Albania + 5 more

Lawyers Committee Releases Report on Kosovo Refugee Protection and Peace-building

Attachments


Recommendations Cover Role of KLA, KFOR’s capacity to ensure safety
New York, August 12, 1999 -- The physical protection of minorities is the most pressing human rights protection concern in the current volatile situation in Kosovo, said the Lawyers Committee in a report released today. The report, "Refugee Protection and Peace-building," assesses the present protection situation of refugees, returnees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and minorities in Kosovo.

Despite the installation of an international administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the presence of NATO forces on the ground (KFOR), the security situation for Serbs and Roma is increasingly precarious, and many have left Kosovo out of fear for their lives.

"The indigenous civil administration has collapsed and there is no effective functioning police system or judiciary," said Lawyers Committee Executive Director Michael Posner. "Neither UNMIK, which is mandated by the UN Security Council to carry out civil administration functions including maintaining law and order, nor KFOR, which has responsibility for ensuring law and order until UNMIK can take over, have been able to do so."

The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) has stepped into the power vacuum. The report highlights that, while its "mayors" and other administrators have restored services and even some kind of public order in some areas, KLA members or supporters are linked with much of the violence and some of the crimes since the arrival of KFOR.

"Peace-keeping troops should be trained in law enforcement and policing techniques," said Posner, who also called on the US and other governments to "urge the KLA publicly to undertake to honor and implement basic human rights norms. The KLA should also be pressed to take active steps to prevent human rights violations by its members and supporters, and assume responsibility where human rights violations have been committed by KLA members or supporters."

The report also contains recommendations on other protection needs of refugees, returnees and IDPs in Kosovo, and the need to support the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and future domestic prosecutions for war crimes and other criminal offences. It urges the US and other governments to help the leadership of UNMIK articulate a longer term vision for Kosovo, based on human rights principles. The recovery and reconstruction process should be developed in the wider context of current regional initiatives, aimed at preventing renewed violence and displacement in the future.


Kosovo: Protection and Peace-Building

Protection of Refugees, Returnees, Internally Displaced Persons, and Minorities


Executive Summary

In the weeks following the end of the NATO bombardment, the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces, and the installation of an international administration in Kosovo (UNMIK), almost three quarter of a million Kosovar Albanians refugees returned to Kosovo. However, during the same period, already, more than 75% of the Serbs, including some 3,000 Serb refugees from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and a large number of Roma have left Kosovo. For many of those who remain, the situation has become life-threatening.

Collapse of civil administration. There is no effective functioning civil authority, police system or judicary. UNMIK is mandated by the UN Security Council to carry out civil administration functions including maintaining law and order, and the NATO forces, in Kosovo, KFOR, are responsible for ensuring public order and safety until an international civilian police under UNMIK can take over. But neither has been able to do so.

The role of the KLA in the present power vacuum. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) has appointed "mayors" and other administrators. They have restored services and even some kind of public order in many municipalities. Yet much of the violence and some of the crimes since the arrival of KFOR are attributed to persons linked with the KLA. So far, the international community has failed to make it publicly clear to the leaders of the KLA that human rights abuses will not be tolerated.

Human rights protection needs of refugees, internally displaced persons and minority groups. In this volatile and instable context, the human rights protection needs of refugees, returnees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and minorities in Kosovo relate primarily to physical security. They also need materials to rebuild their houses, food, blankets, and and other forms of assistance to restore their social and economic rights. Many require identity documents which would, for example, enable them to prove property ownership. Some particularly vulnerable groups - women, children, elderly, sick or disabled people - have additional protection needs.

Recommendations:

A complete set of recommendations can be found in the body of the report. The following are the key recommendations:

1. To strengthen civil administration, including the legal system, judiciary and the police:

  • The US and other governments should make the necessary personnel (including civil police officers) and resources available to UNMIK as a matter of urgency.
  • UNMIK should identify inconsistencies between Yugoslav law and applicable international norms, amend legislation and regulations, and publish and disseminate them widely in the appropriate languages.
  • UNMIK should expand its current efforts to train and appoint judges, prosecutors and other necessary legal personnel.


2. To enhance KFOR’s capacity to ensure public safety and order:

  • A unified peace-keeping code should be elaborated by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), based on international human rights standards, for international forces who are faced with law enforcement and policing duties in complex humanitarian crisis situations.
  • Peace-keeping troops should be trained in law enforcement techniques to they respond in a uniform and even-handed manner to violations of human rights law, and in some cases breaches of international humanitarian law, by all sections of the population.
  • In the immediate term, KFOR together with UNMIK and the OHCHR should identify current best practices, make them uniform and provide the necessary training.


3. To ensure accountability for human rights abuses, the US and other governments should:

  • Urge the KLA, and all other groups or parties with aspirations to civilian power, publicly to untertake to honour and implement basic human rights norms.
  • Press the leadership of the KLA to take active steps to prevent human rights violations by its members or supporters, investigate allegations of such acts and assume responsibility in cases where human rights violations have been committed by KLA members or supporters.


4. To promote the protection of refugees, returnees, IDPs and minorities in Kosovo, the US and other governments should:

  • Publicly support UNHCR’s protection strategy and provide the necessary resources for its implementation, including for adequate numbers of properly supported protection staff.

The report also contains recommendations on the need to support the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and future domestic prosecutions for war crimes and other criminal offences; the continued protection requirements of Kosovar refugees who have not yet returned; and providing support for the indigenous civil sector in Kosovo.

Moreover, to enhance longer-term prospects for reconciliation and peaceful co-existence, the US and other governments should help the leadership of UNMIK articulate a vision for Kosovo in the wider context of current regional initiatives. This should be guided by international human rights principles, and in particular European standards of human rights and minority protection. The protection needs of other refugees in the region, notably the immense refugee population living in Serbia, should also be addressed.

Contact: Jobina Jones (212) 845-5237; jonesj@lchr.org