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(Period covering September 2001 to April 2002)

- Joint OSCE / UNHCR document -


189. Each ethnic group represented among Kosovo’s diverse population is, somewhere in the territory, a minority. While non-Albanians constitute the ethnic minority throughout most of Kosovo, Albanians themselves are a minority in northern Kosovo where ethnic Serbs constitute the majority. All ethnic groups face problems with security and freedom of movement as well as access to services, to varying degrees by ethnicity and by location, and each ethnic community continues to be affected by forced displacement. This chapter attempts to highlight the specific situations of minorities, by ethnic group, indicating the relative degrees of insecurity, specific problems that they continue to face on a daily basis, as well as improvements in their situation. [1]

Kosovo Serbs 190. Kosovo Serbs constitute a majority in specific municipalities, in Štrpce/Shtërpcë, urban Mitrovicë/Mitrovica north of the Ibar riverRiver and in the northern municipalities of Zvecan/Zveçan, Leposavic/Leposaviq and Zubin Potok. In most other areas of Kosovo they are in the minority, living in enclaves or in isolation. Kosovo Serbs remain the primary targettargets of ethnically motivated violent attacks. As a result, physical security remains the overriding issue of concern for those Kosovo Serbs who live in a minority situation, as it not only affects their lives and fundamental freedoms (such as freedom of movement) but also the enjoyment of a multitude of life-sustaining economic and social rights. The precarious environment that still confronts Kosovo Serbs is underlined by incidents such as the 21 October 2001, shooting of a Kosovo Serb man through the window of his house at night, in Devet Jugovica, causing serious injuries; the firing of five rounds from a pistol towards a group of Kosovo Serb children waiting for public transportation in Plemetin/Plemetina village on 30 January 2002; and the arrest of two Kosovo Albanian males in Viti/Vitina municipality on 27 January 2002 for allegedly attempting to kill a Kosovo Serb male while he was walking home.

191. Kosovo Serbs also continue to suffer violations of property rights, which include coercion to sell property, destruction of property and attacks on religious monuments and sites and desecration of cemeteries. On 29 November 2001, in Gjilan/Gnjilane a Kosovo Serb woman was threatened that she would suffer a grenade attack on her store unless she gave up its possession to the perpetrator. Also in Gjilan/Gnjilane, on 11 December 2001, an explosive device was thrown at a house belonging to a Kosovo Serb causing damage to a wall and roof; in the same region on 18 January 2002, a Kosovo Albanian man threatened a Kosovo Serb over a land dispute; in Kamenicë/Kamenica on 3 January 2002, two improvised explosive device attacks were carried out against two different houses and shots were fired at the houses of the victims, the attack caused damage to both houses and a parked motor vehicle on one of the premises. On 9 March 2002, in Novobërdë/Novo Brdo, three individuals robbed a Kosovo Serb farm, severely assaulted the owner and stole his cattle; the 66 year old victim suffered serious injuries and burns, and the forest around his farm was set on fire. In Podujevë/Podujevo on 11 March 2002, in a Kosovo Serb cemetery twelve gravesite head stones were knocked down in an act of desecration. In Štrpce/Shtërpcë on 15 March 2002, Kosovo Albanian perpetrators were arrested on allegations of setting a Kosovo Serb’s stable on fire and causing extensive damage to the property. On 7 April 2002, unknown persons set a Kosovo Serbs’ house on fire in Rahovec/Orahovac, in what is suspected as arson. On April 22 2002, an abandoned Serb house in Klokot (Viti/Vitina) was leveled by a strong explosion. On 26 April 2002, a hand grenade was thrown at a Kosovo Serb house, causing some damages to the property. On the same day, in Obiliq/Obilic, a Kosovo Serb’s barn was set on fire, destroying some hay and tools.

192. Kosovo Serbs suffer harassment, intimidation and humiliation, the most common form of harassment being the recurrent throwing of stones at vehicles transporting Kosovo Serbs. For example: on 9 January 2002, in Kaçanik/Kacanik, a bus in a convoy was pelted with stones breaking a window and causing facial injuries to a Kosovo Serb male passenger; in Lipjan/Lipljan on 5 February 2002, three Kosovo Albanian boys threw stones at a vehicle carrying four Kosovo Serb men causing head injuries to the driver. The prime targets of these incidents are often the elderly and women as demonstrated in September 2001, when reports were received of the harassment of an 81 year old Kosovo Serb woman, a resident of urban Prishtinë/Priština, who regularly had stones thrown at her window, strangers banging her door or shouting a barrage of verbal abuse; as a result, after making several requests to KFOR to provide protection, in sheer exasperation and exhaustion she expressed the desire to leave Kosovo for Serbia proper. In addition, Kosovo Serbs are accosted, insulted, taunted and spat at on the streets as they walk to or from work, school, health centres, shops or other essential public facilities. These ethnically motivated acts demoralise, frustrate and humiliate their victims, and pervasively affect their sense of security whether or not actual physical harm occurs, and engender a reasonable perception that one is under constant threat. This perception in turn further curtails freedom of movement.

193. These factors have contributed significantly to the decision by many Kosovo Serbs to stay in isolation in main urban centres where they constitute a minority, concentrate in enclave like locations, or remain in displacement either as IDPs or refugees. Those few who have returned mainly as a result of difficult living conditions in exile are those who are from rural areas, while IDPs displaced from urban centres have had no opportunities to return. Some IDPs have returned into displacement into the enclave like locations in central and northern Kosovo.

194. Notwithstanding the above, significant advances in the situation of Kosovo Serb in terms of mobility and accessing services have been noted during the current reporting period. The advances are also attributable to the fact that, like other minorities, Kosovo Serbs after almost three years of living in difficult conditions are taking bold measures to break their isolation, albeit at some personal risk. The determination to ameliorate the effects of the situation has increased within the Kosovo Serb population, with variations according to local risk levels and personal perception of risk. To illustrate, an increasing number of Kosovo Serbs in the Prishtinë/Priština region, during the reporting period, have started to drive to nearby towns without KFOR escort which would have been unimaginable previously. This change in perception can arguably be attributed to the growing number of Kosovo Serbs being prepared to run the gauntlet than continue to put up with the constant harassment and intimidation by some elements in the majority population. One example is the reaction of some members of the Kosovo Serb community in Obiliq/Obilic town who, following the killing of a Serb woman near the railway station on 22 February 2002, resolutely continued to walk along the same path where the woman was shot and killed. Similarly, Kosovo Serbs have started to visit local shops and the municipality building in Obiliq/Obilic town and Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje to access services without KFOR escort.

195. New security measures (or changes to existing measures) put in place by KFOR have in some areas also indirectly influenced trends in mobility of Kosovo Serbs. In some locations, the dismantling of ubiquitous static checkpoints in favour of more mobile area security measures [2] led to increased mobility of minorities (due to reduction of barriers), while in other locations, mobility was reduced, either due to the fact that in some locations these measures provoked heightened perception of risk amongst the minority communities, or due to more objective reasons such as the rise of stone-throwing in certain areas concurrent with the removal of static security. On the whole, however, the trend was towards increased mobility. For example, in Gjilan/Gnjilane town and the Viti/Vitina area, Kosovo Serbs enjoyed incremental increases in mobility concurrent with specific efforts on the part of KFOR to increase area security. Thus, Kosovo Serbs are increasingly seen walking the streets, accessing some shops and public services, and driving motor vehicles with former local Yugoslav registration plates on selected roads. Increased mobility in Gjilan/Gnjilane has been positively influenced by the facilitation of transport services that bring Kosovo Serbs from surrounding areas into the town for the market day three times a week and the organised shopping trip from Štrpce/Shtërpcë. The stimulated growth of inter-ethnic commercial activity is undoubtedly another important contributing factor. Yet even in areas which have experienced relatively greater improvements, such as in the Gjilan/Gnjilane region, prolonged periods of reduced violence can still be interrupted. For example, on 26 April 2002, a hand grenade was thrown at the house of an elderly Serb woman in the centre of Viti/Vitina town.

196. Despite some advances, which tend to be most significant in certain regions (namely Gjilan/Gnjilane), freedom of movement still remains highly limited, and contingent upon special escort and/or collective transport arrangements, for most Serbs in Kosovo and this impedes full access to social and economic rights, contributing to the high levels of unemployment and dependence on humanitarian assistance. For example, in Mushnikovo/Mushnikovë, Prizren region, Kosovo Serbs only have free movement inside their village. In urban areas, those very few Kosovo Serbs who remain continue to live in highly precarious situations, and individuals in ethnically mixed families continue to maintain a very low profile. In general terms Kosovo Serbs cannot independently move or speak their language without risk. In light of the harassment and other acts of intolerance, the depth of the problem is perhaps illustrated when it is considered a measure of progress when a Kosovo Serb visits a local shop and manages to safely purchase goods.

