Ongoing and Unresolved Property Issues for Residents of Miroce Village: How Many More Times Must We Seek Intervention?


By Duško Milenković

For the third time, we address the public through the „Citizens Write“ section of the KoSSev portal, hoping that public awareness will at least help to initiate a solution to the problem we, the landowners in the vicinity of Miroce village, Vucitrn municipality, are facing. In our first address, we outlined the general facts of our shared problem, and in our second, we detailed the nature and dimensions of the issue, as well as our appeals to local and higher Kosovo institutions and representatives of international institutions and media outlets in Pristina and Belgrade.

In this third address, we wish to emphasize that all efforts so far have proved unsuccessful, and for 23 years, we have been unable to manage our private property: to cultivate it, lease it, sell it, nor can we request the rebuilding of our demolished houses and other destroyed structures. Moreover, we aim to explain the need for a comprehensive and correct analysis of the problem and to call it by its true name, highlighting the following facts:

– We are the owners of lands in Miroče village, which has been destroyed and no longer exists;

– Local Vučitrn authorities and higher Kosovo institutions persistently tolerate this situation on the ground;

– The problem results from the general behavior of an Albanian family towards Serbian property, is not of a personal nature, and is not a relation between one Serbian and one Albanian family;

– A vast number of severe criminal offenses have been committed against all of us;

– Individual appeals to institutions over the past 23 years have not even begun to address the issue;

– Criminal sentences cannot be enforced, as they do not change the situation on the ground;

– We are concerned about the recent scenario where „usurpers“ could suddenly remember and sue us, the landowners, for some „war crimes“ from 25 years ago.

Our issue is unique compared to other property usurpation problems in Kosovo and thus requires „assistance in resolution“ from higher governmental institutions and international bodies. It’s necessary to „force“ that Albanian family to cease with their current behavior, and we need compensation for damages and the ability to manage our private property.

Feeling powerless to initiate the resolution of our problems differently, we plan to reiterate our plea for help to all government institutions, representatives of international organizations, and media outlets in Pristina and Belgrade by mid-February for the third time.

As a last and definite step, we will launch a lawsuit against the state of Kosovo in an appropriate international court, as we no longer see a way, will, or power for our problems to be resolved. Over these 23 years, we have done everything possible and realized there’s no willingness or strength among the competent authorities and those responsible to resolve the problem at the Kosovo institutions level.

Key characteristics that make our problem entirely unique

First, it’s necessary to call the problem by its true name. We believe the term „usurpation“ cannot be used because it implies an individual relationship between two parties: the aggressor and the victim.

The occupation, destruction, and exploitation of the entire land of Miroče village, including the expulsion and inability of all landowners to return, can be most closely defined as „occupation,“ but that’s a term for disputes between states. Given the number of severe criminal offenses committed against all of us, the term „grand larceny“ could be used, but it’s unnatural for such acts to last for 23 years. Given the difficulties in properly naming the problem, we cannot call those who created it „usurpers,“ „occupiers,“ or „robbers.“ Moving forward, we will refer to them as „neighbors.“

Second, this is not a personal unresolved relationship between „usurpers“ and landowners but a problem for all of us landowners that arose automatically with the occupation of the entire territory of Miroče village by „neighbors.“ To this day, the police and court in Vučitrn have treated our problems as individual „usurpations“ of a piece of property by some landowner, which is far from the actual situation. Our only „fault“ is that our private property makes up part of the territory of the entire village of Miroče, which they have occupied within its natural boundaries, extending to the property of other Albanian owners from neighboring villages.

Third, the years-long ease of „neighbors“ in carelessly and thoroughly demolishing and destroying buildings without leaving any remains on the ground is astonishing. Also, for over 20 years, they have been cutting down forests, clearing and plowing orchards, and plowing boundaries to consolidate plots into vast areas between the river and the forest, all under the watch of the police and court, who have been aware of this since 2001.

Fourth, the problem cannot be resolved through individual legal proceedings due to its nature and dimensions, compounded by the following facts on the ground:

– The existence of 30 affected landowners by the same „neighbors,“ resulting in a large number of severe criminal offenses (over 50) with long-term prison sentences expected;

– Threats from „neighbors“ that lead to a prison sentence for one landowner through legal proceedings would automatically cause even greater problems for that landowner as well as all other landowners, which „neighbors“ even stressed in court;

– The impossibility of expecting compensation for the vast amount of damage from the „neighbors'“ assets for all landowners;

– The fact that criminal convictions against „neighbors“ do not automatically restore the right to manage private property for the owners on the ground, making the verdicts ineffective in practice.

Brief Overview of the Problem

During 2000 and 2001, an Albanian family from the neighboring village of Karače occupied the property of 30 landowners of Miroče village (a fully Serbian village), including:

– 14 household of owners who lived in Miroče, whose houses and other facilities were demolished and used as building materials leaving no remains, except for two recently constructed houses made of concrete and blocks that could not be „dismantled“ and are now used for daily living;

– 8 landowners, heirs who did not live in Miroče, some had vacation homes, and

– 8 landowners who lived in the neighboring village of Gojbulja.

Additionally, forests were cut down, and orchards were destroyed and turned into agricultural land that belong to all landowners. All fields or meadows of multiple owners, previously parceled, were joined by plowing boundaries into a few large areas, continuously exploited over the years.

The result of 23 years of destruction of our property is that, I repeat, the village of Miroče no longer exists on the ground, and the landowners, even with police escort, have never managed to visit their property.

A large cattle farm was established in the village, using our cultivable areas and pastures for feeding. The people who did all this even use subsidies from the Agriculture Agency in Pristina for cultivating our lands.

