In municipalities in the north, citizens attempted to submit requests for the removal of the mayors; however, their requests were not accepted

Peticija za smenu gradonačelnika
Source: Kosovo Online

In all four municipalities in northern Kosovo - North Mitrovica, Leposavic, Zvecan, and Zubin Potok - citizens' representatives attempted this morning to submit a request for the removal of Albanian mayors, as prescribed by administrative instructions. However, they were prevented from doing so in all four municipalities.

Citizens tried to submit the requests to the Presidents of the Municipal Assemblies, as specified in the administrative instructions drafted by the Government in Pristina this summer, but in all municipalities, they refused to accept the request.

According to information received from citizens in the municipality of Zvecan, police identified and registered citizens who attempted to submit the initiative for dismissal in the Lipa settlement.

Due to these developments, citizens' representatives in all four municipalities will submit a request to the Central Election Commission and will inform the Quint countries and representatives of the European Union about the situation.

"Today, as citizens, we came to submit an initiative for the dismissal of the Mayor of the Municipality of North Mitrovica. We wanted to do this like our fellow citizens from the municipalities of Zvecan, Zubin Potok, and Leposavic. After several hours of negotiations with the authorities of the Municipality of North Mitrovica, we were unable to submit this initiative. We referred to the Law on Local Self-Government, administrative instructions on minimum standards, administrative instructions on the transparency of municipal work, and the plan for citizen participation adopted by this municipality about two years ago. Based on all laws and instructions, we as citizens have the right to submit an initiative. Our initiative was rejected and not accepted as such", Sanja Krtinic said.

As she adds, citizens wanted to submit an initiative for the removal of the Mayor of North Mitrovica because they believe he was elected illegitimately and illegally.

"These were not democratic elections, and I must emphasize that only two to three percent of voters chose this mayor, mostly from the Albanian community, while more than 95 percent of the Serbs did not vote in these elections. For this reason, we as citizens wanted to submit an initiative for the mayor to resign and leave his position. We want to emphasize that the Serbs do not feel safe; this is terror against the Serbs, and we simply do not want to remain silent anymore. The rights of the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija are endangered, and this is, therefore, confirmation that our rights are not legitimate, and that we are not citizens who deserve rights like everyone else. I would like to point out that the international community is aware of the work of local self-governments in the north and sees what kind of policy is being implemented towards the Serbs. Therefore, I appeal to them to somehow pressure this Government and remind them of the rights of all citizens in Kosovo and Metohija, so that we can enjoy them as well, not just the majority community", Krtinic says.

She emphasizes that the local self-government is violating not only the administrative instructions prescribed by the Kosovo Government but is also undermining the legitimacy of citizens who came to submit the initiative.

"If, as a citizen, I have the right to submit any type of initiative to the Municipality, it is obliged to take it and respond within 15 to 30 days. We did not succeed in that", Krtinic says.

"This is the most brutal violation of human rights that we could witness today here in Kosovska Mitrovica, actually in the building of the North Mitrovica Municipality. Namely, we, as ordinary representatives of Serbian citizens in the north, could not submit a simple request at the reception of this building. Therefore, the submission of a simple request for the removal of the Mayor of North Mitrovica did not reach the office and was eliminated from the start. This is just an indicator of how much the human rights of the Serbs in Europe are endangered", Milan Milosavljevic from North Mitrovica said.

In August, the Ministry of Administration and Local Self-Government of Kosovo issued administrative instructions allowing citizens to submit petitions for the removal of mayors in the north. The instructions stipulate that any individual or group of citizens with voting rights can initiate such a petition. Once initiated, they need to designate a responsible person to serve as a 'contact point' who, before starting the signature collection, informs the President of the Municipal Assembly, either electronically or physically.

Before beginning the signature collection, the initial group can inform the Central Election Commission. The President of the Municipal Assembly informs the head of the relevant municipality, the Ministry responsible for Local Self-Government, and the CEC.

According to these instructions, the President of the Municipal Assembly has a deadline of three working days, upon receiving the notification, to inform the designated person about the number of registered voters in that municipality, provide a unified list for signature collection, and notify the Ministry. If this deadline is not met, the relevant Ministry will do so within two working days. From the moment the request is accepted, either the municipality or the Ministry requests from the Central Election Commission the number of registered voters for the specific municipality. Based on this, the minimum number of 20 percent is calculated because the petition must be supported by at least 20 percent of registered voters in the municipality for a vote on the removal of the mayor to be organized.

The deadline for collecting signatures is 30 days from the submission of the necessary documentation. Signatures are collected in physical form, and to facilitate the process, an electronic registry of signatories can be established. The collected signatures are submitted to the chairperson of the Municipal Assembly, who is obliged to forward them to the CEC within five days and inform both the citizens and the Ministry.

The Central Election Commission, in accordance with the law, verifies the list of signatures and, after verification, informs the chairperson of the Municipal Assembly and the Ministry with a final assessment. If, after verification, signatures are found from individuals who are not registered voters in the specific municipality, their signatures will be deemed invalid.

If it is determined that the petition was not supported by at least 20 percent of the registered voters, the citizens' initiative is allowed to supplement the request with additional signatures within ten days. Once it is established that the request is supported by at least 20 percent of the voters, a vote on the removal of the mayor from office is organized.

The current mayors in the four municipalities, as a reminder, were elected in elections held on April 23. Erden Atiq was elected in North Mitrovica, Lulzim Hetemi in Leposavic, Ilir Peci in Zvecan, and Izmir Zeqiri in Zubin Potok.

The Serbs boycotted the elections, and only about 3.5 percent of voters participated - out of a total of 45,050 registered voters, 1,567 exercised their right to vote, with only 13 being Serbs. Four Albanians were elected to lead the municipalities in the north, where the Serbs make up more than 95 percent of the population.

On May 26, the Kosovo Police, along with members of the ROSU, forcefully entered the municipalities of Zubin Potok, Zvecan, and Leposavic, using tear gas and stun grenades against citizens offering peaceful resistance. Ten Serbs were injured during this incident. Three days later, during unrest in Zvecan, more than 50 Serbs were injured, along with 30 KFOR members.