“Unlike in previous years, there were no reports that IDPs were targeted for attacks. There were reports that the government sometimes failed to recognize IDPs, often due to a lack of communication with officials at the administrative boundary line with Kosovo who were responsible for reporting IDPs. Without an official IDP card, individuals were not able to access IDP services.
The government allowed IDPs access to assistance from NGOs and international organizations.
While government officials continued to make public statements that IDPs should return to Kosovo, senior government officials also claimed that it was unsafe for many to return.”
“Many Roma, including IDPs from Kosovo, lived illegally in squatter settlements that lacked basic services such as schools, medical care, water, and sewage facilities. Some settlements were located on valuable industrial or commercial sites where private owners wanted to resume control; others were on the premises of state-owned enterprises due to be privatized. During the year Belgrade authorities continued to suspend demolition of one settlement on privatized land until they could locate alternative housing for Roma living there, but authorities continued to struggle to find an alternative.”
“UNMIK and the PISG generally respected the human rights of residents; however, there were problems in some areas, particularly relating to minority populations. The most serious of these were cases of politically and ethnically motivated violence; … societal violence, abuse, and discrimination against minority communities … ”
“UNMIK regulations and the constitutional framework provide for freedom of movement within Kosovo, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and UNMIK and the PISG generally respected these rights; however, interethnic tensions and real and perceived security concerns restricted freedom of movement in practice. During the year UNMIK, KFOR, and the PISG generally improved protection of these rights for minority communities. The PISG cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.
The police continued to assess the security situation as stable but fragile. No freedom of movement related crimes were reported to police. Nevertheless, members of all ethnic communities continued to remain largely within or travel between areas where their group comprised the majority. …
Sporadic incidents of violence and intimidation targeting minorities continued to limit freedom of movement for Kosovo Albanians in northern Kosovo. The PISG and UNMIK enhanced efforts to facilitate minority travel throughout Kosovo, but real and perceived risks deterred many minorities from traveling outside their neighborhoods.
On June 27, KPS in Serb-majority Leposavic/Leposaviq municipality were alerted to an explosion on the road leading to the Albanian villages of Koshtova, Bistrica, and Ceraja. A minibus operated by the municipal communities office was transporting nine passengers and ran over a tripwire attached to a hand grenade, which detonated behind the vehicle. No injuries resulted from the explosion. This was the second device placed on the road in a two-month period; in the first incident, KFOR discovered and dismantled a bomb. An investigation continued at year’s end.
There were attacks during the year on buses carrying Serbs and other ethnic minorities. For example, on October 14, a bus transporting a group of Serbs who visited the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate in Pec/Peja was stoned during the group’s subsequent visit to the Decani Monastery. The bus reportedly sustained significant damage. On November 17, a bus carrying 30 professors and students from the Warsaw Theological Seminary to Zociste Monastery was stoned while parked in the middle of a majority Albanian village.
To reduce the risk of attack by making Kosovo Serb and Kosovo Albanian vehicles indistinguishable, UNMIK continued to offer Kosovo license plates at no fee to Kosovo Serbs who had already registered their vehicles in Serbia. However, Kosovo Serbs were reluctant to use the UNMIK-issued plates because doing so limited their ability to travel to Serbia, which does not recognize the UNMIK plates.
There were also incidents targeting infrastructure used by minorities. On March 10, hunters found an unexploded grenade near a transmitter in Matica village in Mitrovica. On April 17, an explosive device was found on a bridge in Pogragje village in Gnjilane/Gjilan. On April 23, unexploded ordnance was found under a bridge in Vrbovac village in Gnjilane/Gjilan. At year’s end no suspects had been apprehended in these incidents.
There were no developments in the following cases from 2006: the June discovery of explosives under a bridge connecting two Kosovo Serb returnee villages in Klina municipality, and the December explosion on railroad tracks in Mihaliq village, Vucitrn/Vushtrri municipality, which temporarily halted rail service between Kosovo Serb communities in southern Kosovo and areas north of the Ibar River. No suspects were apprehended in either incident.
On January 1, UNMIK transferred responsibility for humanitarian and special transportation services for minority communities in Kosovo to the Ministry of Transport and Communications and the Ministry of Communities and Returns. Some Kosovo Serbs complained that the quality and frequency of humanitarian transport services in certain municipalities was reduced after this transfer.”
“According to the UNHCR, 207,000 persons from Kosovo remained displaced in Serbia and 16,500 in Montenegro as a consequence of the 1998-99 conflict. Of the 4,100 persons displaced by riots in 2004, some 1,200 remained IDPs. There were 20,310 persons displaced within Kosovo, half of whom were Kosovo Albanians. Few IDPs returned during the year due to uncertainty over Kosovo’s future political status, lack of employment opportunities, security concerns, and property disputes. Successful returns continued in Klina, Istok/Istog, and Pec/Peja. While municipal governments generally supported returns, obstacles remained for Serb returnees in Kosovo.