Efforts by Landowners to Resolve the Problem via Institutions

Since 2001, our efforts have been directed towards the then-valid authorities.

Initially, until about 2008, we filed reports of property usurpation with the Vučitrn police, from which no owner was given a copy of the report or notes, nor were we informed about the police’s actions when we inquired later.

With the start of HABITAT and KPA operations, we filed reports and followed the appropriate procedures until we received generic resolutions to free the usurped property. However, these resolutions were never implemented on the ground by the authorities. Even, judging by satellite images, all houses and auxiliary buildings were destroyed and removed during the fact-finding period and after receiving KPS resolutions (from 2010 to 2016).

Due to unsuccessful efforts from 2001 to 2015, a complete lack of trust in the authorities, and fear for our safety in case of visiting the police and court in Vučitrn, most landowners did not turn to the court after 2015.

For the few owners who have been pursuing legal actions for years, the Vučitrn court treats the problem only as an individual problem of „usurpation“ of a part of the property, not encompassing the indictment for the destruction of households and cutting down forests and orchards. Two owners won a criminal case against „usurpers“ for cultivable parcels a few years ago, one even concluded a mediation process, but in vain, as these Albanians still prevent them from managing their property.

A third owner has been trying to hold the first hearing persistently. From 2021 to 2023, the court scheduled and postponed up to 12 hearings due to the absence of the prosecutor, judge, or other problems with the court. Owners who have not approached the court are discouraged by these negative experiences of owners who have sought justice in court for years.

Also, we face the problem that the court, as a condition for initiating proceedings, requires us to provide witnesses or evidence of who, when, and how the property was „usurped,“ even though it is widely known that this is impossible to provide, thus making the situation hopeless.

Considering the above, we attempted last year to present our joint problem as such and sought help in resolving it from higher government institutions in Pristina, foreign embassies, other international organizations, and media outlets in Belgrade and Pristina by emailing the official websites.

All our efforts, we repeat, remained unanswered, except for a brief generic correspondence with EULEX, which, as it seems to us, follows the manner and dynamics of legal proceedings based on its own metrics. We asked them to specify which cases they monitor and offered to participate in the process, to which we received no response.

Additionally, the Ministry of Justice once replied that we should approach the court, and we immediately provided evidence that we had done so unsuccessfully for years, but we received no further response or suggestions.

In all our appeals, we regularly offered to come wherever and whenever needed with proof of ownership and issues from the initiated legal proceedings, but we never received a response. We requested meetings with Albin Kurti, Xhelal Sveçla, and Flora Osmani. We asked to initiate procedures for rebuilding our demolished houses and other structures. We never received any response.

On the other hand, we express extreme concern about the noticeable practice in Kosovo of arresting Serbs – property owners, after initiating legal proceedings for property usurpation, on charges of alleged war crimes, based on statements from the very Albanian usurpers as witnesses of these crimes. Although some of us live in Kosovo, and the rest have visited for private matters hundreds of times over these 23 years, it is natural that we do not want our efforts to „resolve“ the issue to lead to lengthy and distressing legal proceedings for some „war crimes“ for which „neighbors“ or other witnesses might suddenly remember now as we try to regain private property.

Honestly, after 23 years of being chased away from our ancestral lands and persistent destruction and exploitation of our property, knowing the established practice of sudden recollections and „testimonies“ for war crimes from 25 years ago, we cannot suddenly have trust in the proper intentions and actions of the Kosovo authorities. Our offers to come wherever and whenever we are told are now limited by concerns about being arrested and undergoing years of trials for some „war crimes,“ for which „neighbors“ or other witnesses would remember only now when we are trying in every way to recover private property.

Without intending to sound frivolous or provocative, we would come wherever and whenever we are told if there were a possibility for „quick verification“ of the accuracy and reliability of „war crime witnesses'“ statements, similar to rapid tests for the coronavirus, but in the form of their testing on a lie detector or undergoing hypnosis.

Conclusion

From the facts mentioned, it is clear that our joint problem is unique and very complex, summarized by mutually exclusive facts and the actual situation in practice.

Due to the behavior of „neighbors,“ we, the property owners, have been unable to manage our private property in any way for 23 years, nor do we see when and how we could do so. Potential buyers withdraw from purchases, as no one wants to „buy a problem“ they would have with „neighbors.“

Enforced criminal verdicts on the ground do not imply a change in the „neighbors'“ behavior, ongoing legal proceedings amount to merely formally scheduling and postponing hearings, and initiating new criminal complaints is practically impossible.

On the other hand, „neighbors“ regularly and openly threaten (even in court) that we will only have problems in managing private property if we were to spend even one day in prison based on our filed criminal complaints.

The calls for help in resolving the issue, sent to higher authorities in Pristina, foreign embassies, international organizations, and media outlets in Belgrade and Pristina, have gone unanswered. Not a single media outlet has shown interest in verifying our claims on the ground with police security.

Meanwhile, „neighbors“ continue to exploit our lands extremely carelessly and uncaringly, knowing that we, as the aggrieved, are powerless to compel them via institutions to account for their actions, compensate for damages, and stop creating future problems in managing our private property.

We, the landowners of the territory of the destroyed village of Miroče, are convinced that our problem can only be solved with appropriate engagement from higher levels of government in Pristina and/or representatives of international factors, who would compensate for damages and compel „neighbors“ to truly stop preventing us from managing our private property.

Read more:

Residents of the village of Miroce send another appeal to the Kosovo authorities and international representatives over their usurped properties

For two decades, residents of the village of Miroce have been denied the right to maintain their property



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