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Lasting solution for Kosovo lies in protection of minority rights, says international human rights group

7 December 2007

Embargoed 7 December 2007, 0:01 GMT

The violation of minority rights lies at the heart of Kosovo’s problems. A lasting settlement for the region must include effective protection for minorities if further ethnic violence is to be avoided, says Minority Rights Group International (MRG) in a new briefing launched today.

With the 10 December deadline for international moderators to report to the United Nations on Kosovo looming, MRG says, the rights of minorities to practise their language, religion and culture freely must be protected, whatever Kosovo’s final status.

“Previous experience in the Balkans and elsewhere in the world shows that constitutional settlements don’t last unless the different communities feel safe. In Kosovo today this is simply not the case”, says MRG’s Executive Director, Mark Lattimer.

The great failing of international rule in Kosovo over the last eight years has been that instead of breaking down segregation it has made it worse. Kosovo has become ever more divided into Albanian and Serb areas, with all other groups being marginalized.

Mark Lattimer adds, “From separate schools to separate hospitals, Kosovo is now more divided than any other society in Europe.”

Kosovo is a small territory, but it is home to many different communities. It is too often forgotten that Kosovo’s inhabitants include not just Albanians and Serbs, but also Roma, Turks, Ashkalia, Egyptians, Bosniacs, Gorani and Croats. All groups have suffered, and continue to suffer in Kosovo, wherever they are a minority.

According to the briefing any further delay on a final status settlement may lead to more ethnic cleansing. The past shows that at times of great tension unprotected minority communities come under attack, as was the case in 2004 when many of the remaining Serbs and Roma in Albanian majority areas in Kosovo were driven out.

“Whatever its final status, if Kosovo is to have a future and in time become part of the European Union, minority protection should become a priority. The EU should use its influence to promote genuine efforts at integrating the different communities”, says Mark Lattimer.

The briefing, titled Five essential elements for a long-term solution for Kosovo, draws on both MRG’s ongoing work in the region and extensive experience of similar situations worldwide.

Notes to editors