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UNDP report focuses on Roma and other so-called vulnerable groups including refugees and IDPs in Southeast Europe.

June 2006

http://europeandcis.undp.org/uploads/public/File/rbec_web/vgr/vuln_rep_all.pdf

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More should be done to address the plight of Kosovo Roma refugees in Macedonia, Human Rights Watch said in a briefing paper. The Macedonian government, its Western counterparts, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should redouble efforts to ensure them dignified living conditions.

The briefing paper, “Out of Limbo? Adressing the Plight of Kosovo Roma Refugees in Macedonia,” describes the dismal conditions that Kosovo Roma refugees face in Macedonia. Human Rights Watch urges the Macedonian government to make stronger efforts to improve their status in the country, and calls on Western governments and the UNHCR to seriously consider resettlement for those refugees who are in a particularly difficult situation.  
 
“These refugees are in a cruel limbo,” said Rachel Denber, acting executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central Asia Division. “Most of them clearly can’t return to Kosovo while their prospects for integration in Macedonia remain dim. It’s high time that the Macedonian government and its Western European counterparts end this untenable situation.”  
 
Macedonia is currently hosting some 2,500 Roma refugees displaced from Kosovo as a result of the 1999 war. In May, Macedonian authorities and UNHCR closed Shuto Orizari, the largest camp hosting Roma refugees, due to unacceptable health and sanitary conditions. To draw attention to their desperate situation, the 700 Roma who had lived in the camp then occupied an area in the immediate vicinity of the Macedonian-Greek border, near the village of Medzitlija.  
 
On August 9, exhausted and frustrated by the lack of visible achievements after 80 days of protest, the Roma refugees abandoned Medzitlija for several other locations within Macedonia.  
 
“While the Medzitlija crisis has passed, a viable long-term solution for the Kosovo Roma refugees in Macedonia continues to elude the Macedonian government and relevant international actors,” said Denber.  
 
The Human Rights Watch briefing paper argues that conditions are inappropriate for the return of most Kosovo Roma, because their property in Kosovo was destroyed when they were expelled and their security cannot be guaranteed there.  
 
Relocation to other parts of Serbia and Montenegro is also not an option, because the Kosovo Roma already displaced to these areas face undue hardship in meeting what UNHCR terms as their basic social, cultural and economic needs. The Serbia and Montenegro government itself acknowledges that living conditions for displaced Roma in Serbia are “extremely poor.”  
 
For the time being, the only two practical options for the refugees appear to be resettlement to third countries or integration in Macedonia. But the latter option is feasible only if the Macedonian government and relevant international agencies significantly improve the legal, economic and social situation of the affected Roma.  
 
Most of the Kosovo Roma refugees favor resettlement in third countries, but EU member states appear to be unwilling to accept them.  
 
“Resettlement should not be excluded when countries of refuge are coping with a protracted refugee crisis of this kind,” said Denber. “For more than four years now, the Macedonian government has failed to provide these refugees with a sustainable existence, making the prospect of integration ring hollow.”  
 
Human Rights Watch argues that third countries with resettlement policies, working with the UNHCR, should give serious consideration to accepting those individuals whose prospects for safe voluntary return to Kosovo and integration in Macedonia are particularly dim.  
 
At the same time, and as long as conditions for safe return to Kosovo are not in place, the Macedonian government, with the assistance of international institutions, should strengthen efforts to recognize the status of Roma refugees, and enable them to fully enjoy their rights under the Refugee Convention as well as other human rights treaties.  
 
10 December 2003

The report is available at:

http://hrw.org/backgrounder/eca/macedonia1203/macedonia1203.pdf (in English)

http://hrw.org/macedonian/press/2003/macedonia121003-bp.pdf (in Macedonian)

The IDP Working Group, jointly organized by UNHCR, OSCE and Praxis, took place on 29 March 2007 in Belgrade. The participants of the Conference were 130 representatives of government institutions, international organizations, local and international NGOs, diplomatic corps and the media. On that occasion, two reports were presented: Praxis’ report Access to Documents for IDPs in Serbia and the updated Analysis of the Situation of Internally Displaced Persons from Kosovo in Serbia: Law and Practice produced by the Inter-agency Group in October 2005. The latter has been prepared through a joint effort of UNHCR and Praxis and has been endorsed by a number of international organizations and international and local NGOs involved in IDP work on a daily basis.

The paper prepared jointly by UNHCR and Praxis gives broader overview of the IDP situation, identifies gaps in the legal system and proposes concrete solutions to alleviate everyday problems of IDPs with the aim to ensure that IDPs are guaranteed effective access to basic civil, political, social and economic rights, including documentation.  

