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Priština, 1 October 2012 – Despite substantial progress in creating the necessary legal framework to safeguard human and community rights, more needs to be done to put this into practice, an OSCE Mission in Kosovo report issued today concludes.
The report, Implementation Measures for Legislation Impacting Human Rights in Kosovo, examines to what extent secondary legislation, as well as government strategies and programmes have been adopted as a step in the implementation of laws on gender equality, anti-discrimination, access to personal documents, communities and language rights as well as protection against domestic violence. It recommends concrete measures where more action is needed.
The report finds that subsidiary legislation on anti-discrimination, protection against domestic violence, communities and language rights has been only partially developed. Strategies for the protection of the rights of all communities, and for the protection of cultural and religious heritage have not been drafted despite expired legal deadlines.
“The concept of the rule of law in a democratic society implies not only the adoption of necessary legislation but also a range of subsequent implementation measures. These measures are the key to putting the legal framework into practice,” said Acting Head of the Mission’s Human Rights and Communities Department Hjortur Sverrisson.
The report welcomes the creation of an official index of subsidiary legislation, and the uniform manner in which such legislation is published. It also calls fur ensuring full respect for the use of all official languages, including through extended support to the Language Commissioner.
The OSCE Mission in Kosovo is mandated with human rights protection and promotion, democracy and public safety sector development. The Mission monitors and publishes regular reports on the level of democracy and human rights in Kosovo.
Brussels, 26 April 2012 – As the Council of the European Union prepares to extend the mandate of its Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) in Kosovo, a new Amnesty International report demands that the mission should focus on prosecuting war crimes. The report, Kosovo: Time for EULEX to prioritise war crimes, charts progress made by the Mission and recommends urgent reforms ahead of the mandate’s extension in June.
“EULEX must make investigation and prosecution of the large backlog of crimes under international law its top priority”, said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office. “We’re asking it to establish, with help from EU countries, an effective international witness-protection programme and ensure that Kosovo’s prosecutorial and judicial system can be sustained over the long term.”
Nearly 13 years after the end of the conflict in Kosovo, hundreds of crimes under international law remain unresolved. Enforced disappearances and abductions have yet to be investigated, while the bodies of some 1,800 missing persons have not been exhumed, identified or returned to their families.
‘AL’ was one of the few men to survive a massacre by Serbian forces in the village of Krushe ë Vogël in western Kosovo. In March 1999, more than 100 civilians were taken to a Serb-owned house and shot by Serbian police and soldiers. Their bodies were covered with hay and the house set on fire. Despite the scale and notoriety of the killing, investigations have only just begun.
In June 1999, ‘PP’, a 57-year-old Kosovo Serb, was abducted from her flat in Pristina by men in Kosovo Liberation Army uniform. A year later her body was exhumed from a Pristina cemetery by experts working for the tribunal. Her son identified her body by the clothes she was wearing. Thirteen years after her murder, PP’s sons still await justice.
While some progress has been made since the establishment of EULEX in December 2008, a culture of impunity, often encouraged by Kosovo Government officials, prevails. As it stands, the justice system in Kosovo is unable adequately to tackle this legacy of impunity for crimes under international law.
Source: Amnesty International
The report is available here.
Discrimination against Roma, Jews, and Other National Minorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina
4 April 2012 – This 62-page report highlights discrimination against Roma, Jews, and other national minorities in politics and government. Much of this discrimination stems from Bosnia’s 1995 Constitution, which mandates a system of government based on ethnicity and excludes these groups from high political office. The report also shows the wider impact of discrimination on the daily lives of Roma in accessing housing, education, healthcare, and employment.
Source: Human Rights Watch
The report is available here.
Informal settlements in Kosovo are widely characterized by a lack of access to basic infrastructure and social services. As such, inhabitants often live in very poor conditions and hold a marginalized position within society. A lack of security of tenure is also a prominent characteristic of informal settlements, which are typically not built in compliance with spatial plans, lack the necessary construction permits, and are not registered in the cadastral records. Notably, it can be particularly difficult to gain security of tenure in cases where homes are constructed on municipal or socially-owned property, which can leave inhabitants especially vulnerable to forced eviction.
