Lawyer detained by Serbs vanishes

FORMER YUGOSLAVIA:

CONCERN IS mounting for a leading Kosovo human rights lawyer detained by Serb police and held incommunicado.

In an ominous sign that those working to uphold the law in Serbia are in growing danger, Teki Bokshi, who was representing many of the 2,000 ethnic Albanians held in Serbian jails, was arrested five days ago by plain-clothes police and taken away in mysterious circumstances.

One of his colleagues received a phone call from Mr Bokshi a day after his disappearance but the call was cut off and nothing has been heard of him since. The Serbian Ministry of the Interior has failed to respond to requests for information.

Mr Bokshi, a Kosovo Albanian lawyer, was working for the Humanitarian Law Centre (HLC), a human-rights organisation in Belgrade.

The United Nations special rapporteur for human rights, Jiri Dienstbier, and Amnesty International sounded the alarm among the international community and human rights activists about Mr Bokshi's arrest.

Barbara Davis, the representative to former Yugoslavia for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: "The special rapporteur has asked the Serbian authorities if they would explain Bokshi's whereabouts and help resolve his arbitrary detention. I hope this situation will not lead to a setback for all detainees." Amnesty International said it was "seriously concerned for Mr Bokshi's safety", and urged people to send letters to President Slobodan Milosevic.

Two lawyers, Ibish Hoti, and Mustafa Radoniqi, were with Mr Bokshi when he was arrested. The trio had met Kosovo Albanian detainees jailed in the southern town of Mitrovica. They were driving the 130 miles back to Belgrade when, 10 miles from the capital, they were ordered to pull over by a man in a grey Mercedes that had official Ministry of Interior licence plates.

Three men, in plain clothes, got out of the Mercedes and took the keys of the lawyers' car from the driver. They ordered Mr Bokshi to accompany them back to his Belgrade hotel to pick up his identity documents.

When alerted, Natasa Kandic, the executive director of the HLC, issued a request to the Serbian Ministry of Justice for information on why Mr Bokshi was being held. Yesterday, she had still not received any information.

Ms Kandic said she received a phone call from Mr Bokshi on Saturday, the day after his disappearance. According to Ms Kandic, Mr Bokshi said "I am here", before the phone was cut. Ms Kandic says she doesn't know where "here" is.

For those who have met Mr Bokshi, the arrest of this most moderate figure is a particular outrage. He is one of the rare individuals who inhabits the increasingly narrow common ground where Serbs and Albanians come together to fight for human rights.

Greying, mild-mannered Mr Bokshi worked side by side with colleagues from all ethnic groups. He was instrumental in winning the release last month of 19 Kosovo Albanian children, aged 13-17, being held in Serbian prisons.

He was due to defend 28 Kosovars being held in President Milosevic's home town, Pozarevac, tomorrow. According to Ms Kandic, the 28 were taken by Serbian police from a convoy of refugees trying to flee the province during Nato air strikes. "We had expected them to be released since they were all taken from a civilian refugee column," Ms Kandic said. "But now that Bokshi has been arrested, we don't know."

The trial of the prominent Kosovo pediatrician, leader of the Kosovar League of Women and human rights activist Flora Brovina is also due to resume tomorrow in the southern Serbian city of Nis. Ms Brovina's trial, which began last month, has helped to raise international attention to the issue of the thousands of Kosovo Albanians being held in Serbian jails, many of whom have not been charged.

Some 300 Kosovo Albanians have been released from Serb jails since June, but almost 2,000 are still confirmed as held. A Western official said it appeared that hundreds more were being held by "non-state actors", who were demanding ransom money of up to $50,000 (pounds 30,000) per head for their release.

The Western official confirmed that a "prisoners market" was active north- east of Podujevo, near Kosovo's provincial border with Serbia. Ethnic Albanians were encouraged to pay middle men to secure the release of Kosovo Albanians, who were often not released after the payment.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project