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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.
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.
This report documents and assesses the responses by municipalities to serious security incidents affecting non-majority communities1. A “serious security incident” is classified as one that has the potential to destabilize the security situation, and includes verbal or physical attacks on persons, private property and sites of cultural and religious significance.
Security incidents have an adverse impact on communities’ actual and perceived safety and security, and can restrict their freedom of movement and limit their access to essential rights and services. They also have the potential to increase inter-ethnic tensions, and to undermine relations between non-majority communities and municipal institutions. However, the findings of this report suggest that these negative effects can be mitigated if municipal institutions respond in an adequate and timely manner to the incident in question – for example, through dialogue in appropriate forums, public statements condemning acts of violence and outreach to the affected community.
During the reporting period, non-majority communities in Kosovo continued to be negatively affected by security incidents targeting persons, private property and sites of cultural and religious significance. Some municipalities have begun to adopt a proactive response to security incidents, primarily through official condemnation and outreach activities targeting the affected communities. Where these activities occurred, there was a clear positive correlation with the affected communities’ perceptions of their safety and security, with the affected communities reporting that their perception of security was improved.
Despite these positive examples, municipal responses to security incidents generally occurred on an ad hoc basis, with no consistency of approach between municipalities. Furthermore, many municipalities have not fulfilled their obligations towards the establishment and conduct of their Municipal Community Safety Council (MCSC), which is the municipal body that is best able to ensure appropriate responses to security incidents.
Where municipalities did respond to security incidents, community representatives noted a number of persistent problems. For example, in some cases public statements by municipal officials were not translated into non-majority community languages and thus were not accessible to the community affected by the incident. Furthermore, where municipal officials did condemn a security incident affecting a non-majority community, such action was regarded as largely symbolic by the affected community unless accompanied by outreach and dialogue activities.
Given the positive correlation between adequate and timely municipal responses to serious security incidents and perceptions of security among the affected community, stakeholders should work together to develop a consistent approach. This would be assisted by further development and full implementation of the legal and regulatory framework relating to security of communities, especially to MCSCs. Municipal officials should use the mechanism of the MCSCs to implement a best practice approach in responding to security incidents through public condemnation and outreach to affected communities.
This Report is based on the regular monitoring activities of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo over the period of January to December 2010. The OSCE continues to monitor, report and follow-up on the responses of municipalities to security-related incidents affecting non-majority communities, with heightened attention following the events beginning in late July 2011.
The full report is available here.
Pristina, 28 October 2010 – Roma and related minority groups deported from Western Europe to Kosovo face discrimination and severe deprivation amounting to human rights abuse, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
The 77-page report, “Rights Displaced: Forced Returns of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians from Western Europe to Kosovo,” documents the serious human rights problems faced by those who left Kosovo for Western Europe but were subsequently sent back. They experience problems getting identity documents as well as regaining possession of any property they own. They also have difficulties accessing housing, health care, employment, and social welfare services. Many end up in places where they are separated from family members. The deportations are especially hard on children, few of whom stay in school due to the lack of language skills, curriculum differences, and poverty.
“Europe is sending Kosovo’s most vulnerable people back to discrimination, exclusion, poverty, and displacement,” said Wanda Troszczynska-van Genderen, Western Balkans researcher at Human Rights Watch. “If Europe’s leaders are serious about improving the plight of Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians, they should suspend the deportations to Kosovo and ensure adequate support to those who have already been sent back.”
About 50,000 Roma, most of them Serbian-speaking, and two Albanian-speaking minorities – Ashkali and Egyptians, who claim origins in ancient Egypt – have been deported to Kosovo since 1999. The numbers look set to rise, with as many as 12,000 people facing deportation from Germany alone. Lack of assistance from international donors and the Kosovo government to those who are deported means that the burden of helping them once they arrive in Kosovo falls on the Kosovo communities of Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians, the majority of whom live in acute poverty.
Kosovo’s Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians are historically its poorest and its most economically, politically, and socially marginalized minority. In recent years, many have been displaced because of the war, ethnic conflict, extreme poverty, and political instability. Their numbers decreased from more than 200,000 before the war in 1999 to 38,000 today. The Roma have often been the targets of violent attacks, spurned by some Kosovo Albanians – the largest ethnic group in Kosovo – as “collaborators” with the minority Serb population.
Some of them have obtained refugee status abroad, while others remain under temporary protection mechanisms. While living in Western Europe, Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians experience living conditions that are incomparably better than those in Kosovo. Their children, often born abroad, learn the language and adopt the culture and lifestyle of the host Western European countries. They often grow up not speaking their parents’ mother tongues.
