Tenth Assessment of the Situation of Ethnic Minorities in Kosovo
(Period covering May 2002 to December 2002)
This report is the tenth in a series of Assessments of the situation of ethnic minorities in Kosovo, conducted jointly by the OSCE and the UNHCR. This tenth Assessment provides an update on the conclusions and recommendations put forward by the last Assessment. It covers the period of time from May to December 2002. Acknowledging the significant developments in the legal framework and decision-making processes in Kosovo during the reporting period, the report also includes discussions on developments which have affected the situation of minority communities in Kosovo.
The ninth Assessment published in April 2002 identified and scrutinised key areas of concern for the situation of ethnic minorities in Kosovo: security and freedom of movement, access to essential services, participation in political and civil structures, incentives to inter-ethnic dialogue, and patterns of the return process. At the time, the Assessment noted the positive trends of increased security and mobility of minorities in Kosovo, but remained critical of the slow and inconsistent progress in guaranteeing minorities stable access to the judicial system and other services and a protective framework for their property rights. The Assessment also included an insight into the parallel structures existing in the northern Kosovo Serb-dominated municipalities. These were seen as a detrimental factor for the integration and inter-action of minorities with the majority population, and also as a significant deterrent to the efforts of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG) towards ensuring sustainable institutions and structures for all communities throughout Kosovo.
The present report describes the movements in these areas over the reporting period and assesses to what extent the recommendations put forward in the ninth Assessment have been implemented and what effect such actions have had on the conditions of minority communities within Kosovo and the returns process. Recognising and promoting the right of every individual, regardless of ethnic or other status, to return to their homes, the Assessment aims to assist UNMIK and the PISG with recommendations on how to further develop conditions for sustainable return. To this aim, the report creates a teleological link between the situation of ethnic minorities in Kosovo and the returns process. Accordingly, it analyses the effect that each development or setback of the policies and practices has on encouraging or discouraging returnees to restart their lives in the communities they were forced or induced to leave. As displaced persons are given a free and informed choice to return, the factors influencing them concern the progress achieved in the areas addressed by this report: security, freedom of movement, property, essential services, participation in civil and political structures, and inter-ethnic dialogue.
The report attempts to provide an objective overview of the security situation and freedom of movement in every area of Kosovo where minority communities are present. The Assessment notes that during the reporting period a limited increase in the level of security in some areas for minority communities was observed. The gradual decrease in ethnically motivated crime, the removal of KFOR checkpoints and the adoption of more flexible and less intrusive security arrangements, the increased participation of minority members in the Kosovo Police Service (KPS) and the judiciary represent signals that the situation of minority communities gives some grounds for encouragement. The Assessment finds, however, that minority communities continue to face varying degrees of harassment, intimidation and provocation, as well as limited freedom of movement.
With respect to access to justice, the Assessment examines the progress made in integrating the judiciary, including minority employment in the courts, as well as the level of physical access that minorities have to courts and detention facilities. It also discusses parallel structures. The report finds positive signs. Some progress has been made in integrating minorities into the judiciary and weakening the parallel court system during the reporting period. Still, the Assessment found that many minorities lack confidence in the UNMIK judicial system.
This Assessment examines issues of discrimination pertaining to minority communities in Kosovo, in the particular areas of access to education, employment, social services and health care. It finds that, whether direct or indirect, intentional or unintentional, discrimination continues to represent a significant obstacle to the ability of minorities to live reasonable lives in Kosovo. While the Advisory Board on Communities (ABC), which was established prior to the release of the last Assessment, has begun to examine issues of discrimination at a high policy level, the report finds that discrimination has not been adequately addressed at lower levels. Access to education, social services and health care has not consistently improved for minorities throughout Kosovo. Access to public sector employment has seen measured improvement during the reporting period, but an affirmative action policy, approved in principle, has yet to be implemented and overall levels of minority employment at central and municipal levels remain unsatisfactory. It is hoped that the promulgation and subsequent implementation of the new Administrative Direction implementing UNMIK Regulation 2001/36 will improve this situation. In highlighting some of the results of efforts made to recognise, eliminate and provide effective remedies against discrimination, the report identifies the draft Omnibus Anti-discrimination Law as a key step in combating discrimination as a general phenomenon, relevant for both minority communities and the majority population. The expediency of considering and adopting this Law by the PISG and UNMIK is an essential element for the promotion and enforcement of anti-discriminatory practices in Kosovo.
From the perspective of access to property rights, this Assessment again analyses the level of effective realisation of property rights enjoyed by minority communities as well as the impact of this on the ability of minorities to return sustainably. Access to property and realisation of property rights are assessed through a threefold test: awareness of legal rights, physical access to relevant adjudicative and executive bodies, and, once access is gained, the ability of the relevant organs to effectively guarantee the enjoyment of such rights. To do so, the report assesses the effectiveness of the Housing and Property Directorate (HPD) and Housing and Property Claims Commission (HPCC) mechanisms, the access of minority communities to cadastre services and reconstruction assistance, as well as the implementation of UNMIK Regulation 2001/17. The report finds that the level of access to property rights in these areas remains inadequate, despite some progress since the last Assessment. In particular, the report finds that despite encouraging trends, the operation of the HPD and HPCC requires continued attention to ensure effective protection of minority's property rights. Problems for minority communities continue in gaining access to cadastre services in relation to both the provision of and physical access to municipal services and the lack of a fully functioning and complete cadastre. The report also finds that UNMIK Regulation 2001/17 does not appear to have had a significant impact on sales of minority property, and that the implementation of it has proven problematic. Problems related to sales and access of agricultural land are also highlighted. With regards to reconstruction, the report concludes that minorities' access to such assistance appears to have improved, but that the protection of minorities' property rights depended upon the utilisation of the mechanisms in the UNMIK Housing Reconstruction Guidelines 2002. When not utilised, either within the Municipal Housing Committee or return process-related structures, property rights were endangered. Within the chapter, the new return process structures also are examined.
After the political deadlock that followed the November 2001 Kosovo wide Elections, this reporting period witnessed the launch and the manifestation of Kosovo wide provisional institutions on the political arena. At this point, some positive signals of engagement of the local political structures have been noted in inter-ethnic dialogue, though the full engagement of all political entities and structures will require much effort and support of the international community. In this vein, the report also highlights that as confidence-building encompasses a fundamental qualitative change in the political and social relations between ethnic groups, it requires active involvement and support from all possible actors, including all levels of the PISG, all local communities, the IDPs and potential returnees themselves, UNMIK, as well as involved international and local NGOS and the donor community. The report scrutinises the results of the October 2002 Municipal Elections and the potential effects that the new proportions of minorities in the municipal assemblies may have on the situation of minority communities in Kosovo. Confidence and tolerance building exercises are addressed in the context of efforts invested by both the international community and local NGOs towards achieving a strong civil society in Kosovo, which is then expected to undertake a major role in ensuring a system of checks and balances for the local political arena.
Considering the overall situation described in this report, the changes noted during the reporting period are not yet fundamental enough to conclude that conditions would exist for large scale return of ethnic minorities in the near future, underscoring the continuing need for international protection for members of ethnic communities, in particular Kosovo Serbs, Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptians.