The mystery of the cameras that monitor the north of Kosovo
Several security cameras that monitor public spaces are located in different pillars in the four northern municipalities of Kosovo. Their ownership is not known nor who controls them.
Radio Free Europe article
These municipalities are expected to be subject to an audit by the Agency for Information and Privacy (AIP), which is responsible for the supervision and legality of the processing of personal data, to see if this type of supervision is being carried out in accordance with the Law on the Protection of personal data.
The cameras are located in North Mitrovica, Zveçan, Leposavic and Zubin Potok.
According to the AIP, public spaces can only be monitored for police needs.
The Regional Directorate of the Kosovo Police in North Mitrovica has told Radio Free Europe that in the four northern municipalities, the Kosovo Police has installed surveillance cameras only in the police stations.
“All other surveillance cameras are not under the jurisdiction of the Kosovo Police and there is no official supervision over them”, their answer states.
Radio Free Europe addressed the municipalities in the north of Kosovo that function according to the Kosovo system, but also the parallel municipal bodies, which are financed from the budget of Serbia, with the question of who installed the video surveillance in the municipalities in the north of Kosovo and who controls those cameras.
As of the publication of this article, no one has responded.
In the municipalities in the north of Kosovo, the Kosovar and Serbian systems are somewhat intertwined, because the same persons perform functions in both systems.
Radio Free Europe also addressed the administrative district of Mitrovica of Kosovo, which operates in the Serbian system and is responsible for “organizing and carrying out work” in the municipalities in the north. The chairman of that district is Vučina Janković, the former mayor of the Municipality of Zveçan.
The answer to REL’s question about who is responsible for video surveillance in the municipalities in the north has not come from the Office for Kosovo of the Government of Serbia.
The video surveillance system in other municipalities of Kosovo is mainly purchased and installed by the municipal bodies.
The Law on the Police in Kosovo provides that “The police are authorized to conduct preventive surveillance of public places, using video-acoustic recording devices and photographic equipment to monitor public places where criminal offenses have often been committed in the past, or where there are reasonable grounds to believe that public surveillance would reduce the risk of committing criminal offenses and improve public safety in the future, in accordance with the Code of Criminal Procedure”.
Citizens do not know who is watching them
While the unknowns regarding the ownership and control of the cameras in the northern municipalities continue, some citizens surveyed by REL in North Mitrovica say that they still feel safe with their presence.
“I don’t know who (placed them) and whose ownership they are… I didn’t say that they are obstructing me, it’s better that the cameras are there, people in (North) Mitrovica feel safer when there are cameras than if they are not”, says Milosh Nedelkovi.
Even Milan Jakovlevliq says that he has no idea who controls these cameras.
“Yes, the cameras should be there, considering everything that happens around us. There have been many unenviable situations where some people with bad intentions have been discovered, when there have been beatings and when various criminals have been caught. So they should be where they are,” he says.
Bozhidarka Periq, who does not see the need for this observation, has a different opinion.
“Well, there’s no need, we’re not thieves here. For me, at least I think, I am a mother, a grandmother so to speak, we live normally, everything is normal”, said Periq.
Trouble in the southern municipalities as well
Cameras located in another municipality with a Serbian majority but in the south of Kosovo, in Shtërpcë, were the target of the Kosovo Police on Thursday, July 7, who seized them, as they are suspected to be installed by illegal Serbian structures.
The Municipality of Shtërpce, which operates in the Kosovo system, reacted to this. According to her, video surveillance in the territory of this local self-government “has been installed in accordance with valid legal procedures and through the public procurement process for video surveillance”.
According to this action, the Agency for Information and Privacy has told Radio Free Europe that it has conducted an inspection regarding the legality of video surveillance in public spaces in Shtërpcë and that they will soon come out with a report from this inspection.
Such an inspection was also carried out in the municipality of Graçanica near Pristina, also with a Serbian majority, on February 14, 2022.
The AIP has told REL that this municipality has respected the decision issued on April 20, which required the prohibition of surveillance of public spaces through these cameras.
“Now the public spaces in this municipality [Graçanicë] are monitored by the Kosovo Police as a competent body defined by law”, says AIP.
This has been confirmed for REL by the commander of the Police Station in Graçanica, Bratislav Trajkovic, who says that the cameras that monitor the public roads in this municipality are monitored by the Police.
According to the AIP, so far inspections have been carried out in terms of camera surveillance in public spaces in Peja, Pristina, Gjilan, Gjakovë, Ferizaj, Prizren, Shtërpce, Fushë Kosovë, Ranilluk, Partesh, Lipjan, Graçanicë.
In some of the decisions from these inspections that have been published online, municipalities have been ordered to dispose of the material collected so far, in violation of the Personal Data Protection Law. Among them were Gjakova, Prishtina, Graçanica and Peja.
Inspections related to security cameras are expected to be carried out in all municipalities by the end of the year.
In December 2021, Radio Free Europe reported that Serbia, through the institutions it has in Kosovo, bought the video surveillance system of the Chinese company that is under the sanctions of the United States of America (USA), dedicated for schools in 12 municipalities of Kosovo.
As seen from the documentation, the video-surveillance systems of the Chinese brand Dahua, which Serbia buys for schools in Kosovo, also have the option of recognizing faces.
According to the US Department of Commerce, Dahua Technology is a Chinese company that, since 2019, has been blacklisted by the US due to its connection to human rights violations and China’s campaign of repression against the Uyghurs in the province. Xinjiang Chinese.