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Kosovo Humanitarian Update Issue No. 24

Format
Situation Report
Source
Posted
Originally published
HIGHLIGHTS
UNMIK and KFOR establish "confidence zones" in Mitrovica

UNEP/UNCHS publishes report on depleted uranium during Kosovo war

Human rights reports issued on Mitrovica and war rapes

1. GENERAL DEVELOPMENTS

Buffer area built up in Mitrovica. On 14 March the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the Kosovo Force (KFOR) started setting up a "confidence zone" in Mitrovica, including the central bridge dividing the north and the south of the city and nearby areas. Posters indicate the entrance to the zone, where demonstrations and the use of unauthorised two-way radios are banned. Access is guarded by KFOR in the northern sector and controlled through a personal identification system that only allows access to people living or working in the zone. The exercise is designed to create a secure area around the bridge, which has been a flash-point for disorders in recent weeks.

... but tension continues. The "confidence zone" initiative has been strongly opposed by ethnic Serbian inhabitants, who organised a mass protest on 14 March and whose "bridge keepers" monitor movements across the bridge from the northern side.

Among other signs of tension, on 22 March, KFOR found explosives on a road bridge north of the city, a few hours after an explosion destroyed a nearby railway viaduct.

Three trials against persons accused of murder and war crimes in Kosovo had to be postponed indefinitely, due to the security situation, UNIMK reported.

KFOR strengthen measures to prevent disorders in southern Serbia. On 15 March, a large-scale cordon and search operation was carried out by KFOR in southeastern Kosovo. Numerous weapons, explosives, and ammunition were found, over 200 uniforms seized and nine Albanians arrested.

On 22 March, KFOR closed all minor and not recognised crossing points between Kosovo and other parts of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and organised 24-hour patrols, in order to restrict movements of criminals elements across the boundaries. All main traffic crossing points will remain open.

Key international leaders in Kosovo one year after the beginning of the war. On 24 March the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, arrived in Kosovo, as part of a longer mission to the Balkans. During her three-day visit, she had meetings with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Bernard Kouchner, UNMIK representatives, heads of agencies and KFOR Commander Gen. Klaus Reinhardt.

In Pristina, Ogata also met with Kosovo Albanian leaders and with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Representative for Cooperation with UNMIK. She visited the residents of the newly constructed pre-fabricated shelters in Cabra and Kosovo Albanian returnees in north Mitrovica, as well as Bajram Rexhepi and Oliver Ivanovic. While in Gnjilane she met with displaced persons from southern Serbia and the staff of the International Rescue Committee's Serb Information Centre.

Ogata reiterated her concern about the situation in Kosovo and the current lack of conditions conducive to safe and voluntary return of minorities to their places of origin. "This is not inter-ethnic Kosovo that we see here today and this not what the international community was committed to," she said to journalists. The High Commissioner also urged host governments to refrain from forcing massive returns of Kosovo Albanians, as a mass influx would endanger the fragile system of basic social services under development.

Gen. Wesley Clark and Lord George Robertson, respectively Commander and Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), visited Kosovo on 24 March. Robertson's visit follows closely the publication of his report to NATO in which he warns ethnic Albanians of the risk of losing international support if they do not address the problem of ethnic hatred. Similar positions had been expressed in various occasion by other key political leaders during the last weeks, including the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, the US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, and the US State Department spokeperson James Rubin, during his recent visit to Kosovo.

UN recommends follow-up on depleted uranium issue. On 21 March the Joint Balkans Task Force (UN Environment Programme and UN Centre for Human Settlements) issued a press release on NATO's use of depleted uranium during the Kosovo conflict. Depleted uranium is a radioactive metal that enhances armour-piercing capability of weapons and is suspected of having an impact on the development of some forms of cancer and damage to the genetic and immune systems. As reported by the Task Force, the most recent information on the use of depleted uranium in the Kosovo war is in a letter and attached map that George Robertson sent in February to Kofi Annan. In that letter, NATO acknowledges that some 31,000 depleted uranium rounds were used in a hundred missions in Kosovo. The highest concentration of depleted uranium ordnance was in the Pec/Peje - Djakovica/Gjakove - Prizren highway, the areas of Klina/Kline and Prizren and north of a line between Suva Reka/Suhareke and Ferizaj/Urosevac.