While many municipal officials have a robust understanding of informal settlements, there is still a degree of misunderstanding with regards to the meaning and definition of the concept. A number of municipalities use either too restrictive or too broad a definition, which can be an obstacle to properly identifying all informal settlements in their areas of responsibility. As such, those settlements where inhabitants are most vulnerable might not be prioritized for regularization plans and projects.
Throughout Kosovo several municipalities are undertaking the drafting of spatial plans. This is one of the primary mechanisms through which municipalities can identify and regularize informal settlements in their areas of responsibility. Most municipalities did include the identified informal settlements in their spatial plans, which is an important step towards resolving security of tenure and access to basic infrastructure and social services. The policy framework foresees that regularization in situ should be the norm while regularization by relocation should only be a last resort pursued in exceptional circumstances where security of tenure or adequate housing cannot be met in place. In line with this, municipalities generally opt for in situ regularization. However, there are some exceptions in which relocation of inhabitants occurred because security of tenure could not be provided or the settlement is located in an environmentally hazardous area. Such a strategy of relocation has been shown to work well in cases where inhabitants are empowered through effective consultation with the municipality and participation in decision-making.
The importance of participation and inclusion of informal settlement inhabitants in the processes of identification, spatial planning and regularization should not be underestimated. Where formal mechanisms for participation exist (such as committees established for the purpose of including all stakeholders in the regularization process), the affected communities generally feel more positive towards their respective municipalities, more informed about municipal initiatives affecting their homes, and more included in the decision-making processes. Conversely, where no such formal or informal mechanisms exist, inhabitants are often ill-informed and feel that their opinions and concerns are disregarded by the municipality.
All informal settlements throughout Kosovo should be identified and included in municipal spatial plans, and in situ regularization should be undertaken where possible. Moreover, it is of paramount importance that local institutions develop means to include inhabitants in the processes related to the regularization of informal settlements. Furthermore, municipalities should look for ways to establish mechanisms to exchange information and best practices regarding regularization. To support these processes, there is an evident need for continued technical and financial support to local-level institutions throughout the identification, spatial planning and regularization processes.
The full document is available here.
19. December 2011 – In this note the Meijers Committee expresses its understanding for the concerns of Member States who are confronted with a large number of unsuccessful asylum applications, but it has doubts about the necessity of the proposal and observes that the proposal may place human rights at risk.
Unfortunately the Draft report and the explanatory memorandum of the Rapporteur are silent on the human rights effects of the proposal. The Meijers Committee recommends that these effects are explicitly taken into account in the debate and vote on the proposal which probably will take place in January.
The note is available here.
|Belgrade, 8 novembre 2011 – Les lycéens en Serbie sont très enclins aux stéréotypes, préjugés et la discrimination quand on parle des relations au sein de la famille, des minorités religieuses et ethniques et les ressortissants de la population LGBT. Ce sont les résultats du sondage intitulé „Les positions et les orientations des valeurs des lycéens en Serbie“, mis en œuvre par le Groupe des jeunes du Comité d’Helsinki pour les droits de l’Homme. Un rapport de Tamara Prodanovic.L’analyse des positions et des orientations des valeurs des lycéens est le résultat d’un sondage mis en œuvre entre avril et juin cette année parmi 630 lycéens dans six villes en Serbie – Belgrade, Novi Sad, Krusevac, Zrenjanin, Nis et Novi Pazar. Environ 40% de lycéens sont d’avis que les ressortissants de la population LGBT sont des malades et environ 20% sont d’avis qu’ils ne devraient pas fréquenter les mêmes écoles et qu’ils „méritent d’être battus“. La sociologue Marija Radoman, auteur du projet a mis en relief que le sondage pointait des divisions strictes entre les lycéens, parce qu’il y en a qui sont extrêmement intolérants, mais aussi des extrêmement libéraux. Environ 14% de lycéens sont d’avis qu’il faut permettre aux couples de même sexe d’adopter des enfants, et 16,5% soutiennent les mariages des personnes de même sexe. Le sondage démontre également que 37% d’enquêtés ont des positions extrêmement chauvinistes et racistes envers les Roms et un cinquième des participants au sondage est d’avis que les ressortissants de la population Rom ont des „capacités mentales d’appréhensions réduites“. Le sondage pointe aussi la conception traditionnelle de la famille parmi les lycéens serbes, parce que 45% parmi eux sont d’avis que l’homme devrait avoir le dernier mot dans la famille. Environ 43% de lycéens sont d’avis que les femmes en Serbie devraient donner naissance à davantage d’enfants „afin de nous sauver en tant que nation“, et environ 30% sont d’avis que la femme pourrait être complètement réalisée uniquement si elle est mère. Il est encourageant que deux tiers de participants au sondage soient conscients de l’existence de la violence familiale, ce qui représente un avancement significatif par rapport aux résultats de la période précédente. Cependant, un participant sur dix est toujours d’avis que des femmes méritaient d’être battues de temps en temps.
