Tenth Assessment of the Situation of Ethnic Minorities in Kosovo
(Period covering May 2002 to December 2002)
SECTION 3: DISCRIMINATION AND ACCESS TO ESSENTIAL SERVICES
Discrimination continues to present a significant obstacle to the ability of minorities to live reasonable lives in Kosovo. As explained in the previous Assessment, whether indirect or direct, intentional or unintentional, discrimination prevents minorities from accessing essential services, employment, and education, and it inhibits the creation of conditions for a fair choice regarding return. For the conditions of minorities to be improved, discriminatory practices, particularly those of governmental authorities, must be acknowledged and eliminated, and minorities must be provided with effective remedies to address discrimination. Despite encouraging progress towards these goals at the policy level since the last Assessment, discrimination remains a reality at the practical level, with the recommendations from the previous Assessment generally not having been implemented. Further, effective remedies have yet to be created, and discriminatory practices have not been fully eliminated or ameliorated. Instead, discrimination persists in access to and apportionment of services and is exacerbated by continuous freedom of movement problems and the entrenchment of parallel structures.
However, positive developments have been achieved within the reporting period, especially in terms of political commitment towards addressing pressing minority issues or general discrimination issues at a decision- and policy-making level. An indicative example in this regard is the work performed and the results achieved by the inter-agency high-level working group - the Advisory Board on Communities (ABC) - which was formed in December 2001 to provide policy guidelines, advice and recommendations to the SRSG on minority protection and integration in Kosovo, including effective non-discrimination laws and policies. The ABC has continued to develop policies on minority employment in the public sector through its Working Group on Minority Employment and was involved in promoting the concept of an Omnibus Anti-discrimination Law. The ABC has further provided a forum through which to identify and to formulate effective policies in other areas relevant to situation of minority communities, but it remains to be seen whether such efforts will translate into positive and remedial actions within the relevant ministries and directorates.
The OSCE considers that a further key step in recognising, eliminating, and providing effective remedies against discriminatory practices is the imminent adoption of the Omnibus Anti-discrimination Law, which was originally drafted and proposed by the OSCE as model legislation. The Law has three key functions: (1) to consolidate and strengthen existing discrimination law by conforming it to current international and European anti-discrimination law and standards; (2) to promote uniformity in adjudication of cases involving most forms of discrimination; and (3) to provide effective remedies for victims of most forms of discrimination, as well as effective, proportionate, and dissuasive sanctions to address violations. Following approval of the concept for such a law by the ABC and the Inter-Pillar Working Group on Human Rights (IPWGHR), it was submitted to the Office of the Prime Minister and the Office of The Legal Advisor to the SRSG for consideration. Currently, the Prime Minister has given priority to the law's finalisation.
I. EQUAL ACCESS TO EDUCATION
In the area of education, only incremental positive movement (including policy developments) in the creation of an efficient educational system compliant with international human rights standards for minority education has occurred since the last Assessment. Transportation or physical access to schools remains a pressing problem for both students and teachers from minority communities. Despite the recommendations made in the last Assessment, a comprehensive plan to provide secure bus transport for students has still not been produced or implemented by UNMIK and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST), in consultation with UNMIK Police, KPS and KFOR. This deficiency means that, due to continued freedom of movement and security obstacles, many minority students remain without secure and reliable physical access to education, with direct impact on segregation of communities as well. With the imminent devolution and decentralisation of the responsibility for such transportation to municipalities, establishing a Kosovo-wide policy/standard may be key to ensuring this provision and assuring potential returnees that their children will enjoy reasonable access to education.
Parallel education structure and their effect on the right to education
Inadequate secure transportation and general security concerns perpetuate the parallel education system established in many Kosovo Serb areas, and discourage involvement in integrative education initiatives. For example, Kosovo Serb parents in Rahovec/Orahovac refused to enrol their children in a successful mixed school initiative allegedly due to security concerns. In an attempt to address the parallel education system and identify solutions for common education standards and integration of communities, the MEST and its counterpart in Belgrade have engaged in discussions, but progress, however, is still not apparent.
