Skip to comments.Real Estate Rows Cause Carnage in Kosovo
Posted on 05/04/2006 6:13:04 AM PDT by joan
Mass of conflicting property claims since war leads many Kosovars to try solving disputes with guns.
By Krenar Gashi in Pristina (Balkan Insight, 26 Apr 06)
A bloody shootout in a town in Kosovo has come as an unwelcome reminder to many Kosovars of how many battles over real estate end in death.
Two people were killed, including a deputy mayor, and eight others were injured, in the shooting on April 22, in Shtime/Stimlje, 25 kilometres from the capital Pristina.
The Kosovo Police Service, KPS, confirmed nine arrests over the shootings in which Aziz Xhelili and Vezir Bajrami, a deputy mayor of Shtime/Stimlje, were murdered.
Both the police and municipality said an initial investigation indicated that the violence was related to a property dispute.
Ibrahim Demiri, spokesperson for Shtime/Stimlje municipality, said it started when two people, Kadri Bajrami and Ekrem Ferati, wanted to start construction on a property they had bought from local Serbs some years earlier.
But the property was being illegally occupied by another person from the village of Godanc village, who refused to move.
A witness to the crime said she heard automatic gun fire start while out driving. "People were screaming and running, while some others were lying down on the ground as the shooting went on for about five minutes," she said.
"For a second I thought I was in the middle of some scene from a mafia film."
A police patrol had been nearby but waited for backup "as the situation was too dangerous for them to intervene", she went on.
This incident is one of many in which disputes over property ended up being "solved" by guns.
Legal experts blame the lack of a rule of law, overloaded courts and police reluctance to intervene in time for some of the deaths.
The root cause, however, is utter confusion over who owns what in a country where huge amounts of real estate changed hands after the end of the 1999 NATO air war terminated Serbian authority in Kosovo.
Since then large numbers of properties belonging to Kosovo Serbs have been seized by Albanians whose village homes were destroyed during the war.
Some of the properties have been legally sold but the disputes still occur when squatters resist moving out and new owners insist on coming in.
In November 2005, a 50-year-old man was killed in the western city of Peja/Pec in what police said was a murder linked to unresolved real-estate claims.
Then, in December 2005, two persons, Rrahim Ademi and Besim Dudi, were killed in a gun battle in Pristina that police also think started over a property dispute.
Many locals blame the inefficient judiciary whose slowness has left a backlog of casework that tempts some to try quick-fix solutions.
According to the Housing and Property Directorate, HPD, a UN agency set up to deal with property issues after the war, more than 40,000 disputes are waiting to be processed in Kosovo's courts.
Nekibe Kelmendi, a member of Kosovo's parliament and a lawyer, says one initial problem was the removal of Kosovo's cadastral files by the departing Serbian administration in 1999.
This left the UNMIK administration with very restricted information on previous ownership.
"Additionally, the lack of a tradition of registering property and arranging proper written contracts when buying real estate added to the judicial fragility," said Kelmendi.
Knut Rosandhaug, director of the HPD, said it isn't just the lack of paperwork that causes problems. Cultural factors also play a part. "In most cases, people do not use the opportunities that the legal framework offers them to complain and solve their property claim in the legal way," he said.
Abdulla Aliu, professor of property law in the University of Pristina, added that a further difficulty was multiple claims to the same plot of land. In many cases, he said, "different people claim to own the same property", offering documentation from different periods to prove that.
Aliu said the way out of this confusion and backlog of cases was to set up a new, temporary court, "with a special mandate that would deal only with property issues".
Rosandhaug explained that the Kosovo Property Agency, KPA, the successor to the HPD, which is still being set up, is supposed to fill this role.
"The KPA will prepare argumentation of the cases and take the recommendations to the municipal courts to be decided there," said Rosendhaug.
However, some Kosovars fear that even if cases are solved at a faster rate in future in the overloaded courts, the police do not have the teeth to put the courts' rulings into practice.
One Albanian whose family is locked into a property dispute in Pristina said the recent shootout in Shtimje had lowered his own expectations of what the courts could achieve.
"After the case in Shtimje, even if our claim is solved in court, I would be afraid to move into it and consider it safe," he said.
Krenar Gashi is a contributor to Balkan Insight contributor. Balkan Insight is BIRN's online publication.
Kosova is real civilized. Not.
All of this would stop if the Serb military were allowed to protect their entire country.
Peace and justice will return to Kosovo alongside the Serb army.
Future EU and NATO candnidates.
Oh, never mind... the poor widdle Albanians are ALLOWED to keep their AUTOMATIC weapons and GUTTING KNIVES!!