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International lawyers address DCL students on the state of Kosovo

October 24, 2000

International lawyers from the University of Pristina Law School in Kosovo visited the MSU-Detroit College of Law for a roundtable discussion on the future of a Democratic Kosovo on Monday.

They said the world will be watching as nationalist Kostunica attempts to rebuild Serbia.

“The roots of hate in the peoples lies in nationalism,” said Iliriana Islami, an assistant professor of international law at Pristina Law School in Kosovo. “The Serbs’ aims were to be a greater force in the Balkans.”

The Kosovar professors have been in the United States since early October, talking with different law schools and getting ideas for reformation. MSU’s Office of International Development coordinated their weeklong visit.

When the professors returned to Kosovo after NATO bombings, they came back to an empty law school. After the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo under former President Slobodan Milosevic at the end of the decade, the province was left in ruins.

“Kosovo is now under international administration and is having success,” said Pristina Vice Dean Rexhep Murati. “We have a lack of law because of the discontinuity.”

Murati said Kosovo is currently adopting criminal and civil laws, but the court system is still being set up and the prisons are in bad condition. He said to improve conditions, Kosovar independence must be maintained and changes must be made in the Yugoslavian government.

“As soon as possible, we have to establish democratic institutions,” Murati said. “From that onward, Albania would have responsibility for those institutions.”

Kostunica was sworn in a few weeks ago and is a strong proponent of the rule of law, of an independent judiciary and independent free press. A former constitutional law professor, Kostunica is interested in restoring relations with Europeans and the international community.

Murati said a united Kosovo will create problems, especially with Serbs living in the province. But under Democratic rule, minorities must also be protected under a fair system of law.

“Lots of Serbs were a hand in crimes,” Murati said. “It was a question of whether we can live together with Serbs, and we lived before with Serbs.”

International law professor Zejnullah Gruda was in Kosovo in 1998 when the Serbs killed more than 2,200 ethnic Albanians, some of them women, children, pregnant women and disabled persons.

He said the only reason Kosovo survived was because of international intervention. And even then, the Serb threat is present.

“More than 7,400 dead people in Bosnia in four days,” Gruda said. “They had a chance to stop Milosevic in the beginning, in Croatia. It’s like before the second World War.”

“We must be independent once, forever,” he said. “Milosevic lost the polls not because of his crimes, but because he lost a war.”

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