Praxis’ report Access to Documents for IDPs in Serbia addresses the problems IDPs face in accessing their documentation, both in Serbia and in Kosovo, which is essential for the enjoyment of human and civic rights. Based on the experience of Praxis’ lawyers gained through everyday assistance provided to the displaced, the report presents major obstacles in obtaining documentation, specific issues concerning unequal practice of administrative and judicial organs, Praxis’ advocacy work and recommendations for solving the documentation issue. Its aim is to provide information on this issue to all interested parties, as well as to motivate all levels of authority to act in full compliance with their powers and obligations in order to overcome the documentation problem and make possible the fulfillment of basic human rights.

The report is available at:

http://www.praxis.org.yu/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_view&gid=70

In an opinion for the Committee of Migration, Refugees and Population of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, the rapporteur, Mr. Ed van Thjn expresses concerns about an increase of forced returns of Roma to Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro in 2006.

 He notes that the situation in the region has remained tense and could deteriorate in the view of the status negotiations.

30 March 2007

The full text of the opinion is available at:

http://assembly.coe.int/Main.asp?link=/Documents/WorkingDocs/Doc07/EDOC11217.htm

In a report prepared by Mr. Nikolaos Dendias, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly expresses concerns about the situation of longstanding refugees and IDPs.

The report insists that the governments need to give higher priority to finding a sustainable situation for the refugees and should set up adequate legal and institutional frameworks for their support.

24 May 2007

The full text of the report is available at:

http://assembly.coe.int/Main.asp?link=/Documents/WorkingDocs/Doc07/EDOC11289.htm

Report on a survey conducted by the OSCE in Kosovo between December 2006 and January 2007.

The full text of the report is available at:

http://www.osce.org/documents/mik/2007/06/25278_en.pdf

1. Background

Throughout the year 2002 the need for setting up procedures to co-ordinate and guide the multitude of actors who were working on the implementation of return projects in Kosovo became more and more evident. In response to this need, in May 2002 the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) issued its return policy document “The Right to Sustainable Return”.

In order to translate the policy principles outlined in this document into practical procedures for planning and managing the return process, to formalize co-ordination between all stakeholders, and to supplement the Annual Return Strategy, in January 2003, UNMIK and the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG) jointly developed the first Manual for Sustainable Return (Manual), which was based on best practices in the field of sustainable minority return.

The Manual outlined international standards regarding the rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), the corresponding policy framework in Kosovo, the institutional roles and responsibilities of the various stakeholders, and the operational procedures and mechanisms for managing the process of organized and individual minority return.

In response to the requirements set out in the Kosovo Standards Implementation Plan (KSIP)(1), the position of the Municipal Return Officer (MRO) was created and the first MROs were recruited through a joint UNMIK-PISG decision during the second half of 2004. The KSIP also provided for the development of Municipal Returns Strategies (MRSs) to ensure that municipalities assume responsibility for the return of IDPs in accordance with international and European standards. In July 2004 UNMIK and the PISG issued a joint Municipal Returns Strategy Policy Paper, which included a proposed template and procedural recommendations regarding the drafting of the MRS.(2)

In March 2005 the Ministry of Communities and Returns (MCR) was established with the mandate, among others, to “monitor and support municipal efforts to address community issues and returns, including the work of Mediation Committees (MCs), Communities Committees (CCs), Municipal Community Offices, and the development and implementation of Municipal Returns Strategies.”(3)

In May 2006, as a result of a comprehensive consultation process which involved all relevant local and international stakeholders including IDP associations, the PISG Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) adopted the Recommendations to Updating Return Policies and Procedures (Recommendations). Based on these Recommendations, the Manual was amended, and the new Revised Manual for Sustainable Return, endorsed by the OPM, was presented in July 2006. Herein the MRS is described as “a proactive tool to analyse the return environment/situation, identify the challenges, determine areas of focus, propose actions, and allocate or seek requisite resources to effectively facilitate and implement returns.”(4)

29 October 2007

Notes

(1) Kosovo Standards Implementation Plan, 31 March 2004; Standard IV Sustainable Return and the Rights of Communities and their Members, 1. Sustainable Return, Standard 1. “Municipalities and ministries are able to assume responsibility for return for all communities in a manner consistent with European standards.”; Action 1.4 “Each municipality develops a municipal returns and communities strategy for 2004 and subsequent years, and the strategies are implemented effectively.”, and Action 1.5 “Each municipality with ongoing or projected returns has established and filled a Municipal Returns Officer post with appropriate Terms of Reference in place”.

(2) UNMIK-PISG Municipal Returns Strategy Policy Paper, July 2004, attached as Annex 1.

(3) UNMIK Regulation No. 2005/15, Amending UNMIK Regulation No. 2001/19 on the Executive Branch of the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government in Kosovo, Annex XII, para. (viii).

(4) Revised Manual for Sustainable Return, July 2006, page 37, section “Municipal Return Strategy”. 
 

