Kosovo of 2004 was tense but memorable

  • Article by: MARK BRUNSWICK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 30, 2011 - 7:26 PM

It garnered scant interest and a couple of inches of print earlier this week, but a story about new clashes along the Kosovo/Serbia border brought back memories.

The city of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo is a place where grievances run deep. At a hotel along the Ibar River, Serb "watchers" drink plum wine and take note of the Kosovars making their way across the bridge.

In 2004, I watched NATO troops escort Kosovar workers to a courthouse in Mitrovica with Rick Enga, a former Hennepin County assistant attorney who was serving as a United Nations war crimes prosecutor there for a year.

It's not surprising that tensions are still high. I wrote this at the time: "Every morning a busload of ethnic Albanian court workers travels quickly across the bridge over the river dividing the village, running traffic lights behind two heavily armored U.N. vehicles staffed by French peacekeepers as Serbs look on in disgust and yell out taunts."

Enga, whom I knew from covering a murder trial in Hennepin County, was one of several Minnesotans who participated in a program that tried to bring some international law to the largely lawless region.

Judge David Doyscher from Washington County was in the capital of Pristina, hearing cases as part of a U.N. program. He was one of three Minnesota judges trying war-crime cases from Kosovo's inter-ethnic war five years earlier. They also were investigating and trying organized-crime cases.

Despite security concerns, Enga, who died of cancer a year later, rented a house in the volatile north. He didn't need an alarm clock. A rooster awakened every inhabitant. He had a makeshift basketball hoop in his courtyard and encouraged kids to play. Looking the other way on a widespread illicit trade, he had an affinity for purchasing counterfeit watches. With his encouragement, I bought a "Rolex" for $25 and watched as the "jewel" on the numeral six fell off in short order.

Rick is gone, but I still have the watch.

Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434

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