MINELRES: ERRC: Testimony on the rights of Roma in Kosovo before European Parliament

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Thu Jun 30 18:26:51 2005

Original sender: European Roma Rights Centre <errc@errc.org>

In the Aftermath of Ethnic Cleansing: Continued Persecution of Roma, 
Ashkalis, Egyptians and Others Perceived as "Gypsies" in Kosovo

27 June 2005, Brussels:         
The ERRC testified today before Members of the European Parliament about
the state of human rights of Roma, Ashkalis, Egyptians and others
regarded as "Gypsies" (RAE) in Kosovo. On the occasion of the hearing,
the ERRC also presented a memorandum summarising the main conclusions of
ERRC monitoring, including documentation of extreme levels of rights
deprivation of RAE in Kosovo. The hearing was organised by MEPs
Kallenbach and deGroen. Also testifying at the hearing were partner
organisations, including notably members of the European Roma and
Travellers Forum.

Six years ago, after the end of the NATO bombing of former Yugoslavia,
Roma, Ashkalis, Egyptians and others regarded as "Gypsies" (RAE) were
violently cleansed from their homes in Kosovo by means of arson, mass
destruction of houses, killings and rape. Today, persecution of the
members of these communities continues manifested in their systematic
exclusion from access to fundamental human rights. Racial discrimination
against RAE communities in Kosovo is pervasive, depriving thousands from
even a bare minimum of dignity. Anti-Gypsy sentiment among the majority
is widespread, ranging from assaults on RAE individuals to verbal abuse
and dissemination of defamatory images, including images stigmatising
RAE as perpetrators of crimes against Albanians, in the media.

A summary of some particularly extreme issues facing RAE communities in 
Kosovo follows:

Failure to Provide Just Remedy for Gross Violations of Fundamental Human 
Rights: RAE are denied access to just compensation for the violent
crimes committed against them immediately after the end of the NATO
bombing in June 1999 and the following years. In the course of the
ethnic cleansing campaign, ethnic Albanians kidnapped Roma and severely
physically abused and in some cases killed Roma; raped Romani women in
the presence of family members; and seized, looted or destroyed property
en masse. Whole Romani settlements were burned to the ground by ethnic
Albanians, in many cases while NATO troops looked on. In the following
years numerous, RAE returnees were targeted for violent assaults,
including killings. In most cases, the perpetrators of such crimes have
not been brought to justice to date. The ethnic cleansing of the RAE
remains almost totally unremedied.

Continuing Violence, Intimidation, and Harassment: After several years 
during which UN officials and others assured the public that the worst 
violence in Kosovo was over, the renewal of mass violence against 
minorities in Kosovo in March 2004, demonstrated that there are no
barriers for the forces in Kosovo who are intent to expel non-Albanian
minorities. Several hundreds of Roma and Ashkalis were targeted for
violent attacks; at least 75 houses belonging to Romani and Ashkali
families were set on fire. In Vushtrri/Vucitrn alone, some 70 houses
belonging to Ashkalis were burned and destroyed.  RAE minorities in
Kosovo today live in a state of pervasive fear, nourished by routine
intimidation and verbal harassment as well as by racist assaults by
Kosovo Albanians. Most of these incidents remain unreported to the
authorities due to lack of trust and fear of retaliation, reinforced and
affirmed by the awareness among RAE that there has been no justice
delivered in connection with the massive wave of violent crimes
committed against them, and because the persons primarily responsible
for these crimes are the new powers in Kosovo.

A Vacuum of Protection against Discrimination: RAE communities in Kosovo 
are subjected to exclusion and marginalisation as a result of systematic 
racial discrimination. Many RAE remain in camps for internally displaced
in inhuman conditions; levels of unemployment and impoverishment among
them are grossly disproportionate compared to the rest of the Kosovo
population; housing conditions are markedly inferior; access to social
and public services is seriously restricted. The impact of racial
discrimination against RAE is particularly visible in the exercise of
the following:

* The Right to Return in Safety and Dignity: Numerous Roma remain in
internal displacement throughout Kosovo and outside Kosovo unable to
return due to fear for their security; due to failure of the authorities
to rebuild their houses and ensure other necessary conditions for a
dignified return; due to failure of the authorities to ensure that the
legal owners of houses can reclaim their property which had been
illegally occupied. Most poignantly, the failure of authorities in
Kosovo to ensure access to fundamental rights of RAE has been
demonstrated by the continuing exposure in the last six years of some
700 RAE individuals from the IDP camps in North Mitrovica to detrimental
lead poisoning.

* The Right to Work: Discrimination against RAE in the field of
employment is massive: With the privatisation of the Kosovo enterprises,
hundreds of RAE are excluded from jobs; other opportunities for access
to income sources are also largely unavailable to them; RAE involvement
in the civil service is token. Discrimination in employment condemns
large numbers of RAE to degrading poverty. Severe impoverishment of RAE
families is also a major obstacle for access to education and health

* The Right to Adequate Housing: For numerous families housing, is
extremely substandard, in marked contrast to housing conditions of any
other ethnicities currently in Kosovo. In a number of RAE
neighbourhoods, located on the margins of towns, individuals are exposed
to serious health risks due to lack of basic facilities and their access
to employment, education and public services is severely restricted.

The conditions described above deter tens of thousands of individuals
from returning to their homes. Out of a community of 100,000-150,000
individuals before 1999, the estimated number of RAE in Kosovo today is
30,000-35,000. Many of these are displaced within the province. The
underlying cause of these issues is the persecution of Roma, Ashkalis,
Egyptians and others regarded as "Gypsies" in Kosovo, a persecution
undertaken under the auspices of international administration in Kosovo.

The ERRC reiterates its call on the representatives of the international
community and the Provisional Institutions of the Kosovo government to
act within the powers available to them to ensure that:

- Prompt and impartial investigations into all acts of violence to which
Romani, Ashkali and Egyptian individuals and other persons regarded as
"Gypsies" in Kosovo have been subjected are carried out; all
perpetrators of racially-motivated acts of ethnic cleansing are brought
swiftly to justice and victims or families of victims receive adequate
compensation; justice is done and seen to be done;

- Individuals guilty of the persecution of Roma, Ashkalis, Egyptians and
other persons regarded as "Gypsies" in Kosovo are swiftly brought to
justice via the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former
Yugoslavia, or through other mechanisms;

- Sustained efforts are undertaken by all authorities in Kosovo and
involved in the administration of Kosovo to ensure that no discussions
of Kosovo's final status are embarked upon until such a time as all
stakeholders achieve durable and lasting consensus in practice that
Kosovo is a multi-cultural society in which all individuals can freely
exercise in practice all of their fundamental human rights;

- Any forced returns of Kosovo Romani, Ashkali or Egyptian individuals
to Kosovo, or to the rest of Serbia and Montenegro are rendered
impossible and impermissible until such a time as authorities in Kosovo
are able to demonstrate durable and lasting security and freedom from
racial discrimination for all in all parts of the province.

The full text of the Memorandum tabled today at the European Parliament
is available at: http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=2271


The European Roma Rights Centre is an international public interest law
organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal
defence in cases of human rights abuse. For more information about the
European Roma Rights Centre, visit the ERRC on the web at

European Roma Rights Centre
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93

Phone: +36 1 4132200
Fax:   +36 1 4132201



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