Balkans: August 21, 2003

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The wall of silence in Kosovo is what UNMIK peacekeepers call the  difficulty  in getting Albanian Kosovars to provide information on the recent spate of murders. There has been an upsurge this summer in murder in Kosovo. The usual means of killing Kosovars (the majority this summer Serbs) is a passing car spraying submachine gun or automatic rifle fire. UNMIK believes it can get information, but the Albanian Kosovars who would talk fear the criminals will turn on them. UNMIK indicated that several of the killings may not be political violence, but rooted in organized crime and even family blood feuds. But fear of retribution isnt the only cause for silence or reluctance to cooperate with investigations. For decades the police enforced the rule of dictators, and people depended on family and clan for protection. Under dictatorship, the population fears the police, since the police are almost always a tool of oppression by the dictatorial state. Old habits die hard, and the key old habit is to say as little as possible to the police. See nothing, hear nothing, say nothing. UNMIK is, of course, a counter-crime police force, and other sources indicate most Kosovars are impressed with the democratic police. It takes time, however, to build confidence. The US confronts this old effect in Iraq. (Austin Bay)

 

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