Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Kosovo Deconstructed

Seventeen months after declaring independence, Kosovo is no longer in open warfare, but it remains a region of abject poverty, black markets, blood feuds and missing people. Christopher Stewart reports from the chaos of the world’s youngest country.

When I asked the pair of gangsters about their bosses, their faces went blank. “There are probably 10 or 12 top guys in Kosovo moving this stuff into Europe,” Blacksy said. “But we don’t know them. It is not good to know the top guys, if you know what I mean.” The conversation turned to violence. Blacksy and Rambo claim to have seen deals devolve into beatings and murders. And though they wouldn’t go into details, I’d heard stories. Albanian crime gangs are notoriously brutal and secretive; authorities have found them impossible to infiltrate. “The police are a joke in Kosovo,” Blacksy told me. “You just need to know how to handle them.” Because Kosovo is a tiny region, its families are large, and everyone knows everyone else, few dare to testify in court. The act is considered a death sentence for a family: witness protection is weak, and relocation agreements are either nonexistent or impractical, as extended families are considered legitimate targets for revenge killings. The internationals fare no better than the local police.

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