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Ombudsperson Kosovo

Marek Antoni Nowicki, Ombudsperson in Kosovo

Alice Thomas, International Legal Advisor to the Director of Investigations

missing people

Interview with Marek Antoni Nowicki: Ombudsperson Kosovo

Felicia Herrschaft: Yesterday I went to the funeral from Ramush Haradinay’s brother and we saw that they put concrete on the grave and the situation was that they were doing this because of fearing enemies who should destroy the grave again. In Kosovo you will find a lot of traumatized memory and my question is, how can you as the Ombudsperson really help people to reconciliate and probably for establishing a democratic independent state?


Marek Antoni Nowicki: This is one of the biggest problems here, in my view to speak about reconciliation, is quiet early. First of all people should be prepared on both sides, should be prepared for forgiveness. Forgiveness concerning what has happened during all these periods not only before or during 1999 but also after. This should be a starting point for the first stage rather of the reconciliation process. But there are still so many open issues, open questions which doesn’t help from the point of this process. One of the issues which is or should be mentioned in this respect is a question of missing people. You have still al lot of Albanians and at the same time a quite considerable number of Serbs and others missing from 1998, 1999. Non Albanians had been missing mainly but not exclusively, after entering into Kosovo or into international forces during the period of so called provisional government of Kosovo. It means, it is a complicated process and a process on which the Ombudsperson has a quite limited influence. But at least we are trying making people understanding of that outgoing, through this painful process. There is no future if of course one would like to see here a society in which people of different ethnicity live together. Together is not a good formulation, next to each other, because they have not been lived any period before, next to each other.


Felicia Herrschaft: You mean which people?


Marek Antoni Nowicki: I mean Albanians. When we speak about the ethnic relations, of course, immediately we think about Albanians and Serbs, but of course one should not forget about the non-Albanian community, Roma Ashkali, but the main line of tension is between these two and the Albanians and the Serbs.


Felicia Herrschaft: And one of the standards which have to be fulfilled is free movement and the coming back of refugees out of camps. What do you think, are you helping people with this institution to fulfill the standards?


Marek Antoni Nowicki: The Ombudsperson Institution is not formally included into the standard evaluation process. Because this process is conducted by UNMIK, with the provisional of government structures. But at the same time, certain parts of the priority standards are very much although the questions under the Ombudsperson restrictions. That means by definition we are a standard institution. Even if we are not formally included into the standards of evaluation, but having in mind that my obligation is to express my position on the main human rights issues, one day and very soon in fact, when the annual report of the institution will be published. This report will contain although the Ombudsperson position related to certain aspects of the human rights situation. The aspects which very much are part of standards. It means in other words, in July 2005 you will have Ombudsperson position on certain questions which belongs to standards. Whether our position will be the same as standards of evaluation reports or different, you will see in July.


Felicia Herrschaft: I experienced now, that people here are very upset because of the Internationals and what they are doing here. On the other hand they trust in the Ombudsperson Institution.


Marek Antoni Nowicki: This is one of our biggest or may be the biggest achievement, because the institution is considered by people as their own institution. This institution they understand belongs to them. This is a place of trust and the people are coming with different problems. For this reason although, I am saying, I am going to Gilan and 30 persons waiting, to meet simply the Ombudsperson and to talk. It is an effort for the whole day of different discussions. One by one. And this institution is not being considered as part of international structures. In the periods of some sort of tensions between international presence here and the local people we had not been touched by these tensions at all. In the very beginning I try to lead the institution to understand our role, as one can say intermediary, between local population and international structures, which, when we speak about the year 2000, 2001, 2002 there had been only governmental structures existing, after the local self government structures had been created. But at the beginning there were only UNMIK as a government here.


Felicia Herrschaft: What kind of requests do the people bring to the Ombudsperson?


Marek Antoni Nowicki: It is much easier to say that, than what kind of problems people do not bring to me here. It is a different issue. This shows few things: 1. They do not have a place to go, to raise the problems; 2. this is a place of trust, because if they do not have any other option really at least they are coming here and they are bringing me on the table sometimes problems which we can not help. Many times we can, but there are certain issues, we are not really able to help these people but they must talk to somebody, they ask what to do in such a situation.

