Serbian church sues over Kosovo

The Serbian Orthodox Church has filed a lawsuit against the UK, France, Germany and Italy for allegedly failing to protect its churches in Kosovo.

Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren, who lodged the complaint, told Serbian media that the four nations had allowed ethnic Albanians to ransack churches.

The state-run Politika paper quotes him saying dozens of Orthodox churches and religious monuments had been destroyed.

Nato-led troops took control of mainly-Muslim Kosovo in June 1999.

The international community forced Serb troops and authorities out of the province amid escalating violence against separatist ethnic Albanian rebels.

Mob attacks

Clashes have continued between the majority Albanian population and the Serb minority since the Nato-led troops moved into Kosovo.

An outbreak of violence in March, in which Serb-owned homes and churches were attacked, left 19 people dead.

Bishop Artemije said the UK, France, Italy and Germany had failed to protect the Orthodox Church's property, followers and institutions.

Monasteries, medieval icons and frescos are among the religious sites to have been destroyed, he said, with 80 churches burned since 1999.

A spokeswoman for the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg confirmed that the bishop had filed a complaint against the four nations.

It invokes articles including the right to respect for human rights and freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

She told the BBC it was too early to tell whether there would be a hearing in the case, or when the court might reach a judgement.