Tenth Assessment of the Situation of Ethnic Minorities in Kosovo
(Period covering May 2002 to December 2002)
I. GENERAL ASSESSMENT
The reporting period saw a continued reduction in the level of ethnically motivated crimes, particularly violent crimes, committed against members of minority communities. These figures should be seen in the context of decreasing levels of serious crime in Kosovo generally.
During the period KFOR has continued its "unfixing" strategy whereby the number of KFOR personnel assigned to "fixed" tasks - such as guarding threatened patrimonial sites or providing static vehicle check-points - has been reduced. Throughout the reporting period there has been a continuation of the policy of discharging these "fixed" troops in order to render them available for more flexible, responsive and less intrusive security operations. The "unfixing" strategy also applies to reducing permanent protection for vehicle convoys. Although KFOR bus or convoy escorts continue in certain areas, such as in the Pejë/Pec and Prizren regions respectively, the general trend is for KFOR to reduce its close protection for vehicle convoys, and to provide route security only. The above policy has been developed as part of a security transition strategy mutually agreed and implemented with UNMIK Police. The transition strategy aims to decrease KFOR's profile in the civilian community, and continues the process of transferring defined KFOR security tasks to the civil authorities. UNMIK Police is gradually reducing its escort service, with Kosovo Police Service (KPS) taking over where escorts are still deemed necessary.
Both KFOR and UNMIK Police are aware that any change in security measures may cause nervousness amongst minority communities. Consequently the changes appear to have been gradual, proportional and have been combined with an effort to increase the involvement of UNMIK Police and the KPS in providing security through effective policing and confidence building. In this context, there has also been increased emphasis on the provision of mixed ethnicity KPS patrols, and the first police station to be run entirely by KPS is now operational in Gracanica/Graçanicë. Decisions on the operational aspects of the implementation of the security strategy have been devolved to the KFOR Multi-National Brigades (MNBs) and UNMIK Police Regional command. The police and KFOR have therefore been able to vary the implementation of the transition strategy in response to localised security conditions, albeit within the overall framework of the move from martial to civil security.
Kosovo Serb political leaders have voiced strong opposition to the removal of KFOR fixed security measures, most recently in the context of the bomb attacks that damaged two Serb Orthodox Churches in Istog/Istok municipality during the night of 17 November, shortly after the removal of the KFOR fixed protection. However, amongst many members of the minority communities themselves, there appears to be a general understanding of the rationale behind the revised security measures, and a developing acceptance that their security is not being compromised by the new approach.
Notwithstanding the stabilisation of the security situation, the fear of harassment, intimidation and provocation remains part of everyday experience for members of minority communities throughout Kosovo. Members of minority groups, whether living in mixed communities or moving outside their own enclaves can become targets for grenade attacks, arson or physical assault in particular against the Kosovo Serbs, Roma, Egyptians and in many cases, the Kosovo Ashkaelia throughout Kosovo. UNHCR surveys have revealed that harassment and assaults in many cases are linked to the issue of property, and are intended either to prevent returns or to force the minority members still living in the respective area to sell their property. Assaults on minority groups may also arise out of competition for already limited economical resources in the surrounding community. With the exception of Kosovo Bosniaks in Mitrovicë/Mitrovica, the general security situation for both Kosovo Bosniak and Kosovo Gorani communities has stabilised with no serious ethnically motivated acts of violence against them reported since 2001.
In all regions, except Mitrovicë/Mitrovica, there are instances where members of the minority communities are able to use public transportation, i.e. bus or railway. The so-called privately run Kosovo Gorani shuttle from Dragash/Draga to Belgrade, transiting a number of Kosovo Albanian majority municipalities, attracts also Kosovo Serb passengers, and has so far not faced any security problems.
Freedom of movement varies widely, both within individual municipalities as well as between different ethnic communities. In some cases there has been an increase in reported security incidents, such as stone throwing (against pedestrians or moving vehicles), verbal harassment and even physical assault when the minority community now travel outside their area of habitation, village or municipality. In some cases, a firm response from UNMIK Police or KPS has stopped the violence.
Both minor and serious incidents go unreported, as the victims do not want to upset the delicate relations they have slowly established with the majority population. This reluctance to report incidents is exacerbated by a lack of faith in law enforcement agencies, especially the ability and/or willingness of these agencies to provide protection to the victims in case of reprisals. A survey undertaken by UNHCR in October 2002 on the perception of the Kosovo RAE minorities with regard to their security situation revealed a tendency to not report incidents of harassment and intimidation to the police. Furthermore, even when minorities report security incidents to law enforcement authorities those authorities do not always perform an adequate investigation. As a result of the dynamic noted above, the police's ability to be a deterrent is impaired.
With regard to the minority communities' confidence in the KPS, the OSCE and UNCHR found that it depends directly on their involvement with the minority communities, and their proactiviteness in visiting minority residents and following up on their complaints, rather than on the ethnic composition of the force. The presence of KPS officers drawn from minority communities does not, in itself, guarantee an improvement in the security situation for those communities, nor a more effective follow up of reported incidents. However, the minority communities appear to prefer dealing with ethnically mixed KPS patrols rather than patrols composed entirely of Kosovo Albanians.
One continuing problem is that of encouraging increased Kosovo Serb participation in the KPS; the Kosovo Serb KPS officers are often well respected by their colleagues and by the majority community, but may lack the respect of their own community. This is particularly apparent in the Mitrovicë/Mitrovica region, where there is a continued resistance to the KPS amongst the Kosovo Serb community, and a desire to maintain the parallel structure or to introduce Serb police from Serbia proper. In contrast, one good example of trust across ethnic lines is the Kosovo Serb KPS officer in Rahovec/Orahovac, who carries out normal functions, including patrolling majority areas. Similarly, Kosovo Albanian KPS continue to patrol the enclaves in the Prizren area without problems. Again, mixed Kosovo Serb and Bosniak KPS patrols have been well received by the Kosovo Albanian villagers in the three Albanian minority villages in the Leposavic/Leposaviq municipality.
