOC by Kosovo institutions. For years, we have been witnessing an open obstruction of the rule of law and numerous irresponsible and provocative statements by Pristina officials, which do not contribute to stability and reconciliation in Kosovo and Metohija and incite ethnic and religious intolerance towards our Church, as the oldest religious institution in this area,“ the Diocese of Raska and Prizren said in a statement.

They estimate that the Kosovo authorities do not want to respect the decisions of their courts.

„This attitude of the Kosovo authorities towards the SOC, with a large number of thefts and attacks on churches, most of which have not been investigated, nor have perpetrators been brought to justice, clearly shows that Kosovo institutions are neither willing nor able to respect their own court decisions and provide adequate legal protection for the Serbian Orthodox heritage in Kosovo and Metohija,“ they said.

The Diocese of Raska and Prizren once again called on international institutions and diplomatic representatives in Pristina:

„To do everything in their power to provide the SOC and our faithful people in Kosovo and Metohija an effective rule of law, rights, as well as respect for human rights, religious freedoms and the identity of the SOC and its holy sites in Kosovo and Metohija.“

Quint: Kosovan government to proceed without further delay in fully implementing the lawful registration of monastery’s land

Once again, representatives of Quint countries in Kosovo also called for the implementation of the decision on the land of the Visoki Decani monastery.

“Despite this lawful decision and subsequent petitions, the Court’s decision has not yet been implemented. Enforcing the rule of law and respecting judicial independence are obligations for all democratically elected governments. They are also necessary preconditions for Kosovo’s democratic consolidation and its integration into European and Euro-Atlantic institutions,” the Heads of Mission of France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, said in a joint statement.

They underlined that they are united in support of Kosovo’s democratic and European future.

“Therefore, we reiterate our call to the Government of Kosovo to proceed without further delay in fully implementing the lawful registration of the Decani Monastery’s land in line with the Constitutional Court decision.”

EU: Final judicial decisions to be enforced and not questioned

The EU Ambassador in Kosovo, Tomas Szunyog, reacted in a separate statement, urging Kosovan institutions to swiftly and fully implement the judgment of the Constitutional Court and lawfully register the land belonging to the Monastery.

“In addition to demonstrating the dedication of Kosovo to the rule of law as one of the guiding principles of the European Union and the European Convention on Human Rights, the implementation of the judgment would contribute to a much needed inter-community dialogue in Kosovo.“

He underlined that years that have passed since the Constitutional Court ruling do not lessen, but rather amplify the need for its implementation and for the application of the principle of legal certainty whereby final judicial decisions are enforced and not questioned.

“The implementation of the judgment would also contribute to further European integrations and aspirations of Kosovo,” said Szunyog.

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 the 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.

The League of Historians of Kosovo “Ali Hadri” from Decani has been the most vocal in opposing the decision. They repeatedly held protests and installed road blockades, urging the central authorities not to implement the decision of the Kosovo Constitutional Court.

The central government in Kosovo has also consistently refused to enforce the court’s decision.

The latest controversy over the issue occurred in April, when Kosovo Culture Minister, Hajrulla Ceku, reiterated that, although Constitutional Court decisions should be implemented, „we should never take anything for granted“.

On the other hand, the allegations of this minister were once again condemned by the Kosovo Office and the Diocese of Raska and Prizren.

The head of the Kosovo Office, Petar Petkovic, told the media today that this example shows that there is no rule of law in Kosovo. Petkovic also called on the international community to exert „the strongest pressure“ on Pristina in order to implement the decision of the Kosovo Constitutional Court.

Petkovic said that the Pristina authorities „brutally“ refuse to implement anything agreed if it is in the interest of the Serb people, while also alerting they are „more than ready“ to implement all their decisions when it is necessary to „attack Serbs“.

Petkovic also pointed to the statement of the Kosovo Minister of Culture, stating that it shows „the true picture of the situation in Kosovo.“

700 ha of land seized 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 monastery over these 24 hectares.

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

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 the 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.

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