De telles positions tiennent racine dans l’éducation, la culture, la famille et les médias. Le sondage met en relief les problèmes auxquels la Serbie sera confrontée dans l’avenir, mais aussi que l’Etat n’a pas de plan et de programme clairs d’éducation des jeunes et de la promotion du système des valeurs. Il est constaté que l’éducation et la propagation de la tolérance parmi les élèves des écoles primaires et secondaires sont considérées comme solution, et que de tels sondages pouvaient y aider.
Source : Glas Srbije
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The Constitution of Kosovo provides a comprehensive framework for the protection of human rights for all of Kosovo’s citizens regardless of origin or ethnicity. Specifically, Chapter II provides for every individual’s Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, complete with powerful Articles that include the right to an education, the right to personal integrity, and the right to health and social protection. Chapter III protects the Rights of Communities and Their Members, where Article 57 explicitly states that such members “shall have the right to freely express, foster and develop their identity and community attributes.”
But for members of the Roma, Ashkalia and Egyptian communities, these rights exist on paper only. Indeed, in its 2010 Progress Report, the European Commission Liaison Office to Kosovo stressed that “the authorities need to increase their commitment to address urgent issues affecting the lives of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities.”
Further to that point, in a Resolution dated July 6, 2011, the Council of Europe underscores the urgency by which Roma, Ashkalia and Egyptian returnees are in need of government assistance. “Persons belonging to minority communities who have been forcibly returned are in a particularly vulnerable situation given the difficult socio-economic conditions they live in, often without access to healthcare and social services, employment and education. More resolute measures are needed to address their security concerns and increased efforts must be made.”
Acknowledging the extreme vulnerability surrounding the Roma, Ashkalia and Egyptian communities, the government of Kosovo, in cooperation with civil society, drafted the Action Plan of the Republic of Kosovo for the Implementation of the Strategy for the Integration of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian Communities, 2009-2015, a detailed framework designed to alleviate the hardships on these communities with an eye towards integrating them into the public sphere.
An essential component to the implementation of the Action Plan is the needed (re)integration of Roma, Ashkalia and Egyptian families and individuals who have been returned to Kosovo either voluntarily or through force by a host country elsewhere in Europe. With an eye towards EU accession, the government of Kosovo continues to sign readmission agreements with other European nations designed to clear the way for visa liberalization, a key element that must be satisfied to achieve membership in the European Union. As this report will highlight, the combination of forced repatriation, weakness in the government’s capacity to manage returns, and an Action Plan struggling to meet its mandate, are resulting in little progress for the affected communities who continue to suffer the very human rights violations the Constitution of Kosovo was created to protect.
Author: Brian J. Stern
Date: August 2011
The full report is available here.
Strasbourg, 31 May 2011 – The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) today published a new report on Serbia. ECRI’s Chair, Nils Muiznieks, said that, while there have been improvements, some issues of concern remain, for example the Law on Churches and Religious Communities and courts’ practice relating to racist crime.
The Serbian authorities have adopted a law against discrimination and created a Commissioner for the Protection of Equality entrusted with monitoring compliance therewith. A Strategy for the Improvement of the Status of Roma, which includes measures in the areas of education, employment, displaced persons, personal documents, social insurance and social care, as well as healthcare, was adopted in 2009. The Ministry of Human and Minority Rights, established in 2008, is in charge of coordinating and monitoring the 13-step action plan established under the Strategy, as well as the application of the law against discrimination.