However, any lack of confidence in the police should not be seen solely as mistrust in KPS effectiveness, but in the law enforcement mechanisms as a whole. This applies in particular to the Kosovo Serb minority communities in Pejë/Pec, which have been targeted in a number of security incidents despite the conspicuous presence of UNMIK Police and/or KFOR.
As reported in the last Assessment, there still seems to be a divergence between the actual security situation and the perceived situation in some areas. The following sections will examine in more detail the situation and the perceptions of the different minority/enclave areas of Kosovo.
II. REGIONAL OVERVIEW
With the exception of Velika Hoca/Hoca e Madhe in the Rahovec/Orahovac municipality (where static protection for the Serb enclave is still in place) all checkpoint installations in the Prizren region have been removed as part of KFOR's ongoing "unfixing" strategy. This strategy has been accompanied by a continuing public information campaign, which emphasises the 'normalisation' of the security environment and the continuing transition of security responsibilities to the police. Freedom of movement is dependent on the circumstances of the particular community under consideration, with, for example, the Kosovo Turk community in Prizren town being almost completely integrated, whereas both the Kosovo Serb and Kosovo RAE communities in Rahovec/Orahovac are confined to enclaves.
Prizren town and rural
In addition to the majority Kosovo Albanian population, Prizren area contains members of the Kosovo Turkish, Serb, RAE and Bosniak minority groups.
Community Police Officers visit the minority villages in the Prizren area on a systematic basis and regularly meet with the village leaders to assess community needs. Members of ethnic minority communities are strongly represented in KPS patrols in these areas, particularly in the area covered by Recane/Recan sub-station (populated by a Kosovo Bosniak community) and mixed KPS patrols are commonplace. KPS officers of all ethnicities are fully integrated into all police functions, including the conduct of investigations. In Prizren town itself, fewer mixed patrols operate, although all KPS officers of all minority groups, Kosovo Serbs excepted, are fully integrated into other areas of police work. The recruitment and deployment of minority KPS officers in Prizren is contributing towards the increasing outreach of the KPS to the communities, and is assisting in encouraging a climate of confidence amongst those minority groups.
The security situation for members of the Kosovo Bosniak community in Prizren town has continued to improve during the reporting period. Equally, the Kosovo Turk inhabitants of Prizren town appear to be relatively well integrated into the majority community and their concerns over security relate to the general crime rate rather than to any ethnically motivated incidents. The Kosovo Turkish community sees the presence of Kosovo Turkish KPS officers as a positive and confidence-boosting development. Members of the Kosovo RAE community in Prizren town also stated that their overall security situation has improved. However, the presence of Kosovo RAE officers in the KPS was not perceived as being a major factor in guaranteeing their security, and the community continues to view the presence of KFOR and UNMIK Police as crucial.
The Kosovo Bosniak communities in the Zhupa Valley near Prizren also describe their overall security situation as having improved. The presence of Kosovo Bosniak police officers in the police sub-station at Recane/Recan in the Zhupa Valley has increased minority confidence in the safety and security of that location. It has also provided reassurance that the police will effectively investigate criminal acts committed against them. There is, nonetheless, reluctance amongst members of the Kosovo Bosniak community in the Zhupa Valley to move in areas dominated by the Kosovo Albanian community, particularly if they do not speak the Albanian language.
The majority of the Kosovo Gorani population in the Prizren region lives in Dragash/Draga municipality. The ability of the Kosovo Gorani population to move freely, is similar to that of the Kosovo Bosniaks in the Zhupa Valley, namely that those who speak Albanian are willing to travel throughout Kosovo, whereas options are more limited for those who can only communicate in Serbo-Croat. The Kosovo Gorani community is critical of the failure of UNMIK Police to solve crimes affecting the local population. Community Police Officers operate in the Kosovo Gorani community, and approximately half the KPS officers stationed in Dragash/Draga are of Kosovo Gorani ethnicity. However, the hierarchically structured nature of the Gorani community means the crimes are often not reported by the victims directly, but are reported via interlocutors, thereby increasing the potential for miscommunication and reducing the effectiveness of any follow up by the police.
The reporting period has seen repeated arson attacks on Kosovo Serb-owned houses in the Rahovec/Orahovac municipality. Although these houses were not inhabited at the time of the attacks, the repeated pattern of incidents does little to increase the Kosovo Serb community's perception of security. It also reduces the community's confidence in the effectiveness of UNMIK Police or of KPS as guarantors of their security. However, the Kosovo Serb community appears reluctant to co-operate with police investigations, arising in part from the fact that only one Kosovo Serb police officer is stationed at Rahovec/Orahovac. The police have therefore expressed the intention to transfer more Kosovo Serb police officers from outside the area to undertake mixed patrols with Kosovo Albanian KPS in Rahovec/Orahovac and thereby to raise confidence in the impartiality and effectiveness of the police force.
Nonetheless, although the security situation in Rahovec/Orahovac has improved, and the police are working to improve confidence levels the Serb community's current perception of its own security continues to be dominated by fears of past events. In view of this underlying fear the prevailing view of the Kosovo Serb community in Rahovec/Orahovac is that only KFOR can provide a safe and secure environment.
In the rural areas of Rahovec/Orahovac municipality, the Kosovo RAE population is able to move relatively freely and without security problems. In Lower Rahovec/Orahovac, however, the Kosovo RAE community continues to experience harassment.
On 10 October 2002, a bus, escorted by KFOR and carrying a group of Kosovo Serb pensioners from the organised return village of Osojane/Osojan, was attacked and pelted with stones and Molotov cocktails on arrival at the Pejë/Pec Municipal Building. The pensioners were intending to register for a new Kosovo pension scheme. A crowd of several hundred Kosovo Albanians (who had been attending political rallies in Pejë/Pec on the same day) gathered around the municipal building while the pensioners were inside and had to be forcibly dispersed by KFOR and UNMIK Police. The pensioners were eventually able to return to Osojane/Osojan under escort.
