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(Period covering September 2001 to April 2002)

- Joint OSCE / UNHCR document -


Security - General Situation

1. The trend noted in the previous report of a progressive decline in serious physical attacks on minorities [1] has continued in the period under review. Despite the decrease in serious incidents of violence, harassment, intimidation and humiliation of members of minority communities in Kosovo continued to prevail as a feature of daily life. These incidents continue to have a negative effect on the security, freedom of movement, socio-economic well being and morale of minority communities. Lower level violence also serves as a reminder that more serious or fatal acts can (and do) occur, admittedly at less frequent intervals than previously, but the threat of serious violence remains ever present, making it difficult to raise minority confidence levels.

2. Despite the decline in the number of serious incidents of violence, the period did still see periodic instances of shootings, grenade attacks, and violent physical assaults perpetuated with an ethnic motive against minority men and women of all age groups. The following security incidents are illustrative of the seriousness of attacks which, if less frequent than previously, still threaten ethnic minorities in Kosovo today. On 4 September 2001, a Kosovo Serb farmer from Vërbovc/Vrbovac (Gllogovc/Glogovac) was fatally stabbed, while two drive-by shootings on 22 November 2001 and 22 February 2002 resulted in the deaths of two elderly Kosovo Serb women in Obiliq/Obilic and Lipjan/Lipljan municipalities respectively as they were exercising their right of freedom of movement. The firing of five shots from a pistol on 30 January 2002 by a Kosovo Albanian towards a group of Kosovo Serb children waiting for a train at Plemetina village station in Obiliq/Obilic fortunately did not result in bodily harm, but demonstrates that even minority children can still be subject to attack. On 26 December 2001, a Bosniak was killed in majority-Albanian south Mitrovicë/Mitrovica, the fatal assault apparently sparked by the fact that the victim had used the Bosniak language, which was mistaken for Serbian. In a context where minorities face regular intimidation and harassment, and where periods of calm can still be violently interrupted by serious ethnically-motivated attacks sometimes resulting in loss of life, a safe and secure environment has yet to be fully established [2] . Despite a progressive decline in the number and frequency of serious physical attacks, the situation is still generally characterised by inter-ethnic tensions, violence, and a high degree of impunity.

3. The security situation in north Mitrovicë/Mitrovica remained extremely fragile during the period, becoming particularly volatile in April 2002. On 8 April 2002, following the arrest of a member of the Kosovo Serb “bridge gang” at a KFOR checkpoint, a group of about 40 members of the so-called bridge gang group, supported by about 300 other Kosovo Serb individuals, violently protested against the arrest. This led to a riot, following the intervention of UNMIK Police and a special police unit, who then had to be backed up by a KFOR anti-riot unit. At least 20 international police officers sustained non-life threatening injuries from stones and hand grenades used by the Serb rioters, with one officer seriously injured, whilst several rioters were also injured. As in previous periods, periodic upsurges of political protest and occasional violence in north Mitrovicë/Mitrovica continue to have a negative effect on ethnic minorities in the Serb-dominated north, particularly those few non-Serbs remaining in isolation in northern urban Mitrovicë/Mitrovica town, who quickly become subject to intimidation during periods of heightened tension in the northern municipalities. The few remaining ethnic Albanians (who are a minority in this Serb-majority area) continued to be house-bound and were subject to threats periodically by members of the majority Serb population, while other non-Serbs (such as some Bosniak families) also faced an increase in intimidation. Also targeted for intimidation and harassment during such periods were individuals of all ethnicities with any links (through employment) to UNMIK and the international administration. For example, on 15 April, about 30 Kosovo Serbs physically blocked access to the police station in Zubin Potok to prevent the deployment of new Kosovo Serb and Bosniak Kosovo Police Service officers, and again special police units had to be deployed to evacuate officers from the station. Such periodic upsurges of protest, often with a component of violence, continue to make the situation of non-Serb minorities in the northern municipalities highly precarious.

