The upcoming trial of a prominent political prisoner from Kosovo should be monitored by diplomats and members of the media.
Dr. Flora Brovina, 50, was arrested by Serbian police in civilian clothes in front of her Pristina apartment on April 20, 1999, during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. She is charged with committing terrorist acts against the Yugoslav State, according to Article 136 of the Yugoslav criminal code.
The courts in Serbia are often controlled by the government. Defendants, especially Kosovar Albanians in political cases, are often denied due process. Human Rights Watch is deeply concerned that Dr. Brovina will not be granted a fair trial.
A pediatrician and poet, Dr. Brovina was the founder and head of the League of Albanian Women. She is charged with providing food, clothing, and medical supplies to the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), as well as planning terrorist acts. During the war, her clinic provided medical services to women and children still in Pristina.
Dr. Brovina was originally held in Kosovo's Lipljan prison, where other prisoners have told Human Rights Watch about regular beatings and maltreatment by prison guards, including a cordon of baton-wielding police that met all new detainees. On June 10, two days before the entry of NATO into Kosovo, she and hundreds of other prisoners were transferred to prisons inside Serbia.
Dr. Brovina is being held in Pozarevac prison, where she has been visited by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), her lawyers, and her husband. However, her husband has not been able to meet with her alone and has had to speak Serbian, which can be monitored, rather than their native Albanian. Conditions in Pozarevac prison are better than in Kosovo, but Dr. Brovina has had difficulty obtaining medicine for her weak heart, her husband, Ajri Begu, told Human Rights Watch.
Dr. Brovina's trial will be held in the Nis municipal court on November 11. Human Rights Watch called on diplomats in Yugoslavia and representatives of the international community, as well as journalists, to monitor the trial. "It was a great mistake that the fate of Kosovar Albanian prisoners was not a part of the agreement between NATO and Yugoslavia that ended the war," said Holly Cartner, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia Division. "Now, at least, the international community should monitor the trials to make sure that they meet international standards."
The Yugoslav government has acknowledged that approximately 1,900 Kosovar Albanians are being held in thirteen different detention facilities in Serbia. All of them have been visited at least once by the ICRC. But some known detainees do not appear on the government's list, such as Albin Kurti, the well-known student activist and former KLA political representative, who is currently in Pozarevac prison. Kosovo-based human rights groups claim that more than 5,000 Kosovar Albanians are currently missing, in addition to those in detention. It is not known whether these additional 5,000 people are in detention or dead.