`Hushing up disappearances in Kosovo is betrayal`

Covering up the atrocities committed in Kosovo against the non-Albanian population is ultimately a betrayal of hopes of building a civilised society in Kosovo itself, believes independent filmmaker Ninoslav Randjelovic.

For the last decade Randjelovic has been producing films on the human rights of minorities living in Kosovo. His work has been shown all around the world.

RT: Where did the idea for your work come from?

NR: The essence of it has been an effort to document cases of severe human rights violation that was affecting and that has been affecting civilian population of Kosovo and Metohia particularly Serbian and the non-Albanian ethnic minority in Kosovo. To have it recorded as much as it can be recorded and brought to attention of whoever wants to see it.

RT: You say that you are drawn to this work because were hearing reports that people had gone missing, but how in fact did this information even come through?

NR: Here in Belgrade I would learn about that only occasionally even though 1,300 people in such a short period of time had been kidnapped. Sometimes there were no photos of these people of course in the newspapers, sometimes names and nothing much more, or maybe a location where they were seen last time. In 1998 I went down there and tried to collect some information from the family members and that's how it all started – with the hope that if we bring to the world's attention what really is happening in these remote villages of Kosovo maybe the suffering of people will cease

RT: From the data that you collected what do you understand happened to these people? How did they go missing?

NR: Well, you know, lots of them had been just kidnapped outside. They were stopped at the road and then just abducted like that. But at that time it was like devastating for me even though I did record these facts, it seemed like nobody really cared about it. The lack of media attention to what was really going on in Kosovo is something that I think we can say made space for such terrible things to happen at the first place.

RT: Who did you understand kidnapped these 1,300 non-Albanians and why?

NR: According to the people I talked to, most likely paramilitary troops, KLA troops were the ones who were involved in this kidnapping process. But you know, the thing is, not a single person came back alive that we know of, so we can’t know that for sure.

RT: What did people suspect happened to them?

NR: We see that they have been killed Now there is legitimate concern that some of them were used to take organs from the body and killed later on.

RT: How lucrative a business is the trafficking of human organs and who's involved in it?

NR: Well now people say that – you know I don't know. But that's what I read that ahuman body is worth a million euros on the black market. If you have one body so to say worth a million euros, imagine 1,300 bodies or anything like that! And that brings another issue like I mean I'm not saying that is something that we will know, but at least we must ask ourselves and we must look into the lack of media coverage of these crimes and atrocities suffered by the civilian population of Kosovo is part of the reason why these things could have happened.

RT: Why was there such a lack of media coverage then?

NR: Because somehow politics in a certain way obscured certain issues such as these atrocities suffered by the Serbian civil population, because simply it was considered maybe politically incorrect to talk about sufferings that the Serbian and not the Albanian civil population experienced.

RT: Politically incorrect by whom, the Serbian authorities?

NR: Well, I guess not by the Serbian authorities but by the world media. But the thing is I'm more concerned – much more – by the lack of interest shown by the Serbian media.

RT: How do you explain that there was so little Serbian media interest?

NR: There's no ready explanation. I cannot explain that. But I think it's because the Milosevic regime wanted to show itself as in control of the region, as being powerful enough to protect Serbian interests in Kosovo that was jeopardised by, let's say, Albanian terrorists. Then, showing how ineffective Belgrade is in protecting people in Kosovo will undermine the message that he wanted to send. On the other hand, after the Milosevic regime was gone, the lack of interest in the problem – the suffering of the Serbian and non-Albanian population – continued. The lack of interest from the Serbian media is something that really makes it hard for me to come up with any kind of explanation.

RT: It's now 10 years later and obviously Milosevic is no longer on the scene, but from what you seem to suggest, the issue of human rights and non-Albanians in Kosovo still remains an issue and the media is still not interested in covering this. So how do you explain it?

NR: Well, actually, explanation is kind of a hard word. But the fact is we do still have such a serious issue as the lack of freedom in human rights. Basically it was again politically incorrect for the Belgrade regime to address that issue from that angle. Only two weeks ago we heard that an elderly couple a few kilometres from the border in Kosovo had been killed, and people are guessing whether it is because they didn't sell their house.

What about this tragedy from a human angle? From a human point of view? And how much do we really know about the fate of these people now? It is more important than ever now especially that the EULEX is coming to Kosovo. It is more important than ever to raise this issue of safety and who's going to do it? So, for example, with the help of Greece and Russia I hope that three of my films will soon be translated into 10 languages, six of which will be official UN languages, and in that sense this will be used to show how serious the issue of safety has been in Kosovo.

RT: These people are not safe from whom? The new Kosovo government? Or random acts of violence?

NR: Random acts of violence. Such numerous things. I mean lots of objects that have been destroyed and have not been rebuilt yet. People have not returned to their houses or rebuilt their houses. Hundreds of thousands of them!

RT: It's all very well. You're talking about Greece and Russia, but why is the Serbian government today not doing enough to assure their safety?

NR: It is a hard question for me to explain. For example, right now I'm in the process of trying to convince them after all these years. If the Serbian government is not pressing these particular issues, what will happen with people who still live there in Kosovo, non-Albanians, then who will?

RT: Are you surprised with what happened regarding Kosovo? That the Serbian government did not put up more of a fight to prevent Kosovo from declaring independence?

NR: I'm kind of surprised that the Serbian government has not developed this argument more. What matters to Serbia down in Kosovo are people. Ultimately it's not about history. It is not about identity. It is not about religion. It's about loyalty to a fellow human being. By betraying them – and betrayal is if you don't talk about someone who's dying and who's been killed and who's yours – we are actually losing ground in becoming a civilised society here in Serbia. We must ask about them. They must be the number one thing in the minds of our politicians. Because if they are not, then what else is? And that's why I think we’ve failed so far as a country to convince the world what it is really that we are fighting for, because we have not stood together for these people.

RT: Is this issue only about Kosovo or is it an international issue?

NR: The international community arrived in Kosovo to stop killings and to help create a multi-ethnic society that is civilised. That's how we will measure the success of this international mission – the implementation of all this money, weapons and political will. Is it going to result in a better life for an ordinary citizen of Kosovo?

RT: Thank you for talking to us on RT.