Nevertheless, some who go to other countries fail to obtain asylum or their temporary protection expires, exposing them to deportation. Some of the forced returnees are unable to obtain Kosovo identity documents and have no Yugoslav or Serbian identity documents establishing prior residence in Kosovo, which makes them de facto stateless, often for prolonged periods.
In April, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticized the deportations, saying they destabilize Kosovo’s security situation and exacerbate the problems faced by these minority groups in Kosovo. The Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner Thomas Hammarberg and the European Parliament also have called this year for suspending the returns until conditions improve.
UN refugee agency guidelines call on countries not to deport Roma and say that Ashkali and Egyptians should only be returned after an individual risk assessment and in a phased manner, taking into account Kosovo’s limited capacity to absorb them.
“There is a growing consensus that these deportations are putting Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians at risk and making life worse for those already in Kosovo,” Troszczynska-van Genderen said. “EU governments’ responsibilities don’t end at their own borders. They and other donors need to focus on improving conditions on the ground rather than sending people back to face despair.”
Since 2009, the Kosovo government has signed readmission agreements with Germany, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and Norway, with further agreements being negotiated. Kosovo is keen to strengthen its ties with EU and other European countries. These agreements, and the absence of screening by Kosovo prior to the forced returns, open the door to ever greater numbers of deportations, create a real risk of human rights abuse, and escalate crisis conditions for deportees, their families, and the broader Kosovo community.
The report finds that the Kosovo government contributes to the problems for the returned Roma and others by failing to insist that the deporting governments help create adequate conditions in Kosovo for those forced to return. Kosovo also has not taken adequate steps to regulate the returns and to assist those who return to reintegrate into society.
A strategy created in 2007 for reintegrating forced and other returnees has not been carried out, and the Kosovo government has made little progress on its wider strategy, also designed in 2007, to improve the rights of the Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian communities as a whole.
The report recommends:
- An immediate moratorium on forced returns until conditions improve;
- Urgent steps to provide assistance to those who have been returned;
- Full implementation of the Kosovo government’s strategies for integrating forced returnees and the Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian communities as a whole.
Deportations from Germany have proved particularly controversial, with a recent hearing in the German Bundestag leading to condemnation of the policy by opposition parties and nongovernmental organizations.
A recent policy shift on deportations to Kosovo by the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where almost 40 percent of Kosovo Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians in Germany are living, suggests that reform is possible. In September, the state’s Interior Ministry issued a decree, which, while stopping short of suspending deportations entirely, recognizes the need for special protection of the Kosovo groups, requires individual screenings prior to return, and recommends not deporting school-age children.
Source: Human Rights Watch
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.
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.
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.
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.
The full report, including information on Serbia, is availabe here.
Since Kosovo’s declaration of independence on 17 February 2008, there has been a vacuum in effective international protection for minorities in Kosovo. A lack of certainty over the status of the territory has limited the practical application of international human rights law.
There is a danger that the new international organizations operating in Kosovo, including the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) and the International Civilian Representative (ICR), will compound the failure of the United Nations’ Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) to ensure a tolerant, multi-ethnic society in which equality, non-discrimination and the rights of minority groups areprotected.
An international protectorate since 1999, Kosovo has suffered engrained hostility between ethnic Albanian and Serb communities, and continued segregation. Restriction of movement and political, social and economic exclusion are particularly experienced by the smaller minority groups – Bosniaks, Croats, Gorani, Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians, and Turks – as well as by Serbs and Albanians living outside the main areas of population of their respective communities.
A lack of political will among majority Albanians and poor investment in protection mechanisms have resulted in minority rights being eroded or compromised in the post-independence period. Smaller minority communities have yet to see resolution or redress for oppression and human rights violations since the late 1990s, such as attacks and occupation of the homes of Bosniaks, Croats and Gorani, and an inability to exercise their language rights in public for fear of harassment. Many smaller minorities, such as Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians, who were displaced from their homes, have faced severe difficulties in returning.
Smaller minorities also suffer from lack of access to information or to tertiary education in their own languages, and discrimination due to association with the former Serb majority. This, combined with tough economic conditions, means that some members of minority communities, including Bosniaks and Turks, are starting to leave the new Kosovo altogether.
Shortcomings in minority rights protection should be addressed by the new guarantees for minorities under Kosovo’s post-independence Constitution and in the implementation of the Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement (the ‘Ahtisaari Plan’) by the ICR and his Office. While affirmative action policies for under-represented communities exist in some areas, for example the judiciary, the actual recruitment of minorities in many cases is weak. The focus of the Ahtisaari Plan on local autonomy in Serb areas may also have had the effect, perversely, of entrenching segregation at the local level, creating police forces divided by ethnicity, for example, rather than an integrated force in which all communities are represented.
