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Regulation against Incitement of Hatred is Key for Democratic Kosovo

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MISSION IN KOSOVO UNMIK
Beograd Str. 32, 38000, Pristina
Telephone: 381 38 500 162 (Sat): +870-762 138 676.
Fax: 381 38 500 188 (Sat): +870-762 138 677
(Pristina 9 February 2000)- The new Regulation on the Prohibition against inciting national, racial, religious or ethnic hatred, discord or intolerance (Reg. 2000/4) is a key element for a democratic society in which civil discussions and political debates must take place in a responsible and non-violent manner. The Regulation is a general provision against publicly inciting hatred or violence between ethnic, religious or other groups living in Kosovo.

The Regulation has been discussed with the Kosovo Joint Advisory Council of Legislative Matters and the Council of Europe, whose comments have been reflected in the law. The law is consistent with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Regulation provides for fines or prison terms of up to five years for anyone who publicly incites or spreads hatred, discord or intolerance between the respective groups in Kosovo.

There will be prison terms of up to ten years if someone commits these acts systematically or takes advantage of his or her position. This puts a special responsibility on people who have - by their position, office or function - the ability to reach large audiences. These include for instance politicians, community leaders, journalists, publishers or even teachers.

The Regulation applies if the incitement to hatred is directed against any group. In cases of alleged incitement to hatred, an investigation has to be carried out by an investigating judge. It is then up to a prosecutor to file an indictment so that the case can be tried. Ultimately a court has to decide on the merits of the case.

Individuals or organisations can file a complaint if they believe there has been hate speech. But it is not up to them to decide whether it has occurred. That judgement resides with the judicial system alone.

In view of the upcoming elections, the fight against inciting hatred between the ethnic groups of Kosovo is especially important. As part of its overall responsibility to organise and supervise free and fair elections in Kosovo, OSCE will ensure that hate speech has no place in the election campaigns. Violations will be prosecuted.

PR OMIK 12/00

For further information contact Roland Bless, OSCE Spokesperson, tel. +381 38 500 162 ext. 260, mobile: + 389 70 250 576, or by e-mail: press@omik.org. Information on the OSCE Mission in Kosovo: www.osce.org/kosovo