197. The situation for Kosovo Serbs, with limited advances in security, has thus become less uniform and more difficult to generalise, but the fundamental causes of insecurity outlined in previous reports remain unresolved. Therefore, the increase in mobility and cautious access to facilities providing essential services should not be taken as an indication of a substantial improvement in the enjoyment of fundamental human rights and freedoms for the Kosovo Serbs, and in general of minorities.

Kosovo Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptians [3]

198. The trend noted in the previous reports of advances in the security and freedom of movement situation for Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptians continued throughout Kosovo. This should be qualified by underlining the fact that the trend is marked by variations between Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptian communities depending on perceptions of the majority population, locality, and language issues. RAE in general during the reporting period have experienced improved possibilities to move about in communities where they reside and have increased access to public services though they continue to experience adverse living conditions due to historical patterns of discrimination and marginalisation. However, it is important to note that even in areas where inter-ethnic relations appear to have improved, it cannot be discounted that an attack would occur, either from within or outside the location. Notwithstanding, there is a growing trend within the community to develop security perceptions based on the appraisal and evaluation of incidents distinguishing between those that are linked to personal disputes and those that indicate inter-ethnic intolerance. While the overall assessment that the situation of RAE has in general terms improved, valid generalisations about a specific ethnic group remain difficult, since conditions vary widely among locations inhabited by the groups. Some communities have experienced more significant improvements, while other communities continue to experience higher levels of insecurity. Furthermore, assessment of the general situation of RAE must be undertaken against the general background that Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptians commonly experience discrimination and ostracism based on racial and socio-economic grounds.

199. While there are some indications that RAE who identify themselves more with the Kosovo Albanian community suffer fewer security incidents than those who attempt to assert their own identity, this is not a universal rule. Further, the ability to speak Albanian fluently may mitigate against random attacks, but even then only to a degree, as it will not safeguard against committed assailants who want to cause harm for reasons based on the person’s ethnic background. In Prishtinë/Priština region, after months of an absence of serious security incidents in the region and apparent good inter-ethnic communication in Alashi I Vogël/Mali Alas (Lipjan/Lipljan), all of a sudden two houses belonging to Ashkaelia were set on fire and another household suffered a hand grenade attack, leaving four persons injured. The incidents at regular intervals appeared well co-ordinated; the first occurred on Monday 27 August, the second on Wednesday 29 August and the third Friday 30 August 2001; in Gjilan/Gnjilane, on 4 October 2001, a Kosovo Roma male was found dead on a street with multiple stab wounds; in Gjakovë/Ðakovica on 21 December 2001, a Kosovo Albanian was arrested for threatening a Kosovo Egyptian with a pistol; in Ferizaj/Uroševac on 17 January 2002 three Kosovo Albanians assaulted a Kosovo Ashkaelia, and on 23 April 2002 in the same municipality, a 17 year old Ashkaelia boy from fYROM, visiting relatives in Kosovo, was hospitalised for serious injuries after being shot at three times as he entered the Dubrava neighbourhood on foot; in Rahovec/Orahovac on 1 February 2002 a hand grenade was thrown into the garden of a house belonging to a Kosovo Roma. These incidents, some of them ethnically motivated and others perhaps indicative of general crime or related to personal disputes, demonstrate that though security for the RAE communities as a whole has improved, it is still somewhat precarious in an environment where the rule of law is being subverted.

200. A complicated mixture of ethnically-based violence and common criminality exists, making it difficult to draw simple causal connections and distinctions. A trend which has been noted particularly in the Prishtinë/Priština region relates to the complex inter-connection between ethnicity and crime motivated by other factors. In various communities in Prishtinë/Priština region, threats to Ashkaelia have occurred not directly a result of their ethnicity per se, but have rather been triggered by the issue of illegal occupation of the Ashkaelias’ property by Albanians. When return of Ashkaelia threaten a Kosovo Albanian occupier, violence may become the instrument to protect the interest. Such violence takes on an inter-ethnic nature because, as a historically marginalised community, RAE are particularly vulnerable to attack. There may be a tendency amongst those with a strong personal interest to reject the right of return and the right of ownership to members of a marginalised or weak minority, a right they would not deny if the competing claimant for the property was a member of their own community and therefore perceived as an “equal”. This problem particularly and disproportionately affects RAE because of their widespread displacement from ethnically mixed areas, which has led to large-scale occupation of their properties. While motivations for violence against RAE are increasingly complex, the fundamental causes of insecurity still exist in Kosovo. Objectively the incidents affecting the RAE during the reporting period, whether or not they are related to crime or ethnicity, indicate that the causes of the insecurity such as inter-ethnic tensions, intolerance, crime and impunity are still present in Kosovo. At the same time with regard to the RAE, the effect is compounded by the general discrimination against them by other ethnic groups.

