Dogs Join Fight Against Weapons in Kosovo
Lebane, Kosovo-UN Administered Territory Under UNSC 1244, 11 March 2010-Dogs are the latest weapon in an ongoing battle against small arms and light weapons in Kosovo. As part of a United Nations Development Programme/Kosovo Police initiative, the dogs are to help sniff out an estimated 350,000 small arms and light weapons in circulation in Kosovo.
So far, eight male and female Belgian Shepherds, or Malinois, and German Shepherds have been brought in from Austria. Working with handlers from the K9 Unit of the Kosovo Police, the dogs will receive four to five months of training in detecting explosives, such as black powder, and weapons. After the training, the dogs will assist Kosovo Police during traffic stops and search operations. The dogs will be trained in detecting explosives inside hand grenades, rockets or land mines. Once an explosive element is found, the dogs are trained to warn their handler and then lay down to avoid any booby-traps.
The confiscated weapons are then turned into the police for destruction. Since 2008, Kosovo police stations have included devices for destroying small arms and ammunitions.
Two more dogs from Finland are expected to join the eight already in Kosovo. In the long-term, each of the dogs is expected to retain detection abilities for about eight years. There is also hope they will breed a new generation of sniffers.
“The donation that we received will help us tremendously in our work,” Colonel Shaban Shala, the Commander of the Special Unit of the Kosovo Police, said. “I want to thank UNDP and the donor countries for their continuous support.”
The use of dogs is part of a broader effort to reduce the large number of small arms and light weapons in the Western Balkans — a legacy of the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. More recently, organized criminal activity such as trafficking has contributed to high levels of weapons and ammunition. In the region, gun-related violence or fear of violence is seen as an impediment to economic and social progress.
In response, the UNDP has worked since 2002 with regional countries on arms control programmes. This month, for instance, UNDP Bosnia and Herzegovina organized a workshop on domestic violence and small arms control in the country—where an estimated one in five households possess a weapon. Other regional activities have included the collection, registration and destruction of weapons and establishing national commissions on small arms and light weapons control. Recent efforts have also focused on increasing public confidence in the police and security institutions in order to prevent the need for private firearms.
As of 2008 there were an estimated 900,000 unregistered weapons in Serbia and roughly 1 million registered weapons. Croatia destroyed 25,000 small sarms and light weapons in March 2008 alone, and since 2006 Montenegro has been at work on destroying 9,900 tons of surplus ammunition. Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the support of the European Commission, has destroyed more than 3,600 tons of surplus ammunition in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In Kosovo, the roughly 350,000 unregistered weapons represent the size of the challenge ahead. The Government of Luxembourg contributed 37,000 (Euro) towards the purchase of the dogs. The UNDP Kosovo Small Arms Control Project is also supported by the Governments of Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands in partnership with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Kosovo Police.
-by Hugh Biggar
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