Accountability – international community

Lack of accountability persisted for past human rights violations by UNMIK personnel against people in Kosovo. In October the EU agreed that US citizens participating in the EULEX mission would not be accountable to the EU for any human rights violations they might commit.

Three generations of a family from Klinavac, in Kosovo’s Klina municipality, in Kraljevo, in central Serbia, 30 July 2008.© UNHCR/L. Taylor

Sixty-two cases remained pending before the Human Rights Advisory Panel (HRAP), introduced in March 2006 to provide remedies for acts and omissions by UNMIK. In June HRAP declared admissible a complaint by the families of Mon Balaj and Arben Xheladini, killed by unidentified Romanian UNMIK police officers during a demonstration in February 2007, although the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General challenged its admissibility. The HRAP delivered its first decision in November, finding that UNMIK police had failed to investigate the murder in 2000 of Remzije Canhasi.

In November Muhamed Biçi was awarded £2.4 million compensation by the UK Ministry of Defence, following civil proceedings in 2004 which decided that UK troops had in 1999 deliberately and unjustifiably caused him injury.

In their concluding observations in November on UNMIK’s report on the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Kosovo, the monitoring committee (CESCR) recommended that UNMIK include the treaty in the international law applicable in Kosovo.

The Kosovo Assembly again failed to appoint an ombudsperson; the mandate of the international ombudsperson expired in 2005.

Unfair trials

In February UNMIK suspended trial proceedings against Albin Kurti, leader of the NGO Vetëvendosje! (Self-Determination), who was indicted for organizing and participating in a demonstration in February 2007. The organization considered that the prosecution appeared to be politicized and proceedings before a panel of international judges demonstrated a lack of independence by the judiciary. Six lawyers had refused to represent Albin Kurti who sought the right to conduct his own defence.

Impunity – war crimes

UNMIK’s remaining international prosecutors and judiciary made slow progress in addressing an estimated backlog of 1,560 war crimes cases. In August UNMIK said that proceedings were open in seven cases, only one of which was not an appeal or a retrial. According to UNMIK, international prosecutors were also reportedly directing investigations in 47 cases. Measures for the protection of witnesses remained of concern.

Marko Simonović was indicted with three others in October for the murder in Pristina of four ethnic Albanians in June 1999.

In November the UN Secretary-General reported that the UNMIK Department of Justice had established guidelines to enable access to criminal files by EULEX prosecutors, who had repeatedly complained that war crimes files were not available.

Impunity remained for the majority of cases of enforced disappearances and abductions. Investigations were opened in six cases reported to UNMIK police by Amnesty International. Some 1,918 people remained unaccounted for, including Albanians, Serbs and members of other minorities. The Office of Missing Persons and Forensics performed 73 exhumations and recovered 53 sets of mortal remains. Some 437 exhumed bodies remained unidentified.

Inter-ethnic violence

Although the intensity and frequency of inter-ethnic violence declined after March, low-level intimidation and harassment of minorities continued. In October shots were fired towards six displaced Kosovo Serbs visiting their homes in Dvoran/e village, Suva Reka/Suharekë municipality; a Kosovo Albanian was later arrested. In November, Ali Kadriu, a displaced ethnic Albanian, was beaten by UNMIK police when he attempted to return to rebuild his house in Suvi Dol/Suhadoll in north Mitrovica/ë; he had previously been threatened by members of the Serbian community. Albanian shops were burned after an attack by ethnic Albanians on 29 December on a mixed ethnicity Kosovo Police Service patrol and the stabbing of a 16-year-old Serb boy on 30 December.

Impunity for past inter-ethnic violence prevailed. In July the OSCE reported that only 400 prosecutions had been brought in 1,400 cases reported to the police after the ethnic violence of March 2004, in which 19 people were killed and more than 900 injured. Trials were delayed when witnesses, including police officers, reportedly failed to attend court or provided conflicting statements; sentences imposed were inconsistent with the gravity of the offences.

In June Florim Ejupi was convicted of the bombing of the Niš Express bus near Podujevo/ë in February 2001, in which 11 Serbs were killed and 22 severely injured. He was sentenced to 40 years’ imprisonment for murder, attempted murder, terrorism, causing general danger, racial and other discrimination and unlawful possession of explosive material.

No progress was made following the arrest in 2007 of an ethnic Albanian man suspected of involvement in the murder of 14 Serb men in Staro Gračko in July 1999; witness intimidation was reported.

Discrimination

Both Serbs and Albanians continued to suffer discrimination in areas where they were in a minority. The Law on Languages was inconsistently implemented and the 2004 Anti-Discrimination Law was not enforced. The government developed an action plan on measures recommended in 2005 by the Advisory Committee to the Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities. Members of non-Serb minority communities were excluded from consultations on the Kosovo Constitution.

Approximately a third of the Kosovo Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians reportedly lacked civil or habitual resident registration, which prevented them from repossessing their homes. Many children, in particular girls, did not enrol in school or frequently dropped out. Many families were unable to afford health care. Some 700 Roma remained displaced in camps in northern Mitrovica, some in locations where their health was seriously affected by lead contamination.

Refugees and internally displaced people – returns

Serbs and other non-Albanians did not flee Kosovo after the declaration of independence as feared, but few returns took place during the year. Some 445 internally displaced people returned to their homes; of whom 107 were Kosovo Serbs.

By the end of the year several EU member states had indicated that people under temporary protection would soon be forcibly returned to Kosovo. The OSCE reported that resources were not available for the integration of repatriated people: in September, in Klina/Kline municipality, for example, resources were not available to rebuild the house of a Romani couple forcibly returned from Germany.

Many other people were unable to return to their homes due to the backlog of 29,000 cases and 11,000 unimplemented decisions related to property claims originating from the 1999 war.

Violence against women and girls

A new Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings was adopted in July. In November, 98 bars or clubs were considered to be involved in forced prostitution, although traffickers reportedly moved women to private homes and escort services to avoid detection. The KPS reported an increase in internally trafficked persons. Few perpetrators were prosecuted, yet trafficked women continued to be arrested for prostitution.

The CESCR in November noted the high incidence of domestic violence in Kosovo, low prosecution and conviction rates, and the lack of adequate victim assistance and protection.

May 2009

The full report, including information on Serbia, is availabe here.