201. Like most minorities, Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptian communities also have to face limits to their freedom of movement (to a greater or lesser extent which varies by community), which adversely affects their ability to exercise social and economic rights especially with regard to full access to employment opportunities, education, health, social services and utilities. The situation is especially difficult as historically the RAE have relied on freedom of movement to earn a livelihood, making confinement to enclave like locations, collective centres or “IDP camps” such as those situated in Plemetin/Plemetina, Mitrovicë/Mitrovica, Zhitkoc/Zitkovac and Leposavic/Leposaviq particularly oppressive. The fact that hundreds of Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptians continue to live in IDP camp situations, most of them unable to return to their own municipalities, points to the fact that insecurity is still a serious problem for RAE who originate from many municipalities in Kosovo. Outside these enclave locations RAE communities in specific municipalities enjoy varying levels of improvement to their situation. In the five municipalities of the Pejë/Pec region, Roma have experienced modest but steady improvements in security and freedom of movement. However, there are substantial differences between the situation of Roma who speak Albanian and those who can only speak Serb, especially with regard to security and access to education, services and employment opportunities, with the latter facing more serious constraints.

202. The Ashkaelia population seems to have experienced significant improvements in their security situation in the Ferizaj/Uroševac area, but this is not the case with Ashkaelia in the neighbouring municipality of Viti/Vitina where they continue to suffer harassment and intimidation. The distance separating the two municipalities is not vast. At the same time within Ferizaj/Uroševac the security situation of the Roma is precarious in comparison to the Ashkaelia. Similarly, in the Gjilan/Gnjilane area it has been reported that a number of Roma can move around the town while others cannot. Such variations make it very difficult to generalise.

203. In this context it is important to note that RAE communities in Kosovo are hosting substantial numbers of IDPs who have been displaced from their own neighbourhoods/villages. In Pejë/Pec region, for example, most Roma and Egyptian IDPs live with host families, or under temporary shelter due to the fact that their own houses are damaged or destroyed (categories 4 or 5). Furthermore, the majority of these families meet UNHCR extremely vulnerable individual (EVI) criteria. The situation for the Roma and Egyptian communities in the Pejë/Pec region is difficult, with IDPs returning into secondary displacement to live with host families who themselves live in very difficult conditions. The principal obstacle to return to their place of origin in dignity has been the inadequate level of reconstruction assistance.

204. Another major obstacle to stabilisation of these communities is property disputes. For example in the Kristali neighbourhood (Pejë/Pec) and Rudesh (Istog/Istok), the Roma communities are in a collective dispute with the municipality over land ownership and rights and as a result, the municipality has put a moratorium on building. In a few other locations (Herec, Prelep, Qerhane), there are property disputes between individual members of the Roma and Egyptian communities and the municipality or Kosovo Albanian individuals. The failure to adjudicate such disputes creates a large obstacle to return and reintegration of IDPs to their places of origin.

Kosovo Bosniaks

205. The Bosniak community in Kosovo is present in both predominantly Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb areas. The community is mainly concentrated in the Prizren region in the town and in enclave like locations such as the Zhupa Valley, Podgor and Gora. Sizeable communities are also to be found in the Pejë/Pec region mainly in Pejë/Pec town, Vitomeric, Dobrush and Istog/Istok. There are also small residual groups in Prishtinë/Priština city and Mazgit in Prishtinë/Priština region, and in Mitrovicë/Mitrovica north and south of the Ibar river. The community appears to have developed a certain level of tolerant relations with other ethnic communities in Kosovo, including the majority population. In general terms the security situation of Kosovo Bosniaks has improved, however, the community still suffers intimidation, harassment, discrimination and various forms of mistreatment, including serious acts of violence against its members. On 26 December 2001, a Bosniak was fatally assaulted in Mitrovicë/Mitrovica South because he spoke in the Bosniak language which was mistaken for Serbian; in Pejë/Pec on 3 October 2001, a Bosniak was killed by a Kosovo Albanian; and in Istog/Istok on 9 March 2002, a Kosovo Albanian man was arrested for assaulting two Kosovo Bosniak men, one of whom sustained head injuries. On 8 April 2002, a Bosniak man who had been previously reported missing was found murdered with a wire around his neck and his hands cuffed; a Kosovo Albanian suspect was arrested, although it is not clear that the incident was ethnically-motivated. Such violent actions are sporadic and as such give a general sense of security for this ethnic community, notwithstanding that individual incidents may result in bodily harm or fatalities.

