From: Kosova Action Network, US (315) 471-7790APPEAL FOR THE RELEASE OF
THE PRIZREN 10
The US government has committed itself to peace in Kosovo and even threatened NATO bombing. Why, then, can it not find its voice on behalf of jailed students?
From 1997 until March, 1998, the U.S. State Department, the House Foreign Affairs staff, the New York Times and other international organizations showed strong support for the students of the Independent Students Union in Kosova (UPSUP) and their non-violent protests, which were aimed at regaining their school buildings. Indeed, Ambassador Robert Gelbard met with student leaders both in the U.S. and in Prishtina and helped to negotiate a new education accord that would allow the students use of their campus buildings. Although the accord was signed in March, 1998, the terms of the agreement were never honored.
Organizations throughout Europe and the U.S. had praised the discipline and bravery of the UPSUP leadership throughout the year. Then, on May 23, 1998, eight student leaders--all UPSUP members--in Prizren at the Doda Teacher Training School were arrested and charged with membership in the KLA and acts of terrorism against the state of Yugoslavia. The New York Times, Ambassador Gelbard, Amnesty International remained, by and large, silent.
The students, ranging in age from twenty to twenty three, were convicted in August of "enemy activities against the state of Yugoslavia" for organizing a first aid class for displaced people. At their trial, the only evidence against them were their confessions, made, said their lawyer, under psychological and physical duress. The two older students were beaten. Four of the students were charged with KLA contact and admitted to it.
In a trial that by several reports lasted only four and a half hours the students were sentenced to terms from seven and a half years to one year. The students are allowed one visitor every two weeks. One mother said, "My daughter is in jail and no one knows it. No one cares." Their lawyer stated to "Bota Re" --"There is no reason for their imprisonment. There is no evidence. But I cannot free them alone. I need help." Their sentences are as follows:
THE PRIZREN 10
Arbitrary detentions and arrests of ethnic Albanians have escalated rapidly throughout 1998. Until late September, the precise number of individuals in custody at any given time had been impossible to determine since the Yugoslav authorities refused to provide detailed information, despite specific inquiries from Human Rights Watch. On September 23, Serbian Minister of Justice Drogulub Jankovic stated that criminal investigations had been opened against 927 individuals in five local courts of Kosovo and one court in Prokuple-all of them on charges of terrorism or enemy activities against the state. According to the minister, 538 of these people are currently in detention. It was later reported that as many as 325 ethnic Albanians had been arrested between September 22 and 26, although it was unclear how many of these individuals remained in custody as of this writing.
In July and August, detained individuals increasingly included human rights activists, humanitarian aid workers, political party members, doctors, and lawyers, many of whom were physically abused in custody. Human Rights Watch has substantial credible evidence from lawyers and family members of detainees that detainees are routinely tortured and ill-treated. From March to August 1998, five people are known to have died while in police custody; hundreds of others have been beaten. Human rights and humanitarian agencies, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, report restricted access to detainees.
Police abuse, arbitrary arrests, and violations of due process constituted violations of, among other instruments, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the Yugoslav government has pledged to respect.
There is no reason for these students to remain in jail. UPSUP had much open support from the U.S. government and other international bodies until the time when intervention was truly needed. Then their case was totally abandoned.
Their case and others like them are an example of the human rights abuses perpetrated against Albanians by the Serbian regime. Actions we take to bring about their release shows our commitment to protecting peoples rights regardless of the who they are or where they are.
An appeal of their case. Contact and petition your congress people, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Congressman Eliot Engel head of the Albanian Caucus in Congress, The National Albanian American Council,