Education in one's mother tongue
Only limited and unsystematic improvements in access to education in one's mother tongue have occurred since the last Assessment and any progress was dependent upon local initiative. Though the right of every person belonging to a minority community to learn in one's language is clearly enshrined under international human rights instruments as well as in Kosovo's Constitutional Framework, no central level policy directive on this matter has been issued or implemented. This appears to have contributed to differential access to such education throughout Kosovo. For example, the MEST has yet to reply to a request of 12 September 2002 from the Kosovo Roma community in Prizren for education in Romani language, culture and history in the last year of secondary school. However, Roma children in Mitrovicë/Mitrovica who are in kindergarten and pre-school enjoy the opportunity to learn Romani language as part of programmes sponsored by international NGOs. The Kosovo Turkish minority in Prizren town, moreover, can take classes in their language at both primary and secondary school levels. Yet, for those in the Turkish minority at the higher level of education wishing to become teachers, the new Faculty of Education of the University of Prishtinë/Pritina does not offer classes in either Turkish or Serbo-Croatian. By not offering such an option the continued availability of education in the Turkish language at the primary and secondary level will be affected.
Indeed, as the situation experienced by the Kosovo Bosniak community in Gjakovë/Ðakovica municipality illustrates, the inability of members of a minority community to access education in their mother tongue may eventually result in forced assimilation. At the time of the last Assessment, Kosovo Bosniak parents were reluctant to place their children who did not speak Albanian proficiently into Albanian speaking schools, arguing that their education would be adversely affected. On the other hand, education in Serbo-Croatian was not available either. No progress has been noted during this reporting period. According to the local Kosovo Bosniak representative, no consensus could be reached in order to demand access to education in Serbo-Croatian language, given resource constraints and the small number of pupils affected. Instead, the parents appear to have accepted education in the Albanian language, reasoning that it will improve their children's future prospects in the job market.
Overall, access to education in one's mother tongue remains sporadic throughout Kosovo. The lack of significant improvement at either the policy or practical levels remains and may further hamper minority community children's ability to access education. Furthermore, it will affect associated issues such as conditions for return.
Special educational needs of the Kosovo RAE communities
No comprehensive plan to address the specific educational needs of the RAE communities has been designed by the MEST, as was advocated for in the last Assessment. Instead, meeting the educational needs of the RAE communities remains dependent upon initiatives of international or non-governmental organisations, which only sometimes receive support from the MEST. In the Mitrovicë/Mitrovica region, kindergartens and pre-schools created and operated by international NGOs in Kosovo Roma settlements have increased the number of Kosovo Roma children attending primary school. A two-month summer school for 36 Kosovo Ashkaelia children aged 6-14 years old held in Vushtrri/Vucitrn elicited similar results. Government authorities are involved in initiating "catch-up" classes for Kosovo RAE children in Prizren town and Suharekë/Suva Reka in order to integrate students into the primary school and the technical secondary school respectively. In addition, after intervention by the OSCE, the UNMIK Office for Development of Education in Prizren placed 17 Kosovo RAE children in school. Despite these commendable efforts, throughout Kosovo, the special education needs of Kosovo RAE children are not being systematically and coherently met by the MEST.
II. EQUAL ACCESS TO EMPLOYMENT
The previous Assessment focused on the fundamental nature of the right to equal access to employment, as it affects the issue of whether a minority community member may decide to remain or return to Kosovo. It also overlaps with other factors, such as security and freedom of movement, the ability to communicate in the majority language and discriminatory practices. While access to private sector employment is not discussed extensively in this section, minorities' impaired access to this sector remains of concern. When passed, the Omnibus Anti-discrimination Law is expected to address discrimination in this sector.
A key area of high-level policy focus, though, has been that of access of minorities to employment in the public sector. Although the public sector represents the primary employer of minorities in Kosovo, it currently employs less than one percent of minority communities members. Recent efforts have targeted reversing discriminatory employment practices within the public sector. Specifically, the ABC Working Group on Minority Employment has been assisting the Office of the Prime Minister in the development of an affirmative action programme for the PISG and has encouraged the implementation of the law on the Kosovo Civil Service, UNMIK Regulation 2001/36. Yet, these efforts remain stalled, with only measured improvement in access to employment for minorities at the central and municipal levels.
A recommendation of the previous Assessment was the promotion of affirmative action policies in minority hiring practices by the Ministry of Public Services. In late June 2002, an affirmative action programme for the civil service, "Community Proportional Representation," which was developed by the Advisory Office on Equal Opportunity and Gender within the Office of the Prime Minister, was approved in principle by the SRSG, the Office of the Prime Minister and the ABC. The programme proposes that 'representational ranges' should be established for each community to ensure equal access to public sector employment. When calculated, the 'representational ranges' establish the acceptable minimum and maximum percentage of civil service employees for each minority community present within the municipality. Utilising these ranges as a guideline, the programme is designed to trigger internal monitoring mechanisms when hiring levels of a minority community either fail to meet the minimum or exceed the maximum established by the 'representational range'. Obtaining data to determine the 'representational ranges', which are acceptable to all communities, however, has proven to be difficult. This situation has contributed to the stalling of the implementation of the programme. Therefore, despite strong central-level support and recognition of the problem, no affirmative action programme is functioning within the PISG.
