Serbian Orthodox Diocese Kosovo-Metohija
Visoki Dečani Monastery on the latest statement of Mrs. Osmani denying Monastery property rights
Updated: May 11
(The Communique of the Monastery was posted today in Serbian on the Monastery Facebook page https://facebook.com/Decani.Manastir and the Monastery Twitter Account in Serbian
The reaction of the Monastery is based on the statement of Mrs. Osmani published today by Klan Kosova (English translation) Osmani for Deçan Monastery: Milosevic's laws should not be applied
Logical questions that arise from the aforementioned statement of Mrs. Osmani are the following:
If all the court decisions of authorities during the Slobodan Milošević rule are illegal why are the thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of court decisions and property contracts in Kosovo made during his government between 1989-1999, which benefited Kosovo Albanians, not equally considered illegal?
Why should this discriminatory position apply only to the land of the Dečani Monastery?
And, finally, why the Constitutional Court decision on the Monastery land has not been implemented for seven years, with full legal impunity of the local authorities?
One must contemplate the legal chaos that would ensue if all these decisions between 1989-1999 were to be disputed. Once the Visoki Dečani Monastery's right to 24 hectares of land was confirmed by the Kosovo Constitutional Court ruling, it ceased to be merely a decision from 1997, but became the ruling of the highest court in Kosovo in 2016. Furthermore, all international representatives in Kosovo, along with their legal teams which looked into this issue, unanimously agree that the Dečani Monastery land Court ruling must be implemented and the be land inscribed in the cadastral records. This position has been reiterated several times in the last seven years by the representatives of the EU, OSCE, Quint ambassadors and many others. But regrettably, nothing has been done and we can regularly read statements of Kosovo officials who deny legality of this Court decision and refuse its implementation, which seriously endangers rights of the Monastery.
It is important to note that Slobodan Milošević himself was not involved in the 1997 decision to restore 24 hectares of land to the Dečani Monastery. This decision, made by the Serbian authorities of that time, was based on the legal right of the Monastery to have at least a portion of the 700 hectares, confiscated by the Communist authorities in 1946, returned to its legal owner. Restitution of the land of religious communities, taken away by Communist authorities in several EU and other countries remains a high legal priority.
The Supreme and Constitutional courts of Kosovo deliberated on all these issues under full international supervision, allowing all parties to freely present their arguments. The litigation on several legal levels lasted almost 16 years. Eventually, the Constitutional Court of Kosovo issued a final and binding “res judicata” decision in 2016. Three years later, in 2019, the Constitutional Court of Kosovo sent a letter to the Monastery, following its complaint about the non-implementation of the Court ruling, and fully confirmed that the 2016 decision of the Constitutional Court was obligatory.
However, the strong determination of the Kosovo government and Dečani municipal administration not to implement the 2016 Constitutional Court ruling, and even to declare it illegal, despite all international requests, contradicts above stated readiness to guarantee the protection of the Serbian Orthodox Church's property in Kosovo. On the contrary, such behaviour towards the Dečani Monastery presents a serious discouragement to all those who trust that the legally binding court decisions of the highest court in Kosovo should be implemented, and directly compromises the rule of law in Kosovo.
At the same time, this stance significantly discourages Kosovo Serbs and other citizens from freely exercising their rights to protect their property through the Kosovo legal system and makes negative influence on religious and ethnic relations in Kosovo.