The Balkan Task Force Desk Assessment Group, which includes experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the International Atomic Energy Agency, UNHCR, the UN Department for Disarmament Affairs and the Swedish Radiation Protection Institute, concluded that data are still insufficient to carry out an environmental and human health impact assessment. The Group concluded that, though unjustified alarm should be avoided, the actions recommended in October 1999 should be followed up. These recommendations include preventing access to areas where contamination has been confirmed and informing local authorities and populations of the possible risks and appropriate precautionary measures.

WHO will prepare a general report on the health effects of depleted uranium, not specifically related to the Kosovo conflict, which should be available in May, while the Royal Society (UK) will carry out an independent study on the same subject.

The October 1999 report is available on the Internet at http://www.grid.unep.ch/btf.

Preparations for elections start. On 13 March, UNMIK and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) presented to the public their programme and criteria for civil and voters' registration and for political party registration, in view of the local elections planned for the Autumn.

Voters' registration, a crucial component of the process that has to start from scratch in parallel with the construction of a civil registry, will take place during Spring and Summer in 400 locations throughout Kosovo. An opportunity to vote is also offered to people not living in Kosovo, if they can show that they were resident in Kosovo on 1 January 1998 and prove their identity and residency through documentation. Political parties that want to register for the elections also have to meet a number of minimal criteria, including commitment to democratic principles, adherence to human rights standards and accountability.

The Humanitarian Community Information Centre (HCIC) is building a geographic database to support data collection for the registration. OSCE service centres around Kosovo will provide information and assistance for both the civil and political party registration exercises.

OSCE is the component of the UNMIK structure (Pillar III) responsible for democratisation and governance, including the development of a civil society, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and political parties, and for the organisation and supervision of elections.

Contact: OSCE Mission in Kosovo, tel.: 500 162, civil registration: Antonia Battaglia, e-mail: antonia.battaglia@omik.org; political party registration: Anne Sophie Ducreux, e-mail:anne_sophie.ducreux@omik.org

2. SECTORAL HUMANITARIAN SUMMARY

2.1 REPATRIATION

Organised returns as of 22 March 2000
From
Number of Returns
Albania
12,936
FYROM
5,544
Montenegro
3,311
Other Countries
113,819
TOTAL
135,610

Source: UNHCR

2.2 IDPS

Fewer arrivals from southeastern Serbia. Ethnic Albanian IDPs' movements from the Presevo valley have dropped down in the reporting period, with 201 new IDPs registered between 18 and 24 March, most of them having arrived previously.

2.3 PROTECTION OF MINORITIES AND HUMAN RIGHTS

Serbs afraid of deteriorating security. The security situation of Serbian minorities in various areas of Kosovo has significantly worsened in the last two weeks, particularly in Gnjlane, Fushe Kosove/Kosovo Polje, Obilic/Obilik and Prizren, where attacks on properties increased. Some Serbs have told UNHCR that they are ready to leave their areas of residence if the situation deteriorates.

Two of UNHCR freedom of movement bus routes are operating in Gnjlane, and three routes are also operating in the Pristina region. Services were gradually restored in early March following a month interruption after February's attack on a UNHCR bus.

High Commissioner found support of Albanian leaders for Roma initiatives. During her visit to Kosovo, Sadako Ogata discussed the situation of Roma minorities with Albanian leaders Ibrahim Rugova, Hashim Thaci and Rexhep Qosja. The three leaders committed themselves to take measures to facilitate two-way visits of Roma IDPs to their families and agreed to meet with Roma representatives on 7 April, on the occasion of the International Day of Roma.

Amnesty International asks for enquiry on Mitrovica incidents. On 13 March, Amnesty International released a report on the response to the Mitrovica incidents in mid-February. The report, which focuses on the shooting of an ethnic Albanian by KFOR and the detention of 49 people, accuses UNMIK and KFOR of having failed in meeting international human rights standards during law enforcement operations. According to the report, the Albanian detainees were subject to inhumane treatment, they were denied access to their lawyers and their families were not informed of where they were detained. Amnesty International also denounces KFOR responsibilities in the events surrounding the death of an ethnic Albanian, suspected to be a sniper. Amnesty's report calls for an independent inquiry and urges KFOR and UNMIK to establish independent and impartial mechanisms to ensure effective investigation of alleged human rights abuses and compensation of the victims and their families.