However, progress toward this end has been made recently through the enactment of Administrative Direction No. 2003/02 implementing UNMIK Regulation 2001/36 on the Kosovo Civil Service. Regulation 2001/36 provides the necessary legal framework to prohibit discrimination by or within the civil service, and the Administrative Direction enables the implementation of Community Proportional Representation. It establishes recruitment procedures and terms of employment, as well as a civil service code of conduct and rules for disciplinary proceedings against civil servants. The Administrative Direction is a large step in promoting equal access to employment for members of minority communities within the public sector.
The compliance with guidelines regarding minority employment within the civil service, has increased in some structures of the PISG, such as the MEST (27%) and the Office of the Prime Minister (16.5%). Others, such as the Ministry of Finance and Economy (0% minority staff; 28 of 57 positions filled), are still far from the threshold set in UNMIK Regulation 2001/19 for the minimum acceptable level of minority employment at the central level. The Office of Community Affairs (OCA), operating under UNMIK Pillar II on Civil Administration, notes that out of the 3,775 employees of the PISG, only 199 employees are of Kosovo Serb origin, 80 of Bosniak/Muslim Slav origin, 47 are Kosovo Turk and 22 are from Kosovo RAE communities and seven (7) employees are from other ethnic groups. These figures constitute an unsatisfactory participation rate of minority community members in the public employment sector at the central level. They show that there is little evidence that every Ministry, including the pivotal Ministry of Public Services, has heeded the Prime Minister's recommendation in 2002 to implement the 'Community Proportional Representation' programme, or that measures have been implemented to ensure equal access to employment within municipal administrations.
With regard to minority communities' employment in municipal structures, data submitted by 23 municipalities and reported on by the OCA show that in total figures, 3,352 staff employed by different municipalities identified themselves as Kosovo Serbs and 1,014 as members of other communities , while 11,969 employees were Kosovo Albanian.
Although some returning minority community members have found employment within the public sector, security considerations and subsequent restrictions on freedom of movement limits their employment opportunities within both the public sector and, particularly, the private sector. Kosovo Serbs, therefore, have overwhelmingly returned to rural or semi-rural environments where they can do subsistence farming or agriculture, contingent to access to farmland . Those who have found employment did so mostly within the public sector, such as in the local ambulanta, the local school, KPS, UNMIK or through income-generating projects supported by the international community, all of which within the safe parameters of their community or village. In contrast, the Kosovo Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptian returnees have in many cases returned to urban or semi-urban areas, mostly resorting to their pre-conflict employment sectors, such as in construction and trade . However, neither returnees from these three minority communities, nor Kosovo Serbs have been able to return to publicly-owned enterprises.
III. EQUAL ACCESS TO SOCIAL SERVICES
The social services system, which was found to be barely functioning at the time of the last Assessment, continues to operate as previously with few noted changes. The Centres for Social Work (CSWs) have continued to lack the ability to provide full services in minority areas, due to the insufficient number of dedicated social protection officers for these areas and the reluctance of the social workers from majority areas to travel to minority areas. Contacts, however, between CSW staff working in majority areas and those operating in enclaves, have increased. In some cases, UNMIK Local Community Officers (LCOs) have facilitated meetings between CSW directors and social workers from enclaves to clarify queries and exchange experiences with colleagues working in the majority areas. Positive examples of co-operation between CSWs located in majority areas and those located in minority areas rely more on individual initiatives of the CSW officers rather than on a co-ordinated strategy implemented at central or local levels. In Rahovec/Orahovac, for instance, the CSW has a sub-office in the so-called 'Serb quarter'. The person in charge of that office, a Kosovo Serb, and the Director of the CSW in Rahovec/Orahovac, a Kosovo Albanian, have been colleagues for some time and meet several times a week to co-ordinate on issues. Similar co-operation exists between CSW staff working in southern and northern Mitrovicë/Mitrovica.