4. In addition to the more serious forms of ongoing violence described above, persistent harassment, intimidation and humiliation continues to characterise the daily lives of many minorities throughout Kosovo. Forms of harassment include persistent stone throwing at moving vehicles and at pedestrians, vandalism of minority homes, businesses, cultural/religious sites and cemeteries, setting fire to abandoned houses, and verbal abuse or spitting. As the numbers of extremely serious incidents of violence have declined, there has been an unfortunate tendency within some sectors of the international community to downplay the adverse effect of the less serious forms of violence, as instances of harassment and intimidation often do not cause serious physical injury. In those cases where perpetrators of stone-throwing and verbal harassment are children or youth, there has been a tendency by the authorities to dismiss such unacceptable conduct as childhood mischief. The law enforcement authorities rarely investigate incidents of delinquency or take action to deter or punish them, and such acts are also very rarely addressed by community leaders (such as school directors and teachers). Moreover, acts perpetrated by children are in some cases committed with the explicit participation or implicit encouragement of adults, who may be onlookers to the incidents. Despite the lack of seriousness often assigned to low-level violence against minorities [3] , the fact remains that these incidents constitute an unlawful interference with the victims’ human rights, particularly the personal integrity and security of the person. Furthermore, these incidents have an adverse effect on an individual’s perception of security, negatively impacting on the enjoyment of fundamental human rights, especially of freedom of movement. The cumulative negative psychological impact on members of minority communities, who have been subject to harassment and intimidation for nearly three years, should not be underestimated. Some departures of Kosovo Serbs, especially those who are isolated and/or living in mixed areas, can be directly attributed to unrelenting harassment, such as stone throwing at windows and intimidation outside of the doors of minority homes.

5. In light of the above, the main challenge for minorities in Kosovo continues to be the threat of physical violence which permeates their lives. This overriding concern continues to influence individual perceptions of security, and therefore the exercise of freedom of movement, which leads to limits on access to a multitude of social and economic rights, particularly health care, social services, education, employment opportunities, reconstruction of residential property and public utilities. This has undermined the ability of a large number of members of minority communities to secure the means by which they can be self-supporting. Insecurity which undermines the viability of minority communities and which corrodes the individual’s will to remain not only induces ongoing displacement, but also impedes sustainable return.

Freedom of movement

6. As has been the case since 1999, continued insecurity for minorities means that freedom of movement remains severely curtailed. Freedom of movement means the right or liberty to move freely about the entire territory without unlawful limitations or interference, as well as the right to choose a residence within it. [4] Freedom of movement is not achieved merely when one is no longer subject to life threatening attacks when travelling about, but at the very least should also include: the liberty to move without having to endure stone throwing, humiliating acts, insults and other insidious forms of mistreatment; freedom of access to all locales including urban centres and the opportunity to access shops and services; the ability to travel without requiring special collective transport or escort arrangements; and the ability to choose one’s place of residence and to access one’s property. Taking this as the general standard, minorities in Kosovo continue to not fully enjoy this right, which is indispensable for the enjoyment of not only economic, social and cultural rights, but also civil and political rights, in particular freedom of assembly. The lack of freedom of movement restricts access to health services, education, work opportunities, land, social security, public services and utilities.

7. Minorities continue to have real physical security concerns, at times life threatening, travelling within Kosovo. Violent incidents, if less frequent than before, are still common enough to be perceived as pervasive by minorities, restricting their freedom of movement. Regular reports are received of vehicles transporting minorities being pelted with stones or other objects, occasionally causing damage or injury and serving as a powerful deterrent to normal mobility. Free movement is not only prevented by harassment such as stone throwing, but also by protest and obstruction, and even more serious instances of violence against persons trying to exercise this right. For example, on 28 September 2001, a Kosovo Serb man was shot dead while driving a van with eight passengers from the Kamenicë/Kamenica market to his village. In Viti/Vitina, on 21 October 2001, assailants shot at two Kosovo Serb males travelling on a tractor through the mixed village of Mogila. The suspects fired four shots at the victim, who nevertheless managed to escape unharmed. On 13 March 2002, in Podujevë/Podujevo, a tire was dropped from a flyover onto a mini-bus carrying Kosovo Serb passengers that was being escorted by KFOR, causing damage to the vehicle. An example of obstruction of freedom of movement was seen in late 2001, when a group of displaced Kosovo Albanians were prevented from visiting their villages of origin in majority-Serb northern Mitrovicë/Mitrovica (despite UNMIK and KFOR efforts to facilitate the visit) when Kosovo Serbs protested and set up roadblocks. Likewise, in majority-Serb Štrpce/Shtërpcë municipality, in January 2002, Kosovo Albanian Municipal Assembly members were obstructed from entering the municipality building to perform their duties. They were forced to seek refuge in the police station (being eventually evacuated by KFOR and UNMIK Police), as a result of organised roadblocks and protests by a large group of Kosovo Serbs. However, after strong pressure from KFOR, Kosovo Albanians were, in April 2002, finally able to access the municipal building to perform their functions.