The full text of the report is available at:

http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/RWFiles2007.nsf/FilesByRWDocUnidFilename/EGUA-78FSK3-Full_Report.pdf/$File/Full_Report.pdf

In an update of their report on the situation of internally displaced people in Serbia and Montenegro, the UNHCR and Praxis underline, that the problems of IDPs remain unresolved. The report deals in particular with the situation of Roma, Ashkalija and Egyptians from Kosovo and people who have been forcibly returned from Western Europe.

March 2007

The full text of the report is available at:

http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/refworld/rwmain?docid=4704bff72&page=search (in English)

http://www.praxis.org.yu/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_view&gid=48 (in Serbian)

In this report, issued in August 1999, Human Rights Watch documents the process of ethnic cleansing of Roma and Serbs from Kosovo.

The report is available at:

http://www.hrw.org/reports/1999/kosov2/

Executive Summary  

2007 is a crucial year for Kosovo. After eight years of UN rule and ambiguity about its legal relationship to Serbia, the province’s status finally appears to be on the road to resolution. That resolution will be accompanied by an international “change of guard” in Kosovo, with a central role for the European Union (EU), as outlined in the status proposal by UN Special Envoy for Kosovo Martti Ahtisaari.   Nowhere is change needed more than in the area of accountability. After eight years of governing Kosovo, the United Nations interim administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) faces what can only be described as a crisis of legitimacy. Some of that crisis reflects frustration among Kosovo’s Albanian majority about the slow progress toward resolving status, and among Serbs and other minorities about UNMIK’s failure to secure their rights. But the lack of accountability among UNMIK and other international institutions in Kosovo has played an important role in undermining public confidence in the actions of those institutions. 

Accountability—the extent to which an institution, and the officials within it, are held responsible for their actions—is a key element of good governance, together with transparency in decision making and the rule of law. It is also essential to the enjoyment of human rights.  Complaints against UNMIK and NATO-led peacekeepers (Kosovo Force, KFOR) include that their actions have violated property rights, and allegations of arbitrary detention, sexual and other criminal misconduct, and a range of failures relating to the protection of minorities. While concerns about sexual and criminal misconduct are not uncommon in international peace operations, the breadth of concerns in Kosovo reflects the far-reaching powers of the UN mission in an international protectorate, and heightens the importance of accountability. 

 

The accountability gap in Kosovo was starkly illustrated in February 2007. When a protest in Pristina/Prishtinë on February 10 turned violent, UNMIK police responded with teargas and rubber bullets, resulting in the death of two protesters.  UNMIK’s much-criticized handling of the aftermath (including the necessary reliance on ad hoc solutions) highlighted the lack of independent mechanisms for oversight of UNMIK police, and the potential for lasting damage to the reputation and legitimacy of international institutions in the absence of effective accountability. 

At first glance there appears to be a wealth of accountability mechanisms in Kosovo. The province has an Ombudsperson Institution, a Human Rights Advisory Panel, and is monitored by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and the media.  There are also a variety of internal systems within UNMIK and KFOR. In reality, however, these mechanisms are either weak, unable to investigate international institutions, or limited in their impact. 

 

The Ombudsperson Institution was stripped of its mandate to investigate UNMIK and KFOR in 2006. The Human Rights Advisory Panel, whose creation was intended to bridge this accountability gap on the civilian side, has yet to be constituted. No external mechanism to investigate KFOR now exists. Monitoring by the OSCE Mission in Kosovo has helped bring problems to light, but its recommendations have often been ignored.   UNMIK’s internal oversight structures, with the notable exception of financial oversight, are either dormant or improperly constituted. The Human Rights Oversight Committee, supposedly comprising senior representatives of UNMIK and KFOR, has not met for several years, while a Claims Committee set up to address individual claims against UNMIK in practice considers only disputes involving UNMIK contractors.   With the Ombudsperson out of the picture, the limited accountability for UNMIK police and KFOR is particularly stark. The OSCE mission, the Council of Europe, and the UN Human Rights Committee have all been critical about the limited remedies available to those who allege abuse at the hands of UN police or NATO peacekeepers. UNMIK police and KFOR personnel are covered by immunity agreements that mean that action can only be taken by the sending country, generally after the accused personnel are sent home, making it virtually impossible for a complainant to learn the outcome (if any) of an investigation.

