Serbia has drawn criticism for sentencing three Albanians who wrote the Kosovo Liberation Army’s initials on snow-covered cars to 55 days in prison.
Human rights activists have criticised as excessive the 55-day sentences handed down to three ethnic Albanians by the Belgrade Misdemeanours Court for drawing the Kosovo Liberation Army’s initials in snow on several automobiles in the Serbian capital.
The three Albanians, one from Kosovo and two from Belgrade, reportedly drew the KLA’s initials on the snow-covered cars during the night between January 6 and 7, Orthodox Christmas Eve.
The president of the Misdemeanours Court, Milan Marinovic, said on Tuesday that the men were each sentenced to 30 days for “rude and indecent behaviour”, 20 more for “begging”, and an additional five for not being able to pay a 5,000 dinar (42 euro) fine for not having identity documents on them.
But Milena Vasic from the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights, YUCOM, pointed out that writing the acronym for the Kosovo Liberation Army is neither a felony nor a misdemeanour.
“If the court characterised this as behaviour that can disturb the public, than the punishment is too harsh,” Vasic told BIRN, although she added that it was hard to form an opinion without seeing the verdict.
She said that the case illustrates double standards, since there were instances when the authorities did not fully investigate the drawing of Nazi symbols, even though that is illegal under Serbian law.
Kosovo Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli called the Serbian court’s decision “scandalous”, and urged “international institutions and mechanisms of human rights protection” to condemn it.
“In a democratic society no one is convicted for having a different opinion… It is almost unbelievable how the non-democratic regime in Serbia arouses fear and hatred towards all that is Albanian and from Kosovo,” Pacolli wrote on his Facebook page.
The Kosovo Liberation Army fought against Serbian forces during the 1998-99 war for independence from Belgrade’s rule, but was seen by the Serbian authorities as a terrorist organisation.