– New York, 2016
Greetings, Mr. Ambassador! I am glad to have the opportunity to meet and talk with you.
January 2016 marked the 17th anniversary of the Reçak massacre, where as Head of the Kosovo Verification Mission, you were the first to denounce it as a massacre and make it clear to the world that crimes against humanity were being committed by Serbian forces. What are your feelings about the atrocious crimes and events, many years later?
Ambassador William Walker: I still remember the horror of going into the village of Recak, on a very cold winter day. I saw bodies of the men and boys of the village, who had been killed the night before. It’s hard to forget something like that.
I go back to Kosova, to the anniversary memorial service every year that I can, and still feel the emotions I had that day. What I said, was the simple truth – it was what I saw. If that got the world to concentrate on what was happening in Kosova, that is great.
During the 1998-1999 war, the women of Kosova were also subjected to violence by Serbian forces, as there are more than 20,000 cases of rape. Can we touch upon the terror women had to live through, how the war impacted their lives and the consequences they have to live with to this day?
Ambassador William Walker: I am glad you mention that. Consequences of the war on the women of Kosova were very, very grave. There is a book written by a woman there, on the experiences of women during the war in Kosova. It deals with women being very badly treated and being raped. The author had it translated into English and I wrote an intro to the book, because I think it’s a very important and powerful description of what happened to the women of Kosova at the hands of the Serbs. And as you say, there are consequences to this day. There are children that were born of these rapes, women whose lives were absolutely ruined by what happened to them.
I am also pleased to say that the women of Kosova are very strong. Every time I go there, I see evidence of that. I see women going into politics and doing all sorts of things that maybe before and certainly during the war, they wouldn’t have done.
When I first went back to Kosova after the war, and went to some of the villages, the Mayor of Prishtina put at my service a young female interpreter. She was a very timid young lady who married at 16, through an arranged marriage, and had two children of whom she was very proud. She would interpret for me at the meetings we had, where the entire village would come “to talk to Walker”. The men of the village would then invite me back and I told them I would come back the next time, only if those women who are in the back of the room, are brought up front.
My interpreter and I talked a lot as we went around the villages for several days. I encouraged her to do something else with her career besides working in the Mayor’s office. The next time I visited Kosova, she was going to the university and the time after that, she had a good job. She went on to become one of the principle women of the parliament with Ramush Haradinaj’s party. Unfortunately, during a recent riot in the parliament, Donika threw tear gas at the governing coalition. She is a very strong woman.
During your visit in Kosova, on the occasion of the 17th anniversary of the Reçak massacre, you were honored with the “Shkelzen Haradinaj” award, as well as declared an Honorary Citizen. What does this mean to you?
Ambassador William Walker: It is a great honor. I think they have named a street after me and the government is also building a statue for me out by Reçak. Government officials as well as myself put some cement at the place they have designated for the statue.
Have you had the opportunity to visit Mitrovica and the tower of the Boletini family?
Ambassador William Walker: I have not visited the Boletini Tower but was last in Mitrovica about 4-5 years ago. Unfortunately, that is another terrible situation….
You have stated in the past, that the establishment of a special court to investigate crimes allegedly committed by members of the Kosova Liberation Army, was unnecessary. Is it your impression that this statement was taken into account by the internationals?
Ambassador William Walker: Yes, I have voiced objections to the concept that Kosova needs special courts. If the international community has helped establish the justice system, they should have confidence in the justice system, instead of looking for something else to really bring justice.
I am in favor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague. I went and was one of the principal witnesses against Milosevic. I talked at great length about Reçak and some of the other things I saw in Kosova. I am sorry that each trial takes 3-4 years.
Do you believe that the establishment of this new court comes as a consequence of Dick Martin’s and Carla Del Ponte’s accusations, which may have negatively influenced the international community against Albanians?
Ambassador William Walker: I really don’t know. Things happen in mysterious ways. My feeling is that the European Union, the international community, somehow feel that more should be done and they must show unevenness that a number of Serb war criminals were in fact tried and convicted. The one I was involved in, was Nikola Sainovic, who is a really bad man and was convicted. The internationals may think we have to have a special court to try Kosovars. Totally unnecessary!
Vojislav Seselj was recently found not guilty by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague. Do you agree with the Tribunal’s decision?
Ambassador William Walker: I am particularly upset that one of the major war criminals from Serbia was acquitted. Seselj is, was and remains one of the most radical voices of Serb nationalism, which is exactly what led so many young Serbs to go into Kosova and do the horrible things they did. So I think he is very responsible for what happened. He is not a nice man. Sending him back to Serbia to be a hero and continue his vicious ways, of course I think the court made a big mistake. I understand there is an appeal and maybe three years from now there will be another decision.