Pristina pressure still on

November 7, 1997

ETHNIC Albanian students in Kosovo are keeping up the pressure on the Serbian government to allow their return to the University of Pristina.

United Nations special emissary on human rights, Elisabeth Rehm, last month praised what she called the students' "admirable" protests in support of a return of Albanian-taught education in the schools and higher education institutions of the Serbian-ruled province.

"You have a right to hold protests," she assured representatives of the (Albanian) Independent Students' Union (ISU) at Pristina, a university which, as far as the Kosovar Albanians are concerned, has had to function for the last six years in makeshift classrooms and constant harassment by the police, while the official university campus remained in Serb hands.

The Serbian police in Kosovo have not acknowledged their right to protest. According to the (Albanian) Democratic League of Kosovo, in the town of Prizren, participants in "protest" walks have been beaten by the police and told that, if the walks continue, they would be "destroyed". The league has named two students and two high school teachers as among those harassed.

Furthermore, ISU chairman Bujdar Dugoli said demonstrators face an increasing risk of lynching. He told Ms Rehm that participants in the protest walks in Pristina have often seen "sharp-shooters" in the windows of private homes.

Despite Ms Rehm's praises, the ISU is less than happy with the results of their protests to date. Although their actions attracted the attention of a number of European and US diplomats, they say "nothing positive" has emerged. Appeals from the Kosovar Albanian political leader, Ibrahim Rugova, to give the negotiations a chance, broke down in mid-October.

The Serbs blamed the talks' failure on Albanian intransigence. The Albanian negotiators said that there can be no further negotiations until the Serbs set a clear date for the return of the Albanians to classroom and campus.

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