Freedom of movement, in particular for the Kosovo Serb community, remains problematic, and minority members express the belief that their safety can only be guaranteed by constant KFOR protection, both in their villages, and when moving outside. This belief was reinforced by the high-profile incidents recorded above, but must also be set in the context of the general increase in high profile (non-ethnically motivated) violent crime in the Pejë/Pec region.
Although the security situation for the Kosovo RAE communities has stabilised during the reporting period, they still continued to be subjected to harassment and assault, such as organised cattle theft, robberies, extortion, sexual abuse, arson, and beatings. Many of these incidents go unreported, as the victims are afraid of reprisals and do not want to disrupt the fragile relations they have managed to establish with the majority population. There are indeed instances where reported harassment has led to further reprisals, indicating a climate of impunity for violations against these minority communities.
However, whilst the Kosovo Serbs in Pejë/Pec region are strictly limited to their own community and require KFOR escort for any travels outside their community, the Kosovo Bosniaks in the region (and to some extent the Kosovo RAE) seem to have returned to their normal patterns of movement and travel. These communities have traditionally maintained closer links, both socially and economically, to Montenegro and hence do not feel adversely affected by not being able to comfortably travel to other parts of Kosovo. The fluency of Albanian language is still an important factor for freedom of movement inside as well as outside the region.
Osojane/Osojan Valley, Bica/Biqë and Grabac/Grapc
The Pejë/Pec region has two main areas of organised returns for Kosovo Serbs: the Osojane/Osojan Valley in Istog/Istok municipality and the adjacent villages of Bica/Biqë and Grabac/Grapc in Klinë/Klina municipality. Security in all of these areas is stable, but highly dependent on the presence of KFOR. Although one KFOR checkpoint has been removed, KFOR checkpoints remain in place at either end of the Osojane/Osojan Valley, and KFOR patrols operate round the clock.
Unlike in the Osojane/Osojan valley, there are no fixed KFOR checkpoints in Bica/Biqë or Grabac/Grapc. However, KFOR maintains a permanent presence in Bica/Biqë and Grabac/Grapc because of their close proximity to Kosovo Albanian settlements and the Kosovo Serb community's consequent fear of attack.
UNMIK Police and KPS also patrol these villages several times a day, but do not maintain police sub-stations in any of them. However, UNMIK Police and KPS man a temporary "container" office in Bica/Biqë daily from 0900-1200 hrs. Although members of the minority communities generally appear to believe that UNMIK Police and KPS are responsive to their requests for assistance, they believe that, on occasions the police lack both the resources and determination to provide effective security or guarantees of freedom of movement.
The Kosovo Serb enclave of Gorazdevac/Gorazhdevc remains protected by KFOR checkpoints and KFOR conducts regular patrols. However, on 29 August, despite the presence of UNMIK Police and the subsequent intervention of KFOR, a group of six Kosovo Serbs came under prolonged small-arms fire whilst cutting wood. This incident causes particular concern, given its serious nature, and the inability of the KFOR and UNMIK Police to provide effective protection or deterrence. Villagers have also suffered persistent harassment in the form of stone throwing and have also reported illegal trespassing on their agricultural land.
The number of reported attacks directed at minorities in Gjilan/Gnjilane town has decreased during the reporting period. However, serious incidents continue to occur. In one case a Kosovo Roma woman was injured when a grenade was thrown at her house. Also, unexploded hand grenades were found in a house of a returnee, and an ordinance exploded at the same house a few months later.
Instances of low-level harassment, provocation and abuse continue to occur, but reported cases also appear to have decreased. The Kosovo Serb population in Gjilan/Gnjilane town admits that there has been improvement in their overall security situation, especially with the freedom of movement and the shopping initiatives. However, they have also complained to OSCE that they are seeing few police patrols pass through their area, and that, in any event, they are reluctant to report crimes to the Kosovo Albanian KPS officers operating from Gjilan/Gnjilane police station.
Most of the Kosovo Serb pedestrian movement in Gjilan/Gnjilane town takes place on the Prishtinë/Pritina road. Kosovo Serb families living on the outskirts of the town are mainly moving on the shopping days - Tuesdays and Thursdays. Vehicle movement, even with Yugoslav registration plates, is quite free in town, especially during daylight hours when YU plated cars travel to neighboring municipalities or to Serbia proper. Most Kosovo Serbs in Gjilan/Gnjilane have registered with KS registration plates and that has facilitated increased free movement. Moreover, the local Kosovo Serb population in town has started to use the Kosovo Albanian-run taxi services to get around town and to travel to nearby villages, especially Silovo/Shillovë.
In the immediate vicinity of Gjilan/Gnjilane, the Kosovo Serb inhabitants of villages such as Gornji Makres/Makresh i Epërm state that the security situation has improved. They are able and willing to travel to neighbouring Kosovo Serb villages, to Serbia proper, and also to make escorted shopping trips to Gjilan/Gnjilane town. In the mixed village of Gornji Livoc/Livoçi i Epërm, Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Albanians have established informal and also formal dialogue and co-operation and are working jointly on a water supply project, with no reported problems.
However, members of the more isolated minority communities, such as Paralovo/Parllovë, remain reluctant to leave their villages and also more frequently report being subject to incidents of low-level harassment. A unique situation affects the mixed village of Cërnicë/Cernica, whose inhabitants have suffered a series of security incidents and fatal attacks, with movement only taking place during daylight hours, and even then with great caution.
In other minority settlements, the villagers appear satisfied with the levels of police presence and their interaction with the communities. The Gjilan/Gnjilane Community Policing Unit regularly visits minority areas in the region, and has created a special team that deals with minority issues. This team has, amongst other initiatives, launched a Neighbourhood Watch Project in the Kosovo Roma District in Gjilan/Gnjilane town and has implemented an awareness-raising project aimed at introducing Kosovo Serb schoolchildren to the work of the police. However, the Kosovo Serb community continues to express dissatisfaction at the lack of police results in investigating crimes committed against them.