8. Despite these continuing serious problems affecting the day to day lives of minorities, there has been a progressive rise in the mobility of minorities. It must be understood from the outset that this progressive rise in mobility is not entirely equivalent to a fundamental improvement in normalised freedom of movement. The increased mobility and travel of minorities have mostly been achieved in spite of ever-present security risks, through the active involvement of the international civil and security presence in Kosovo to provide more frequent, flexible and varied escort arrangements for individual travellers, commercial buses and internationally-sponsored collective transport initiatives. KFOR has also engaged in creative initiatives, such as the creation or rehabilitation of alternative secondary routes bypassing normal roadways and avoiding majority areas in order to allow minorities to travel more freely (along some routes even in private vehicles without escorts). It is through these special and exceptional arrangements that minorities have achieved significant improvements in mobility, rather than through a significant and durable change in security and inter-ethnic relations which would allow for genuine freedom of movement. The increase in mobility must be qualified by the fact that minorities, with only a few exceptions in some regions, still have not increased movements into urban centres, and increases in movement in or through ethnically-mixed areas has been limited according to local circumstances. Also, transport services accessible to minorities continue to be mostly UNMIK-sponsored initiatives (rather than commercial bus services) with KFOR military escort, pointing to the fact that exceptional measures still prevail to ensure the minimum of mobility for many minorities.

9. While the efforts of the international civilian and military agencies has positively favoured greater mobility, increases in mobility are also linked to improved perceptions of localised security as the rate of extremist violence has declined, as well as being a testament to the determination of the minorities to venture out and the high threshold of forbearance towards insults, intimidation, humiliation and harassment which they have adopted as a coping mechanism. In early 2002, a Kosovo Serb woman in Lipjan/Lipljan poignantly expressed the daily experience of traversing majority neighbourhoods, describing that she has learned to passively ignore verbal harassment or spitting while walking to work, only reacting (by beginning to run) on the days when stones are thrown. Another classic demonstration of the ordeal that persons in minority situations have to regularly endure is an incident in Mitrovicë/Mitrovica municipality, on 3 December 2001, when several Kosovo Albanians stoned a bus providing daily transport for Kosovo Serbs in the vicinity of the ethnically-mixed village of Suvi Do/Suvidoll. Several of the bus windows were broken and a Kosovo Serb passenger sustained injuries. At the same time, Kosovo Albanians cannot move in northern Mitrovicë/Mitrovica without an extreme risk to their physical safety.

10. It is worth noting that in some areas not only has the increased movement of minorities been accompanied with a rise in the number of security incidents such as stone throwing, but that most minority travel is still restricted between locations in rural areas or in peri-urban areas. There is very limited movement by minorities from rural areas to the main urban centres. For example, in Prishtinë/Priština region the opening of new back-roads and widening of existing secondary country roads by KFOR has created a dense network of roads centring around Gracanica/Graçanicë and linking up with Obiliq/Obilic and Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje. This has reduced the need for minorities to travel through majority populated areas considered potentially hazardous thereby enhancing their sense of security when travelling on these roads, thus indirectly preventing displacement as a result of the increased sense of freedom of movement. This is viewed by all stakeholders to be a temporary solution until the fundamental problem of security is resolved. Also, the increase in the use of UNMIK-issued ”KS” motor vehicle registration plates by minorities has contributed to the ease in freedom of movement without escorts, though it must be noted that they still cannot legally travel to Serbia proper, where many maintain family, social and commercial contacts, with vehicles registered in Kosovo. [5]

