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Strasbourg, 13 Septembrer 2013 – The Council of Europe Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities has published its third Opinion on Kosovo* together with the comments submitted by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).
Source: Council of Europe
The persistent absence of a sustainable solution for approximately 235,0001 displaced persons (DPs) from Kosovo continues to pose a major challenge for all concerned. While the safe and dignified return of DPs to their homes is recognized as a fundamental right both in international law and in the legal framework in Kosovo and despite long-term engagement with the issue by Kosovo institutions and international actors, returnees in Kosovo are still confronted by serious obstacles to their sustainable reintegration, including limited access to public services, property rights and socio-economic opportunities; the deteriorating security situation in returns sites; and tensions between receiving communities and potential returnees in certain areas.
As part of its core mandate to monitor, promote and protect human rights, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Mission in Kosovo (OSCE) supports and periodically reports on the returns process in Kosovo, monitoring trends and assessing compliance by Kosovo institutions with the relevant legal and policy framework.
There have been some positive developments in returns policy since 2010, but implementation by municipal institutions has been neither consistent nor effective. A 2010 government regulation mandating the establishment of municipal co-ordination mechanisms, the Municipal Offices for Communities and Returns (MOCRs), constituted an important first step towards addressing identified problems in the returns and reintegration process at the municipal level. However, to date, there is little evidence that this has led to tangible improvements in the development, implementation and co-ordination of returns activities on the ground.
Of serious concern is the deteriorating security situation in several returns sites, which have seen an increase in incidents affecting returnees and their property. Frequent looting of these sites, coupled with damage to places of religious or cultural significance and occasional low-level harassment, has had a negative impact on perceptions of security among both returning communities and potential returnees.
While most municipalities have taken these incidents seriously, expressing their support for affected communities through statements of condemnation and outreach activities, some have failed to take any action whatsoever.
At several difficult returns locations, tensions between potential returnees and receiving communities have further obstructed the returns process. In most cases these frictions are rooted in allegations of unresolved war crimes or missing persons cases, although exacerbating factors such as ongoing property disputes or the overarching political situation also play a role. With a few laudable exceptions (Gjakovë/Ðakovica, Klinë/Klina and Prizren), proactive municipal support for the returns process is often lacking, and in a small number of cases municipal officials themselves openly condition the returns process on external factors, such as the resolution of outstanding property issues or a change in overarching political circumstances.
The OSCE urges Kosovo institutions to take all necessary measures to ensure full implementation of the legal and policy framework on returns, including through the timely establishment of MOCRs, the development and implementation of municipal returns strategies, and the allocation of adequate budgetary resources for returns activities. In the aftermath of security incidents affecting returnees, senior municipal officials should show support for the returnee communities through a public statement of condemnation and follow-up outreach activities. Security actors should likewise continue their efforts to reassure affected communities through increased patrols and community policing in returns sites, and to make greater use of local community protection mechanisms, notably the Municipal Community Safety Councils (MCSCs) and Local Public Safety Committees (LPSCs). All actors working on returns must send a clear message, including through public statements of support and regular attendance by senior officials at returns activities, that support for the returns process is unconditional. Central and municipal institutions should work together with the Kosovo police and international organizations to develop inter-ethnic dialogue activities to build confidence between receiving and returning communities.
The report is available here.
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.
As signatories of the UN Convention of the Right of the Child, EU member states have long been committed to making the best interests of the child a primary consideration for public authorities. The new Treaty of Lisbon further commits the European Union and its member states to protecting the rights of the child in all internal and external policies. In December 2011, the protection of the rights of the child was declared an explicit priority for EU external action and efforts to promote human rights and democracy in the world.
Migrant children constitute a particularly vulnerable group. As children and as migrants they face poverty, social exclusion, exploitation and multiple risks, including risks to health. How to translate Europe’s commitment to protecting the rights of children in the context of migration, irrespective of nationality, legal status or social background, remains a particular challenge. Special attention is required to ensure that the rights and principles laid out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child apply to migrant children without conditions.
While respect for the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is one key component of EU policies on migration, repatriation and a credible threat of forced return are held to be indispensable tools in Europe’s fight against illegal migration. Prompted by the lack of child-focused migration research, and concerns about a possible impact of repatriation on children’s psychosocial health, UNICEF decided to explore how repatriation and reintegration realities interact with children’s mental health. Focusing on children repatriated from Germany and Austria to Kosovo, this study aims to provide empirical evidence to allow for a more informed discussion aimed at protecting the best interests of children. How to make the rights of children an integral part of migration and repatriation policies thus lies at the heart of this research.
