Balkans: February 18, 2004


: Western press sources have run a series of reports on new violence in Kosovo. It's been noted that the current violence looks like an old style of violence unfortunately all too familiar in the Balkans. That is the blood feud. Blood feuds savaged Albania for generations, though by no means are they confined to Albania or Balkan Albanian ethnic populations. One report from Kosovo used the term honor killings. The report tied the honor killings medieval Albanian tribal laws, specifically one called The Canon of Lekee Dukagjini. Honor killings occur in many cultures. Arab tribal honor killings underpin some violence inter-tribal and political violence in the Middle East. They also include more personal violent acts to include attacks on women suspected of adultery. Corsica and Sicily have histories of blood vendettas. The Albanian Balkanite version operates at clan, family and personal levels, and has led to generations of tit for tat attacks and murders. One source says The Canon of Lekee Dukagjini (also called Lekes Law) provides a legal sanction for the feuds: ...If one man kills another, a male member of the victim's family must respond in kind." There are ways to negotiate release from this sanction, including giving pledges of security, payments of blood money, public reconciliation, etc. The return of blood feud may well relate to lack of faith in the legal system in Kosovo. Some human rights groups have reached that conclusion. Though UNMIKs police have accomplished much during the UN mandate in Kosovo, the power of Balkan gangs to corrupt the legal process and the power of former Albanian guerrillas to intimidate witnesses has certainly sapped public confidence. In fact, on February 16, UN police arrested four former KLA guerrillas. The ex-guerrillas now serve in the Kosovo Protection Corps (TNK). The men are accused of murdering several Albanian Kosovars in 1998 and 1999. The people the men murdered were suspected of collaborating with the Serb oppressors. However, those arrests set off a series of street protests. While these may have been political killings the families of those murdered may not see it in those terms. They want justice.One source which said at least 40 murders in Kosovo (1999-2003) were blood feud-related killings. While thats a large figure for such a small population, the more troubling aspect is that the number of revenge slayings may be increasing. One possible solution is a Kosovar Truth and Reconciliation Commission modeled after the post-apartheid commission in South Africa. (Austin Bay)




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