11. Progress in the quality and durability of enhanced mobility is varied by location and by region. In some cases, increased mobility does not necessarily translate into an increase of access to goods and services. For example, in Obiliq/Obilic Kosovo Serbs reported in November 2001 that some members of their community were venturing, with great caution and for the first time, into the centre of Obiliq/Obilic town without escort. However, upon closer examination it was found that these venturesome Kosovo Serbs in Obiliq/Obilic do not have access to goods that are available in Kosovo Albanian owned shops as the proprietors declined to provide them with service. Meanwhile, a different scenario was seen in Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje town, where Kosovo Serbs were able, with some limitations, to access goods in some Kosovo Albanian shops. Indeed, in some of these shops the owners serve their Kosovo Serb customers using the Serbian language, even in the presence of other Kosovo Albanian customers. Yet, motor vehicles transporting Kosovo Serbs in the area were regularly pelted with stones. In other areas, significant generalised improvements in freedom of movement and access to goods and services can be interrupted by instances of violence. For example, relatively more substantial generalised improvements in mobility and inter-ethnic interaction were noted in the Gjilan/Gnjilane region. [6] In both Gjilan/Gnjilane and Viti/Vitina towns, Kosovo Serbs have been increasingly moving in the streets, accessing some shops and public services. In Gjilan/Gnjilane town, increased mobility has been a direct result of international efforts to provide special transport to bring Serbs from surrounding areas into town for a market day three times a week. Initially, KFOR ensured a high level of presence during the period of confidence-building, but the high military presence has successfully and gradually been reduced. In the same region, Kosovo Serbs and Albanians travel regularly, interact and trade at the green market in Kamenicë/Kamenica municipality. However, even such noteworthy improvements can be interrupted by violence, as in an incident on 4 January 2002, when five Kosovo Albanian men assaulted three Kosovo Serb men, resulting in one of them sustaining serious head injuries. On the same day another five Kosovo Albanian men were arrested for throwing stones at a Kosovo Serb’s vehicle and a similar incident occurred in the evening in the municipality. The situation became so volatile that, to reduce rising tension, the authorities in the area temporarily imposed a limited curfew. In the same region, the small number of remaining Serbs in Ferizaj/Uroševac town continue to be house-bound with no meaningful progress in mobility or access to services. In various locales within the Gjilan/Gnjilane region, such as certain villages and routes in Kamenicë/Kamenica municipality, stone-throwing remains a persistent problem that deters minorities from travelling certain roads, but in other locations in the region, Kosovo Serbs are increasingly transiting unescorted in their private vehicles. These examples point to localised improvements in some areas, but underline the fact that it is sometimes misleading to overestimate progress in freedom of movement, with simple reference to the absence of a progression of physical attacks. What is needed is to assess the quality and durability of the apparent freedom of movement, whether such increases in mobility are accompanied by increases in lasting, positive interaction with the majority population, and whether minorities are able to use their increasing mobility to effectively access goods and services.

12. In addition, individual minorities’ perceptions of freedom of movement and their personal determination to exercise this right are important factors related to improvements to the situation. Minority perception, inter alia, is as a result of past experience, objective threat levels, KFOR and personal security measures as well as the precautionary coping mechanisms that individuals have developed over time. It is in this mode that there has been noted a very gradual but perceptible increase amongst a small number of minorities to cautiously hurry through urban centres such as Prishtinë/Priština to access services, employment or meeting with other persons to break their sense of isolation [7] . Other more risk-averse members of the same ethnic communities, in the same places, do not dare to step outside their apartments without escort arrangements. This does not mean that the latter category of people are limiting their freedom of movement due to an overly-cautious perception of the security risk, but rather that those minorities who are choosing to exercise mobility are taking calculated risks after almost three years of almost constant interference with their fundamental freedoms.

Response of authorities

13. Assessing the nature and the scope of the insecurity and lack of freedom of movement faced by minorities is only the first step towards resolving the problems. Identifying solutions requires assessing what measures have been taken (or should be taken) by the authorities to ensure security and improve freedom of movement. The main authorities involved include KFOR, responsible for ensuring a safe and secure environment, but it becomes increasingly important to examine the role of the police, both UNMIK Police and Kosovo Police Service (KPS), as the assumption of full responsibility for civilian safety, public order and law enforcement falls on these structures, particularly, in the long term, on the KPS. It is also important to examine the role of civilian authorities, both international and local, in addressing the causes of insecurity and lack of freedom of movement, and in taking steps to remedy them. The role of the judicial system is particularly important in addressing security issues, and will be assessed in the next section.