206. The Bosniaks have limited freedom of movement which largely depends on locality; they move about in enclave-like locations (where they constitute significant numbers) and the areas contiguous to them, while movement further afield and within the main urban centres is restricted, or exercised with caution, for fear of attracting adverse attention or physical attacks. Even in the Prizren and Pejë/Pec regions where they constitute a significant number in the population Bosniak residents exercise free movement with a degree of skepticism, carefully weighing the security implications and planning the time and locations of travel. They are also keenly aware that beyond certain perimeters they can not easily travel without KFOR escort. Some Bosniaks who have begun to exercise more mobility have faced problems, as was the case on 14 April 2002, when a Bosniak travelling in Podujevë/Podujevo municipality was physically assaulted by a Kosovo Albanian, resulting in minor injury to his person and damage to his vehicle.

207. The Bosniak community in all regions in Kosovo has adopted several security-conscious coping mechanisms such as a resolute forbearance in the face of harassment, intimidation and humiliation. Bosniaks, like most non-Kosovo Serb minorities, will not always report such mistreatment to the law enforcement authorities, unless very serious, and are extremely hesitant to openly discuss security related problems with outsiders. Bosniaks exercise a measured and discreet use of their language in areas of Pejë/Pec, and in the Prizren urban area they are able to use their language relatively even more freely. For Bosniaks in general, they may feel vulnerable with regard to use of their language to varying degrees depending on the area, and in fact, those few who can communicate in Albanian often use it in public places to avoid drawing attention to themselves, whereas those who cannot speak Albanian refrain from speaking or avoid going to areas where they may not be able to communicate thereby attracting adverse consequences which may affect the security of their person.

208. In a recent fact-gathering exercise in the main areas of residence of the Bosniak community, there was a common acknowledgement by its members that the security situation has stabilised and that inter-ethnic relations with Kosovo Albanians, though strained, had become less frosty -an encouraging potential towards a relationship based on tolerance. This apparent advance in inter-ethnic relations seems to be co-related to the community’s necessity, in recognition of its real need of security and longer term viability in the territory, to articulate its civic participation in compliance with the opinion of the majority population as dictated by the new political and socio-economic dispensation in Kosovo. Thus, hasty assumptions (on the basis of generalisations derived from local improvements) that inter-ethnic relations between Kosovo Bosniaks and Kosovo Albanians have thawed to the extent that would enable the exercise of full freedom of movement and enjoyment of a high level of personal security in Kosovo are not well-founded. Many more efforts to promote reconciliation and diversity, including tolerance for the use of non-Albanian languages, need to be undertaken.

209. General insecurity, limits in free movement and discriminatory practices, on account of the Bosniaks’ ethnic and linguistic background, have impeded the ability of the community to fully access social, cultural and economic rights, especially with regard to employment and income generating opportunities, land, social welfare security, health, education, public services and utilities. This has undermined the ability for its members to remain self-supporting, in turn corroding the will of affected Bosniaks to see their longer term future in Kosovo in conditions which for all intents and purposes confine them to enclave like locations or compel them to take risks with their security by venturing out into risk areas to try and break the isolation and earn a decent livelihood. Bosniaks, even in the areas where they constitute a significant proportion of the population, continue to face discrimination with regard to civic participation, education, health, public administration and employment opportunities in both the public and private sectors. Although their participation in Kosovo political structures, as minorities, is guaranteed under the constitutional framework for provisional institutions for self-government, Bosniaks are still underrepresented in institutions, such as health, education and social services, utilities and public enterprises, particularly at management levels. In addition, they hold a strong perception that there is bureaucratic indifference on the part of the international civil presence in Kosovo to address their grievances and demands, especially with regard to unfair labour practices in the public sectors. Indeed, the most consistent assertions of discrimination are related to retaining employment in the civil service as retrenchment and rationalisation processes are perceived to affect them disproportionately.