No major security incidents occurred in Novoberdë/Novo Brdo over the course of the reporting period, and, although a degree of inter-ethnic tension was apparent in early November 2002 following the Kosovo Serb success in the local municipal assembly elections, the municipality remains calm. KFOR appears to have gained the trust of the minority community, and the concerns raised by the community relate primarily to access to public services rather than with regard to physical security. However, the reduction in the visible KFOR security presence has reduced the perception of safety for villagers in places like Bostane/Bostan and Jasenovik/Jasenovik. Travel outside the minority villages has increased slightly, but still tends to be limited to essential trips only, predominantly to Gjilan/Gnjilane or Gracanica/Graçanicë. Private vehicles are used for shorter trips, as well as UNHCR buses for longer journeys. In many cases the buses are the only alternative, as the population of Novoberdë/Novo Brdo tends to be poor and not in possession of personal vehicles. Despite the increased movement outside the villages, a fear of low-level intimidation remains, and the decision to make each trip depends on taking a calculated risk.
Minority groups appear satisfied with police presence in the villages, although there is discontent over outstanding cases that remain unsolved. KPS operates mixed ethnicity patrols in the minority areas, and villagers reported no difficulty in communicating or dealing with those patrols. However, police patrols in minority villages are vehicle-borne, and villagers report that police officers rarely stop to interact informally with the population. As the villages are not connected to the telephone network, and mobile phone coverage is also poor, contacting the police is difficult. The Kosovo Serb population in Bostane/Bostan also reported that the closure of the police sub-station in Novoberdë/Novo Brdo had reduced their feeling of security. However, at the end of the reporting period, a permanent police presence was being maintained by virtue of the police "Reporting Office" in Novoberdë/Novo Brdo.
In Kamenicë/Kamenica town itself, the Kosovo Serb population tends to remain within the Kosovo Serb part of town, largely through fear of abuse and intimidation. However, Kosovo Serbs do frequent the ethnically mixed market and a number of Kosovo Albanian owned shops adjacent to the Kosovo Serb area.
Minority communities in the wider Kamenicë/Kamenica municipality remain isolated, although there is a limited degree of freedom of movement. Kosovo Serb inhabitants of the majority of the villages in the municipality are able to travel to Kamenicë/Kamenica town, to Gjilan/Gnjilane town, and to Serbia proper. Travel is mainly carried out during daylight using unescorted private car or public transport, although KFOR informed the OSCE that it still provides daily escorts for school buses travelling between Kamenicë/Kamenica and a number of nearby villages.
Generally the inhabitants of small communities, or those who live on the edges of minority villages are the most vulnerable to intimidation and harassment. However, within the villages, the minority communities feel relatively secure and are able to work in their fields.
However, the Kosovo Serb village of Kololec/Kolloleq, which is surrounded by Kosovo Albanian settlements, provides a notable exception. Levels of intimidation and harassment are high, and the inhabitants of Kololec/Kolloleq are prevented by fear from either farming in their fields or travelling outside their village. Also the neighbouring Kosovo Serb village of Carakovce/Çarakovc, previously inhabited by 47 Kosovo Serb families in the year 2000, was finally abandoned by the last inhabitant in October 2002. The departing families cited the lack of physical security as the prime reason for their departure, with particular concern being raised at the low police presence in the area. Similar departures are also reported in Kololec/Kolloleq. Migration in this area is facilitated by its proximity to the Administrative Boundary Line with Serbia proper.
Despite the high levels of intimidation, the only major security incident during the reporting period involved a hand grenade attack on a Kosovo Serb house in Kololec/Kolloleq on 27 June 2002. The attack caused minor injuries to the owner of the property and forms part of series of attacks on the same property, with hand-grenade attacks also having occurred on 12 and 13 September 2002. On 22 November 2002, in the most recent attack, a Molotov cocktail was thrown onto a pile of firewood outside the same property.
Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Croats are travelling outside their villages more frequently, but continue to be subject to verbal abuse, harassment and intimidation. In particular the buses transporting Kosovo Serb schoolchildren are occasionally stoned by Kosovo Albanian juveniles. In relation to these incidents, KFOR has initiated a preventative awareness-raising campaign, aimed at the parents of the juveniles involved.
In Viti/Vitina town itself, even though the security situation has not improved significantly, members of the minority communities are demonstrating increased determination to exercise their freedom of movement. As a reflection of this determination, the community leaders of the minority villages around Viti/Vitina requested that their weekly meetings with KFOR and UNMIK Police take place in Viti/Vitina rather than the Kosovo Serb village of Vrbovac/Vrbovac.
The Kosovo Croatian minority, who inhabit a number of mixed ethnicity villages in the Viti/Vitina area, report no significant change to the security situation. Although low-level intimidation and provocation still occur, they interact with their Kosovo Albanian neighbours and are able to move freely both within their villages and into Viti/Vitina.
In the Kosovo Serb village of Klokot/Kllokot, however, there has been a series of violent incidents affecting members of the community. These include the destruction or damage of several Kosovo Serb-owned houses as a result of a series of explosions on 31 July 2002, together with a landmine explosion on 15 October 2002, which killed a 43 year old Kosovo Serb female. In addition, on 11 November 2002, another landmine was discovered in a field close to where the fatal explosion occurred.
The minority community's general perception of the KPS is poor in the Viti/Vitina area. This arises from the fact that the KPS officers in this area are primarily Kosovo Albanian and they are also perceived as inexperienced and therefore less effective. In addition, Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Croats telephoning Viti/Vitina Police Station have stated to OSCE that on several occasions the Kosovo Albanian KPS officer taking the call has refused to speak Serbo-Croatian and has hung up. As a result, crimes are often reported to KFOR rather than to the police, and many low-level incidents are not reported at all.
