BK (Blood Feud) Kosovo CG  UKIAT 00156 (10 June 2004)
Date of hearing: 2 June 2004
Date Determination notified: 10 June 2004
|SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT||APPELLANT|
"7. At page 78 of the Tribunal bundle, is an extract from Kosovo: A Short History by Noel Malcolm. Here, we find the nature of the Northern Albanian blood feud described as follows:-
'[The blood feud] is one of the most archaic features of Northern Albanian society resembling the codes that govern other isolated societies in the Mediterranean region (such as Corsica) or the Northern Caucasus. What lies at the heart of the blood feud is a concept alien to the modern mind, and more easily learned about from the plays of Aeschylus than from the works of modern sociologists: the aim is not punishment of a murderer, but satisfaction of the blood of the person murdered, or initially, satisfaction of one's own honour when it has been polluted. If retribution were the real aim then only those personally responsible for the original crime or insult would be potential targets; but instead honour is cleansed by killing any male member of the family of the original offender, and the spilt blood of that victim then cries out to its own family for purification.
Since honour is of the essence, there are strict rules for every step of the feud: one who 'takes blood' to satisfy his (or his family's) honour must announce that he has done so; a formal truce or best for a set period must be agreed to, if requested for a proper reason (this is a special use of 'bese' the general term for a man's word of honour); and so on…the tradition of the blood feud has never died out in Kosovo: innumerable small-scale feuds have combined in the remoter villages and not all of them were ended by the great series of mass reconciliations arranged by an inspirational settler of blood feuds, Anton Setta in the early 1990s'.
8. In a further extract from a book, Religion and the Politics of Identity in Kosovo, by Ger Duijzings found at page 82 of the bundle, we note the following:-
'The judicial means of regulating property and land sales have been ineffective, and thus conflicts over land have been endemic, resulting in a rising number of blood feuds: among the Albanians in Yugoslavia the number of crimes committed in vendettas is not only on the decline but is even rising…there are such feuds in almost every one of the Communes of the province of Kosovo, most of them in the remote villages'……
10. An extract from the Sunday Times of August 2001 mentions the murder of almost the entire membership of a Kosovan Albanian family. This is referred to in the context of the 'lawless state that Kosovo is in', with 245 murders in 2000, 'many of them revenge attacks on the Serbian minority by ethnic Albanians, angered by years of repression'. In 2001, up to the date of the article, 'the number of murders has dropped to…77, but it includes a particular brutal outrage, eleven Serbs killed in a bus bombing in February'. As for the killing of the Albanian family the report notes that ' Albanian feuds spare women and children' and that the killing 'is almost certainly linked to the fact that Hamza, Pranvera's 50 year old father used to be a policeman under Serbian rule'.
11. On page 87 we find an UNMIK-KFOR press briefing of February 2001 where 'two murders were reported overnight, one in Malishevo - a Kosovo Albanian killed another in an apparent blood feud dating 25 years'.
12. Ms Jolly also submitted a copy from a website article of 21 August 2003, emanating from an organisation called 'Reliefweb'. The subtitle of the article is 'Murders on the increase in Western Kosovo but no-one is prepared to identify the killers'. The particular incident in question, when a number of people were shot in a gun attack on a car and shop, appears to have 'had something to do with rival business interests'. There are said to have been 22 murders in the Peja region of Kosovo during 1993. The causes of the crimes 'vary - some of the killings involve organised crime and business rivalries, while others stem from traditional blood feuds between Albanian families'. The article goes on to note that 'ethnic violence involving Albanians and the pockets of Serbs still living in the area remains a disturbing trend. Two young Serbs…were shot dead on 13 August'. UNMIK police are quoted as complaining that witnesses to crimes such as these are hard to come by. Another report from the same website of 19 August 2003 notes 'escalating violence in Kosovo [which] has led to a new war of words between Serbian and Albanian politicians and raised tension between their respective communities'.
13. Against this background, the Tribunal is in no doubt that the Adjudicator was perfectly entitled to conclude that the Appellant would not be at real risk upon return to Kosovo as a result of his uncle's murder of the brother of the Serbian informer and Collaborator Palok Gjeloshi.
14. Reading the documentation in the Appellant's bundle, and the Kosovo Country Assessment of April 2003, it is manifest that the situation in Kosovo has changed fundamentally since the time of the events in 1999, when the Serbian authorities held sway in the province. According to paragraph 4.48 of the Assessment, it appears that less than half of the former 200,000 or so Serbs who were resident in Kosovo, now remain there. Most of the remaining Serbs 'are concentrated in the Northern part of the city of Mitrovica'. Ethnic Serbs 'have been the principal targets for ethnically motivated attacks'.