The Law on Churches and Religious Communities continues to discriminate between “traditional” and non-traditional churches and religious communities. Moreover, previously recognised minority religious communities have to re-register in what has been described as an invasive and burdensome procedure. The practice of courts regarding racist crime is problematic as there are few prosecutions and the sentences meted out are usually low, mainly consisting in very small fines.
Roma continue to face high unemployment levels, discrimination in education and sub-standard living conditions. There have been evictions without prior consultation in and around Belgrade. The health situation of many Roma remains worrying and many of them lack identity papers. Very few measures have been taken to provide employment in the Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveda region where the majority of ethnic Albanians live; more than 70% of economically active people are unemployed there.
In its report, ECRI has made a number of recommendations, three of which require priority implementation and will be revisited in two years’ time:
- strengthen the institution of the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality by ensuring that it has the human and financial resources to function effectively;
- strengthen the training provided to the judiciary on racism and racial discrimination, inter alia, to ensure better sentencing practices for racist crime;
- take immediate measures to ensure that all Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians have identity documents.
ECRI is a human rights body of the Council of Europe, composed of independent experts, which monitors problems of racism, discrimination on grounds of ethnic origin, citizenship, religion and language, as well as xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance, prepares reports and issues recommendations to member States.
From the Executive Summary:
“The Roma are by far the most vulnerable category of the population in Serbia. Their plight was deeply exacerbated by the country’s economic difficulties, undermining the effects of specific measures taken to improve their status. The problems Roma have been facing for decades now, such as the lack of personal documents, poor housing conditions, poor health care, discrimination in various areas and the ineffective investigation of ethnically motivated attacks, have not gone away. The measures taken to address them have mostly failed to improve the status of the Roma or have yielded merely partial results.
Forced evictions of Roma continued in Belgrade in 2010. The authorities drove smaller groups, usually several Roma families at a time, out of their homes. Although essentially based on the law and the city’s legitimate interest to tear down illegal buildings, these forced evictions of Roma families from the illegal settlements in Belgrade are often conducted in an inhuman and discriminating manner. The year 2010 unfortunately also witnessed a series of ethnically motivated attacks on Roma, including those against whole Roma settlements, such as the one that took place in the Banat village of Jabuka in June 2010.”
Source: Belgrade Centre for Human Rights
The full report is available here.
A report on the country by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance in 2008 noted the existence of a climate of hostility toward national and ethnic minorities, who constituted 25 to 30 percent of the country’s population and included ethnic Hungarians, Bosniaks, Roma, Slovaks, Romanians, Vlachs, Bulgarians, Croats, Albanians, and others. Sixty-eight out of 169 municipalities in Serbia are multiethnic.
Roma, who constituted 1.4 percent of the population in the 2002 census but whose actual number was estimated at 5.4 percent according to the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights, continued to be the most vulnerable minority community. Roma were the targets of verbal and physical harassment from ordinary citizens, police violence, and societal discrimination.
On October 7, the city of Belgrade evicted 36 Roma from an informal settlement on Vojvodjanska Street to clear land for construction. According to NGO reports, the government did not provide alternative accommodation or legal assistance.
During the year there were reports of violence against members of minority groups. In January in Temerin in Vojvodina, there were two separate attacks on two Hungarians, who were beaten after they told assailants they were Hungarians. Police identified assailants in the first incident.
On June 11, following the killing of a Serbian teenager by a Romani resident, violent protests against Roma broke out in the Jabuka village in Vojvodina. For several days, Serbs from the village demonstrated in front of Romani homes, throwing rocks and chanting anti-Romani slogans. The gendarmerie only reacted to protect Roma after four days of protest. Police arrested six individuals for incitement of racial and national hatred and intolerance. Five were being tried at the end of the year.
There were also numerous reports of vandalism and graffiti against minorities. For example, on April 16, unknown assailants in Backi Monostor in Vojvodina sprayed the Democratic Association of Croats in Vojvodina with chauvinistic anti-Croatian graffiti.
There were no developments and none were expected in the March 2009 incidents in which unidentified individuals speaking Serbian attacked Eliot Balog, a Hungarian, in Sombor and approximately 15 youths attacked Congor Ka, also a Hungarian, in Temerin.
The investigation continued into an April 2009 series of attacks on Roma in the town of Cacak.
8 April 2011
The full text of the report is available here.