However, police patrols do pass through minority areas several times during the day, and respond to call-outs when contacted. Police officers generally interact well with the local population, although in the villages of Mogila/Mogila and Letnica/Letnicë the inhabitants report that the police simply drive through without communicating with the population. The Kosovo Serb community believes that the removal of KFOR static security checkpoints has not in itself raised the levels of security threat but the removal of the checkpoints has reduced a visible sign of protection and has therefore reduced Kosovo Serb confidence in their safety.
There is a large Kosovo Ashkaelia population living in several neighbourhoods in Ferizaj/Uroevac town, and in the village of Dubravë/Dubrava. This community has made a great deal of progress in their integration into the municipal structures. The population of Kosovo Roma, concentrated in two neighbourhoods in Ferizaj/Uroevac town, has significantly declined since the conflict and those members of the Kosovo Roma community who do not speak Albanian are targeted and intimidated. However, whilst the security problems for the Kosovo RAE are relatively minor, the Kosovo Serb community in Ferizaj/Uroevac are permanently protected by KFOR and individuals are unable and unwilling to move without being escorted, as they become subject of harassment. However, members of the Kosovo Serb community are able to travel, without escort, to trpce/Shtërpcë and also participate in shopping trips to Gjilan/Gnjilane.
Members of the Kosovo Bosniak and Gorani communities are unwilling to speak their language (Serbo-Croatian) in public and therefore those family members which are not fluent in Albanian remain unable to access basic services, including healthcare. These Kosovo Bosniak and Gorani tend to travel to the Kosovo Gorani majority areas in Dragash, using private vehicles.
The trpce/Shtërpcë municipality has an approximately 70% Kosovo Serb and 30% Kosovo Albanian population. There is also a small Kosovo Roma population. Members of the Kosovo Albanian minority in trpce/Shtërpcë have few security problems and are able to move freely through the Kosovo Serb areas. Although the Kosovo Serb community resisted the return of 26 Kosovo Albanian IDPs to the village of Bitanja e Ultë/Donja Bitinja in May 2002, there have been no violent incidents following the return.
The Kosovo Serb inhabitants of trpce/Shtërpcë are still reluctant to travel privately outside the enclave, and KFOR continues to receive requests for escorts. KFOR ceased providing escorts to Kosovo Serb convoys from trpce/Shtërpcë in July 2002, and thus, the Kosovo Serbs began venturing out of the enclave for private trips in or out of Kosovo.
Security concerns for minorities remain high in several locations, but generally the situation is calm with a low level of incidents reported. Initial fears amongst ethnic minority communities at the removal of static KFOR checkpoints seem to have been allayed. In Mitrovicë/Mitrovica town, KFOR has downscaled security measures in the 'confidence zone', lifting the curfew on 10 December 2002, and reducing its three checkpoints to one on each side of the Ibar Bridge. KPS now patrol the remainder of the confidence zone. Also during this reporting period, KPS officers were deployed to northern Mitrovicë/Mitrovica for the first time.
In some areas, such as Gojbulë/Gojbulja (Vushtrri/Vucitrn municipality) KFOR believes the new 'unfixing' strategy has actually improved the security situation for minorities, as mobile patrols are able to cover ground in detail and react to any incident on the spot. As a general rule KFOR and UNMIK Police appear to have discussed the security measures with the minority communities. KFOR and UNMIK Police attend minority community meetings to discuss security, freedom of movement, and other topics. In addition to the removal of static checkpoints, generally KFOR has implemented a low-visibility strategy, stopping or reducing high-profile escorts.
Mitrovicë/Mitrovica municipality contains 49 villages. The town itself and two of the villages are ethnically mixed, while the remainder is Kosovo Albanian. Since 1999 the town has been divided along the Ibar River. To the south, the population is predominantly Kosovo Albanian, while to the north the majority of the population is Kosovo Serb, but there are also other communities such as Kosovo Albanians, Kosovo Bosniaks and Kosovo Roma. The remaining Kosovo Albanians live in the Three Towers, Gushac/Gusavac, Suhodolli i Ulët/Donji Suvi Do and Bosnia Mahala (Kosovo Bosnian/Albanian). Most of the Kosovo Roma community who previously lived in the south now live in the Chesmin Lug collective centre in the north of the town or the Roma Warehouse in Leposavic/Leposaviq. There are also Kosovo Turks on both sides of the river. Lack of security and freedom of movement remains a major obstacle to the establishment of normal life in the town. KFOR checkpoints on the main road through Suhodolli i Ulët/Donji Suvi Do were dismantled between 18-28 November, and KFOR continues to carry out foot patrols in the area.
The security situation for the Kosovo Serbs in Svinjare/Svinjarë has remained unchanged over the reporting period and is described by the police as being calm. The police facilities in Svinjare/Svinjarë are basic and lacking amenities, and the decision has been taken to close the facility in the near future and to provide security through mobile patrols. KFOR reports good co-operation with UNMIK Police following the removal of the KFOR static checkpoint in November 2002. KFOR continues to conduct patrols day and night. The community appears to have understood and accepted the rationale behind the new security arrangements, and remains satisfied that it is being offered adequate security protection. UNMIK Police and KFOR continue to provide escorts for buses taking the Kosovo Serb children from Svinjare/Svinjarë to school in northern Mitrovicë/Mitrovica.
In Vushtrri/Vucitrn the majority population are Kosovo Albanian, with Kosovo Serb and Kosovo Ashkaelia minority areas. The municipality consists of 66 villages, of which 61 are Kosovo Albanian and 5 are Kosovo Serb. The small Kosovo Ashkaelia community is concentrated near the centre of the town. The remaining Kosovo Serbs live in the five enclaves of Gojbulë/Gojbulja, Priluzhë/Priluzje, Miraqë/Miroce, Sllatinë/Slatina, Gracë/Grace and in the mixed village of Banjskë/Banjska. A series of reports of harassment and assaults on members of the Kosovo Serb community have been made during last eight months. The Kosovo Ashkaelia community considers their security situation to be poor and report not having seen any improvement in the situation in the past six months even though the level of awareness of KFOR and UNMIK Police activity has increased. KPS officers conduct patrols, but the ability of deploying mixed KPS patrols is hampered by a shortage of Kosovo Serb KPS officers and a complete lack of Kosovo Ashkaelia KPS officers.