The role of LCOs in providing equal access to social assistance to minorities continues to be crucial. In some municipalities LCOs are still in charge of social assistance monthly payments, which is an unsustainable solution in the long-term. The OSCE received complaints from social workers operating in minority areas about the need for training in social protection issues, and requested more regular visits to sub-offices in minority areas by the municipal CSW director, which would enhance team building and information sharing mechanisms among CSW employees.
The previous Assessment discussed ensuring adequate resources for mobile outreach services. The situation has only marginally improved, with three Kosovo Albanian villages in Zvecan/Zveçan, three remote Kosovo Albanian villages in Leposavic/Leposaviq and isolated areas in northern Mitrovicë/Mitrovica continuing to be covered by the CSW located in southern Mitrovicë/Mitrovica. Visits by outreach teams to these areas are irregular resulting in Kosovo Albanians being forced to travel to southern Mitrovicë/Mitrovica to re-register for the social assistance scheme or to collect the monthly social allowance. The situation is particularly difficult for the disabled or elderly who may be unable to visit the CSW. An example where scarcity of resources is affecting the performance of the CSWs is the sub-office in Gracanica/Graçanicë, where three Kosovo Serbs employees are assigned one vehicle, consequently being unable to cover both rural and urban areas in the municipality. The situation further deteriorated with the stopping of home visits by a CSW employee to minorities living in Prishtinë/Pritina, following the end of escorts by KFOR. Of particular concern is the decreased frequency of visits by CSW mobile teams to Plemetin/Plemetina village and camp. Even in Obiliq/Obilic, where the CSW Director has shown remarkable commitment to supporting minority communities, the CSW employees are reluctant to conduct regular mobile visits, alleging that Kosovo Serb and RAE communities enjoy some freedom of movement compared to a year ago and could, therefore, come themselves to the CSW.
With regard to the re-registration process for the Social Assistance Scheme (SAS), it was previously reported that minorities were effectively exempted from re-application requirements as the CSWs had not yet built capacity to ensure outreach, and minorities were unable to reach the CSW premises due to security issues. The OSCE assessed a general improvement by the CSWs in raising awareness, among beneficiaries, about re-registration requirements. A significant number of minorities appear to be aware of the re-application procedure and CSWs stated that instructions to re-apply are given to those receiving social assistance. However, concern remains over cases of homebound beneficiaries who are unable to rely on home visits by social workers, due to living in minority areas or due to their location being unknown to CSW staff. A positive example where a CSW has developed a well functioning coverage of re-registration cases is in Prizren, where minority members who are unable to visit the CSW premises are visited by mobile teams. Neither of the recommendations in the last Assessment that the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare (MLSW) monitors the effect of the re-registration requirement or that the indirectly discriminatory practices be removed have been implemented.
A development in the area of access to social welfare is the implementation of the right to use one's language in seeking access to social welfare. The MLSW is in the process of preparing a programme to ensure uniform signs for CSWs throughout Kosovo. The availability os signs in the official languages currently differs from office to office. For example, at the CSW in southern Mitrovicë/Mitrovica, signs inside and outside the building are printed in Albanian, Serbo-Croatian, and English. However, in Skenderaj/Srbica the CSW only has signs at the front in Albanian and English, while in Vushtrri/Vucitrn, the Director is reluctant to place any signs on the premises. To allow uniformity in the availability of documents in official languages, all the CSW forms are printed at the central level and then distributed to municipal CSW offices. However, in Prizren, only general informational materials are available in Turkish, and not copies of decisions and other pre-printed documents.
IV. EQUAL ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE
The right to adequate health care remains a fundamental issue for minorities who continue to experience problems in accessing health care facilities. In isolated villages across Kosovo, access to pharmacies is still limited but the delivery of drugs has relatively improved. As already highlighted in the previous Assessment, low levels of awareness continue to exist about the right to healthcare services and the list of drugs that are provided free of charge by the Ministry of Health.
The recurrent issues of a lack of freedom of movement and security continue to impede access to healthcare for minorities. In northern Mitrovicë/Mitrovica, Kosovo Albanians access healthcare through alternative solutions to the hospital such as an UNMIK ambulanta where a medical technician is available daily and a general practitioner/paediatrician is available to visit patients weekly. KFOR organises transportation for patients who require hospital treatment. In Svinjare/Svinjarë, a mixed village in southern Mitrovicë/Mitrovica, access to healthcare for the Kosovo Serb community is provided through weekly visits of a doctor escorted from northern Mitrovicë/Mitrovica by KFOR and monthly visits by a doctor from Greek KFOR. The proposed establishment of an ambulanta to serve both ethnic communities has been pending for more than a year. In Osojane/Osojan, Crkolez/Cërkolez, and in Istog/Istok, primary healthcare is provided through ambulantas by a general practitioner together with a number of nurses (who are paid by the Ministry of Health in Belgrade). Where secondary healthcare is necessary, patients are escorted to the hospital in northern Mitrovicë/Mitrovica by Spanish KFOR. The medical equipment available in the two ambulantas is basic with a scarce supply of drugs. In Shtime/timlje, the remaining 20 Kosovo Serbs prefer to travel to Gracanica/Graçanicë health house rather then refer to the local one.
