MINELRES: UN Human Rights Committee Reviews Kosovo

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Tue Mar 28 18:51:48 2006


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


ERRC Provides Detailed Comments on Human Rights Situation of Roma, 
Ashkalis, Egyptians and Other Persons Regarded as "Gypsies"

Budapest, New York, 24 March 2006. Today, the United Nations Human
Rights Committee reviews in closed session a report by the Task Forces
on UNMIK, the UN interim administration in Kosovo.

In the run-up to the review, the ERRC sent detailed comments on the
human rights situation of Roma, Ashkalis, Egyptians ("RAE") and other
persons regarded as "Gypsies" in Kosovo, based on ERRC monitoring and
field research into the situation of Roma in Kosovo. These include media
monitoring during the period 1997-present, intensive field missions in
1999, 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2005, as well as six months of durable field
presence in 2000. The ERRC also testified before Committee members and
answered questions prior to today's review.

The ERRC submission focuses on the following issues:

* Violence and Other Cruel and Degrading Treatment of Roma:
Following the cessation of NATO action against the Federal Republic of 
Yugoslavia in June 1999 and the subsequent return of predominantly
ethnic Albanians from abroad, ethnic Albanians violently expelled
approximately four fifths of Kosovo's pre-1999 Romani population --
estimated to have been around 120,000 - from their homes. Abuses
documented include killings of Roma by ethnic Albanians; abduction and
illegal detention of Roma by ethnic Albanians; torture, beating and
other physical abuse; rape; expulsions of Roma from homes and
communities; house burnings; forced labour; forced entry into Romani
houses; and confiscation of houses and other property. RAE and others
considered "Gypsies" in Kosovo today live in a state of pervasive fear,
nourished by routine intimidation and verbal harassment, as well as by
periodic racist assaults. Following systemic violence in 1999, under
UNMIK administration, persistent threats and impunity for perpetrators
are the norm. There is now a permanent, persistent and pervasive threat
of anti-minority, including anti-RAE violence in Kosovo in the context
of possible independence or altered status for Kosovo. Despite more than
six and a half years of UN administration, there has been no effective
effort by any authority in Kosovo to disarm extremists.

* Failure to Prevent Exposure to Extremely Hazardous Conditions:
RAE have been placed by UN authorities in camps for internally displaced
persons ("IDP") in the towns of Zitkovac/Zhikoc, Cesmin Lug/CesminlukŽ
and Kablare, approximately two kilometers from the Trepca Mines factory
complex and situated on highly contaminated land. The World Health
Organization ("WHO") has declared a health emergency on the camp
grounds. Although the camps were reportedly intended as temporary
housing for victims of the 1999 looting and burning of the Romani Mahala
settlement in the town of Mitrovica, these camps continue to exist today
under UNMIK supervision, despite known and documented health hazards
arising from toxic lead contamination. In the more than six years since
the camps were established, dozens of inhabitants have fallen ill from
lead-related illnesses, and two people, including at least one young
child, have died.

* Failure to Provide Remedy for Gross Violations of Human Rights:
RAE are denied the right to compensation for the violent crimes
committed against them beginning in June 1999 after the end of the NATO
bombing, and continuing in the following years. Efforts to bring the
perpetrators of gross human rights abuses against RAE and others have
begun late and for the most part have had little success. In all or most
of the cases at issue, the perpetrators of these crimes have not been
brought to justice to date. In general, the ethnic cleansing of the RAE
remains totally unremedied, with the result that RAE are afraid to
report incidents of violence because they have plausible reasons to
believe they will not be protected against retaliation. Additionally,
the court system in Kosovo remains at best only somewhat accessible to
the RAE minority.

* Denial of the Right to Return to Place of Origin in Safety and
Dignity:
To date, authorities in Kosovo have failed to ensure the safe and
unimpeded return of RAE refugees and displaced persons to their homes in
Kosovo. As of now, numerous persons belonging to RAE communities remain
in internal displacement inside Kosovo, while tens of thousands of Roma
from Kosovo are displaced in rest-Serbia and Montenegro, or are outside
these international borders and are refugees (de facto or recognised) in
other countries. Some of these persons report that return to their old
neighbourhoods would be unsafe and consequently many of these are
currently completely deserted. Others are unable to return to their
previous homes which have been destroyed and not rebuilt or are now
illegally occupied by other persons. Persons belonging to RAE minorities
currently in internal displacement live in extremely substandard
conditions, including in prefabricated houses inside IDP camps and
crowded into houses living with many relatives. In many instances,
owners of occupied residential property are afraid to reclaim their
property due to intimidation by the occupiers.

* Systemic Discrimination:
RAE in Kosovo face systematic discrimination as a result of widespread 
antipathy toward persons regarded as "Gypsies" and related forces giving 
rise to systematic exclusion of RAE individuals and communities. 
Discrimination apparently plays a very significant role in the exclusion
of RAE from employment throughout Kosovo. Although unemployment in
Kosovo is generally high, it is close to 100% in many places for RAE
minorities. Apart from an insignificant number of individuals who work
in civil service and the municipal offices, very few others have
permanent employment. Many RAE individuals lack any form of work at all.
Kosovo currently has among the most comprehensive and detailed domestic
laws banning discrimination ≠ including racial discrimination ≠ to be
found anywhere in the world. While Kosovo authorities must be commended
for adopting the Anti-Discrimination Law ("ADL") of September 2004,
similar praise is not merited with respect to efforts at implementation
of that law: as of late 2005, there were no known efforts to apply the
ADL, and no one had been brought to justice under it.

* Denial of Personal Documents
A number of Roma in Kosovo today lack important personal documents and
are therefore unable to take advantage of public services necessary for
the realization of fundamental human rights, and/or are de facto
stateless. Documents at issue include personal identity cards,
passports, documents required in order to access the public health
system, drivers' licenses, as well as other personal documents. In
addition, in many cases RAE also lack registration documents for their
now-destroyed housing or documents of title for land on which they may
have factually lived for years or decades, or for housing they may
continue to inhabit. Many RAE have never obtained birth certificates, a
fact which may trigger failure to secure any form of personal
documentation and lead to a phenomenon whereby persons may have
literally no administrative existence.

The full text of the ERRC submission is available at: 
http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=2531

For further information on the situation of RAE and others regarded as 
"Gypsies" in Kosovo, please contact the offices of the ERRC.

_____________________________________________

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
http://www.errc.org.

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

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

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