14. The main developments in the response of the authorities during the period were linked to a decision by KFOR to change its approach, and thus adjust its security mechanisms, across Kosovo. The stated objective behind the approach which emerged during the period was to avoid any situation where security measures could, indirectly, perpetuate the perception of threat, increase barriers between ethnic communities, discourage inter-ethnic contacts, or reinforce the isolation of minority communities. A key element of the new strategy was the objective to remove or reduce static security arrangements (e.g. guard towers/checkpoints) in favour of wider area security through an increase of mobile patrols and other less visible security measures. [8] Various KFOR contingents expressed the views that mobile patrols are a more effective deterrent to ethnically motivated crime and allow a quicker response to incidents wherever they occur in enclave or mixed areas. With regard to freedom of movement, KFOR on the one hand continued to support minority transport initiatives with security escorts (even in some areas providing new escorts for new transport initiatives). On the other hand, in other areas KFOR began to reduce escorts (with some escorts taken over by UNMIK Police), or replace direct and high-profile escorts with less visible and distant forms of security. The different types of security measures put into place by KFOR have, in some locations, shown signs of helping to achieve the objective of removing artificial barriers between communities, in some cases positively influencing increased mobility of minorities. In other locations, the results have been less favourable, although there are no indications that objective safety has been compromised as a result. The immediate (short-term) results of the implementation of new security mechanisms, both in terms of reducing static checkpoints as well as in changing or reducing close escort arrangements, follow. Several locations in which KFOR implemented a removal of static security measures were assessed in depth.

15. In Caglavica/Cagllavice (a mixed village in rural Prishtinë/Priština), stationary checkpoints were removed, and co-ordinated patrols of KFOR, UNMIK Police and KPS (with only Serb officers) were simultaneously increased. KFOR and UNMIK Police confirmed that there had been no change in the security situation since the removal of checkpoints and the guard tower. However, they attributed the maintenance of the status quo to various factors, including the lack of property disputes and the high number of UNMIK Police officers living in the village. While security remained stable, Serb inhabitants continue to sell their property, primarily because they have no sources of income due to restricted freedom of movement which not only prevents access to formal employment, but also prevents them from feeling secure in working their agricultural lands. Serb community members confirmed that, while they perceive local security to be calm, they still fear moving outside the village. The new security mechanisms have not yet appeared to increase confidence or mobility.

16. In early January 2002, KFOR removed checkpoint “D26” and abandoned its guard tower situated on the main road between the Kosovo Albanian village of Kushtove/Kosutovo (Mitrovicë/Mitrovica) and the Kosovo Serb village of Zupce/Zupce (a Serb-inhabited village which is near to an Albanian village in the municipality of Zubin Potok). The checkpoint was one of several which controlled access to Serb-majority Zubin Potok, including Çabra/Cabra, the only Kosovo Albanian village in the municipality (1,500 inhabitants). This checkpoint was intended to ensure security for all communities within the mixed area. Upon removing the checkpoint, KFOR increased mobile patrols in the area. In the area surrounding “D26”, KFOR assesses that the security situation has improved over the past year, citing no serious incidents in 2001 and none since the removal of the checkpoint. Interaction between the Kosovo Serb majority living in Zubin Potok municipality and the Kosovo Albanian minority living in the village of Çabra/Cabra has been increasing. Two of the 17 Municipal Assembly members are Kosovo Albanians and co-operation between them and the Serb assembly members is positive. UNMIK officials noted that escorts for Kosovo Albanian municipal employees were becoming increasingly unnecessary. Although the description of this co-operation by the two communities themselves was more muted, both indicated a willingness to co-operate with each other. UNMIK Police and the UNMIK civil administration in Zubin Potok opposed the removal of the checkpoint, arguing that static measures provide a higher level of security and create a sense of psychological security among the population. This opposition also seemed linked to the fact that UNMIK Police and the Kosovo Serb villagers said that they had not been informed about KFOR’s decision to remove the checkpoint. Kosovo Serb villagers in Zupce/Zupçe said they were feeling more insecure as a result of the removal.

17. The enclave of upper Rahovec/Orahovac town, a quarter inhabited by Serbs, Roma and Egyptian populations, has three entrances, all of which were previously guarded by KFOR. The three checkpoints were first abandoned, and then removed, in October 2001. KFOR increased patrols in their place. In this particular location, the objective of minimising psychological barriers caused by the visible separation of the enclave was seen as particularly important. KFOR carried out an information campaign in the quarter by conducting meetings with the community leaders prior to removing the checkpoints. UNMIK Police were consulted before the removal of the static security measures took place and because KFOR was not reducing overall resources for the enclave, UNMIK Police did not modify their own security measures. KPS performs patrols, either independently or with international police officers, although there is only one Serb KPS officer. After the removal of the static measures, UNMIK Police confirmed that crime has not increased, and KFOR described the security situation as “calm, but not stable.” [9] Members of the Kosovo Serb community also perceive the overall security situation as improved. Despite initial apprehension about the removal of the static checkpoints, the community now has a more positive view of the changes, particularly as the checkpoints had contributed to the perception of being “locked in.” The removal of the checkpoints allows Albanians to enter the enclave, and the Roma and Egyptian inhabitants of the enclave have been beginning to mix with the Albanian community in the town, although a few incidents have occurred. While the psychological impact on the Serbs has been positive, actual impact in terms of freedom of movement and interaction has not yet been seen, and the Serb and the majority community still remained highly divided. The Serb population still does not leave the enclave, stating that they are afraid and that acts of intimidation continue.

