Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (S/2019/797)
I. Introduction and Mission priorities
The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 1244 (1999), by which the Council established the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and requested me to report at regular intervals on the implementation of its mandate. The report covers the activities of UNMIK, and developments related thereto, from 16 May to 15 September 2019.
The priorities of the Mission remain to promote security, stability and respect for human rights in Kosovo and in the region. In furtherance of its goals, UNMIK continues its constructive engagement with Pristina and Belgrade, all communities in Kosovo and regional and international actors. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Kosovo Force continue to perform their roles within the framework of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999). The European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) continues its presence in Kosovo, in line with the statement by the President of the Security Council of 26 November 2008 (S/PRST/2008/44) and my report of 24 November 2008 (S/2008/692). The United Nations agencies, funds and programmes work closely with the Mission.
II. Key political and security developments
The reporting period was marked by the resignation of the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj, on 19 July. The Prime Minister cited as a major reason his invitation to be interviewed by the Specialist Chambers and the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office, and clarified that he would continue to perform his functions pending the formation of a new government. On 5 August, in response to a request by President of Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi, to propose a new candidate for Prime Minister, the President of the Assembly of Kosovo announced that the governing coalition comprising the Democratic Party of Kosovo , the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, the Socialist Democratic Initiative of Kosovo, the New Kosovo Alliance and the Serbian List, would not continue under a new Prime Minister. This was followed by the dissolution of the Assembly on 22 August and a subsequent announcement by the President of Kosovo that early parliamentary elections would be held on 6 October.
On 10 September, the Central Election Commission certified 25 political entities (20 political parties, including 3 representing Kosovo Serbs, 4 pre-election coalitions, including 1 representing Kosovo Serbs, and 1 independent candidate) for participation in the parliamentary elections. To date, the following registered political parties and coalitions have announced their respective candidates for the position of Prime Minister: Albin Kurti for the Movement for Self-Determination (Vetëvendosje), Vjosa Osmani for the Democratic League of Kosovo, Kadri Veseli for the Democratic Party of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj for the coalition between the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo and the Social Democratic Party of Kosovo and Fatmir Limaj for the coalition between the Socialist Democratic Initiative of Kosovo and the New Kosovo Alliance. The electoral lists of all certified political entities also met the required 30 per cent representation of women, as required by the Law on General Elections. On 9 September, the Central Election Commission issued an instruction that only identification documents issued by Kosovo authorities would be accepted during the vote. The Serbian List protested the instruction as violating the Law on General Elections and submitted an appeal to the Election Complaints and Appeals Panel. The Panel upheld the instruction, following which the Serbian List sent an appeal to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court had not issued a decision at the time of writing.
Following the Prime Minister’s resignation, international actors stressed the importance of resuming the dialogue with Belgrade as soon as a new government is in place. However, persistent tensions between Belgrade and Pristina have continued to undermine prospects for the resumption of the dialogue, while reviving concerns about the overall stability of the situation on the ground. As Belgrade and Pristina have remained entrenched in their positions regarding the conditions under which the dialogue could be resumed, another controversy arose concerning the reported refusal by the Kosovo police to allow holders of Serbian passports to enter Kosovo, which led to protests by Belgrade.
On 13 August, the Governments of France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America issued a joint statement calling on Pristina and Belgrade to avoid actions hindering the resumption of the dialogue. They pressed upon Pristina authorities to suspend the 100 per cent tariff on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has remained in place since November 2018, and on Belgrade authorities to halt the “de-recognition campaign against Kosovo”. In another joint statement, issued in Pristina on 30 August, they stressed the need to rise above populist and nationalist rhetoric, underlining that the next government would need flexibility to negotiate and the ability to articulate a positive vision of its future relationship with Belgrade.
Meanwhile, on 27 June, the Constitutional Court of Kosovo declared unconstitutional the mandate and competences of Pristina’s negotiating team for the dialogue with Belgrade, which had been established in December 2018. This was followed by the resignation of the co-chairs and the members of the team. The Court concluded that “representation of foreign policy is the responsibility of constitutional institutions”, and that powers to reach an international agreement cannot be transferred from constitutional institutions to “special mechanisms”, such as the negotiating team. While Pristina’s negotiating position remains to be determined by the new government when it is established, political parties in Pristina, in positioning themselves for elections, advocated adherence to the 100 per cent import tariff, with some proposing an even more forceful “policy of reciprocity” towards Belgrade, including in the area of trade. In response, the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, expressed doubt that the dialogue could resume soon and reiterated Belgrade ’s position that it would not return to the negotiating table until Pristina has lifted the tariff.
Following the announcement of the new leadership of European Union institutions in July 2019, political leaders in Pristina reiterated their commitment to Kosovo’s European perspective. The Prime Minister used the opportunity to also reiterate his position that the dialogue with Belgrade should result in an agreement on mutual recognition “within existing borders”. While participating in the Western Balkans Summit within the framework of the Berlin Process, held from 3 to 5 July in Poznań, Poland, the Prime Minister emphasized the complexity of trade relations with Belgrade, arguing that they could not be addressed separately from the European Union-facilitated dialogue. In response, the Prime Minister of Serbia, Ana Brnabić, questioned Kosovo’s willingness to continue the dialogue and stressed that the outcome of a dialogue process could not be predefined.