210. In the Prizren and Pejë/Pec regions there are also concerns with regard to the education of Bosniak children as to whether it conforms to recognised human rights standards, in that the international human right to learn in their own language may not always be respected. [4] This human right is vital for a minority population to maintain its cultural and linguistic identity. However, some Bosniaks in the region, in order to cope with the security situation and attendant vulnerability, feel obliged to enroll their children in schools where the medium of instruction is the Albanian language. The parents, though reluctant, accept this to avoid adverse inferences or a perception that they are unwilling to integrate. It is worth noting that some Bosniak parents encourage their children to learn Albanian as a second language, a voluntary process which should be supported in education as it promotes tolerance, understanding and friendship between different ethnic groups, as opposed to a process which is tantamount to assimilation.

211. Taking into account the conditions described above, the fair assessment on the situation of Bosniaks is that the progress on security conditions does not assure reasonable safety for the community, as the root causes of fear, restrictions in the full exercise of freedom of movement and impediments to access social and economic rights continue to prevail as there has not yet been a fundamental change in Kosovo in terms of law and order, inter-ethnic integration, mutual understanding and tolerance. As a result, many minorities, Bosniaks included, feel compelled to go into exile primarily in the former Yugoslavia, mainly Bosnia and Herzegovina or the Sandzak. Some have gone to asylum countries further afield. Indeed, many have fallen victim to human smugglers who charge exorbitant fees to facilitate travel to locations outside the region. Indeed, in some areas in Prizren and Pejë/Pec such as Nebregoshte, Grncare and Nove Selo a significant portion of the population has left. Displacement is still an ongoing occurrence in Kosovo even in those regions, such as Prizren and Pejë/Pec where Bosniaks appear to have stable conditions. Returns have not been sustainable. In fact, an increase in the number of Bosniaks forcibly returned in the current environment is neither safe nor sustainable and may actually de-stabilise the fragile and delicate coping strategies, thus leading to the re-emergence of serious security incidents for the community.

Kosovo Gorani212. The situation of Kosovo Gorani is similar to that faced by the Bosniaks. The majority of the Gorani inhabit a clearly defined geographical area, Goran/Dragash. Kosovo Gorani are also to be found in small groups in Prishtinë/Priština and Mitrovicë/Mitrovica (in Kodra Minatoreve/Micronaselje and Bosniak Mahala). The community experiences discriminatory practices and harassment more intensely than Bosniaks, due to the perception by some sectors in the majority population that it maintains close links with the Serb community and shares the same creed. Indeed, most Gorani have friends, relatives and business contacts in Serbia and Montenegro, which are maintained through regular cross boundary travel. To facilitate commercial and social contacts, persons with these links usually retain motor vehicles with FRY registration plates. During the reporting period, the possession of these license plates became an issue of concern and demonstrated the kind of harassment that Gorani sometimes face as a minority.

213. In a typical incident of harassment, on 1 October 2001, a Gorani from Suharekë/Suva Reka reported that his vehicle was unjustly impounded by the Kosovo Police Service (KPS) despite having presented them with essential lawful documents to support his assertions that everything was above board and he was merely going about his business. The KPS are reported to have discounted his explanations, impounded the motor vehicle and levied DEM 5,000 for towing and impounding the vehicle. As these incidents had become common, demarches were initiated with the authorities by an international legal aid NGO and amicably addressed. It remains an issue of concern for the Gorani that members of their community face targeted harassment from some members of the Kosovo Police Service.

214. As a result the community continues to experience a crisis of confidence with regard to its future viability in Kosovo, as its members have limited freedom of movement outside the enclave like locations where they live. In addition, they face discrimination in accessing economic opportunities and social services on account of their ethnic background and the associated issue of the language limitations which make it difficult for them to easily communicate with the majority population. These factors have compelled many Gorani to leave Kosovo.

Kosovo Croats

215. Kosovo Croats are mainly concentrated in Janjevë/Janjevo (Lipjan/Lipljan) and Letnicë/Letnica (Viti/Vitina), though there are small groups in other centres such as Prishtinë/Priština City and Mitrovicë/Mitrovica. The population continues to dwindle particularly as young people concerned about their longer term future in Kosovo leave the territory.

