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Kosovo: Minorities Are Prisoners In Their Home


News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International

AI INDEX: EUR 70/014/2003 29 April 2003

Kosovo: Minorities are prisoners in their home

Almost four years after the end of the war in Kosovo, minority communities are still at risk of ethnically motivated killings and assaults, Amnesty International said as it launched its report "Prisoners in our own homes": Amnesty International's concerns for the rights of minorities in Kosovo/Kosova today.
(Full report online at http://amnesty-news.c.tclk.net/maaa2iRaaXFM0bb0hPub/ )

The organization's report details how minority communities in Kosovo are denied effective redress for acts of violence and other threats to their physical and mental integrity. The impunity for such human rights abuses has effectively denied them freedom of movement and restricted their access to basic rights -- in particular, their rights to employment, health care and education.

"Unless such rights can be guaranteed, minority refugees and internally displaced people in other parts of Serbia and Montenegro will be unable to return to their homes," Amnesty International said.

"As the future of Iraq is debated, the international community must learn the lessons of the past and ensure that measures are put in place to protect the human rights of vulnerable groups as well as to ensure, from the outset, that there is no impunity for the perpetrators of human rights abuses."

Amnesty International's report documents how the international authorities in Kosovo were unprepared for the massive abuses of human rights against minorities that accompanied the rapid return of the Albanian community. Although violent attacks on minorities have measurably declined since the months immediately following the end of the conflict in July 1999, these attacks still continue.

The fact that the vast majority of ethnically motivated crimes remain unsolved reinforces people's perception that perpetrators remain free to commit further attacks and contributes to the climate of fear. The impunity for past and continuing abuses denies minorities living in Kosovo the basic rights guaranteed under domestic law and international standards applicable in Kosovo.

In one case, Amnesty International interviewed two young Serb women and their grandmother who live in the centre of Prizen. Their house was surrounded by a fence topped with barbed wire erected by KFOR. After an intruder had entered their house through the roof, KFOR soldiers had lived with them and had even done their shopping for them to protect them from attack.

"The daily intimidation faced by the minority Serb, Bosniak, Gorani, Roma, Ashkali and Egyptiani communities in Kosovo has restricted their freedom of movement. The fear of travelling outside mono-ethnic enclaves has contributed to feelings of imprisonment and exclusion and denied minorities access to basic rights and services such as housing, education and medical treatment," Amnesty International said.

Amnesty International's report also highlights how members of minority communities face discrimination in access to basic social and economic rights, including health, education and employment.

"In the absence of access to adequate health-care, there has been a reported increase in mortality rates and the incidence of illnesses in some minority communities," Amnesty International stated.

"In some places minorities don't have access to basic medicines -- at some ambulanta even aspirin is unavailable."

In emergencies, patients have to telephone KFOR or go to a KFOR check-point to await an escort to a hospital, sometimes with fatal delays.

"Security is the main problem for minority children in exercising their right to education," Amnesty International said.

Within enclaves there is great difficulty in recruiting qualified teachers. For children living outside the enclaves, going to school often means a KFOR-escorted journey of several kilometres; for 20 children in a small Serb community in Pristina/Prishtinë this means a daily KFOR escort to an elementary school in Llapje Selo/Llaplasellë, eight kilometres away. A primary school teacher in Prizren is collected from her house on Mondays by a KFOR armoured personnel carrier which takes her to the village where she teaches, where she remains until Friday when she is escorted back home.

Employment is severely restricted: it is estimated that up to 90 per cent of the Serb and Roma population are officially unemployed -- Serbs in particular were universally dismissed in June 1999 from jobs in state-owned industries or public service.

Under UN Security Council resolution 1244/99, UNMIK was charged with the responsibility of protecting and promoting human rights. Amnesty International calls on UNMIK and the Provisional Institution of Self-Government to seriously address the issue of impunity and take measures to guarantee the rights of minorities already living in Kosovo. This must be done in order to ensure that minorities from Kosovo, who are refugees abroad or internally displaced in Serbia and Montenegro, may exercise their right to return to Kosovo in safety and in dignity.

"While the viability of return continues to depend on KFOR's presence, Amnesty International urges the international community to ensure that no one from a minority community is forcibly returned to Kosovo," Amnesty International concluded.

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"Prisoners in our own homes": Amnesty International's concerns for the rights of minorities in Kosovo/Kosova, full report available at http://amnesty-news.c.tclk.net/maaa2iRaaXFM0bb0hPub/

View all documents on Serbia and Montenegro (Kosovo/Kosova) visit http://amnesty-news.c.tclk.net/maaa2iRaaXFM1bb0hPub/

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