Photo: OSCE Mission in Kosovo.

Kosovo’s Cultural Heritage Sites Hit by Theft, Vandalism: OSCE Report

A new OSCE report says that cultural and religious heritage sites in Kosovo have been targeted by thieves and damaged by vandals, and urges the authorities to strengthen the police force’s capacities to protect them.

Incidents of theft and damage by vandals constitute the most frequent problems for cultural heritage and religious sites in Kosovo, says a report published on Monday by the OSCE Mission in Kosovo.

The report notes that an increase in reported thefts suggests an economic motivation for crimes against religious sites.

“This increased reporting also indicates greater public awareness to report such offences to the Kosovo Police. Meanwhile, KP’s specialised unit for cultural heritage has become operational and patrols 24 sites, including 22 Serb Orthodox churches and monasteries,” the report says.

Fifty-seven per cent of them targeted Serbian Orthodox sites, 27 per cent Islamic Community sites and nine per cent Catholic sites.

During the same period, the report says that 86 incidents of vandalism of religious buildings took place; 48 of them targeted Serbian Orthodox Church religious buildings, while 25 targeted Islamic Community sites.

The head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, Michael Davenport, said that the monitoring of cultural heritage sites is crucial to identify and prevent potential violations.

“Cultural heritage preservation is a shared responsibility, and a crucial one to ensure the sustainability of our preservation efforts. The involvement of all the communities, alongside the concerned institutions, is absolutely crucial in ensuring ownership and sustainability of our common efforts,” Davenport said.

The report says that the adoption of the National Strategy for Cultural Heritage 2017-2027 constitutes an important step towards enhancing public awareness about cultural heritage.

It also urges local and national authorities to strengthen efforts to publicly condemn incidents against religious and cultural heritage sites.

Currently, police provide security for 24 religious sites in Kosovo while NATO’s Kosovo mission, KFOR, guards the medieval Decani Monastery, an important Serbian Orthodox religious site in western Kosovo.

The OSCE report urges the Interior Ministry to strengthen support for the police, particularly the special unit for cultural property. It also expresses concerns about the impact of uncontrolled developments, mainly illegal constructions and the demolition of heritage sites.

19/07/2022 - 12:24

19 July 2022 - 12:24

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