25 February 2009 – The US Department of State has just issued its annual report on the state of Human Rights in the World. On Kosovo, the State Departments notes, that “the Roma were subject to pervasive social and economic discrimination; often lacked access to basic hygiene, medical care, and education; and were heavily dependent on humanitarian aid for survival.”

 Extracts:

 Trial Procedures

“In 2007 the government established a Legal Aid Commission, an independent government agency that provides free legal assistance to low-income individuals. (…) Of all persons receiving assistance, 207 (38 percent) were female and 48 (9 percent) were minorities, including members of the Roma, Turkish, Bosniak, Serbian, and Egyptian communities.”

 Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

“According to a 2006 Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) report, interference by municipal authorities and the UNMIK Department of Justice hampered judicial independence in civil matters. (…) In July 2007 the OSCE reported that UNMIK and municipal authorities improperly interfered with judicial independence in the proposed sale of property in the Roma settlement in the Mitrovice/Mitrovica region.”

“On June 26, Kosovo Serbs and Roma clashed with Kosovo Albanians in the village of Berivojce/Berivojce, Kamenice/Kamenica municipality where work on building of a mosque was expected to start. The proposed mosque building site was located in the Serb part of the ethnically-mixed village, and the Serb community had traditionally used the land for gatherings. The proposed construction did not adhere to legal procedures designed to ensure community consent for construction on land where that community lives.”

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

“As of November, overall minority returns since 2000 stood at 18,527 persons. Kosovo Serbs comprised approximately 28 percent of returnees during the year, compared with 32 percent in 2007. Roma (including Ashkali and Egyptians) continued to return, comprising 48 percent of the overall number of returns compared to 49 percent in 2007. In Mitrovice/Mitrovica, Kosovo Serbs in the north and Kosovo Albanians in the south continued to illegally occupy each others’ properties, hindering potential returns.

As of August, 37 Roma families (144 persons) remained at the lead-polluted Cesmin Lug camp for IDPs. Osterode, a medical treatment facility also in north Mitrovice/Mitrovica, housed 98 families (395 persons) who were relocated from Cesmin Lug and two other polluted camps in 2006.

UNMIK continued to make slow progress rebuilding the original Roma settlement in south Mitrovice/Mitrovica destroyed in 1999 by Kosovo Albanians. Displaced persons began returning to the neighborhood in 2006; by the end of 2007, 368 inhabitants–307 Roma, 59 Ashkali, and two Serbs–had returned.”

 Elections and Political Participation

“Following the November 2007 elections, there were 24 ethnic minority members in the 120-seat Assembly, including 10 Kosovo Serbs and 14 members of other groups, including ethnic Turks, Bosniaks, Gorani, Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians. There were three minority government ministers–two Kosovo Serbs and one Kosovo Bosniak–and two Serb and two Bosniak deputy ministers. One Kosovo Bosniak; one Kosovo Turk; and a representative of the Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian communities held a rotating seat on the Assembly presidency.”

 Children

“While education is free and compulsory up to age 15, statistics from 2005, the most recent year for which data was available, indicated that only 77 percent of children between the ages of seven and 14 from non-Serb minority communities (Roma, Ashkali, Egyptian, Turkish, Bosniak, Gorani, and others) attended school. Girls from non-Serb minorities attended school at a rate of 69 percent. In contrast, 97.5 percent of Kosovo Albanian and 99 percent of Kosovo Serb children were enrolled in primary school. During the year the government for the first time purchased books for pupils through the fifth grade. Less than 10 percent of children aged two to five attended preschool.”

“Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian children attended mixed schools with Kosovo Albanian children but reportedly faced intimidation and bullying in some majority Albanian areas. Romani children tended to be disadvantaged by poverty, leading many to start work both at home and in the streets at an early age to contribute to family income. Romani children were also disadvantaged by having to learn another language to attend school since many spoke Romani at home. Some Kosovo Bosniak children in predominantly Bosniak areas occasionally were able to obtain primary education in their language, but those outside such areas received instruction in Albanian.”

“There was anecdotal evidence of child marriage, particularly in the Roma, Ashkali, Egyptian, and Kosovo Albanian communities. The government and NGOs did not compile statistics, so the extent of the problem was unclear.”

 National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

“Official and societal discrimination persisted against Kosovo Serb, Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian communities in employment, social services, language use, freedom of movement, the right to return, and other basic rights. Members of the Kosovo Bosniak and Gorani communities also complained of discrimination. During the year violence and other crimes directed at minorities and their property increased from 2007. Minority employment in public institutions continued to be low and was generally confined to lower levels of the government; members of minorities occupied 10.4 percent of government jobs despite a government target of more than 16 percent.

In July 2007 the human rights ombudsman issued a report that concluded ethnic discrimination was a prevalent and constant problem, particularly in the areas of health care and employment. The report also noted that minority groups continued to face regular threats.

Between January 1 and August 31, UNMIK police reported 798 cases of interethnic crime; 617 involved Serbs as victims or suspects. According to UNMIK, underreporting of interethnic incidents persisted as a consequence of the KPS policy of assigning low priority to them and persistent mistrust between minorities with the Kosovo Albanian majority.”

“Roma were subject to pervasive social and economic discrimination; often lacked access to basic hygiene, medical care, and education; and were heavily dependent on humanitarian aid for survival. Although there were some successful efforts to resettle Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians in the homes they occupied prior to the 1999 conflict in Vushtrri/Vucitrn, security concerns remained.

On June 12, the OSCE reported that three Romani returnee families would not be charged for water and water services supplied to their homes in Kosovo while the families were displaced in Macedonia from 1999 to 2007. Following their return in 2007 the Gjilan/Gnjilane public utility company demanded payment for services delivered to the families’ properties, which were occupied during their displacement. The UNHCR intervened and assisted the families in providing the necessary documents proving their displacement. As a result, the utility company eventually agreed to drop its claims against the returning families.”

25 February 2009

The full report is available here.

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