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Kosovo’s independence leaves vacuum in international protection for minorities

26 May 2009

Post-independence Kosovo lacks effective international protection for minorities, which is worsening the situation for smaller minorities and forcing some to leave the country for good, an international human rights organisation warns in a new report.

Minority Rights Group International says in a report released on 27 May that many smaller minorities, such as Ashkali, Bosniaks, Croats, Egyptians, Gorani, Roma, Serbs and Turks, are beginning to leave Kosovo, because they face exclusion and many instances of discrimination in the country.

‘Restriction of movement and political, social and economic exclusion are particularly experienced by smaller minorities,’ says Mark Lattimer, MRG’s Executive Director.

‘These minorities also suffer from lack of access to information or to tertiary education in their own languages. This, combined with tough economic conditions, have resulted in many of these groups starting to leave Kosovo altogether,’ he adds.

Kosovo, an international protectorate since 1999, declared independence on 17 February 2008. MRG, in a ground-breaking report released in August 2006, warned that international rule in Kosovo, rather than breaking down segregation, was entrenching it. It said that Kosovo had become ever more divided into Albanian and Serb areas, with all other groups being marginalized.

In this latest report, MRG says the lack of certainty over the status of the territory as a result of Serbia’s objection to Kosovo’s independence has limited the practical application of international human rights law.

‘There is a danger that the new international organisations operating in Kosovo will compound the failure of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo to ensure a tolerant, multi-ethnic society,’ says Lattimer.

MRG warns that unless this trend is reversed, it will see the steady migration of minority groups who have lived in Kosovo for hundreds of years, such as Bosniaks and Turks, and who have other states to migrate to.

A decade after the conflict people from minority communities still languish in displaced camps in dire conditions near Mitrovica. For Ashkali, Egyptian and Roma, who have no other countries to escape to, these trends are likely to lead to engrained poverty and further marginalization for generations to come, the report says.

The report calls on Kosovo to ensure the active participation of all minorities, in all aspects of public life. The report says that the process of EU accession has the potential to bring about improvement in Kosovo. It calls on the EU to broaden and improve the attention it gives to the issues faced by smaller minorities in the country and also to the issue of multiple discrimination of minority women.

Notes to Editor

  • The report, titled Filling the Vacuum: Ensuring Protection and Legal Remedies for Minorities in Kosovo, is authored by Georgina Stevens.
  • 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.
  • Minority Rights Group Europe started a three-year project in 2007 aiming to eliminate discrimination and ensure minority protection in the Western Balkans. The project is carried out with local partner NGOs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia with the purpose of utilizing the opportunities provided by the EU accession process to combat the exclusion and poverty faced by minority communities.
  • Interview opportunities: Mark Lattimer, Executive Director, Minority Rights Group International.

For further information or to arrange interviews, contact the MRG Press Office.