The evidence presented indeed points to an alarming situation: one out of two children describe their return as the worst experience of their lives. Especially foreign-born and minority children experience their repatriation as traumatic. Every third repatriated child suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome; nearly one in two teenagers suffers from depression and one in four reports suicidal ideation. Reintegration realities in Kosovo today are such that key factors that could help these children recover are almost non-existent: many returned children live in abject poverty, 70 percent of minority children drop out of school upon return, and the mental health care system in Kosovo is simply unable to meet the treatment needs identified in repatriated children and parents.
Europe’s commitment to act in the child’s best interests is put to the test in every return decision taken. The responsibility to protect children rights, however, does not end at a country’s border. On the contrary, as this study underlines repatriation practices and reintegration realities greatly impact a child’s wellbeing and psychosocial health. As a child’s health is a sine qua non for the exercise of all other rights, health considerations must take precedence over legal and political concerns in sending and receiving countries.
The report is available here.
Aus unserer Geschichte ergibt sich auch die besondere Verantwortung des Staates für Menschen, die heute von kriegerischer Gewalt bedroht sind. „Politisch Verfolgte genießen Asylrecht“, sagt das Grundgesetz. Und ich bin froh, dass Deutschland dem gerecht wird, wenn es gilt, Schutzbedürftige aufzunehmen. Das war auch so, als während der Balkankriege in den 90er Jahren Zigtausende Menschen Zuflucht bei uns suchten, unter ihnen etwa 50.000 Angehörige der ethnischen Minderheiten Roma, Ashkali und „Ägypter“ aus dem Kosovo.
Etwa 12.000 von ihnen sollen nun zurück in den Kosovo. Wenn nötig, unter Zwang. Unter ihnen sind bis zu 6.000 Kinder und Jugendliche, die meisten hier geboren, eingebunden in die Schule, in ihren Freundeskreis. Heute stellen wir in Berlin eine Studie vor, für die ein Team aus Psychologen, Ärzten und Sozialwissenschaftlern rückgeführte Jungen und Mädchen im Kosovo befragt hat (UNICEF-Studie “Stilles Leid”). Sie wurden in ein Land gebracht, in dem die meisten nie zu Hause waren, in dem sie am Rand der Gesellschaft stehen. Die Ergebnisse aus Gesprächen mit 164 Kindern gehen unter die Haut: Der Alptraum Abschiebung, und halten Sie sich nur das Wort „ABSCHIEBUNG“ einmal vor Augen, macht die Kinder krank. Viele klagen über Angst, Schmerzen, Nervosität. Sie berichten, dass nachts an die Tür geklopft wurde, dass sie angeschrien wurden. Noch einmal: Dies sind Kinder, deren Familien in größter Not vor dem Krieg geflohen sind. Auch viele ihrer Eltern bräuchten psychologische Unterstützung, haben Grauenhaftes mitgemacht.
„Bei allen Maßnahmen, die Kinder betreffen, ist das Wohl des Kindes ein Gesichtspunkt, der vorrangig zu berücksichtigen ist“ – das ist der grundlegende Gedanke der UN-Konvention über die Rechte des Kindes. Das heißt: Bei jedem einzelnen Kind, sechstausend Mal, müssen die Behörden prüfen, ob die Rückführung mit dem Wohl der Kinder in Einklang zu bringen ist. Oder ob es besser ist, wenn sie bleiben dürfen, nach all den Jahren Kindheit in Deutschland. Unsere Studie spricht hier eine deutliche Sprache.
Quelle: UNICEF Deutschland
27 March 2012 – In a decision of 26 March 2012, the French Conseil d’Etat (supreme court for administrative law matters) quashed a decision of the French Immigration board, OFPRA (Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides), which, on 18 March 2011, had added Kosovo and Albania to the list of so-called safe countries of origin. The Conseil d’Etat followed the arguments of the NGOs and held that neither Kosovo, nor Albania can be considered as safe.