Since the last Assessment, it has been observed that initiatives continue towards providing mono-ethnic solutions to the problem of healthcare as opposed to providing an integrated healthcare system in Kosovo capable of serving members of minority communities as recommended. For example, in northern Mitrovicë/Mitrovica healthcare continues to remain under the control of the Ministry of Health in Belgrade despite the presence of UNMIK healthcare facilities (with doctors receiving two salaries if they visit enclaves in the south). A recurrent issue is the perceived lack of safety felt by the Kosovo Albanian population living in northern municipalities, and by Kosovo Serbs living in the southern municipalities, when being treated by doctors of a different ethnic community.
Particular problems of access to healthcare for Kosovo RAE communities remain an issue. In Mitrovicë/Mitrovica, Kosovo Roma communities reside in camps, which are situated some distance from the nearest ambulanta and even when they do access healthcare, many may not qualify for assistance due to not possessing the required identification documents or medical books. The number of Kosovo RAE referring to hospitals and health houses for assistance continues to be relatively low, even in cases of serious disease. For instance, while conducting a medical examination for the re-schooling of Kosovo Ashkaelia children in Vushtrri/Vucitrn, doctors reported that five (5) out of eight (8) children were suffering from contagious diseases. Regarding the particular situation of the Kosovo RAE community residing in Plementin/Plementina camp, which was previously reported as being unsustainable, the situation has partially improved with the establishment of an ambulanta in the camp. The ambulanta offers daily primary health care by nurses, and weekly care from a general practitioner and other specialists. For secondary health care, patients are sent to Obiliq/Obilic Health House or to Prishtinë/Pritina Hospital, with transport provided by Obiliq/Obilic Health House Ambulances or the American Refugee Committee (ARC). The LCO in Obiliq/Obilic reported that Kosovo RAE members of Plementin/Plementina camp are more confident about approaching Obiliq/Obilic Health House or the ambulanta in the camp. The previous Assessment recommended that the Ministry of Health ensure information about healthcare through an awareness campaign for the RAE community. However, no such campaign has taken place, while a Charter of Patients Rights, sponsored by the Ministry and including a provision on "care without discrimination", remains still in draft form.
An additional issue, which was not been covered in the previous Assessment, is the access to health care for disabled persons among minority communities. The problems of the rudimentary form of health care facilities already available are compounded by the lack of ramps, elevators and toilettes for disabled persons. Home visits by doctors are not common practice and disabled persons are required to be accompanied by a family member in case of further referral to a hospital or other healthcare facilities.
An improvement from the previous Assessment is in the use of one's own language to access healthcare. The Ministry of Health has distributed applicable regulations and an informational circular (6/2002) on the use of languages in healthcare facilities to the Directors of Hospitals and Health Houses in Kosovo. However, the policy on use of languages has been inconsistently implemented, with Directors giving reasons for not posting signs in all languages, such as the possibility of provoking a security risk to healthcare officials or property damage, a lack of resources and a lack of knowledge of the procedures. Primary health care facilities in Prizren, Dragash/Draga and Rahovec/Orahovac are examples of inconsistent implementation of the applicable legislation on the use of languages in public services. In Dragash/Draga, informational signs are available in Albanian and Serbian, but drafted documents are available only in Albanian. In Rahovec/Orahovac, healthcare officials just commenced implementation of the use of Serbian in primary health care facilities. In Prizren, the Health Director is supporting efforts of the OSCE to implement the use of Serbian and Turkish in Health Houses, in addition to Albanian, but no positive results have yet been achieved. In Prizren Hospital, while most signs are in Albanian and Serbian, pre-printed documents are only in Albanian. The Director stated that the new supply of documents would be printed in Albanian and Serbian, however, little progress has been made in ensuring the use of Turkish. In Mitrovicë/Mitrovica, there has been little progress in the written communication in primary healthcare facilities both in the northern and southern part of the town.