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April 1, 2004

STATEMENT
Regarding the attack on archpriest Jeremija Starovlah and his family

The suffering inflicted on our people in Kosovo and Metohija – on the very Sunday before the Passion of Christ – has forced us to witnesses a new attack on the dignity of our people.

On April 1, 2004, at 1:00 am, SFOR solders brutally attacked a parish house in Pale.

As a result of this attack, archpriest Jeremija Starovlah and his son Aleksander were brutally wounded. As both are still in danger – and as made clear by their wounds – it is obvious that SFOR soldiers will stop at nothing, even murder. Priest Miomir Zekić, who was shot at and later tied up with his wife, was also assaulted. We will not elaborate what the families of priests went through that night.

During this attack, which made heavy use of firearms, the parish house was demolished along with the apartments and surrounding buildings inhabited by the priests and their families. The glass windows of the church dedicated to the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos were destroyed in the blasts.

As christian priests, and in the name of our community, we appeal to those who love freedom and peace in Europe and all over the world in our wish to state our view of this event.

With this act, terror has been inflicted on the middle of Europe, affecting not only innocent train passengers and pedestrians doing their everyday shopping, but all people - unsuspecting of the criminal threat that hovers over them.

The terrorism of this incident is very specific because the agressors were the same powers that claim to be fighters against such evil.

  What makes the attack even more inhuman was the fact that a christian orthodox priest was attacked in the middle of Europe, whose constitution was founded on christian values. He was assaulted in his home after midnight, in the most brutal way. He was attacked by "peaceful forces" - having kindly opened his door to them only a few days earlier, stressing he would do so any time they sought hospitality. Priest Jeremija and his son Aleksandar are known to be very peaceful and honest people, and they have never had any conflict with the law in any sense.

When considering this vandalism, we have to be wary of the media campaign that has been launched in an attempt to compromise the Serbian Orthodox Church and its priesthood, who are accused of assisting suspected war criminals, though there is no evidence to support these claims. With such suspicions, all christian people are put to shame regardless of their innocence. In a string of malicious media attacks, father Jeremija, who is innocent, was accused of collaborating with some of the people sought by the Hague. Immediatly after the reports were released, SFOR attacked his family.

  It is more than clear that this act was not aimed at hunting the accused war criminals but an attack of the soul of the people, whose soul is its Church. The Church and its priests have never done anything to cause such accusations, nor did they provoke the attack. The insinuations are no form of evidence, and if there is any evidence supporting their claims, we want them to be showed in public.

We, the priests, ask the question publicly: Are our lives and the lives of our families in the hands of the armed people who are in the hands of a one-sided power which has been blinded by hatred, and which unfortunately does not have to answer to anyone for its lies? When such powers are free to launch an attack against priesthood, what are other, unprotected people to expect?

We hope that all of the responsible authorities in this state, starting with the most responsible Mr. Ashdown, through the authorities in Sarajevo and in Banja Luka, are feeling ashamed today. Unfortunately, their initial reactions reveal that they have neither human dignity nor a feeling of responsibility. After this, what can we expect from them?

We will send documented evidence of this attack, every drop of blood and every lock of hair of these innocent people, to every European institution and all christian churches, and ask them for help and the protection of human rights – which should enable people to live and practice their confession, for us priests, our believers and all other people whose rights have been violated.

That is the reason why after this event we bishops, priests and our believers will cease to cooperate with similar international institutions and organisations in BiH, as well as with the authorities in RS and BiH, until they urgently condemn and accuse the attacking powers of this criminal act, punish the criminals and support our statement.

Finally, we remind the armed powers who march through our country not to make us into Palestinians and Iraqis, as we have never been a threat. Therefore, their strategy should be modified accordingly.

As believers who know how to appreciate human beings as well as the sacrifices they make, we would like to express our gratitude to the hospital staff in Tuzla, because they have done their jobs honeslty and with utmost professionalism.

Metropolitan of Dabar-Bosnia Nikolay
Bishop of Šabac-Valjevo Lavrentije, member of the Holy Synod of the SOC
Bishop of Zahumlje-Herzegovina Grigorije, member of the Holy Synod of SOC
All the priesthood of the Diocese of Dabar-Bosnia










THE HOLY SYNOD OF BISHOPS OF THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
2 April 2004
Belgrade

The Honorable Major General Virgil L. Packett II
Stabilisation Force Commander
Sarajevo



HONORABLE MAJOR GENERAL:

Already several times over, We have demanded of the SFOR Command, the High Representative of International Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as from the Secretary General of the United Nations, to completely stop the unnecessary and improper disturbance of the Orthodox inhabitants of the town Pale in district of Romanija, as well as with destruction of their property by those military forces, which have come to support this part of Europe to preserve peace, and establish understanding and tolerance. The last time We wrote to You for this same reason was last February, when the forces You command, with full military equipment, under the pretext of searching for persons suspected of war crimes, during Christmas holidays assaulted the church and flats of Orthodox priests on Pale, where they performed a search and intimidated their family members and underage persons, children.