Far from addressing Kosovo’s deep-seated problems, in the period since the declaration of independence, the actions of the new Kosovo authorities and the international community have instead created uncertainty and confusion, with increasingly complex, multi-layered executive governance structures in Kosovo. As a result there are currently numerous international and domestic actors with interrelated yet conflicting mandates operating in Kosovo. Since independence, the international community has been preoccupied with resolving legal and institutional complications surrounding the status of their international missions. Yet structures put in place have also perpetuated international actors’ lack of legal accountability and complicated minorities’ access to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and to other international legal remedies against Kosovo authorities.
They have also made engagement with and formulation of policy toward Kosovo’s smaller minority communities a low priority. Given the history, the European Union (EU) and other international actors should instead accord a central role to promoting the rights of minorities in Kosovo, including by improving the critical assessment of Kosovo’s record on minority protection as part of the EU accession process.
The full text of the report is available here.
(Summer 2007 – Summer 2008)
The Mission identified 12 areas deriving from its mandate (which also constitute the 12 chapters of the report): Rule of Law, Police, Communities, Protection of Property Rights, Assembly of Kosovo, Local Government and Decentralization, Elections, Public Administration, Human Rights Institutions and Instruments, Anti-Corruption, Anti-Trafficking in Human Beings; and Media.
In each of these chapters the following points are addressed: the development of the normative framework during the reporting period, the development on the ground and the implementation of the normative framework, main shortcomings and finally the Mission’s activities regarding these areas over the reporting period and in the future.
As an overall assessment, the main achievements and shortcomings can be summed up as follows.
Despite fundamental political changes in Kosovo during the first half of 2008, the political and security situation remained remarkably stable. During the reporting period, two important events involving politically motivated violence occurred on 19 February and 17 March in northern Kosovo: one related to the burning of customs posts, and the other to regaining control of the Mitrovicë/Mitrovica courthouse. However, these incidents did not escalate. At the same time, the fear that insecurity among the Kosovo Serb community would lead to a new wave of departures did not materialize.
There has been further progress in the development of democratic institutions and administrative structures, at the central level and particularly at the municipal level. Elections were successfully held for new political representatives at three different levels (the Assembly, municipal assemblies and municipal mayors); these elections met international standards. As for general policing, the Kosovo Police Service enjoys a high degree of trust among the Kosovo Albanian community.
The legislative framework has progressed and generally meets high international standards with regard to human rights and the protection of the rights of the different communities. However, the constitution and most other legislation have been drafted with significant international assistance.
The continued stalemate between Prishtinë/Priština and Belgrade on the status issue makes progress in the integration of the Kosovo Serb community into Kosovo’s public life and society difficult. In northern Kosovo, with its majority Kosovo Serb population, separation has actually advanced through the extension of parallel administrative institutions into the political field. In the rest of Kosovo, the outcome of efforts to integrate the Kosovo Serb community remains unclear.
Here, despite some efforts by the Kosovo government to encourage the Kosovo Serbs to participate in the administrative and political structures, there is a widespread perception among the Kosovo Serb community of insecurity and mistrust which prevents interaction outside enclaves. A large number of unresolved property claims affect above all the Kosovo Serbs. The two separated educational systems – the Kosovo schools and the parallel Kosovo Serb schools – do not offer instruction in the other community’s language and thus drive the two communities further apart.
The judiciary remains the weakest of the public institutions. There are widespread violations of fair trial standards. There is no indication that a further increase in the high number of backlogged court cases can be prevented, let alone that the number can be reduced. There has been very limited progress in the fight against corruption, organized crime and human trafficking.
While the laws meet international standards, their implementation is often hampered by, the lack of financial and human resources, administrative shortcomings and adequate political initiative or will.
There are indications of increasing political interference in key institutions, which under international human rights standards should remain independent: the civil service, the judiciary, the police and the media.
In the period: January – April 2008, the Humanitarian Law Center – Kosovo (HLC-Kosovo) conducted thematic research related to two different periods: the first period – from January until Kosovo’s declaration of independence on 17 February 2008 and the second – from the declaration of independence until April 2008.