In the justification of its decision, the Court underlined that none of the two countries fulfils the criteria on the basis of which a country can be considered as safe. It argued that, in spite of progress made, in particular in Albania, both countries were still prone to political and social instabilities, and that certain categories of the population were exposed to violence without being able to count on the protection of the state authorities. In consequence, the Conseil d’Etat concluded that the decision to put the two countries on the list of safe countries of origin was illegal. It annulled the decision of the OFPRA together with its implementing guidelines (circulaire).
The decision to put a country on the list of “safe countries” of origin has important negative consequences for asylum seekers. When their country is considered as safe, asylum seekers are not admitted to stay on the French territory for the purpose of seeking asylum. Their asylum application is processed within the context of the so-called “procédure prioritaire”, an accelerated procedure, with minor guarantees in terms of appeal. Moreover, they are not entitled to any benefits or shelter.
The decision of the French Conseil d’Etat is not just important for asylum seekers of the Kosovo and Albania, who have applied for asylum in France, and who now have the possibility to ask for their case to be reopened. The judicial acknowledgment of the latent violence in Kosovo and Albania could also act as a signal beyond the French borders. Three days before the French court rendered its decision, the Belgian Council of Ministers decided to classify Kosovo and Albania (among other countries) as “safe”. The decision of the French Supreme Court substantiates the criticism of Belgian NGOs such as the CIRE, which stated, that the decision of putting a country on the list of so-called safe countries of origin was not a panacea to reduce the number of asylum seekers, but might act at the disadvantage those who are in need of protection.
Circulaire IOCL 1209299C du 4 avril 2012 informant les préfets sur les conséquences de l’arrêt du Conseil d’État du 26 mars 2012 concernant les ressortissants de la République du Kosovo et la République d’Albanie
Le présent papier thématique se concentre sur la situation des personnes appartenant aux communautés roms, ashkalies et égyptiennes (ci-après RAE) rapatriées au Kosovo. Il couvre les développements ayant eu lieu dans ce domaine à partir d’octobre 2009, date de la dernière publication de l’Organisation suisse d’aide aux réfugiés OSAR sur ce thème, jusqu’a la fin de l’année 2011.
En 2009 l’OSAR soulignait déjà qu’en dépit de l’établissement par le gouvernement kosovar d’une Stratégie pour la réintégration des personnes rapatriées en 2007 ainsi que d’un Plan d’action en 2008, très peu de personnes bénéficiaient, en pratique, d’une aide quelconque après avoir été renvoyées au Kosovo.
Deux ans après la publication de ce premier rapport, et malgré les efforts institutionnels et législatifs entrepris par le gouvernement kosovar, motivé par la promesse de l’Union Européenne d’accéder au dialogue sur la libéralisation des visas, les personnes rapatriées sous contrainte continuent, pour la plupart, à ne pas avoir accès à une aide concrète à leur retour. Les communautés roms, askhalies et égyptiennes, toujours fortement discriminées et marginalisées, se retrouvent dans une situation particulièrement vulnérable.
Si les Guidelines de l’UNHCR, mises à jour pour la dernière fois en novembre 2009, continuent d’attirer l’attention sur la vulnérabilité et le besoin de protection des minorités ethniques au Kosovo, et notamment des membres des communautés roms, les gouvernements européens ont exercé une pression croissante sur le gouvernement du Kosovo afin de pouvoir renvoyer les ressortissants kosovars dans leur pays et ce, quelle que soit leur origine ethnique. A partir du transfert de responsabilités de la gestion des rapatriements a l’Etat kosovar en novembre 2008, différents accords de réadmission ont été signés entre le nouvel Etat et les gouvernements, pour la plupart européens. En décembre 2011, le nombre des accords signes s’élevait à 15. La Suisse a signé un accord de réadmission avec le Kosovo le 3 février 2010: celui-ci est entré en vigueur le 1er juin 2010. Les accords de réadmission permettent et facilitent le renvoi de ressortissants kosovars séjournant illégalement sur sol européen.
