IHF: Open Letter to Vojislav Koštunica  Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia


The IHF has consultative status with the United Nations and the Council of Europe.
HE Vojislav Koštunica
Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia
11 Nemanjina St., Belgrade
                                                                                                                                                                  Vienna, 8 May 2004
Via facsimile    +381-11-3617 609                                         
O P E N   L E T T E R
Dear Mr. Koštunica,
I am writing on behalf of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) to express concern about the appointment of Mr. Radivoje Papović as Rector of the University of Mitrovica (Kosovo) by Serbian Minister of Education, Ljiljana Čolić, and to ask that you review and reconsider the decision.
Our concerns are of two kinds. First, the appointment will have a negative impact on the tense ethnic situation in Kosovo, and can be considered a provocation. This decision is likely to have highly negative political and security consequences, which could escalate the tense situation in Kosovo further.
Mr. Radivoje Papović was formerly a senior official of Slobodan Milošević’s Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS). During his tenure as rector of the University of Pristina in the 90-ties, Mr. Papović was responsible for designing and implementing policies that were severely discriminatory against Kosovo Albanians.  Indeed, he was one of the major creators and executors of President Milošević’s repressive policies in Kosovo. He was, for example, personally responsible for the expulsion of Albanians from work and studies as of 1991 and blocked implementation of an education agreement between Messrs. Milosevic and Rugova in 1996, by which Albanian students would have been able to return to the university.
The decision will damage relations between the Albanian and Serbian academic community in Kosovo, relationships that can help in reduce tension and contribute to reconciliation.
What is more, in appointing Mr. Papović, the Minister of Education of Serbia violated procedures and law.
Following UN Security Council Resolution 1244, the Constitutional Framework of Kosovo, as well as the Law on Education in Kosovo, the University in Mitrovica is placed within the legal framework of Kosovo. The decision to dismiss the Rector cannot be valid if it has been reached in Belgrade and not confirmed by any of the international or local institutions in Kosovo.
Furthermore, the measure is illegal under Serbian Law and regulations. This has been pointed out in a press release of the Union of the Universities of Serbia, which calls for nullification of the decision. The Council points out that the Minister does not have the authority under Serbian Law and university regulations to directly appoint the new rector. They also stress that this decision seriously infringes on the academic freedom and autonomy of the University. Additionally, as Mr. Papović is not a professor at the University in Mitrovica, he is not eligible to be appointed its Rector.
The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) urges you to reconsider the appointment of Mr. Papović in light of these concerns. We will be most grateful for your attention to this matter.
Aaron Rhodes
Executive Director
Copies to:         Harri Holkeri, Special Representative of the Secretary General for Kosovo (SRSG), UNMIK
Marek Antoni Nowicki, Ombudsperson, Ombudsperson Institution in Kosovo
Javier Solana, EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy
European Union Presidency
OSCE Delegations and Missions
Council of Europe
National Helsinki Committees

Joachim Frank, Project Coordinator
International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights
Wickenburggasse 14/7
A-1080 Vienna
Tel. +43-1-408 88 22 ext. 22
Fax: +43-1-408 88 22 ext. 50
Web: http://www.ihf-hr.org

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