During the year the number of minority returns remained low overall, although there was an increase in the return of Kosovo Roma, Ashkali, and so-called Egyptians. Kosovo Serb returns remained low. According to the UNHCR, more IDPs returned to Kosovo during the year than in 2006, differing from the declining trend of returns per year since 2003. UNHCR reported that 1,685 minorities returned during the year, while in 2006 this number was 1,627. These figures also included returns of Kosovo Albanians to areas where they were a minority.
During the year UNMIK continued to transfer responsibilities to the Ministry of Communities and Returns. Transferred competencies included the coordination of municipal fair-share financing and of the work of municipal returns offices and municipal community offices. The ministry focused its efforts on supporting organized and individual returns of minorities and administering community development and stabilization projects.
Overall minority returns since 2000 stood at 17,149 by September. Kosovo Serbs comprised approximately 38 percent of returnees during the year, compared with 31 percent in 2006. Roma (including Ashkali and Egyptians) continued to return in slightly greater numbers, comprising 43 percent of the overall number of returns compared to 54 percent in 2006. In Mitrovica, Kosovo Serbs in the north of the city and Kosovo Albanians in the south continued to illegally occupy each others’ properties, hindering potential returns.
As of September, the government had reconstructed over 98 percent (881 of 897) of the houses damaged or destroyed in the 2004 riots. According to the Ministry of Culture, of the 26 houses not yet reconstructed, 23 remained unfinished due to security concerns in northern Mitrovica, and the owners of the remaining three refused to have their homes reconstructed. On May 11, following complaints about the quality of the reconstruction, the government established a five-member complaint review commission, although this body had not begun issuing decisions by year’s end.
As of September, 37 Roma families (144 persons) remained at the lead-polluted Cesmin Lug camp for IDPs. Osterode, a medical treatment facility also in northern Mitrovica, housed 98 families (395 persons) who were relocated from Cesmin Lug and two other polluted camps in 2006. During the year 31 children at Osterode completed lead chelation therapy and another 20 began the second phase of treatment.
In 2005 UNMIK began a donor funding campaign to rebuild the original Roma settlement in southern Mitrovica, destroyed in 1999 by Kosovo Albanians. Limited funding slowed the return project, but reconstruction of the neighborhood began in May 2006. Returns to the neighborhood started in March and by year’s end 320 out of an expected 438 persons had returned. The reconstruction of two additional apartment buildings housing an additional 24 units was completed and 24 families returned to them by year’s end. In March the KPS established a police substation in the area, and a foreign government-supported health clinic was opened in May.”
“After the November 17 elections, there were 24 ethnic minority members in the 120-seat Kosovo Assembly, including 10 Kosovo Serbs and 14 members of other groups, including ethnic Turks, Bosniaks, Gorani, Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians. There were three minority PISG ministers–two Kosovo Serbs and one Kosovo Bosniak–and one Serb deputy minister. The seat of one Serb minister was kept vacant, as the designated Serb party refused to take the position. One Kosovo Bosniak and one Kosovo Turk held a rotating seat on the Kosovo Assembly presidency; the boycott by one of the Kosovo Serb parties left empty the eight seats set aside for Kosovo Serbs. … The constitutional framework requires that the Assembly reserve 10 seats for Kosovo Serbs and 10 for members of other ethnic groups, but ethnic minorities were underrepresented at the municipal level where no such provisions govern.”
“UNMIK and PISG regulations specifically prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, gender, ethnic origin, disability, or language; however, violence and discrimination against women, persons with disabilities, and ethnic minorities persisted.”
“UNMIK regulations require children between the ages of six and 15 to enroll in compulsory education. Compulsory education, consisting of nine grades, is free of charge. According to 2005 statistics, 97.5 percent of Kosovo Albanian and 99 percent of Kosovo Serb children were enrolled in primary school, while 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.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that the lack of facilities for minority education in parts of Kosovo made it difficult for some IDPs to return to their homes.
UNICEF estimated that less than 75 percent of children who completed compulsory basic education enrolled in secondary school and the continuation rate for Kosovo-Albanian girls was less than 55 percent. Among girls from non-Serbian minority communities, only about 40 percent enrolled in secondary schools.
UNMIK regulations require equal conditions for school children and provide the right to native-language public education through secondary level for minority students. Schools teaching in Serbian, Bosnian, and Turkish operated during the year. …
Romani, 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.”
“Child marriage was reported to occur, particularly in the ethnic Romani, Ashkali, Egyptian, and Albanian communities. UNMIK did not compile statistics, so the extent of the problem was unclear.”
“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 Vucitrn/Vushtrri, security concerns remained.”
Released on March 11, 2008
The full text of the report is available here.