“Four years is too long. Respecting court decisions is not optional. Institutions should implement the decision on Decani Monastery’s land immediately,” the US Ambassador to Kosovo, Philip Kosnett tweeted today. The British embassy also reacted.
In the meantime, the Head of the EU Office/EU Special Representative, Nataliya Apostolova, and the Head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, Ambassador Jan Braathu, reacted in a joint statement.
„The EU and the OSCE as members of the Implementation and Monitoring Council urge the Kosovo authorities to implement the Constitutional Court ruling of 19 May 2016 on the land dispute case in Decan/i. The EU and the OSCE call on the municipality of Decan/i and all Kosovo institutions to uphold the rule of law as one of the pillars of a free and democratic society,“ the joint statement read.
Kosnett also shared a tweet from last year, in which he underlined that the “three years of failure by the Government to enforce the Constitutional Court’s decision on Decani land case is a blow to equal justice.”
“Can any citizen – or any potential foreign investor – rely on Kosovo courts when the Government can choose to ignore the courts’ authority?” Kosnett tweeted last year.
The British embassy reacted in a Facebook post.
“On the anniversary of the Constitutional Court decision of May 2016, confirming the Decan/i Monastery’s ownership of surrounding land, we call again on the authorities of Kosovo to implement this decision. The Rule of Law must be applied by all, regardless of their political or other affiliations,” the embassy underlined.
The Abbot of Visoki Decani, Sava Janjic also reacted.
“The lack of implementation of the decision is a sad example of absence of the rule of law. We rightfully expect from the Government to inscribe our property in the Land register,” Abbot Sava said.
He also shared the reaction of international officials on his social media accounts.
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.
The Association of Kosovo Historians ‘Ali Hadri’ from Decani was one of the most vocal in opposing this decision. They held protests and roadblocks several times, followed by incidents. At the beginning of this year, one of the first demands the then elected Chairman of the Assembly, Glauk Konjufca received was from this association.
As they did with previous authorities, they asked Konjufca to pass a special law which would, in their opinion, annul decisions, laws and other acts from 1990 to 1999 – when Yugoslavia was led by Slobodan Milosevic.
In recent years, international officials have appealed to the Kosovo authorities to implement the 2016 decision of the Constitutional Court of Kosovo, which confirmed the ownership of the Decani monastery over 24 hectares of land used by the monastery.
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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