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

A group of Serbian residents of the village of Miroce near Vucitrn once again called upon the Kosovo authorities, through our editorial office, to finally tackle the issue of their usurped properties. They previously did the same a month ago, however, an appropriate reaction from Kosovo institutions was not forthcoming. At the same time, they appealed to international representatives and Belgrade to address their case. Below we publish the letter from the Miroce locals in its entirety, delivered to us once again by Dusko Milenkovic, one of the residents, on their behalf.

WIDESPREAD SILENCE TO THE PROPERTY OWNER’S APPEAL

To Whom it May Concern:

We, thirty (30) owners of households and properties in the village of Miroce, in the municipality of Vucitrn, for the second time this year through the „Građani pišu“ section on KoSSev, appeal to Kosovo’s central authorities, embassies in Pristina, and international organizations in Pristina and Belgrade, to help us to solve the issue of re-claiming our property.

Character and dimensions of the problem

The shared problems of all of us landowners are a result of the systematic seizure, destruction, and exploitation of property in the entire village. Specifically, twenty years ago, an Albanian family from the neighboring village of Karace usurped all the property of all the owners in the village of Miroce:

  • Fourteen (14) homeowners who lived in the village of Miroce, whose houses and other facilities no longer exist,
  • Eight (8) owners who had inherited property and who were not resident in the village of Miroce, some of whom owned summer houses and,
  • Eight (8) property owners, previously resident the neighboring village of Gojbulja.

Today, the village of Miroce no longer exists on the ground because:

  • All structures and summer homes were destroyed, of which nothing remains, except for two recently constructed houses, made of concrete and cinder blocks, which could not be „deconstructed.”
  • The owners’ forests were razed, as were their orchards and the plots, which were turned into fields or pastures.
  • Several of the owners’ fields or meadows were joined into large areas, by plowing down the borders wherever possible as part of terrain configuration.

The dynamics of the destruction of individual households, the felling of forests and orchards, and plowing down of borders to create a small number of large agricultural areas can be clearly seen by comparing aerial photographs of the Kosovo Cadastral Agency for the period from 2001 to 2018 published on the geoportal.rks-gov.net website, as well as the satellite images for the period 2003 to 2021 from the Google Earth pro website.

Our problem, as per its character and dimensions, is extremely complex and completely unique when compared to similar problems (worldwide), where the perpetrators would be referred to as „usurpers.” That term, however, is too weak in this situation, because the perpetrators of these acts seized and destroyed the property of every owner from the village of Miroce in their entirety, which they completely „rearranged“ and continue to exploit to this day.

We cannot use our properties in any way, nor sell them to other Albanian buyers because the perpetrators are preventing the sale.

The people who did this obviously planned it out and carried it out in haste, but without fear of local authorities – neither the judiciary nor the police. Those people built an enormous facility in our village, a cattle farm, and they are using our property for food production and grazing and have even received subsidies for farming on our land. It truly and clearly speaks volumes about the situation on the ground.

Therefore, our problems cannot be treated or solved as an individual dispute between certain Serbian and Albanian families on the usurpation of one or more fields or meadows. The previous interpretation and treatment of the general problem of all property owners, one instance of property usurpation does paint a proper picture of the broader problem, something that prevents the issue from being addresses properly.

Property owners reached out to competent local institutions of Kosovo

To solve the problem, many property owners appealed for help from competent provisional authorities and institutions of Kosovo at the time, but to no avail. Some property owners, concerned over their safety and without confidence in the positive outcome of their problem as a general problem of the entire village, did not even try to reach out to the institutions of Kosovo.

The actions of HABITAD and KPA, as of 2013, who went out to the field and presented general solutions were not enough to force the people who stole our property to cease further destruction and exploitation.

Several criminal proceedings were initiated before the competent court in Vucitrn, which the court still treats only as ‘ordinary’ usurpation of agricultural land between the usurper and the property owner, that is, without solving the problem of destroyed homes and other facilities. In practice, the court often asked property owners for evidence of who, when and how their property was “usurped”, even though it was aware that property owners had not been allowed to visit their property for more than 20 years.

For two years, one property owner faced a problem in receiving a proper hearing (scheduled and postponed as many as eight times). Two property owners won the cases led against the land usurpers, and mediation procedures were unsuccessfully implemented, but even they have not solved the problem because the usurpers have not changed their behavior.

All that, with the general delay in the proceedings of other property owners, led to a situation of complete hopelessness and a lack of perspective in solving problems in individual court proceedings.

