UN condemns 'illegal' election of rector at Kosovo-Mitrovica

September 24, 2004

The Serbian-taught University of Kosovo-Mitrovica has lost accreditation from the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo on the grounds that the election of its rector was illegal.

The election, held by the university council last week, rubber-stamped an earlier decision by Ljiljana Colic, then the Serbian Education Minister, to appoint Radivoje Papovic, a former close supporter of Slobodan Milosevic.

The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights alleged that, while dean of Pristina University in the early 1990s, Dr Papovic "cleansed" it of ethnic Albanian students and faculty.

There were protests from the Serbian University Council at Dr Colic's intervention, which it condemned as an infringement of academic autonomy.

And the European University Association dismissed her action as a breach of the spirit of the Bologna process.

Unmik officials said it infringed the autonomy of Kosovo - the university was founded by UN law as a Kosovan institution, subordinate to the Kosovan Ministry of Education, not the Serbian Government in Belgrade.

Mechthild Henneke, Unmik spokesperson, said last week: "Unmik has clarified its position to the Belgrade authorities and they are aware of the illegitimacy of (Dr Papovic's) election."

The Belgrade Government has proved unresponsive. But the university's accreditation ran out in August and Unmik has made it clear that until Dr Papovic goes it will not be renewed.

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