“I urge the Kosovo government to implement the long overdue CC judgment on the Visoki Decani monastery” – the EU rapporteur for Kosovo, Viola von Cramon tweeted yesterday after visiting this monastery. Cramon’s message was harshly criticized in Pristina, but also hailed by the monastery itself and the German ambassador. The Serbian Orthodox Church expects the competent Kosovo institutions to fully implement the ruling of the Kosovo Constitutional Court, the Diocese of Raska-Prizren also reacted in the meantime.
A European official, Viola von Cramon, visited the Visoki Decani monastery yesterday, where she also met with Abbot Sava Janjic.
She then tweeted that Visoki Decani should be the place that unites all Kosovo citizens and that tolerance and mutual respect are the essence of a multiethnic society.
Von Cramon urged the Kosovo government to implement the long overdue Constitutional Court judgment to return the ownership over 24 ha of monastery land to Visoki Decani.
In the meantime, the Association of Kosovo Historians ‘Ali Hadri’ reacted to her statement, alleging that the decision of the Constitutional Court was „unconstitutional and illegal because it stems from the time of violent measures of the Milosevic era.“
„Viola von Cramon should know that the unconstitutional and illegal decision of the Constitutional Court of Kosovo from May 2016 on the property of the companies ‘Apika’ and ‘Ilirija’ should not be implemented, because it stems from the law from the time of the violent measures of the Milosevic era. All democratic countries in the world, including Germany, fought against laws, decisions and bylaws from the Milosevic era, viewing them as discriminatory,“ this association wrote in a statement, Pristina-based Gazeta Express reports.
This Association of Albanian historians has had a series of negative reactions to the Visoki Decani monastery for years now, as well as the abbot of this monastery.
At the same time, they are the biggest opponents of the implementation of the decision of the Kosovo Constitutional Court on the monastery land.
They also say that Viola von Cramon, as well as all other international officials, should know that „no one is jeopardizing“ the monastery of Visoki Decani. They furthermore claimed that the monastery is „threatened by the malicious policy of the Serbian staff in the monastery.“
„The property of the companies ‘Apika’ and ‘Ilirija’ must be returned to the management of the municipality of Decani. Those properties belong to the people of Decani – not to Sava Janjic,“ the historians stated.
In the meantime, the Visoki Decani monastery reacted, stating that they respond to “nationalistic reactions and insults” with footage of a Japanese visitor playing in front of the monastery. According to the monastery, the Japanese violinist best showed how world heritage is cherished.
“After Viola von Cramon’s appeal to the Kosovo authorities to implement the Constitutional Court decision on Decani Monastery there have appeared nationalistic reactions and insults in some Kosovo Albanian media. We respond with a footage showing a Japanese visitor who showed how world heritage is cherished.”
After @ViolavonCramon appeal to #Kosovo authorities to implement the Cons.Court decision on Dečani #Monastery there’ve appeared nationalistic reactions & insults in some K/Albanian media. We respond w/a footage showing a Japanese visitor who showed how world heritage is cherished pic.twitter.com/lPMFAdvhLW
— Dečani Monastery (@DecaniMonastery) November 1, 2021
“To all words of ethnic discrimination, lies and threats we have been facing from Kosovo Albanian nationalists for 22 last years we’ll always respond with peace and restraint hoping this amazing church and its world recognized values will change their hearts to show more respect and tolerance.”
Von Cramon then thanked the monastery for sharing the footage.
“Thank you for this! I would love to hear that live at one point. It’s an amazing place and important for Kosovo citizens,” Cramon tweeted.
The German ambassador to Pristina, Jorn Rohde, said that he fully agrees with von Cramon, emphasizing that the implementation of the Kosovo Constitutional Court decision of 2016 is “long overdue.”
“Fully agree: Implementation of Kosovo’s Constitutional Court decision of 2016 is long overdue as the Court recently reminded,” Rohde tweeted, adding:
“Arbitrary application of the rule of law is not the way forward.”
Fully agree: Implementation of Kosovo’s Constitutional Court decision of 2016 is long overdue as the Court recently reminded. Arbitrary application of the rule of law is not the way forward https://t.co/wD2CQO2HZ5
— Ambassador Jörn Rohde (@GermanAmbKOS) November 1, 2021
CDHRF: Father Sava Janjic has neither a peaceful past nor a constructive present
In the meantime, the Council for Defence of Human Rights and Freedoms (CDHRF), known for its frequent accusations against the Visoki Decani monastery, as well as the Abbot Sava Janjic, also reacted.
They also expressed a belief that the decision on the monastery property is unfair, but also that it is „political“ and a product of „pressure on the courts“.
Although the decision on the monastery land is final, this Council claims that Cramon’s call for the Constitutional Court’s decision to be implemented is „direct pressure on the independence of Kosovo judiciary“.
They also accused the German ambassador in Pristina of putting pressure on the Kosovo judiciary.
„In reality, almost all regular decisions of Kosovo courts on the property of the Decani monastery were political decisions, made after political pressure,“ CDHRF estimated.
Back in April, the CDHRF claimed that the monastery was turned into a military base – where „weapons were distributed to mobilized Serbs“ – and that Albanians were held hostage there during the 1999 war. At the same time, they requested an investigation into Abbot Sava Janjic for „possible violation of the Law of War and Humanitarian Law“.
Now, the CDHRF state that Von Cramon „goes a step further by falsifying the truth about the role of the monastery and especially about Father Sava Janjic, both during the war and after it.“
„Father Sava Janjic has neither a peaceful past nor a constructive present because he calls for the implementation of Kosovo court decisions only if he has an interest in it, i.e. he wants to justify the usurpation of 26 hectares of public property of the companies ‘Apiko’ and ‘Iliria’, which was given to this monastery by the discriminatory laws of Serbia in 1997, while UNMIK justified that discriminatory law of Serbia after the end of the war,“ they said.
They also claim that the monastery is actually making efforts to „justify property that does not belong to it“ and to „use it as a model in future talks between Belgrade and Pristina on the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo.“
The ruling of the Constitutional Court is final and its non-execution only further demonstrates that Visoki Decani is legally endangered
The Eparchy of Raska-Prizren also reacted.
“The Diocese of Raska and Prizren, based in Gracanica, confirmed today that the Serbian Orthodox Church expects the competent institutions to fully implement the ruling of the Kosovo Constitutional Court from 2016, which confirmed the ownership of the monastery Visoki Decani over 24 hectares of surrounding land and forest.”
They recalled that the ruling of the Constitutional Court is final and irrevocable and its non-execution only further demonstrates that Visoki Decani is legally endangered.
“It was the reason why, among other things, Visoki Decani was placed on the list of 7 most endangered cultural and historical sites in Europe by the prestigious international organization Europa Nostra,” the Diocese wrote.
The Diocese also welcomed international appeals for the court’s ruling to be implemented and for the church land to be registered in the cadaster.
The dispute over the monastery land
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.
In recent years, on the anniversary of the 2016 decision of the Constitutional Court of Kosovo, international officials have appealed to the Kosovo authorities to implement this decision.
The Kosovo Constitutional Court itself confirmed in September that the decision has yet to be implemented.
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.
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