US Embassy in Kosovo: Respecting Court Decisions Is Vital to Kosovo’s Democratic Future 2021 Respecting Court Decisions Is Vital to Kosovo’s Democratic Future - U.S. Embassy in Kosovo (usembassy.gov)
Diplomats Urge Kosovo to Implement Orthodox Monastery Land Verdict, 2021 https://balkaninsight.com/2021/11/30/diplomats-urge-kosovo-to-implement-orthodox-monastery-land-verdict/
BIRN - Kosovo Ignores Call to Enforce Monastery’s Land Claim 2017 https://balkaninsight.com/2017/04/21/kosovo-govt-stays-silent-over-eu-calls-on-monastery-land-04-21-2017/
QUINT demand implementation of decision for Decan Monastery 2022 https://www.rtklive.com/en/news-single.php?ID=21156
The embassies recalled that the Constitutional Court’s decision on Decani monastery’s land has not been implemented even 4 years later, Kossev 2020 https://kossev.info/the-embassies-recalled-that-the-constitutional-court-s-decision-on-decani-monastery-s-land-has-not-been-implemented-even-4-years-later/
New York Times, At Kosovo Monastery, Nationalist Clamor Disturbs the Peace 2021 - The monastery’s Serbian Orthodox abbot says he is subject to “rabid nationalism” from all sides. His biggest headache: a land dispute with ethnic Albanians, whom he protected during the war in the 1990s. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/13/world/europe/visoki-decani-monastery-kosovo.html
US State Department Report on n International Religious Freedom: Kosovo, June 2022: Overview of the problems at Visoki Decani Monastery from the US State Dept Report: "Decan/Decani municipal officials and the central government continued to refuse to implement a 2016 Constitutional Court decision upholding the Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling that recognized the SOC’s Visoki Decani Monastery’s ownership of approximately 24 hectares (59 acres) of land in the monastery’s vicinity. There was no progress during the year, despite repeated appeals by the SOC and international community to the Kosovo Cadastral Agency and, more broadly, the government, to register the SOC’s ownership of the land. In September, the Constitutional Court stated all government institutions were obligated to enforce its decisions and referred the issue to the state prosecutor. At year’s end, the prosecutor had not initiated criminal proceedings against the officials responsible for refusing to implement the decision. In September, Decan/Decani mayor Bashkim Ramosaj publicly reaffirmed he did not intend to execute the court’s decision. NATO troops in the country continued to provide security at the Visoki Decani Monastery. In October, Viola von Cramon, European Parliament rapporteur on Kosovo, posted to Twitter, “Tolerance and mutual respect are the essence of multiethnic society. The Serbian Orthodox Church heritage in Kosovo must be protected and enjoy full rights. I thus urge Kosovo govt to implement the long overdue C[onstitutional] C[ourt] judgment as the rule of law means equal treatment of all. In May, the SOC halted official communication with the government, citing the government’s nonimplementation of both the Visoki Decani Monastery Constitutional Court decision and a November 2020 Italian-brokered arrangement between the IMC and Decan/Decani municipal authorities on the Decani SPZ roads. The SOC released a statement saying it was “facing a deliberate legal obstruction by Kosovo institutions both on central and local levels, under the strong influence of formal and informal Kosovo Albanian centers of power which apparently remain determined that the Constitutional Court decision will never be implemented … the institutions are firmly in hands of those who make justice on their own regardless of the Constitutional and Supreme Courts’ decisions as well as laws.” As a result of breaking off discussions, the IMC did not meet during the year. The arrangement included development of both a bypass road external to the SPZ boundaries, which would connect Decan/Decani to Montenegro, and a separate local road within the SPZ. Liburn Aliu, the Minister of Environment, Spatial Planning, and Infrastructure (and cochair of the IMC), publicly opposed the agreed arrangement, saying the construction of a bypass road was a “dangerous precedent.” Local authorities continued additional road construction works outside the SPZ, which, the SOC said, was an attempt to create a situation in which local authorities could subsequently strengthen their justification for construction within the SPZ.” https://www.state.gov/reports/2021-report-on-international-religious-freedom/kosovo/
Europa Nostra - Inclusion of the Dečani Monastery on the 2021 List of 7 Most Endangered heritage sites in Europe https://www.europanostra.org/inclusion-of-the-decani-monastery-on-the-2021-list-of-7-most-endangered-heritage-sites-in-europe/
Summary of the Decani Monastery Land Issue:
Decani Monastery land court decision Kosovo refers to a legal dispute over the ownership of 24 hectares of land around the Visoki Decani Monastery, a 14th-century Serbian Orthodox Church site in western Kosovo. The monastery claims that the land belongs to it based on a 1997 decision by the Yugoslav authorities and a 2012 ruling by the Kosovo Supreme Court. However, the Kosovo government and some local ethnic Albanians have challenged the monastery’s ownership and tried to confiscate or use the land for other purposes.
In 2016, the Kosovo Constitutional Court confirmed the monastery’s ownership rights and ordered the government to implement the Supreme Court’s decision. However, as of 2021, the government has not complied with the court order and has faced criticism from international diplomats and human rights groups for violating the rule of law and religious freedom. The monastery has also been subject to nationalist attacks and threats, and has been protected by NATO troops since 1999. The monastery is considered one of the most endangered heritage sites in Europe by Europa Nostra, a cultural heritage organization.