But of course in many cases it is a question of interventions to different local or international structures. But the people are complaining or raising the issues related to security, to property, to social welfare, to the function in administration of justice or mal function, complaining about the police, everything. We can not deal with cases only related to the international military presence. This is out of our competence. If we have such stories, of course, I do not reject immediately the complaining but in such a situation, I send this to KFOR, asking them to do something. Sometimes when we speak about countries having similar institutions, I inform the ombudsman in this countr. The respected Ombudsman is related to the international KFOR here. Including Germany, you don’t have Ombudsman, only for the military, but you have petitions commissioner in the Bundestag and we have a quite of numbers of cases in which we decided to make the petition commissions busy, sending such cases. And also when we speak about other categories of cases, but simply to help people, we have persons having also different problems with German administration in such a situations, we try to establish direct contact with different rounder authorities to what extent such a cooperation can follow. We try, if we can help, we try.


Felicia Herrschaft: I heard now: 5 Billions were spent for electricity and it is still a provocation that the electricity is not working, because of corruption and so on. What is going on in this case?


Marek Antoni Nowicki: Electricity is like an obsession of people in Kosovo: There are different factors and difficulties in such a situation. Corruption is probably only one. But also during the whole period the system of collecting money for electricity consumption did not function. Big number of people simply have not being paying electricity bills, it is a huge, huge electricity stealing. In another words the whole system had not been functioning and production of electricity is one side of this business and the rest also had not been functioning and only now certain steps starts which maybe could lead to certain results. In this context I like to stress, we had been saying a lot of people had not been paying electricity at all, for different reasons, because they do not want and they know nobody will force them to do that, but quite a number of people simply not having money to paying for. Electricity in Kosovo is one of the most expensive in Europe and having in mind what is apart of a population living in the stage of poverty, are you having conclusions?


Felicia Herrschaft: There are big contradictions here?


Marek Antoni Nowicki: The people are very poor and the economy doesn’t work etc. In this time there is no social security, a system which should really help when we speak about pensioners. First of all there is no something like in my understanding, a pension. What exist today one can say, the social existence of people getting the certain age, are getting fourty euros per month and such sum of money you are having for living costs and basics, it is not really enough even for food. It is a little bit more then one Euro a day and what about electricity and what about water and everything else? And there is no any let say public support, which could make this people able to pay such expensives. And if people do not pay electricity and electricity is produced, the money must come from somewhere, because the production costs, that is a vitiosus circle.


Felicia Herrschaft: And how do you expect the campaign "our prime has a job to do here"? It is a very powerful campaign?


Marek Antoni Nowicki: My position is simply, when we decided to mandate, to have international court, international criminal court for Jugoslawia, simply one should keep a presumption that this court tries to make justice, and if this court decides, they must tolerate their decisions.


Felicia Herrschaft: The people here think that it is unjust.


Marek Antoni Nowicki: People have a right to express their own opinion but the same time, what I stress, if we decided to have a court in another context as well, we have a court in such a situation, we have to follow the court decisions. If you would like to have a court only for court-decisions which we like, it doesn’t work.


Felicia Herrschaft: And the Ombudsperson, are you working in a way what we can call reactivating a civil society?


Marek Antoni Nowicki: My role here is not only to exercise the Ombuds jurisdiction, but very much to give lessons to people that it is possible even under such difficult conditions that you have independent strong enough respected institutions, existing, particularly, independent. You should remember, people here had been living in a communist system and questions like independent institutions etc, the concept was not really very much present and even if the institution was that formally like courts etc, necessarily in practice, showing this, lets say strong positions, it means very much this formally independence being only formal but in practice it is very much compromised and to show independence even versus international presence here, I think it is a quiet good needed lesson of how such institutions should function and I think it will be a lesson for them for the future. We leave one day also this institutions as we call kosovonized. Kosovonization, that is the word which we use here. This is part of legacy which I intend to leave here after five years which I spent here, I do hope for something.