In addition to the problems we faced when initiating and conducting individual court proceedings, we pointed out that there are predictable problems in the realm of the implementation of possible future court rulings. The reason is the unique case of many property owners physically harmed by the same perpetrators of these criminal acts. Primarily, it is not possible to expect compensation for a huge number of damages for all property owners from their (cf. the usurper’s) property. Furthermore, their eventual referral to serving a prison sentence following the court proceedings initiated by one property owner would automatically cause even greater problems for that same owner, as well as for other property owners. Finally, the possible judicial epilogue to address the damage done so far does not automatically signify the return of the right to manage the private property to the owners of that property (not even to an individual owner, let alone to all of us). In essence, the problem is additionally and further complicated. This is clear to everyone who has any knowledge of the situation on the ground and who wants to tackle and solve this problem honestly and properly.

Property owners reached out to higher authorities for assistance.

Bearing in mind that our individual efforts are doomed to failure, on February 8th, and March 1st, 2023, as the owners of the households of the destroyed village, we asked for help in solving the problem, by sending a request and evidence to the official email addresses of seventeen (17) higher levels of government and media in Pristina, embassies and consular offices of forty-two (42) countries, fourteen (14) international organizations and sixty-five (65) other media institutions in Serbia and the region.

Based on this, we received the following responses:

  • On February 21st, 2023, we were instructed by the Ministry of Justice of Kosovo to „reach out to the competent authorities and the court“. The next day, we sent a reply in which we explained why it is not possible to solve the general problem with individual approaches, to which we did not receive a reply.
  • On March 3rd, 2023, a text about our problems was published by the SRNA agency, at the address https://vecernjenovosti.ba/158113/vijesti/uzurpacije-imovine-srpskih-imanja-u-selu-miroce-porodica-ademi-nema-milosti-prema-mjestanima /
  • On March 3rd, 2023, the German Embassy in Belgrade replied that the issues were not within its competence and referred us to the institutions in Kosovo.
  • On March 9th, 2023, EULEX Kosovo replied that they had considered the allegations and asked us to provide them with „full information and accompanying documents related to criminal charges, lawsuits, names of parties and the location of the courts and the status of the case and any other relevant information“.

Following their request, on May 1st, 2023, we submitted to EULEX the relevant data for thirty (30) homeowners and properties in the village of Miroce (about 150 pages in PDF format). As before, we proposed that a delegation from the village and the representatives of UNMIK, OSCE, and the embassies of the QUINT countries in Pristina (mainly the US and the United Kingdom) visit the village of Miroce, accompanied by representatives of higher institutions in Pristina and the municipality of Vucitrn. Also, we indicated that we are ready to participate in any kind of cooperation, whereby each owner would present their documents. We sent the material to the e-mail addresses of higher levels of government in Pristina, UNMIK, OSCE, as well as the embassies of the QUINT countries. To date, we have not received any response.

The material that we submitted in all requests for help can be downloaded from the Google Drive link: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1VZgypi7tz5U5DIGd_wr_QLbwI1oBa3Aq.

Conclusion

For more than 20 years, we, the owners of property in the village of Miroce, have been suffering the consequences of the reckless seizure, destruction, and exploitation of our property, which the local authorities did not attempt to prevent or punish at any time, even though they were aware of the situation on the ground.

None of our previous individual attempts to solve the problem before relevant local authorities have solved it, moreover, as time passed, solving these problems has become even more complex due to the difficulties in the implementation of probate proceedings following the death of the owner.

Efforts we made so far to present our problems, recognized at the level of the entire village, supported by evidence to the central authorities of Kosovo, embassies of foreign countries in Pristina, and international organizations in Pristina and Belgrade, simply had no effect.

The people who stole, destroyed, and continuously exploit our property calmly continue their actions, apparently unconcerned that they may suffer consequences.

We, property owners, extremely powerless to solve our problems, appeal to all well-intentioned people, all institutions of various forms and levels of competence to help us:

1) To the basic and elementary right recognized by all civilizations since the beginning of time- to manage and own private property. This can be achieved in only one way: for the central and local authorities of Kosovo to force the people who have seized, destroyed, and continue to exploit our property to stop creating problems for us in managing our private property.

2) To find a systematic means of compensating damages for destroyed property, considering that this cannot be achieved in regular court proceedings from the property of the abuser.

We thank you in advance,

The owners of property in the village of Miroce

Read more:

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



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