24 March 2007

Illegally constructed buildings near Visoki Decani Monastery still have not been removed


KIM Info Service, Decani, January 5, 2007

The illegally constructed buildings near Visoki Decani Monastery still have not been removed. Although an official order to tear down the buildings has supposedly been issued by the municipality, the so-called "owner" of the buildings Naim Kuci is doing everything possible to delay its implementation. On December 28 members of the police appeared in front of the illegally built restaurant with a bulldozer and the removal order; however, the owner stopped the destruction of the buildings by saying he would remove it himself. More than a week has passed and as of today (January 5) when the latest photographs were taken, there was no one near the buildings. It is the opinion of the monastery administration that the owner of the illegally constructed buildings is trying to buy time and waiting for snow in order to avoid the implementation of the decision for the destruction of the buildings altogether.

What is especially concerning in this situation is the fact that the local municipality and police are very passive and not showing any determination at all in implementing the law, while UNMIK is unable to more effectively influence the implementation of the decision on the protected zone. Since the problem with expansion of the illegally constructed facility began, no one from the municipality has found it necessary to visit the monastery and discuss the matter with the abbot.

Bishop Teodosije of Lipljan, the abbot of Visoki Decani Monastery, will discuss the current situation with UNMIK chief Joachim Ruecker who is expected to visit Visoki Decani Monastery for the Nativity of Our Lord. The chief Commissioner of UNMIK police is also exepcted to visit the monastery sometime during the day.

Decani Monastery has informed a number of international organizations concerned with issues of religious freedom and protection of cultural heritage regarding the problem of illegal construction and attempts to turn the monastery surroundings into an industrial zone. The monastery emphasized that in addition to the issue of physical security under present conditions in Kosovo, where 150 Serbian holy shrines have been destroyed since 1999, they are also the victims of steady disregard by local authorities who turn a blind eye to violations of the law representing a long-term threat to the survival of the Serbian Orthodox Christian heritage in this region.