The KFOR checkpoint in Gojbulë/Gojbulja (Kosovo Serb village) has been removed. The village is easily accessible by Kosovo Albanians living nearby and incidents such as theft and damage to property, as well as beatings of the Kosovo Serb minority, continue to occur on the periphery of the village. The bus service provided by the Danish Refugee Council from Gojbulë/Gojbulja to Vushtrri/Vucitrn, continuing onwards to northern Mitrovicë/Mitrovica is also regularly stoned by Kosovo Albanians, allegedly following the return of a number of hard-line Kosovo Albanians to their homes in the town. Mobile patrols have been put in place by KFOR to secure the bus route, and KFOR have recently arrested two Kosovo Albanians for throwing stones at the bus. UNMIK Police and KFOR also continue to provide escorts for school buses from Gojbulë/Gojbulja travelling to and from Vushtrri/Vucitrn.
The security situation for the sizeable Kosovo Serb population in Priluzhë/Priluzje, the largest enclave settlement in the municipality, remains stable, although there has been a marked increase in the number of reported crimes in the village during recent months. The inhabitants of Priluzhë/Priluzje are critical of the police (who operate from a sub-station staffed by UNMIK Police and Kosovo Serb KPS officers) for failing to curb the increasing crime rate. Their relationship with the police has further deteriorated following an incident on 31 October 2002, where two individuals arrested during a raid on a bar were able to escape following physical intervention by the bar's customers. There is also a small Kosovo Roma village within the enclave. KFOR checkpoints continue to control access to the village and residents of Priluzhë/Priluzje complain of their isolation and lack of freedom of movement, and continue to request KFOR/police bus and train escorts for travel outside the enclave.
The static checkpoint between Miraqë/Miroce (Kosovo Serb-dominated village) and Vido was removed in the spring 2002. Although the security situation is gradually improving, the 10 elderly inhabitants have expressed concern over their security when accessing their fields. They also complain of criminal activity such as illegal logging. Although KFOR and UNMIK Police undertake joint patrols in this area, the mountainous terrain renders the provision of security more difficult. Sixteen Kosovo Serb elderly inhabitants remain in Sllatinë/Slatina, which is linked to Banjskë/Banjska (see below). KFOR reports low-level but persistent harassment perpetrated by local Kosovo Albanians against this community and continued KFOR presence remains essential to ensure the safety of these individuals. Continuing low-level security incidents are also reported by the Kosovo Serb community in Gracë/Grace, and KFOR continues to keep a static checkpoint and conducts foot patrols. The Kosovo Serb minority in Banjskë/Banjska remains protected by a KFOR checkpoint on the main road, as well as by mobile patrols. There have been few recent incidents against the community. Encouraged by the security situation, Kosovo Serb farmers have begun, in September 2002, working in the fields located on the periphery of their community for the first time in three years. Mixed KPS patrols in the village have been positively received.
The remaining Kosovo Serbs in this municipality live in the villages of Banja/Banjë and Suvo Grlo/Suvogërll, and in the Monastery in Device. The most pressing concern for the inhabitants of Banja/Banjë is the ongoing reduction in KFOR escorts for vehicles travelling through Rudnik /Rudnik and Skenderaj/Srbica town. The mixed KPS patrols covering Banja/Banjë and Suvo Grlo/Suvogërll are staffed with Kosovo Serb officers from the Zubin Potok station and Kosovo Albanian officers from Skenderaj/Srbica station. The Kosovo Serb inhabitants of Banja/Banjë and Suvo Grlo/Suvogërll appear reluctant to trust the Kosovo Albanian members of KPS, and also raise concerns that cases are not followed up effectively.
Leposavic/Leposaviq consists of 72 villages, of which 69 are Kosovo Serb and 3 Kosovo Albanian. The Kosovo Albanians live in Bistricë/Bistrica, Kushtovë/Kuutovo and Cerajë/Ceranja. This municipality hosts also a number of Kosovo Roma who are living as IDPs, around 200 of them in the 'Roma Warehouse'. Ensuring security for ethnic minorities is hindered by poor terrain, but given the isolated nature of these minority communities, few security problems have arisen within the communities themselves. Even the inhabitants of the Roma Warehouse, located in the centre of Leposavic/Leposaviq town rarely report on security problems, but rather on being unable to practice their religion. KFOR's security presence is therefore being reduced as part of the normalisation process. However, the Kosovo Albanian inhabitants require KFOR security escorts to move to Mitrovicë/Mitrovica town.
Zvecan/Zveçan consists of 45 settlements, of which Kosovo Albanians inhabit 3. In addition, more than 180 Kosovo Roma live in camp in the village of Zitkovac/Zitkovc. There are few ethnically motivated incidents in this village, although the Kosovo Roma consistently report - but not necessarily to the police - about harassment ranging from minor thefts to beatings and avoid leaving the camp unless absolutely necessary. The remaining Kosovo Albanians live in Boletin/Boljetin, Lipa/Lipë and Zaza/Zahë. There have been no significant changes in the security situation in this area in the last six months, with few ethnically motivated incidents occurring.
The first Kosovo Serb KPS officers were deployed to Zvecan/Zveçan police station in November 2002. The static checkpoint between Boletin/Boljetin (Kosovo Albanian) and Lipa/Lipë (Kosovo Serb) was removed in mid-November, raising concern of the Kosovo Albanian inhabitants of Boletin/Boljetin who fear criminal activity from Kosovo Serbs, particularly after dark. However, there have been no major incidents for five or six months prior to the removal of the checkpoint. The more pressing issue is the lack of freedom of movement, especially for children and students wishing to access education services.
