released on Friday, December 7, 2001

Albin Kurti Albin Kurti is one of at least 2,000 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo that remain locked up in prisons inside Serbia. Many of them were dragged across the border by retreating Serbian troops. Albin was the head of the Independent Student Union, which led the peaceful demonstrations in 1998. Later he became the assistant to Adem Demaci - the former KLA political spokesman. Being an assistant to a KLA political spokesman might warrant his arrest by the Serbs during the war.

But the war is over. Were the Serb troops, that terrorized Albanian civilians in Kosovo, forced to stay and face justice by returning Kosovar refugees? No. The Petersberg agreement allowed them to retreat to Serbia. NATO troops actually waited until the retreat was complete. It was like giving them amnesty in exchange for peace. Now, it would be only fair that they release their POW-s. But the Serb Army does not play fair. They subscribe to Milosevicís ideology which presents them as victims of an unfair world powers conspiracy against them. They firmly believe that they, the weaker party, have the right to heed no rules of engagement in fighting their wars.

This doctrine was established early on in Croatia (Vukovar) and honored in Bosnia (Sarajevo, Srebrenica) and Kosovo. Unjustified keeping of Kosovo Albanian prisoners in Serbia hurts the remaining Serbs in Kosovo the most. Except for the Mitrovica region, which is held by Serbs, the rest of the Kosovo is now almost entirley 'cleansed' of Serbs. Those Serbs might be innocent, but they are the only available target of revenge, and the anger against them is augmented by both the fact that real perpetrators were allowed to go free, and by the fact that relatives and friends of returning Albanians are still rotting away somewhere in a Serbian prison, with no formal charge or a bogus charge brought up against them and with no right of the due process. The right of the due process, along with the other pillars of a civilized justice system, is perhaps scorned away by Belgrade as a weapon against Serbs, since it is perceived that it comes from the West and not from the being human. The first step in changing that wrongful perception should be the immediate release of Kosovo Albanians from Serb prisons. Click here to sign the petition for the release of Albanian political prisoners held in Serbia and go check the Albanian Prisoner Advocacy List -- Prisoner Pals.

Albin was finally released from Nis prison on December 7, 2001, more than a year after the collapse of Milosevic's regime, and about six months after Milosevic himself ended up in prison of The Hague tribunal. Upon release, Albin was escorted home to Kosovo by ICRC. To date 1834 detainees have been released of whom 1675 were accompanied back home by the ICRC. During the detention visits the ICRC delegates have exchanged more than 34,318 Red Cross Messages between the detainees and their family members. 203 detainees will continue to be visited by the ICRC until their final release by the authorities.

Further info contact Nada Doumani, ICRC Mission, + 377 44 115 036

This picture (1997) courtesy of the Human Rights Watch. The New York based human rights organization, together with the International Committee of the Red Cross and four Kosovo based human rights organizations, demands information on thousands of detainees and missing persons from Kosovo.

Adem Demaci spent 27 years in Serbian (Yugoslav) prisons for political reasons, that's seven years longer than Nelson Mandela. He was finally released partially on relentless urging by Amnesty International.
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