Rule of Law in North Mitrovica and UNMIK's Failure to Dismantle the Serbian Parallel Structures

AuthorAlma Lama
PositionInstitute of European Studies, University of Tirana
Vol. 3 No. 1
January, 2019
European Journal of Economics, Law and Social Sciences
IIPCCL Publishing, Graz-Austria
ISSN 2519-1284
Acces online at
Rule of Law in North Mitrovica and UNMIK’s Failure to Dismantle the
Serbian Parallel Structures
Alma Lama
Institute of European Studies, University of Tirana
This article explores the main reasons why UNMIK failed to dismantle the parallel structures
in Mitrovica north during its mandate in Kosovo, illustrating the di culties it has encountered
in a empting to expand its administration and the rule of law. The Serbian parallel structures
supported by Belgrade functioned in violation with the Resolution 1244 of UN and applicable
law in Kosovo. The paper analyzes illegal formations such as the "Bridge Watchers", the
Serbian MUP o cers in the security sector and parallel Serbian courts The main reason
for the poor results was the lack of determination of UNMIK to fulf‌i ll its mandate; the lack
of necessary security on the ground; the delays in the deployment of international police;
the tolerance for the parallel trials. The paper examines various organizations’ reports and
documents; as well as interviews with senior Kosovo o cials, analyzing in depth the causes
of failure. By exploring UNMIK’s performance in northern Mitrovica, the paper brings an
empirical contribution to UN missions in areas of post-conf‌l ict societies.
Keywords: Justice, Mitrovica North, Parallel Structure, Rule of Law, Security, UNMIK.
The Serbian parallel structures in northern Mitrovica became the main obstacle
to extend the authority of legitimate institutions in this part of the territory and
undermined the establishment of the rule of law. A er the war, in the municipalities
inhabited by Serbs, such structures as schools, hospitals and courts continued to
function as in the previous regime. These structures were called parallel because
they were not in line with UNMIK competences deriving from the Security Council
Resolution 1244 (1999) that mandated UNMIK to administrate the territory of Kosovo
and to establish democratic institutions.
Parallel structures were promoted, f‌i nanced and acted under the authority of the
Serbian government. There were cases where they operated under the same roof
with UNMIK institutions and bodies recognized by the Kosovo Self-Government
Institutions. Very o en these structures were also mixed with members of organized
crime. Throughout UNMIK's mandate in the northern part of Mitrovica, there were
violent incidents and inter-ethnic clashes between Albanians and Serbs. Very o en,
the targets of the a acks were the security forces such as KFOR and UNMIK Police,
as well as the civil administration. The security climate hindered the expansion of the
UN administration and favored the establishment of parallel structures.
The theoretical basis on which this article relies is related to the concept of the rule of
law, for which there is a consensus among scholars regarding its role as a necessary
condition and a central pillar in the functioning of democracy (Linz & Stepan
1996), (O’Donnell 2005), (Kleinfeld 2006), (Diamond & Morlino 2005). According to
European Journal of Economics, Law and Social Sciences
IIPCCL Publishing, Graz-Austria
Vol. 3 No. 1
January, 2019
ISSN 2519-1284
Acces online at
O'Donnell (2005), the rule of law consists of f‌i ve dimensions: the extension of the legal
system, the independence of courts, fair treatment of citizens by institutions, respect
for civil rights and participation (3).
Establishing the rule of law in northern Mitrovica could not have been done without
the dismantling of parallel structures. In fact, it would have been the f‌i rst step towards
achieving this goal. Installing the rule of law is part of the process of reconstruction
(S/2004/616 2004), (Caplan 2005), (Chesterman 2004) in post-conf‌l ict territories and it
is one of the most di cult challenges for international administrators. In post-conf‌l ict
societies, where situations are incredibly complex, in order to establish the rule of
law, security is f‌i rstly required. As George Tanham said, “creating a safe environment
is "sine qua non" for post-conf‌l ict reconstruction” (Tanham 1966: 138).
Security involves all aspects of public security, in particular, the creation of a safe and
secure environment and the development of e ective security institutions. Security
involves not only the protection of civilians from violence but also the territorial
integrity of a state (Hamre & Sullivan 2002: 141). The lack of elementary security
would disable all e orts to establish political institutions, to adopt laws, to promote
reconciliation, and initiate the economic development (Stromseth & others 2006: 134).
Besides security, some other factors hinder the establishment of the rule of law in
societies emerging from the war. According to Chesterman, in the territories where
state institutions that existed earlier served to violate citizens’ rights, building the
trust with the state requires a transformation of how these institutions are seen. The
challenges are enormous, as the informal mechanisms emerging at the time of the
conf‌l ict may also create economic and political incentives that might work against
the rule of law (Chesterman 2005: 69). Numerous human and f‌i nancial resources
are required to challenge these incentives, as well as careful coordination of policies
among international and local actors. It also requires the ability to react quickly
and creatively concerning sensitive and unpredictable developments in the f‌i eld
(Stromseth & others 2006: 6).
Establishing the rule of law in northern Mitrovica is related to the problem of the
territorial extension of UNMIK’s legitimate authority, which failed to do so during its
mandate in Kosovo. The extension of governing authority throughout the territory
is the dimension that determines the relations between citizenship and democracy
and deals with the capacities of the state apparatus to accomplish this goal, in
order to ensure safety and protect the political community. Only by exercising this
authority, the state will be able to guarantee human rights and freedom, as well as
the functioning of the law, which are the essential components of democracy (Linz &
Stepan 1996: 19).
Another important factor inf‌l uencing the establishment of the rule of law by
international administrators is the local perception of their legitimacy (Stromseth &
others 2006: 52). Moreover, over the time, the gap between the antagonist groups
regarding the interventionists expands and the perception as "losers" and "winners"
can severely damage the chance for success (Stromseth & others 2006: 53). In Kosovo,
the majority of Albanians, who had been subject to long-standing discrimination,
welcomed NATO and UNMIK, but Kosovo Serbs had a di erent approach. Their
perception of UNMIK was very negative (UNDP 2003: 5-7). In the justice sector,

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