15. The Tribunal is also aware that UNHCR consider that potential returnees, with special protection needs, include ethnic Albanians who may have been involved with the previous Serb administration. As paragraph 6.91 of the Assessment observes 'there have been reports of ethnic Albanians being targets of harassment and violence in retribution with alleged association or collaboration with the Serbian regime, particularly in the months following the war of 1999-2000. In some cases such accusations may have been based on little more than the fact that the person had done business with the Serbs in the past or that his house was not targeted by Serb forces'.
16. The Tribunal's attention has not been drawn to any utterance by the UNHCR, since the end of the Kosovan war, to the effect that those in need of special protection include those who claim to fear retribution from a blood feud…….
18. The evidence on blood feuds in Kosovo clearly suggests that the practice exists within the more rural, isolated communities. The Tribunal has been presented with no evidence to show any significant blood feuding within the capital, Pristina, The Adjudicator's finding that, if it were necessary to do so, the Appellant could relocate there with his family is, in the Tribunal's view, wholly justified."
If the Adjudicator were to make a positive finding on credibility then in my view it would be appropriate to consider the cultural background to the practice of blood feud in Kosovo. My opinion is that, unless such a blood feud were to be settled by negotiation between the elders of both respective families and a "bese declaration" made, then there is a genuine and substantial risk to the male members of such families, and an indirect - though no less serious - risk to the male members. Indeed in recent years instances of blood feuds being pursued abroad have been documented by police in Italy, Greece, Switzerland, Germany and the UK.
As far as the question of sufficiency of protection is concerned I would commend to the Adjudicator's attention the specific concerns over the standard of policing raised by UNMIK's human rights Ombudsman in his 2002 Report on Kosovo as well as the findings of the most recent Council of Europe report. In my view the evidence contained in the 2001 US State Department report also gives cause for concern that UNMIK may tolerate informal settlement of blood feud violence, rather than taking active steps to bring those responsible for the courts. On the evidence of what is taken place in Kosovo since June 1999 and is continuing to occur in the province, I do not have confidence that the Kosovo police service can be relied upon to of a meaningful degree of protection or security to those individuals at risk from blood feuds. UNMIK's own evidence is that such attacks to occur - often many years after the initial incident - and on occasion individuals are killed or seriously injured.
Since blood feuds are province wide problems and cases have been documented across Kosovo, I do not consider that internal relocation could offer any additional degree of security, particularly in view of the small size of both population of Kosovo and the geographical boundaries of the province itself."
33. The issue which would then follow is whether the present authorities in Kosovo (UNMIK, KFOR and the Kosovo police service) are capable of providing adequate protection to those ethnic Albanians who are "in blood" with another family in the province. In my opinion the current security situation remains far from satisfactory although there has been an undeniable improvement in the general level of security for most ethnic Albanians. However there has also been a significant number of killings and kidnappings committed by members of both communities - Albanian and Serb - in Kosovo since June 1999 and recent evidence provided by objective sources (including UNMIK itself) is that there has been a significant upsurge of violence within the ethnic Albanian community.
34. There is also disturbing evidence cited by the US State Department in its Human Rights report on Yugoslavia (Kosovo) for 2000 that UNMIK has, at least on occasion, failed to enforce the law, preferring to allow the process of informal blood mediation to take the place of prosecutions
"In early December unknown assailants attempted to kill Hajvas Berisha, a former commander of the KLA and a KPS member in Pristina. UNMIK arrested three of the alleged assailants; however, because the case involves a family feud, no charges were filed against the assailants because the case was settled out of court through traditional Albanian feud mediation methods.
35. In my view this statement raises legitimate questions about the extent which UNMIK and its police effectively collude in such informal out-of-court settlements in order to avoid provoking tension between the ethnic Albanian majority population and UNMIK police, an increasingly large number of whom are ethnic Albanian recruits. Intervention in blood feuds by other ethnic Albanians - even police officers - tends to be avoided owing to the potential risk to the individuals and their own families.
36. In my opinion this evidence suggests that UNMIK has been, at least in certain cases, willing to allow informal settlement of violence committed in the pursuit of blood feuds in Kosovo rather than taking appropriate steps to enforce the law and bring perpetrators justice in the courts. I would suggest that traditional Albanian feud mediation methods can hardly be regarded as an appropriate means of law enforcement in 21st century Europe [as per the Horvath test]."