AI INDEX: EUR 70/009/2004 1 April 2004
Serbia and Montenegro (Kosovo)
The legacy of past human rights abuses
4. Discrimination against minorities
The continuing impunity, and the failure to bring the perpetrators to justice, continue to threaten the rights of minorities in Kosovo, and the rights of minorities from Kosovo currently living as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Serbia and Montenegro who wish to return to their pre-war homes.
UNMIK has guaranteed the rights set out in the Council of Europe's Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (Framework Convention). Furthermore, in May 2003 UNMIK requested to the Council of Europe that Kosovo report to the Advisory Committee of the Framework Convention (as "an interested party" rather than as a State Party as final status of Kosovo is still undecided) but in February 2004 had yet to receive a decision from the Council of Europe on this. In early February 2004 a Standards Implementation Plan to implement the benchmarks, by which Kosovo's progress towards a democratic and tolerant society is to be measured, was awaiting approval from the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG). This plan has explicit reference to the Framework Convention and obliges not only reporting to the Framework Convention's Advisory Committee but also implementation of the Committee's recommendations.(28)
However, although there was some improvement in the security situation in the province, attacks against minorities and against minority properties have continued and appeared to escalate in 2003. In January 2003 KFOR reversed the decision taken in late 2002 to remove protection from Orthodox churches and monasteries against attacks by ethnic Albanians. In June 2003 a Serb family, 80-year-old Slobodan Stoliæ, his 78-year-old wife Radmila and 55-year-old son Ljubinko were brutally murdered in Obiliæ/Obiliq and their house burnt in what was seen as a racist attack to intimidate remaining Serbs into leaving the area. In June 2003 KFOR announced that the security situation in Urosevac/Ferizaj had deteriorated with arson attacks on minority properties and an explosion in the yard of an Orthodox church. On 13 August, the day the new Special Representative of the Secretary General, Harri Holkeri, arrived in Kosovo, a gun attack on a swimming party in the Serb enclave of Gorazdevac/Gorazhdvec near Peæ/Pejë killed two Serb youths and wounded several others. Grenade attacks on houses are reported, and the stoning of vehicles, perceived as belonging to minorities, widespread.
Perpetrators of ethnically motivated attacks are rarely brought to justice. According to UNHCR, the failure to investigate ethnically motivated crimes has contributed to a reported lack of confidence in both law enforcement and the judiciary amongst minority communities, often resulting in the under-reporting of small-scale incidents - even in areas where the overall situation of minorities has improved. Under-reporting is also motivated by the fear of exacerbating tensions or inviting retaliatory attacks, as well as a perceived lack of response by law enforcement agencies. In September 2002, for example, one Serb and three Ashkali residents of the Plemetina/Plemetin Temporary Community Shelter were reportedly attacked by security guards from the nearby Korporata Energjetike e Kosovës (KEK) power station, yet according to UNHCR no proper investigation has ever been conducted. In other cases where Kosovo Serbs have been attacked - for example, in cases of stone throwing - UNHCR has observed that although KPS attend, they have rarely taken any effectives measures to apprehend the perpetrators. Similarly, if perpetrators have been arrested by KFOR and handed over to UNMIK police, cases were seldom investigated.(29)
Minorities also faced discrimination in access to employment, medical care and education (see Serbia and Montenegro (Kosovo/Kosova): Amnesty International's concerns for the human rights of minorities in Kosovo/Kosova , AI Index: EUR 70/010/2003).
Daily intimidation of minority communities restricts their freedom of movement. The fear of travelling outside guarded enclaves contributes to feelings of imprisonment and exclusion. Such restriction results in indirect discrimination, preventing minority access to basic rights and services such as housing, education and medical treatment.(30)
Loss of freedom of movement for members of minority communities is the direct consequence of the continuing impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of ethnically motivated attacks. Although many have not been physically attacked themselves, they experience harassment and constant fear of attack.
The right to freedom of movement is guaranteed under international and regional human rights laws incorporated into applicable law in Kosovo. The Constitutional Framework provides for all communities the right to "[e]njoy unhindered contacts among themselves and with members of their respective communities within and outside of Kosovo".
In Kosovo private individuals and groups, not states or governments, are responsible for the attacks, abuse and harassment. However, it is the state's duty of "due diligence" to guarantee minority groups their right to freedom of movement. UNMIK and the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG) need to counter the climate of fear. Those who contravene UNMIK Regulation 2000/4 - On the Prohibition against Inciting to National, Racial, Religious or Ethnic Hatred, Discord or Intolerance - can be imprisoned for up to five years (eight years for officials). However, only one person is known by Amnesty International to have been arrested under this law. Legislation on minorities, envisaged in the Constitutional Framework, has yet to be introduced.
Amnesty International is calling for:
- KFOR and UNMIK to renew and strengthen efforts to enable members of minority communities to enjoy freedom of movement, until such time as a security presence is no longer required to guarantee this right;
- UNMIK to seek to establish confidence-building measures and a constructive dialogue between majority and minority communities at both political and grass-roots level;
- UNMIK Police to enforce the law on racially motivated abuse (UNMIK Regulation 2000/4) and investigate allegations of racist harassment and threats promptly, thoroughly and impartially. Those responsible should be brought to justice or, if minors, subject to appropriate measures in accordance with international human rights standards;
- The Kosovo Assembly to adopt laws and enforcement mechanisms to prevent defamation and hate speech, as required under the Constitutional Framework (Article 5.4), and develop initiatives to encourage tolerance between communities and eliminate racism ;
- UNMIK and the Kosovo Assembly to amend the Constitutional Framework to incorporate the International Covenant on Social and Economic Rights;
- The Kosovo Assembly to urgently pass the Draft Omnibus Anti-Discrimination Law and ensure access to effective legal remedies for all those alleging discrimination;
- The Kosovo Assembly should pass legislation and implement measures to ensure that all communities enjoy the rights to employment, health care and education guaranteed in the Constitutional Framework.