18. The present security arrangements in the Serb returnee villages of Osojane/Osojan Valley provide a contrast to the above-mentioned scenarios. [10] Surrounding hills naturally protect the four Serbian villages located in the valley, five kilometres from the main road. Since the return of Kosovo Serbs to the village in later summer 2001, no security incidents have occurred. The area around Osojane/Osojan is intensively controlled and protected by KFOR. There are two static checkpoints at both ends of the valley, KFOR has a high manpower allocation to patrol the valley regularly, and the surrounding mountains are monitored from elevated watchtowers with floodlights, creating a completely guarded area. The Serb community to date has had very little contact with their Albanian neighbours (with a few exceptions, including a few neighbourly exchanges between individuals, and limited and cautious interaction with Albanian workers who come into the valley to work on reconstruction projects). Serb community members are fearful of the Albanian reaction if they attempted to interact, and have adopted a defensive and inward looking perspective since their return. The normalisation of the relations between the Serb returnees and the majority has not yet begun in earnest. Existing security barriers do not prevent movement of Serbs out (although they do highly restrict movement of others in), but reinforce the isolationist attitudes amongst the returnees as well as the negative perceptions of the majority community. KFOR recently announced its intention to begin scaling down static security measures, with eventual removal of the main checkpoint.

19. In the locations assessed in depth, the removal by KFOR of static measures has not led to any immediate increase in ethnically-motivated violence. The levels of positive psychological impact on the minority communities seem to vary by location and particular situation, and very importantly, on whether KFOR had clearly communicated to the community (and the police) to explain their actions (and the reasons for the actions) in advance. Highly visible barriers, which reinforce tendencies of communities to avoid or minimise contact, as in Osojane/Osojan, are impossible to sustain in the long-term and are undesirable in themselves. In all cases where security mechanisms are changed, the enhancement of the role of UNMIK Police and KPS as well as complementary initiatives by international and local civilian authorities to promote dialogue and confidence building are of critical importance.

20. While the movement away from static measures largely relates to local security, KFOR’s strategic shift has also resulted in changes with regard to freedom of movement escorts. UNMIK Police has increasingly been taking over escort responsibilities, but KFOR continues to undertake substantial activities on a daily basis to escort individuals, private vehicle or commercial bus convoys, and special bus services provided by the international community. In some areas, escort arrangements have actually increased as new minority transport initiatives are put in place, or new routes are added. In other locations, escorts decreased in number, or changed in strategy as per the lower-visibility approach.

21. The expansion of KFOR escort services between minority areas, including to isolated villages and hamlets has given more opportunity for the minorities particularly Kosovo Serbs (who face the most restrictions) to travel than before. For example, in September 2001, KFOR established a new escort service for an UNMIK-sponsored bus line between the enclaves of upper Rahovec/Orahovac and Gracanica/Graçanicë, via the small Serb villages and hamlets in Lipjan/Lipljan municipality, along part of the route using alternative roads tarmacked by KFOR for the purpose of minority transport, avoiding some majority areas. Such exceptional measures have made a large difference in the ability of minorities to travel within Kosovo. Since March 2002, the extension of the Central Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje to Zvecan/Zveçan train services, which will now run from Leshak/Lesak to Hani I Elezit/Djeneral Jankovic, is another example which increases the mobility of minorities beyond their immediate environs. Minorities in Kosovo generally experience limited but improved possibilities for movement, while major constraints still exist in certain communities particularly in urban areas and isolated hamlets.