However, instead of this letter convincing You that the priests and their household did not participate in the actions for which You apparently suspect them of, You, Mr. General, ordered a real assault upon their homes be undertaken on the 1 st of April, 2004 , just before Easter holidays. During the dead of night, using the most dangerous explosive means, Your soldiers broke through the roof, doors and windows entering into their house and demolishing it completely. Consequently, Archpriest-Stavrophor Jeremija Starovlah and his son, catechist Aleksandar, were wounded from the destructive explosions. However, Your soldiers, whom our people call "peacemakers", as though that was not enough, bound the mortally-wounded Archpriest and his son, and so bound, beat them with riffle butt, boots and whatever else they had at their disposal. In short, they beat them until they were black and blue, to the very point of death. All the time during this action, the Archpriest's wife was faced with a rifle, with soldier's finger on the trigger, so that she was not be able to offer any aid to her husband and son. These facts, Mr. General, are also well known to You. As We write these lines to You, the doctors have been continually fighting for the lives of these two Christians, who suffer for the same reason for which so many martyrs suffered in Roman times – for Christ's sake.

If it has not been clear so far to You, Mr. General, that Serbian priests do not hide those accused of war crimes, We hope that it is now obvious. Or, perhaps, if it is not clear, should we again expect of those, whom we would like to regard as people of good will, to march again with rifles, bombs and boots against our sacred churches, and the lives of our priests and their families.

At the same time, We inform You that this letter of Ours will be communicated to the wider public.

Respectfully,

ABM and SERBIAN PATRIARCH,
P a v l e

 

 



2 April 2004

His Excellency Kofi Annan
United Nations Secretary General
New York

The Right Honorable Lord Paddy Ashdown
High Representative of the United Nations
Sarajevo

His Excellency Romano Prodi
President, European Commission
Secretariat General – BREY 10/29
200 Rue de la Loi
B-1049 Brussels

His Excellency Dr. MICHAEL WENNINGER
Political Consultant to the President of the European Commission
Secretariat General – BREY 10/29
200 Rue de la Loi
B-1049 Brussels

His Excellency JAVIER SOLANA
High Representative of the European Union
For Common Foreign and Security Policy
BRUSSELS

The Honorable Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
NATO Secretary General
NATO Headquarters
Brussels

Relative to the recent tragic events in the town of Pale in Republika Srpska (Bosnia and Herzegovina), when the SFOR soldiers beat, we fear with death blows, the Archpriest-Stavrophorus Jeremija Starovlah and his son, the catechist Aleksandar, we forwarded and open letter to Major General Virgil L. Packett II, the Commander-in-chief of the aforementioned military forces, which we now submit to You in the enclosed.

With the information that we now have at our disposal, as to how the members of these, of whom we anticipated to be peacekeepers, wounded and then, without any reason whatsoever, in a beastly manner tortured these two Christians, are far worse than even that brought forth in the noted letter.

Therefore We request You, Your Excellency, once again, with the respect and authority, which You command in the International Community, to undertake all measures to stop the disturbance of the Orthodox inhabitants of Republika Srpska , and especially the attacks on our clergy and the members of their families.

Respectfully,

ABM and SERBIAN PATRIARCH

 


Sarajevo, 2004-04-03

International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte

To the Most Respected Mrs Del Ponte:

After the dreadful crime which was commited by «peacefull forces» in BiH, which victimized priest's families in Pale, we, the Metropolitan of Dabar–Bosnia and the priesthood of our Diocese, invite you to Tuzla Hospital to visit father Jeremija and his son Aleksandar in order to be convinced of the brutal and obstinate way SFOR executes Hague demands – by violating the Geneve Convention and Dayton Agreement.

This crime is a consequence of Your statements in which You accuse the Serbian Orthodox Church and its priests, without any evidence, of assisting suspected war criminals. Wherever the statements came from, they are based on insinuations and insinuations are no form of evidence.

We consider that a Christian Church was attacked in this crime.

Again we appeal to those who love freedom and peace in Europe and all over the world to protect the fundamental human rights of life, freedom and freedom of religion.

Metropolitan of Dabar–Bosnia
with all the priests of
the Diocese of Dabar–Bosnia




Маy 14, 2004

The Right Honorable Lord Paddy Ashdown
High Representative of the European Union
For Bosnia and Herzegovina
Sarajevo

Right Honorable Lord Ashdown:

We are appreciative of your letter of 7 April 2004 in which you express your condolences concerning the tragic event of 1 April 2004 in the town of Pale, Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina, wherein SFOR soldiers mercilessly beat protopresbyter­stavrophorus Fr. Jeremija Starovlah and his son Aleksandar, as well as your concern for their speedy and full recovery.

However, please bear in mind that We cannot accept your reasoning that this was a wholly unintended consequence of an SFOR operation to detain Radovan Karadzic ... Given that We have published the detailed account of' Mrs. Vitorka Starovlah, the wife and mother of the victims, who herself was victimized, as well as photos of a hospitalized Fr. Jeremija and his son Aleksandar, your explanation of this inexcusable and brutal attack as wholly unintended for us is unacceptable.

We have always maintained and continue to maintain that any and all persons guilty of any crimes whatsoever must be held accountable and brought to justice. However, in all such cases, those who execute the hand of justice must be held to equal standards. The treatment of Fr. Jeremija, his son Aleksandar, as well as his wife Vitorka was a complete violation of their human dignity and an assault on their guaranteed basic human rights.

Therefore, Lord Ashdown, We trust that You will, as indicated, undertake all measures possible to insure a thorough investigation into the circumstances of this serious incident, and that the perpetrators of this crime be brought to justice.

We anticipate that this intrusion perpetrated by SFOR into the facilities of the Serbian Orthodox Church, though it was not the first, that it will be the last of its sort.

Respectfully,

АBM and SERBIAN PATRIARCH
+ PAVLE




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