216. During 1999, of the 2000 Croats in Janjevë/Janjevo a significant number left as the security situation in Kosovo deteriorated leaving a residual population of less than 300. [5] However, during the course of 2001, a few returns have occurred, mainly by elderly persons for reasons of family reunification, and by early 2002 there were 340 Croats living in Janjevë/Janjevo village, which is also populated with Albanians and Roma.

217. In Letnicë/Letnica the residual Croat community is comprised of a few more than sixty persons, mostly elderly. This community has to grapple with difficulties associated with being host to a number of ethnic Albanian families who fled to Kosovo from fYROM as a result of the 2001 conflict, who have moved into vacant Croat properties in Letnicë/Letnica and Shashare/Sasare. (It should be noted that the occupancy is not illegal, having been legalised by HPD through humanitarian allocation.) There are no security related problems connected with the hosting of the FYROM caseload, though the community’s capacity to cope is limited as the additional population also needs access to firewood and grazing pastures, putting pressure on the natural environment.

218. The Croats living in urban Prishtinë/Pristina are mainly those in ethnically mixed families in which one of the spouses is a Kosovo Albanian. They are usually fluent in the Albanian language therefore integrated in mainstream Kosovo Albanian society.

219. In Mitrovicë/Mitrovica there is a small Croat community of about 50 persons living in the northern part of town. They have freedom of movement in the Serb-dominated area and do not face security problems. However, as the Catholic Church is located in the predominantly Kosovo Albanian southern part of Mitrovicë/Mitrovica, they can not attend religious services there due to security concerns. To address this, once a month a priest from Janjevë/Janjevo holds mass in a designated venue in the northern part.

220. The residual population of Croats mainly survives on remittances from relatives living in Croatia. In the reporting period no ethnic tensions were reported in the villages, and in general Croats can speak their language and move about in the enclave like locations where they reside. However, when Croats move out of the village they face the same problems as other non-Albanian minorities in Kosovo, especially as few Croats can communicate using the Albanian language. As a result their freedom of movement and ability to access economic and social services is restricted. The viability of the Croats in Kosovo is uncertain; despite the fact that some small-scale returns have taken place, these have been only of elderly persons. The prospects for more returns are not very encouraging, especially for younger generations due to the general security and freedom of movement constraints that confront minorities in Kosovo.

Kosovo Albanians [6]

221. Kosovo Albanians living in areas where they constitute an ethnic minority in relation to the surrounding ethnic group have security and freedom of movement concerns similar to those outlined in this report for non-Albanian minority communities in Kosovo. Their situation is not dissimilar from that confronting Kosovo Serbs who reside in majority areas. The security and freedom of movement constraints for Kosovo Albanians are especially difficult in Urban Mitrovicë/Mitrovica north of the Ibar river and the northern municipalities of Zvecan/Zveçan, Leposavic/Leposaviq and Zubin Potok where UNMIK is still to fully enforce its authority and the law enforcement authorities have yet to become fully effective. Similarly, Kosovo Albanians also face security related difficulties in Štrpce/Shtërpcë. A significant number of Kosovo Albanians originating from these areas have been displaced into Albanian majority-areas.

222. In Mitrovicë/Mitrovica north a number of Kosovo Albanians live in isolated apartments in communities where the population is mainly elderly and live in adverse socio-economic conditions dependent on the support of humanitarian organisations. Security is precarious and freedom of movement very limited. For example on 12 January 2002, a hand grenade was thrown at a house belonging to a Kosovo Albanian in the Bosniak Mahala area and in another incident in Mitrovicë/Mitrovica north on 26 March 2002, Kosovo Serbs assaulted a Kosovo Albanian man after he crossed the bridge into the northern part of the city. On December 16 2001, during Ramadan, KFOR and UNMIK Special Police Units had to provide security to ensure that about 150 Kosovo Albanians could travel to the northern part of Mitrovicë/Mitrovica to visit a Muslim cemetery located in a predominantly Kosovo Serb area. Other attempts for displaced Albanians to visit their homes have been effectively obstructed by the Serb population, through roadblocks and protests with strong undercurrents of potential violence, in expression of clear opposition of any Albanian movement perceived as related to attempts to return.

223. There has been no significant new flight of Kosovo Albanians from the north since March 2001, but the situation of those few Albanian families who still live in northern urban Mitrovicë/Mitrovica remained extremely precarious. The violent upsurge of 8 April 2002 in particular raised the pressure on Albanian minorities considerably. [7] In such a fundamentally unstable and volatile environment, intimidation of non-Serb minorities can intensify very rapidly, with potential for more serious attacks.