Prior to its dissolution on 22 August, the Assembly of Kosovo ratified an agreement for European Union financial assistance through the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance, which foresees support for democracy and good governance, in line with the European reform agenda for Kosovo, as well as alignment of the rule of law and fundamental rights in Kosovo with European standards. The ratification followed the publication, at the end of May, of the 2019 European Commission report on Kosovo, in which Pristina’s progress in the rule of law and public administration reforms was acknowledged, while Kosovo’s fight against corruption and organized crime was still recognized in the report as being “at an early stage”. During the reporting period, representatives of the international community in Pristina continued to express concern about political influence over senior-level appointments for independent institutions in Kosovo.
On the morning of 28 May, Kosovo police conducted an operation targeting suspects of smuggling and organized crime at different locations in northern Kosovo.
The operation was conducted under warrants issued by the Basic Court of Pristina and following an investigation by the Police Inspectorate of Kosovo into misconduct involving Kosovo police officers. According to the Kosovo Police Service, it led to the arrest of 29 suspects, including 19 local police officials. Two Kosovo police officers and approximately 10 civilians were injured in the course of the operation. In addition, two members of UNMIK staff, an international staff member and a local civilian staff member, were arrested and detained by Kosovo authorities for alleged obstruction of the police operation in two separate locations in the Zubin Potok municipality. Applicable immunities of the staff from arrest and detention and from legal process were not observed. My Special Representative issued a statement noting this, calling for the immediate release of the detained UNMIK staff and also urging all parties to abide by the principles of the rule of law. Both UNMIK staff members were subsequently released. During their arrest and detention, both suffered serious injuries that required hospitalization. The international staff member received medical treatment in local hospitals and was subsequently transferred to a hospital in Belgrade. He was declared “persona non grata” by Kosovo authorities, a doctrine that is not applicable to, or in respect of, United Nations personnel. The local staff member, along with five other defendants, was brought before the Basic Court of Mitrovica on 29 May for a hearing in connection with their detention. The Court ordered their immediate release on the basis that their continued detention at the request of the Mitrovica Basic Prosecutor’s Office was unfounded. The local staff member was taken back to the Mitrovica North Medical Centre on the same day, where he remained until 3 June for further treatment. In August, the Mitrovica Basic Prosecutor expanded the investigation against eight individuals, including the two UNMIK staff members, for participating in a crowd, committing a criminal offence and hooliganism. At the end of the reporting period, judicial proceedings against the two UNMIK staff members were still ongoing, despite reiterated assertions of immunity. My Special Representative appointed an ad hoc investigation team in July, comprising United Nations legal, investigative and security experts from outside UNMIK to ascertain all the facts regarding the two incidents involving the arrest and detention of the two UNMIK staff. The investigation team visited the mission area to collect information and meet with all parties concerned. At the time of writing, the investigation had not been concluded. The authorities of the Member State whose national was affected also initiated a national investigation.
During the reporting period, there were a number of incidents targeting religious sites and cemeteries. Unknown perpetrators vandalized a Serbian Orthodox Church in the municipality of Prizren on 28 May and a mosque in the municipality of Ferizaj/ Uroševac on 18 June. On 13 July, unknown perpetrators damaged 19 tombstones in a Kosovo Serb cemetery in the town of Lipjan/Lipljan. On 4 August, 15 Muslim gravestones were vandalized in Pristina. These incidents are being investigated by the Kosovo Police Service. International actors, including my Special Representative, condemned the desecration of gravestones and called on law enforcement institutions to ensure a swift investigation and to bring those responsible to justice.
The Mission continued to monitor, in coordination with the United Nations Kosovo team and international partners, the reintegration process for the 110 persons (74 children, 32 women and 4 men) who had been repatriated from the Syrian Arab Republic to Kosovo in April 2019. The 74 children continue to live with relatives. On 26 July, the Basic Court of Pristina extended the house arrest of 24 of the repatriated women, on suspicion of participation in terrorist groups. On 3 September, one of them received a suspended sentence of two and a half years of imprisonment. Among the remaining eight women, four must report regularly to the police, while another four were released from house arrest. The four men continue to be detained in a highsecurity prison while investigations are ongoing. According to the competent authorities, all returnees received appropriate medical attention, which revealed that most of the children suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
In a separate development, on 30 August, the Basic Court of Pristina sentenced an individual to six months in prison for posting terrorism-related material on social media. On 4 September, the Basic Court of Pristina convicted six individuals (five men and one woman) on terrorism-related charges and sentenced them to a total of 25 years and nine months in prison. Reportedly, the Special Prosecution Office of Kosovo charged the six individuals with attempting to set up terrorist groups in Kosovo, North Macedonia and Albania, and with allegedly planning terrorist attacks in Kosovo Serb-majority areas and against Kosovo Force troops. The defendants were arrested in late June 2018 in Kosovo, following a joint interna tional police operation.
On 12 September, the Basic Court of Pristina sentenced another individual to 20 months in prison for posting terrorism-related material on social media. He was also convicted of using social networks to issue threatening messages against the Prime Minister of Kosovo.