To date, UNMIK and NATO have been largely unresponsive to criticism about the lack of accountability for international institutions in Kosovo. But it is not too late to take action.  While UNMIK looks set to be wound up by the end of 2007, there is still scope for positive steps, including operationalizing the Human Rights Advisory Panel.   The case is even stronger for NATO. It will lead the new International Military Presence that according to the status proposal will replace KFOR as the sole security guarantor for Kosovo. That makes it imperative that NATO works with its member states to begin developing common rules and procedures within KFOR that can be continued in its successor.   The urgent need to develop functional accountability mechanisms applies equally to the EU, the United States, and other governments that will form the future international civilian presence in Kosovo. The civilian elements under the status proposal comprise an International Civilian Representative (ICR)[1] with executive powers to oversee the settlement, and an EU police and justice mission under the auspices of European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), which will include a large contingent of police officers from EU states, as well as prosecutors and judges.   The status proposal is short on detail about accountability mechanisms. It proposes that the ICR should create a review mechanism to examine the exercise of his or her powers, but does not specify what sort of mechanism.  The proposal suggests that the future Constitutional Court, with six national and three international judges, should have the jurisdiction to hear complaints from individuals who claim that their rights guaranteed by the constitution have been violated by public authorities. It indicates that the Ombudsperson Institution’s mandate should remain unchanged, and requests the OSCE to maintain its presence in Kosovo. The proposal is silent on accountability mechanisms for the EU police but proposes maintaining KFOR’s privileges and immunities for the NATO-led military presence.   Creating effective accountability mechanisms for incoming international institutions will require going beyond the Ahtisaari proposal. It also demands straightforward solutions that build as much as possible on existing structures. That is why this briefing paper makes as its key recommendations that the two most important national accountability mechanisms in the future Kosovo—the Constitutional Court and Ombudsperson Institution—are also given responsibility for overseeing international institutions. Specifically, the jurisdiction of the future Constitutional Court should be extended to ensure that allegations about violations of constitutionally protected human rights by international civilian and military institutions can be heard. This would be consistent with an earlier recommendation of the Council of Europe. The Ombudsperson Institution should also have its original mandate restored so that it is has the jurisdiction to investigate complaints involving the ICR, the EU police and justice mission and the NATO-led military presence. These two measures would undoubtedly enhance the legitimacy of international institutions in the eyes of the public, by subjecting them to oversight by independent Kosovo institutions, and would in turn empower those bodies to hold Kosovo’s government to account.   NATO should work with its member states to develop more effective and consistent internal investigation and coordination mechanisms. The EU police and justice mission should do the same, and invite the Kosovo Police Inspectorate to oversee any internal investigations. And the OSCE and the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture should continue to perform their monitoring of the justice system and places of detention, respectively. The OSCE’s independent role in the future Kosovo should make it easier for it to assert itself and voice its concerns.   The success of Kosovo’s new international institutions will rest upon their ability to maintain their legitimacy and the confidence of the public even in the face of unpopular decisions. That will depend on those institutions demonstrating transparency, accountability, and respect for the rule of law. Concretely, the office of the International Civilian Representative, the EU police and justice mission, and the NATO-led military presence must ensure that they adhere to the highest human rights standards, that allegations of wrongdoing are promptly and transparently investigated, and that they subject themselves to independent, external judicial and other oversight.  Doing so would greatly increase the likelihood of success in Kosovo, and could serve as a blueprint for future peace operations around the world.   

Key Recommendations  

To the future International Civilian Representative (ICR)

  In consultation with the International Steering Group, subject the office of the International Civilian Representative, as a public authority, to the jurisdiction of the future Constitutional Court, so that victims who have a claim that their human rights have been violated by the office can have access to a remedy before the court.   

  Subject the office of the International Civilian Representative to the jurisdiction of the Ombudsperson Institution, in consultation with the International Steering Group.   

To the Council of the European Union

  Subject the EU police and justice mission in Kosovo to the jurisdiction of the future Constitutional Court, so that victims who have a claim that their constitutionally protected human rights have been violated by actions of the mission can have access to a remedy before the court.  

  Subject the EU police and justice mission in Kosovo to the jurisdiction of the Ombudsperson Institution.  To NATO members and other governments contributing to the International Military Presence (IMP)

  Enter into bilateral agreements with the government of Kosovo accepting the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court over forces deployed in Kosovo, so that victims who have a claim that their constitutionally protected human rights have been violated by the IMP can have access to a remedy before the court.  

   Enter into bilateral agreements with the government of Kosovo accepting the jurisdiction of the Ombudsperson Institution over forces deployed in Kosovo.    Cooperate with the IMP headquarters to establish standardized mechanisms for responding to individual complaints, and a central IMP database for such complaints.    

To the future Government of Kosovo

   Support and take steps to call for the extension of the Constitutional Court’s jurisdiction to hear claims that actions of the office of the International Civilian Representative and the EU police and justice mission have resulted in human rights violations, and enter into bilateral agreements on such jurisdiction with states participating in the International Military Presence.   

  Support and take steps to call for the restoration of the Ombudsperson Institution’s jurisdiction to investigate complaints against international civilian and military institutions, including by entering into bilateral agreements on such jurisdiction with states participating in the International Military Presence.    


1 At the current stage of planning, this new institution is widely referred to as the International Civilian Office (ICO).  

 

 

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