22. At the same time, KFOR has, whenever possible, endeavoured to reduce direct escorts in favour of area security. [11] During the period, this did not have any substantial impact on the levels of security, although in some cases the minorities did perceive, to greater or lesser extents, a crisis in confidence related to such changes. For example, in Suvi Do/Suvidoll (a mixed village in northern Mitrovicë/Mitrovica), KFOR replaced high-visibility tank escorts of buses and vehicle convoys with lower visibility measures, such as placing soldiers inside buses and/or following buses and convoys with a military jeep, maintaining a higher presence only at strategic points along the route, such as in an Albanian neighbourhood. Despite the fact that there was no upsurge in incidents (periodic stone-throwing continued at about the same rate), minority passengers expressed feeling much less secure, although as a matter of necessity, especially those who use the transport to go to their workplace, most continue to use the service. Another example is the case of the Serb-inhabited villages of Suvo Grlo/Suvogërll and Banja/Banjë (Skenderaj/Srbica), where KFOR reduced the escort of Serb residents in APCs, [12] requiring them to either walk or drive their own vehicles between the villages, with KFOR patrols along the two kilometre road. The Serb community complained that KFOR was not consistently present, and fear combined with several stoning incidents, resulted in increased anxiety and a significant reduction of movement, which increased isolation.

23. Despite KFOR’s strategy to reduce direct escorts in favour of area security, security escorts are unfortunately still a necessity and other arrangements such as the provision of secure transportation to and from work for minority workers are still the norm rather than the exception. Indeed, UNMIK has acknowledged that it has considerable difficulties retaining the services of a number of minority staff employed in the civil service, as the minority staff often do not turn up for work or simply resign due to lack of secure transportation. This has particularly been noted with regard to urban centres where most administrative hubs are located. To address this issue, in February 2002 the UNMIK Directorate of Infrastructure Affairs initiated a pilot project with four civil service bus lines from the regions to Prishtinë/Priština, [13] at an estimated cost, until May 2002, of Euro 360,000. Many minorities continue to rely on such measures, while others are increasingly taking the decision to exercise mobility with a resolute personal forbearance in the face of risk. The authorities have a clear duty to take measures to improve security so that freedom of movement is assured everywhere; to provide temporary measures to increase general mobility; and to provide special measures to ensure that freedom of movement restrictions do not prevent access to key services. Often, the responsibilities in these three areas are viewed strictly within the purview of KFOR and/or the international civilian authorities. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that international actors need to take steps, not only to contain conflict through special measures such as special bus lines and military security measures, but also by fostering inter-ethnic relations which will contribute to a transformation of the security environment. This latter responsibility can only be realised through the active engagement and commitment of local authorities and community leaders, with the support of the international community.

24. As illustrated above, KFOR’s general security practices, co-ordinated with transport initiatives of the civilian agencies, have been crucial for guaranteeing that minorities are able to progressively exercise more mobility. A notable exception, which is problematic from the human rights perspective, is the practice of KFOR MNB (S) [14] with regard to continued restrictions of freedom of movement for Kosovo Serbs in Prizren municipality. Kosovo Serbs from the Zhupa Valley in Prizren municipality who are mostly displaced in the Serb-majority municipality of Štrpce/Shtërpcë, to the east, are still restricted from exercising the choice to move freely beyond a designated zone within Prizren. [15]


[1] For the purposes of this assessment, the term “minority” refers to ethnic communities whose members are a minority in the area or municipality where they live. Each of Kosovo’s ethnic groups are a minority somewhere in Kosovo.

[2] Further examples of incidents of ethnically-motivated violence are included in the chapter on the situation of specific minority communities.

[3] It should be noted that responses by authorities to this problem have not been uniform. In the Prishtinë/Priština region, KFOR has expressed concern about low-level violence against minorities, especially stone-throwing, and have taken steps to try to reduce such incidents in several municipalities where they have been most prevalent.

[4] Article 12(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states: “Everyone lawfully within the territory, has the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence.” Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, states that: “Everyone lawfully within the territory of the State shall, within that territory, have liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence.”

[5] During the period, UNMIK was engaged in discussions with FRY authorities to obtain agreement on recognition of UNMIK-registered vehicles, which would thus remove a large obstacle for Kosovo Serbs and others travelling to Serbia, who at present can only do so by paying for two auto insurance policies and two sets of vehicle registration and licence plates.