Both UNMIK and KFOR accepted the findings of the report. In a press conference, the UNMIK spokesperson recalled that, immediately after the events, international prosecutors and judges were appointed and that an ombudsman office is about to be established to assist persons who want to denounce human rights violations.

The report is available on the Internet at: http://www.amnesty.org/ailib/aipub/2000/EUR/47001300.htm

Human Rights Watch reports on sexual violence during the war. At least 96 women of Albanian ethnicity were raped, mostly by Serbian paramilitary forces, before and during the war in Kosovo. These are the findings of a recent report of the Women's Rights Division at Human Rights Watch, which calls for those responsible and their commanding officers to be indicted. The report is based on information provided by victims and witnesses, as well as in reports compiled by other NGOs. Human Rights Watch estimates that the number of women raped between March and June 1999 is higher than documented, as women would be reluctant to speak out.

The report is available on the Internet at: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2000/fry

2.4 AGRICULTURE

Rehabilitation of forests. The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has recently launched a forestry emergency and rehabilitation project, funded by the Norwegian Government, which aims to address the critical situation in the forestry sector in Kosovo, whose resources have been affected by the environmental consequences of the war and lack of investment in maintenance. The project is based on a damage assessment carried out by FAO in 1999.

The project's emergency phase, of 12 months, will be followed by a three-year rehabilitation period. The strategy of the project, which has as a counterpart UNMIK's Forestry Division and aims to rehabilitate an area of 400 ha by next Autumn, is focused on:

  • promoting appropriate harvesting activities and controlling forest cutting;
  • reorganising and strengthening the capacity of the decentralised forest administrative structures;
  • ensuring environmentally sound management of forestry resources, including by reactivating the productivity of two nurseries for reforestation operations.
Contact: Knut Velle, FAO ECU Pristina, tel. (038) 543451, e-mail: fao.kosovo.for@wfp.org

2.5 HOUSING

Housing reconstruction guidelines adopted. On 22 March, the Central Housing Committee adopted the guidelines for Housing Reconstruction in Kosovo for the year 2000. The guidelines form the basis for a consistent approach to housing reconstruction programmes, including on selecting beneficiaries, defining building standards, coordinating the reconstruction process and implementing procedures. Municipalities have been visited to introduce the guidelines and to initiate the coordination process with the municipal housing committees and the municipal coordination meetings. By the end of March, all the municipalities should be able to coordinate the implementation of housing reconstruction projects, starting with the identification of vulnerable beneficiary families.

Compendium to address housing and property rights violations in Kosovo. A collection of basic texts on housing and property rights in Kosovo has been issued by the UNMIK Housing and Property Directorate and Housing and Property Claims Commission, in collaboration with Habitat and through funding provided by the Government of Finland. The publication provides a comprehensive basis to start addressing widespread violations of housing and property rights that have taken place in Kosovo from 1989 onwards, and including in the post-conflict period, as a consequence of illegal occupations, forced sales, destruction or removal of property records, informal or unofficial transactions in real property.

All relevant legislation relating to housing and property rights applicable in Kosovo is collected, translated and analysed, including the basic housing and property laws in force on 22 March 1989 (which form the bulk of applicable law by virtue of UNMIK regulation 1999/24). A special section is devoted to post-1989 laws, which have been repealed by UNMIK. All relevant UNMIK regulations affecting housing and property rights are also contained in the publication.

The Housing and Property Directorate (HPD) and the Housing and Property Claims Commission (HPCC) were established by UNMIK in November 1999 as an interim measure to regularise housing and property rights in Kosovo. The HPD provides policy and legal advice, assists in the development of temporary allocations schemes and seeks mediated settlements for specific categories of residential property disputes. The HPCC is mandated to adjudicate disputes in an impartial and efficient manner.