Zubin Potok municipality consists of 64 villages, of which Kosovo Serbs inhabit 63 and Kosovo Albanians one. The remaining Kosovo Albanians live in Cabrë/Cabra but there are also some other Kosovo Serb IDPs and some other refugees from Croatia living in this municipality. The security situation in Çaber/Cabra (Kosovo Albanian) has improved over the past six months, with good interaction between the local community and UNMIK Police and KFOR. The static checkpoint has been removed and replaced with mobile police patrols, which include Kosovo Albanian KPS officers. Freedom of movement remains a concern, and police, if requested, still provide transport for those who wish to travel to Zubin Potok.
Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje
The level of ethnically motivated incidents directed at the minority Kosovo Serb and Kosovo Roma populations in the Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje municipality remains low. Although isolated incidents do occur, for example the attack on an elderly Kosovo Serb male by Kosovo Albanians on 22 October 2002, the reporting period has seen the maintenance of a stable security situation for minority groups. In the village of Bresje/Bresje, the number of Kosovo Serb families continues to decrease, with those departing citing security concerns as one contributing factor, but also complaining about poor infrastructure and access to services. The last remaining static KFOR checkpoints in Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje municipality were removed in July 2002, and were replaced by KFOR foot patrols. The KPS have been also carrying out mixed patrols in Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje for over 12 months. The mixed patrols operate effectively, although the Kosovo Serb population remains less willing to deal with Kosovo Albanian KPS. Kosovo Serb KPS officers, however, report acceptable levels of co-operation from the Kosovo Albanian community.
Although the security situation for the Kosovo RAE minority in Obiliq/Obilic remains stable, low-level harassment is a recurring problem. The issue of harassment, particularly within schools, is being addressed by KPS and UNMIK Police Community Policing Officers in co-operation with NGOs and the school administrators. The security situation for the Kosovo Ashkaelia and Kosovo Roma inhabiting Plemetin/Plemetina village and camp in Obiliq/Obilic municipality remains stable, but the general bleak economic and social outlook for these communities continues to be a cause of primary tensions both within the communities and between them and the majority population.
Gracanica/Graçanicë contains the largest concentration of Kosovo Serbs in the Prishtinë/Pritina municipality. The security situation for the population of Gracanica/Graçanicë (populated by 98% Kosovo Serb and 2% Kosovo Roma) has remained stable during the reporting period, with ethnically motivated incidents being both infrequent and low-level. The static KFOR checkpoints protecting Gracanica/Graçanicë village itself were removed before the beginning of the reporting period, and the alternative security and policing measures provided by KFOR, UNMIK Police and KPS appear to be effective. Mixed KPS patrols have operated successfully in Gracanica/Graçanicë throughout the reporting period. As of 1 November 2002, command of the Gracanica/Graçanicë Police station was transferred from UNMIK Police to the KPS, under the guidance of an UNMIK Police Executive Adviser. The police station itself was relocated from Gracanica/Graçanicë village to the neighbouring Kosovo Albanian settlement of Hajvali/Ajvalija. The Kosovo RAE population of Gracanica/Graçanicë appears willing and able to access the new police station and the initiative is seen as laying the groundwork for further transfers of command in other appropriate locations.
The security situation for the minority population in Lipjan/Lipljan municipality has remained stable throughout the reporting period, with no serious incidents of ethnic violence being reported against members of minority groups. As part of its unfixing strategy, KFOR has removed static vehicle checkpoints (both in Lipjan/Lipljan town and in minority villages throughout the municipality) and relies instead on mobile patrols to provide security, with good support from UNMIK Police and KPS. Members of the Kosovo Serb, RAE and Bosniak communities are represented amongst the KPS officers operating from Lipjan/Lipljan police station, with 28 of the KPS officers being Kosovo Serb. The presence of minority KPS officers has, according to UNMIK Police, encouraged members of the communities (particularly the Kosovo Serb community) to begin to report crimes and to develop an increased willingness to seek police assistance.
Members of the Kosovo Serb community in Lipjan/Lipljan still fear harassment and intimidation and generally avoid using main roads when walking between the areas inhabited by Kosovo Serb population. Interaction between the Kosovo Serb and Kosovo Albanian communities remains limited. However, since September 2002, the Kosovo Serb community in Lipjan/Lipljan town has, under KFOR protection, been able to make use of the Kosovo Albanian shops in the town on Saturday mornings. This initiative was developed in consultation with community leaders and with local shopkeepers. KFOR continues to provide bus escorts for Kosovo Serb factory workers from Lipjan/Lipljan travelling to and from work in Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje, as well as for buses travelling to Serbia proper via Gate 3. The increased use of KS registration plates has also increased freedom of movement for the inhabitants of Lipjan/Lipljan municipality.
Lipjan/Lipljan municipality also houses a significant Kosovo RAE community, both in Lipjan/Lipljan town itself and also throughout other villages in the municipality such as Magurë/Magura, Dobrotin/Dobrotin and Dobraja e Vogël/Mala Dobranja. Low level harassment of this community continues, particularly for the Kosovo Roma who only speak Serbo-Croatian.
The Kosovo Croat population in the mixed village of Janjevë/Janjevo remains able to move relatively freely throughout Kosovo and its members are able to use Serbo-Croatian language in its dealings with the majority population.
Of particular concern remains the situation of the small Kosovo Serb minority in Shtime/timlje. Although no serious incidents have been documented over the reporting period, the community is composed primarily of elderly people who fear harassment and intimidation and are, therefore, severely limited in their freedom of movement. While it appears that reported cases of harassment against the Kosovo Serb population are being investigated and followed up thoroughly, it also should be noted that the efforts by municipal officials have had a positive impact on the security situation in this municipality. On another note, KFOR provides bi-monthly bus transport for shopping trips to Lipjan/Lipljan.