Le présent rapport a été élaboré en se basant sur des sources d’information publiquement accessibles, sur des rapports d’organisations internationales, d’ONG internationales et nationales ainsi que sur des données recueillies lors d’une visite effectuée par une collaboratrice de l’OSAR au Kosovo entre le 28 octobre et le 11 novembre 2011. Dans le cadre de cette visite, la collaboratrice de l’OSAR a rencontré et interviewé différents acteurs nationaux et internationaux, dont des représentants de l’UNHCR, de l’OIM, de l’UNICEF, de l’EULEX, de l’OSCE. Elle a également rencontré un représentant du Roma and Ashkali Documentation Centre (RAD Centre), de l’organisation CRP/Kosovo, ainsi que l’Ombudsman du Kosovo, Sami Kurteshi, un représentant du département pour la Citoyenneté, l’Asile et la Migration (DCAM) du Ministère des Affaires Intérieures du gouvernement du Kosovo, des représentants des communautés RAE et des familles RAE ayant été renvoyées de Suisse, d’Allemagne et de France.
Source : OSAR
Le rapport complet est disponible ici.
22 Januar 2011 – In its annual world report, Human Rights Watch notes, that the situation of Kosovo Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians remains issue of concern. The organisation criticises the ongoing forced repatriation of persons belonging to these communities.
Protection of Minorities
Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians continued to face persistent discrimination—particularly in housing and access to public services—and the highest unemployment, school dropout, and mortality rates in Kosovo.
Following an accidental fire in January in their social housing apartments in Plementina, approximately 250 Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians were forced to move to a makeshift camp in town without electricity and consistent access to running water. During the summer there was a water shortage at the camp. At this writing repairs to their apartments had yet to be completed and they remained in the temporary camp.
Tensions between Serbs and Albanians in northern Kosovo intensified in August, after Kosovo authorities occupied border stations on the Serbia border. Serbs in northern Kosovo held blockades and protests that persisted until November, with one fatality, a Kosovo police officer killed by Serb protestors in a border skirmish in late July. In September sixteen Serbs and four peacekeepers from the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) were injured in a confrontation over Serb blockades near border crossings.
Local prosecutors received reports of 60 inter-ethnic incidents during the first nine months of 2011, according to the Kosovo prosecutor’s office. Reports from the UN Mission in Kosovo indicated that although most were low-level incidents, including vandalism at religious sites in January and February, they included a number of serious assaults and murders.
Return of Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons
In March UNHCR reported that Serbia and Kosovo produced the highest number of asylum applicants in “industrialized” countries in 2010. The trend was attributed to the EU visa liberalization with Serbia and the economic problems and discrimination that minorities face in Kosovo. Most claims were lodged in Europe. According to UNHCR, many claimants were Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians from Kosovo. Almost all were rejected.
UNHCR Kosovo registered a total of 695 voluntary minority returns in the first seven months of the year, a decline from the peak in 2010: 237 Serb, 76 Roma, 187 Ashkali and Egyptian, 36 Bosniak, 68 Gorani, 12 Albanian (to Serbian majority areas, mainly Mitrovica), and 7 Montenegrins.
Deportations of Kosovars from Western Europe continued, with little assistance for returnees once in Kosovo. According to UNHCR, 1,334 Kosovars were deported from Western Europe during the first seven months of 2011, including 336 people to areas where they were in a minority: 168 Roma, 76 Ashkali, 5 Egyptians, 22 Bosniaks, 8 Gorani, 3 Turks, 16 Albanians, and 38 Serbs.
Deportations continued to disproportionately impact Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian communities, with most returnees living in informal settlements and lacking basic utilities such as running water and electricity. The UN Children’s Fund reported in August that most Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian children returned to Kosovo were now on the national registry, giving them a legal right to access education and other social services. Three-quarters still do not attend school due to poverty, curriculum differences, and language barriers.
The state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which hosts the largest number of Kosovo Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians in Germany, suspended forced returns of Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians for the winter months of 2010 and 2011, due to concerns about their safety in Kosovo. Forced returns from North Rhine-Westphalia resumed in April 2011, although more nuanced assessments introduced in September 2010 meant that school-age children were less likely to be deported.
Activists and Roma leaders voiced concerns in March and April 2011 about lack of treatment for poisoning for most former inhabitants of a lead-contaminated camp in Mitrovica that closed in October 2010. A similar lead-contaminated camp at Osterode remained open as approximately 20 families remaining there feared violence and discrimination if they returned to their former homes in southern Mitrovica. In July 2011 the authorities in north Mitrovica reached an agreement with Mercy Corps and the European Commission to provide land for homes for these families.
Source: Human Rights Watch
The full document 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.