Contact: Hans Das, UNCHS/Habitat Pristina, tel. 044 112562, e-mail: dmp_unchs@hotmail.com. The compendium is available on the Internet at http://www.grid.unep.ch/btf/missions/habitat/compendiumeng.html

Printed copies of the "Kosovo Atlas" , produced by the HCIC, are now available. The Atlas includes a range of overview maps, summary statistics on population and housing damage together with an index of towns and villages and detailed maps of the province. New maps on Mitrovica and the situation in southern Serbia (Presevo, Medveda and Bujanovac) are also available.

Contact: Craig Williams, HCIC, tel. (038) 501507, e-mail: williamc@unhcr.ch

2.6 HEALTH

TB Action Plan for Kosovo. The Kosovo Tuberculosis (TB) Commission launched its action plan for TB control in the territory on the occasion of the World TB Day on 24 March. The action plan is based on the Directly Observed Treatment Short-course (DOTS) strategy promoted worldwide by WHO, which aims to detect 70 percent of new TB cases and to cure 85 percent of those detected. In Kosovo, WHO estimates that there are currently at least 2000 active cases, five times more than in 1990, and the incidence is three times that of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. TB is considered the greatest threat to public health in Kosovo, and is rising due to the large number of infected individuals and to poor and confined living conditions. The action plan, which has been officially approved by the UNMIK Department of Health and Social Welfare, aims to reduce rates of illness and death to a level at which they are no longer of public health concern, and to limit the emergence of drug-resistant strains of TB, which would be much more expensive and longer to treat. The strategy comprises:

  • establishing a Kosovo-wide diagnosis and treatment programme through a "Directly-Observed Treatment" short course (a comprehensive TB technology and management package);
  • refurbishing and re-equipping six diagnostic centres in Kosovo;
  • organising a systematic and reliable supply of essential anti-TB drugs and materials for diagnosis;
  • developing training programmes for professionals involved in TB;
  • promoting a public education programme;
  • establishing an information system for monitoring and evaluation purposes.
Anticipated costs for the one-year programme, including drug supply, are US$ 1 million.

Contact: Dr. Bahri Tigani, WHO Pristina, tel. (038) 549216

PSF ensures drugs provision up to mid 2000. The UNMIK Department of Health and Social Welfare and Pharmaciens sans Frontières (PSF) have signed a contract that will ensure continuity of drug supplies to primary care until June/July. PSF, funded by the European Community Humanitarian Office and the UK Department for International Development, is the lead organisation in primary care drug supply, which, since the end of the war, has been channelling some 6 million EUROs to ensure the supply of essential drugs to primary care services. In addition to continuing to procure and distribute drugs, PSF will also work with the Kooperata e Farmaceutike e Kosovës to improve its capacity to take over the management of drug supply. After June/July, drug supply will depend on the UNMIK Department of Health's funding allocation within the Kosovo Consolidated Budget.

2.7 PROTECTION OF CHILDREN AND EDUCATION

Children welfare in Kosovo still endangered by too many threats. Children's mines awareness remains a primary concern in Kosovo, pointed out Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), on the occasion of the first anniversary of NATO's air strikes. More than 110 children have been killed or injured by landmines and unexploded ordinance since June 1999. In the last two weeks mine incidents have killed one child and injured several others.

The UNICEF Executive Director declared on the same occasion that the children of the Balkans region "remain the most endangered children in Europe" and pointed out priority issues to be addressed to ensure a better future for them. In Kosovo specifically, Carol Bellamy highlighted, beside the need to tackle urgently the problem of landmines, the increase in crime and drug trafficking among juveniles, the growing presence of working children, the weakened protection for children due to widespread poverty, unemployment, violence and stress among adults, and the lack of access of minority children to education and basic services.

Education project for minority children starts. The first phase of the UNICEF-sponsored project for Ashkalija children in Kosovo Polje was successfully opened with a ceremony on 20 March. Over 200 children aged between six and ten, who have never been to school, started attending catch-up classes in tents, run by four teachers (three Kosovo Albanians, one Ashkalija). The second part of the project, which UNICEF is discussing with UNMIK and the International Labour Organization, will provide vocational training and alphabetisation to Ashkalija teenagers who have no chance of being integrated into regular schools.