224. In another example, on 22 January 2002, 13 Kosovo Albanian Štrpce/Shtërpcë Municipal Assembly members entered Štrpce/Shtërpcë town to assume their duties. However, this was perceived as a provocation by some elements in the Kosovo Serb community who organised a demonstration against their presence. The protest culminated in the blocking of the main access road to the Municipal Assembly Building and the Kosovo Albanian Municipal Assembly members seeking sanctuary from a mob at the Štrpce/Shtërpcë police station. In response, an estimated 150 Kosovo Albanians counter-demonstrated and blocked the main road into the town. To diffuse the situation KFOR and UNMIK police escorted the Kosovo Albanians out of Štrpce/Shtërpcë. The situation was such that the authorities felt compelled to apply stringent freedom of movement restrictions and a stand-off ensued that lasted for several days and led to the suspension of the bus line which runs through Štrpce/Shtërpcë to Zhupa Valley (Prizren) and transports minorities. Such a prohibitive security environment has stymied the prospects of return of displaced Albanians in many locations in the municipality. However, sustained pressure mostly by KFOR has resulted in opening up of access to the municipal building for Kosovo Albanian officials most recently.

Kosovo Turks

225. The Kosovo Turk community in Kosovo is relatively stable and during the reporting period did not experience security related incidents. It is worth noting that of all the minorities in the territory, Kosovo Turks are perhaps the group most integrated with the majority population. The main concern for the community continues to be the official recognition and use of the Turkish language, and access to employment and education on the basis of non-discrimination.


[1] Population figures by community are discussed in previous minority assessments. General patterns of changes to these population figures due to ongoing departures or returns are outlined in the chapter on return. Since no population census has been performed in Kosovo in the post-conflict period, precise population figures for each ethnic group in Kosovo are not available.

[2] KFOR’s strategy is discussed at length in the chapter on security and response of authorities, paragraph 14 and afterwards.

[3] In this assessment we sometimes refer to Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptian as “RAE”, the amalgamation of three different groups, whenever we are discussing common characteristics they share. However they do identify themselves as separate groups. Ethnic identification as Roma, Ashkaelia or Egyptian is not necessarily determined by easily discernible or distinct characteristics or cultural traits but rather by a process of self-identification. It is not uncommon in Kosovo for individuals to change their ethnic self-identification depending on the pressures of local circumstances, especially when it is necessary in order to distance themselves from other groups to avoid negative associations. In general, however, ethnic Roma clearly identify themselves as Roma and tend to use Romany as their mother tongue, although a large percentage of the Roma population can speak Serbian (and to a lesser extent Albanian) languages. The Ashkaelia are Albanian-speaking (although many can also communicate in Serbian language) and have historically associated themselves with Albanians, living close to that community. Nevertheless, Albanians treat them as separate from the Albanian community. Like the Ashkaelia, the Egyptians speak Albanian language but differentiate themselves from Ashkaelia by claiming to have originated from Egypt. It should be noted that, on the local community level, Albanians do not generally perceive the differences between the three groups, more often viewing Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptians as one group. It should also be noted that the separations and distinctions between Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptian vary between regions, and in some regions (Pejë/Pec, for example), the Roma and Egyptian populations live in the same geographic areas, without much distinction between them on a day-to-day basis. In other areas or regions, the distinctions between the groups (including the geographic locations where they tend to live as well as their actual or perceived levels of integration with either the Albanian or Serb population) may be much more pronounced.

[4] Article 30 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child: “In those states in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities or persons of indigenous origin exist, a child belonging to such a minority or who is indigenous shall not be denied the right, in community with other members of his or her group, to enjoy his or her own culture, to profess and practice his or her own religion, or to use his or her own language.”

[5] Janjevë/Janjevo village had a population of 4000 Croats, 500 Kosovo Albanians and 550 Roma recorded in 1991. In response to tensions associated with the break-up of the former Yugoslavia and the ensuing conflict in Croatia a significant number of the Croats elected to leave Kosovo for Croatia as their socio-economic condition became difficult due to discriminatory practices against them by the previous Serb regime.

[6] The situation of ethnic Albanians in a minority situation, including problems of displacement of ethnic Albanians from Serb-majority areas, will be covered more comprehensively in the 10th Minorities Assessment.

[7] Events of 8 April 2002 are described in paragraph 3 (page 4), in the section on security and freedom of movement.



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