[6] Improvements in freedom of movement in some areas during the period were clearly linked with particular regional developments. In the Gjilan/Gnjilane region, the de-escalation of the internal armed conflict in fYROM following the signing of the Framework for Peace in August 2001 (and the return of the majority of the ethnic Albanian Macedonians who had sought temporary refuge in eastern Kosovo), the de-mobilisation of the “UCPMB” and the resolution of the Southern Serbia crisis all had a positive impact on minority freedom of movement. The re-opening of Gate 5 and the stabilisation of the eastern boundary between Kosovo and Southern Serbia, as well as the general reduction of tensions and violence within the region during the period, were the primary factors which encouraged Kosovo Serbs in Gjilan/Gnjilane, Kamenicë/Kamenica and Novobërdë/Novo Brdo in particular to begin resuming regular travel between Kosovo and Serbia proper for commercial, social and family reasons as well as to access services such as secondary schooling and medical care not easily accessible to them in Kosovo.

[7] It must be noted that those minorities who are increasingly venturing to exercise freedom of movement within urban Prishtinë/Priština are from those few isolated minority households who live in the urban area. In general, minorities (especially Kosovo Serbs) who live in rural and semi-urban areas are still not able to travel into the major urban centres such as Prishtinë/Priština and Pejë/Pec. Again, this illustrates the fact that localised security and localised mobility is slowly improving within certain limited parameters, but these advances are not generalised.

[8] Regional KFOR informed that such an instruction has been issued from COMKFOR requiring the removal of the majority of static security measures by May 2002 and a switch to more mobile security, but the authors have not seen the order itself, nor its date. KFOR continents have also explained that the change in policy reflects a strategic direction, not any reduction in overall resources devoted towards the security of minorities.

[9] A case of arson was reported shortly after the modification of the security measures, following a usual pattern of periodic burning of unoccupied minority properties (some of them previously burnt) along the “boundary” areas between the enclave and majority quarter. The Serb community perceives these fires as a form of low-level and ongoing harassment.

[10] The Osojane/Osojan minority return is described in depth in the return chapter.

[11] Practices are not consistent across different regions. In Prizren region, for example, KFOR continues to tend to employ much higher security, sometimes using multiple armoured personnel carriers in addition to lighter vehicles for close escort, whereas in some other regions which were not notably different in terms of their general security environment, direct escorts were reduced to a greater extent.

[12] Armoured personnel carriers

[13] Minority civil servants are transported to Prishtinë/Priština on a daily basis by special UNMIK-sponsored shuttles, escorted by KFOR, from Kamenicë/Kamenica (via Gjilan/Gnjilane), Mitrovicë/Mitrovica (via Vushtrri/Vucitrn and Obiliq/Obilic), Istog/Istok (via Klinë/Klina), and Prizren (via Suharekë/Suva Reka, Shtime/Štimlje and Lipjan/Lipljan).

[14] Multi-National Brigade South, responsible for the Prizren region in southern Kosovo.

[15] During 2001, Serbs faced restrictions in passing the Prevalac checkpoint at the boundary between Štrpce/Shtërpcë and Prizren/Zhupa Valley, and thus had difficulties visiting their places of origin and their properties, or making social visits to existing Serb populations in Prizren. In recent months, KFOR has relaxed the policy at Prevalac, allowing all travellers to pass, but Kosovo Serbs can still only travel freely up to the Sredska/Sredskë checkpoint in Zhupa Valley. Organisations, particularly those involved in the return process, have requested, but have not yet received, the written policy of the Brigade, but it appears that Serbs are only being allowed to move beyond the checkpoint if they are travelling to certain Serb-inhabited villages just beyond Sredska/Sredskë. Serbs who wish to travel to Prizren town or other locales beyond, are, it appears, not allowed to do so by KFOR regardless of their own personal assessment of the risks involved. Whilst KFOR security arrangements (checkpoints, etc.) are put into place to enhance security and prevent incidents, they should not impose freedom of movement restrictions on the basis of ethnicity. Individuals should be able to exercise a free and informed choice as to risks to their personal security, and exercise mobility accordingly. KFOR has often, during periods of particular instability, restricted movements through minority areas (e.g. restrictions of ethnic Albanian movement through Serb enclaves) but such restrictions should be removed as soon as possible to ensure that all Kosovars of all ethnicities enjoy equal rights to move through the territory, and equal right of use of public roadways. Except in very particular circumstances (when temporary and exceptional measures may be needed), prevention of members of certain ethnic groups from exercising a choice to move freely is paramount to violating the right to liberty of movement and the right to choose one’s place of residence, as well as being unjustified discrimination on the basis of ethnicity. Recently, there were indications that MNB (S) may be reviewing their policy and practice in this regard.



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