III. THE MINORITY RETURN PROCESS FROM A SECURITY PERSPECTIVE
An analysis of the UNHCR minority return statistics shows that the level of physical security and freedom of movement varies depending on the minority concerned and the location of the minority and are key factors affecting the pace of return. The 2,741 recorded minority returns to place of origin in 2002 exceeded the yearly returns reported thus far. In contrast to the year 2000 when 1,906 persons returned to their place of origin, nearly all of them Kosovo Serbs returning to mono-ethnic enclaves, the returns in 2002 have been more diversified in terms of ethnicity and regions.
However, these statistical data may be somewhat misleading in that they suggest improvements in the environment greater than have actually taken place. The increase in returns for 2002 must be seen within the context of an overall downward trend in returns, most significantly amongst Kosovo Serbs, witnessed in the previous year. Many factors contributed to this decrease, including violent attacks against the minority communities in 2000 and 2001 and the instability created in the region by the conflicts in fYROM and southern Serbia. Another determining factor was the saturation of the mono-ethnic enclaves, where large numbers of IDPs had sought refuge, over and above returnees going back home. Kosovo Serb families displaced from these locations have continued to return. These returns are encouraged by the security provided by such concentrations of Kosovo Serbs. It should be noted that these Kosovo Serb mono-ethnic communities of return were mono-ethnic villages or separate Kosovo Serb parts of ethnically mixed villages or towns in the pre-conflict period.
Thus, continued and justified concerns about security, the preference to return to areas with a concentration of Serb families, and the felt need for security surveillance by KFOR, UNMIK Police or KPS explain why the majority of Kosovo Serb returns occur to mono-ethnic areas, rather than to mixed ones. Security conditions therefore can safely be said to determine the location and the pace of return. .
Such a pattern was seen in the Pejë/Pec region, where the pre-conflict demographic distribution was one in which most Kosovo Serb communities were relatively separate both physically and in terms of interaction with other ethnic communities. As returns have occurred in the region, the returning Serb population has reproduced the pre-conflict pattern of Serb settlement, by returning to mono-ethnic enclaves or villages. In the well-known return to the Osojan/Osojane valley in Istog/Istok municipality, the returnees have remained isolated, replicating the pre-conflict situation. This isolation also has resulted in heavy reliance on KFOR security and escorts . Such security arrangements limit the returnees' freedom of movement and access to basic services, as well as employment opportunities outside the village. Security concerns of the returnees were reinforced when pensioners from the village were attacked in Pejë/Pec town in October 2002.
In contrast is the return to the two nearby mono-ethnic villages of Bica/Biqë and Grapc/Grabac in Klinë/Klina municipality. Immediately after the return, the returnees' determination to establish contacts with neighbouring Albanian villages was facilitated by KFOR's less stringent security controls. The initial positive interaction has tended to deteriorate. Not only did contact diminish, but also security-related situations occurred.
Concerning non-Serb returns, Kosovo Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptians returns have been mostly to mixed communities throughout Kosovo. Examples include the Kosovo Ashkaelia returns to Magura, Mala Dobraja and Prishtinë/Pritina town within the Prishtinë/Pritina region. Non-Serb returns to ethnically distinct areas within mixed communities have also taken place, as is the case, for instance in all five municipalities of the Pejë/Pec region. Returns to ethnically mixed areas required intensified policing by KPS and UNMIK police. Despite lengthy and intensive preparations, as well as the encouraging involvement of local officials, the returns have faced security incidents targeting both the residing minority community as well as the returnees. A good example of this is the return of Ashkaelia to Vushtrri/Vucitrn town, where a series of serious incidents took place in 2002.
The continued security challenges present in all returns have highlighted the need to prioritise confidence-building and inter-ethnic dialogue in order to create minimum levels of stability before returns take place. In the absence of such dialogue the security conditions and freedom of movement remain problematic. Heavy reliance on KFOR and UNMIK Police is then necessary, as occurred in Osojan/Osojane. Such returns, unless followed by intense reconciliation efforts, leave the community vulnerable to violence or harassment as soon as the international military or police forces are reduced below a certain level.
When security issues remain unresolved, then the return movements have little chance of being sustainable. In another example, the spontaneous return of the first group of 26 Kosovo Albanians to their mono-ethnic but deserted village Donja Bitinja/Bitanja e Ultë in the Kosovo Serb majority trpce/Shtërpcë municipality met with initially strong opposition by the inhabitants of the neighbouring Serb village of the same name. Concerns for the security of both communities led the Polish-Ukrainian KFOR to temporarily impose restrictions on movements in and around the village. The international organisations intervened to allow the Kosovo Albanian IDPs to exercise their right to return. As a result KFOR agreed to maintain security arrangements that were effective but less restrictive. Simultaneously the returnees took the initiative to engage in dialogue with the Kosovo Serbs. The close co-operation between civilian and military organisations had two important results. First, it allowed for a ground-breaking return. Second, despite initial concerns regarding the protection of the rights of the spontaneous returnees by KFOR in this case, the situation led to US KFOR's initiative to establish the common KFOR 'Guidelines for Procedures on Return of Refugees and Displaced Persons to the Gjilan/Gnjilane Area of Operations'.
During 2002, some Western European governments determined that security conditions had improved in Kosovo to the extent that large-scale forced returns of non-Serb ethnic minorities could commence in the spring of 2003. In response to these beliefs, UNHCR undertook a survey into the likely impact of such returns on non-Serb minority communities. The survey focused on the absorption capacity of established communities and on relations between minority and majority populations in locations where returns were on-going. In addition it looked at areas likely to undergo threats to the security and freedom of movement of returnees and the residual minority population. The survey concluded that returns to communities which are void of minorities since 1999 and only inhabited by majority groups are not viable return locations unless they are carefully prepared by inter-ethnic dialogue facilitation before the return occurs. The generalisation remains valid though there are exceptions, like the above mentioned return of Kosovo Albanians to Donja Bitinja/Bitanja e Ultë.
In conclusion, unplanned, even small scale returns to deserted areas or to areas inhabited only by the majority population would most likely result in secondary displacement into concentrated areas where already larger numbers of IDPs reside.