During the first period, HLC-Kosovo researched the extent to which citizens had equal freedom of movement, access to municipal and other Kosovo institutions, such as health institutions, as well as the extent to which provisions of the Law on the Use of Languages and the Anti-discrimination Law were applied. This research also sought to establish whether citizens of Kosovo are satisfied with the services provided by public companies and whether Kosovo citizens’ right to information in their own languages is respected. During the period after 17 February 2008, HLC-Kosovo conducted research primarily to assess the freedom of movement of Kosovo-Serbs. Research also assessed the extent to which minority citizens have quit their jobs, the number of minority employees that have returned to their workplaces, and the response of the Kosovo institutions.
After nearly nine years of UN administration, Kosovo appears set to become an
independent state. The question is no longer if Kosovo will become a country, but
what kind of country it will become.
Today, Kosovo is a place where human rights are still frequently violated, where
political violence, impunity for common and political crimes, intimidation and
discrimination are commonplace. If that is to change, Kosovo’s new government,
with the help of a new EU-led international mission, must make human rights a top
This document sets out seven of the most pressing human rights issues in Kosovo
today, and proposes concrete recommendations to address them. It includes some
practical recommendations from human rights groups across Kosovo’s
Human Rights Watch calls on the new government of Kosovo and the EU-led
international mission to commit themselves to tackle the seven priority issues
identified below. Without urgent action, Kosovo’s human rights crisis will only
Washington, 28 January 2008 – As the European Union prepares to make a decision over its responsibilities with regard to Kosovo, Amnesty International warns that war crimes and crimes against humanity from the conflict in the late 1990s must not be left unpunished.
The organization calls on the international and Kosovo authorities to conclude and make public the results of a review of the work of the international and local judiciary in bringing those responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and inter-ethnic crimes to justice and to make public all judgments and court documents concerning such crimes.
“Hundreds of cases of war crimes, crimes against humanity (including rapes and enforced disappearances), as well as other inter-ethnic crimes remain unresolved seven years after the United Nations began its efforts to rebuild the Kosovo judicial system. Hundreds of cases have been closed, for want of evidence that was neither promptly nor effectively gathered. Relatives of missing people report that they have been interviewed too many times by international police and prosecutors new to their case, yet no progress is ever made,” said Sian Jones, Amnesty International’s researcher on Kosovo.
Amnesty International delegates visited Kosovo in December 2007 and talked with members of the European Union Planning Team, officials from the U.N. Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo — including those responsible for the police and judiciary — and with local and international non-governmental organizations monitoring the international prosecutors and judiciary. The delegates ascertained that trials continue to be delayed due to the lack of international judges and prosecutors, a massive backlog of prosecutions, and the failure to protect witnesses effectively and to provide the necessary support to victims of rape and other crimes of sexual violence which continues to prevent prosecutions coming before the courts.
After the 1999 conflict in the Kosovo province of what was then the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the criminal and civil justice system collapsed. Although the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia had jurisdiction over Kosovo, it was clear that it would only be able to try a very limited number of cases. Therefore, the United Nations established the International Judges and Prosecutors Program to incorporate a limited number of foreign judges and prosecutors into the local criminal justice system.
Amnesty International’s report, Kosovo (Serbia): The challenge to fix a failed U.N. justice mission, examines and compares the performance of the program with international law and standards concerning the right to fair trial and the rights of victims to justice and full reparations. It draws lessons to be learned when developing and implementing future initiatives, including recommending the incorporation of an international component into collapsed national judicial systems.
“Regrettably, the performance over more than seven years of the International Judges and Prosecutors Program has failed to meet expectations. Local prosecutors and judges are still not prepared for cases involving crimes under international law. Legal reforms essential for such cases still have not been enacted into law. No date has been set for completing the rebuilding of the justice system so that it can operate without a continuing international component,” said Jones.
Amnesty International said that the model of internationalizing national courts by importing, on a temporary basis, experienced international staff to work alongside national staff in all parts of the collapsed or damaged national justice system is still one that could prove effective in the long-term to investigate and prosecute large numbers of crimes under international law, provide reparations to victims and re-establish the rule of law through a reconstituted judicial system.
Sadly however, the structure and operation of the International Judges and Prosecutors Program have been so flawed from its inception that the example in Kosovo cannot serve as a model for internationalizing national judicial systems without major changes.
Amnesty International’s report makes a series of comprehensive recommendations for immediately pressing essential reforms which aim to assist both the European Union, in their planning to ensure international judges and prosecutors deliver the benefits they promised to bring to the Kosovo justice system, and the United Nations, in planning any future transitional justice assistance.
Unless these recommendations are implemented as expeditiously as possible, the prospects for a durable peace Kosovo in which the human rights of all are fully respected will be seriously endangered.
Source: Amnesty International
The report “Kosovo (Serbia): The challenge to fix a failed U.N. justice mission” can be downloaded here: