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Failure by international community to protect minorities in Kosovo could lead to renewed conflict

7 August 2006

After seven years of UN and international governance the situation in Kosovo is ‘little short of disastrous’ and there is a high risk of ethnic cleansing occurring again, according to a new report by Minority Rights Group.

The report titled Minority Rights in Kosovo under International Rule launched today, criticizes the UN and international community for failing to protect the rights of Kosovo’s minority communities. It describes how the situation of minorities in Kosovo remains the worst in Europe, and highlights the danger of these mistakes being repeated in Iraq.

“The authorities have allowed a segregated society to develop and become entrenched, and thousands of minorities remain displaced,” the report says.

“Nowhere (in Europe) is there such a level of fear for so many minorities that they will be harassed or attacked, simply for who they are or what language they speak,” it adds.

According to the report, the short term measures of separating Kosovo’s two main communities, Albanians and Serbs, has disastrous long term implications.

Clive Baldwin, the author of the report, says: “The reality is that segregation is entrenched, creating a society that is so fractured that non of its people feel protected. They live in fear of mass conflict re-occurring in the long term.”

The report, which looks at the situation of Kosovo’s Albanian, Serb and other communities, including, Bosniak, Croat, Turk, Ashkalia and Roma, argues that problems to do with minorities are not due to lack of resources. In fact, the international administration has been one of the most expensive in UN history.

Instead, the report says a mindset of segregation, a lack of clear accountable government and a lack of any real protection of human rights and the rule of law are among the reasons why minorities continue to suffer in Kosovo.

It also faults the international community for failing to learn from past mistakes and use the experience and expertise available to them to protect minority rights.
“It is almost incredible is that all these mistakes have been made under an international administration consisting of institutions, notably the UN and OSCE, with a long institutional memory of addressing minority rights,” Baldwin says.

According to the report the ‘future status negotiations’ represents both the best hope and the greatest danger and as the future of Kosovo is currently being decided the report calls for a radical move away from the patterns of segregation. It also recommends that minority rights are guaranteed by the rule of law and that all minorities, including minority women, should be consulted on the future of their lives, their property and their country.

“The message is clear to all parties. The Serbs need to realize that the effective protection of all communities in Kosovo in an integrated society is the only long term solution. It is in their best interest,” says Baldwin.

“We urge the international community to recognise the damage that segregation can cause. They must realize that the Serbs and Kosovo’s other communities, including the Albanians, are not benefiting from the current system. The only long term security for Kosovo will be effective protection for all minorities,” he says.

For more information or to arrange interviews with Clive Baldwin, please contact the MRG Press Office on [email protected].

Notes to editors

  • Since 1999 Kosovo has had an interim administration, consisting the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), which includes representatives of the EU and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and a NATO-led Kosovo Force.
  • Clive Baldwin is Head of Advocacy at Minority Rights Group International. From 2000 to 2002 he was a member of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo. Previously, he was a practising human rights lawyer.
  • Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non governmental organisation working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide.