Citizens gather, preparing to march down Mother Teresa Boulevard. | Photo: Atdhe Mulla

HRW: ‘Slow progress’ on human rights in Kosovo

Violence against journalists, treatment of minorities and interethnic tension are issues troubling Kosovo’s human rights record in the past year.

Cases addressing attacks on Kosovo’s media freedom remained unresolved in 2017, concluded the annual Human Rights Watch, HRW,  World Report 2018, which was released on Thursday.

“Threats and attacks against journalists continued in 2017, while investigations and prosecutions were slow,” the report says.

HRW mentioned the intimidation faced by Arbana Xharra, former editor-in-chief of Zeri, when crosses made from blood-red paint were found around her family home, as well as the physical attacks made against director of Insajderi, Parim Olluri, and its editor-in-chief Vehbi Kajtazi in Prishtina.

The government strategy for the integration of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities adopted in 2016 was marred by slow implementation, the report stated.

As a result, the communities still struggle to acquire personal documents, “affecting their ability to access health care, social assistance, and education.”

The report criticised the UN’s failure to apologize and pay reparations to the victims of lead poisoning that occurred in the camps run by the UN Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, following the war in 1998-99. The victims were predominantly displaced members of Kosovo’s ethnic minorities.

Continuing inter-ethnic tension between Kosovo Serbs and Albanians was also highlighted.

The report condemns the Kosovo Police’s methods of registration of inter-ethnic violence cases, predominantly in the north of Kosovo.

Citing 15 cases registered between January and August 2017, the police’s failure to adequately report and categorize the crimes (which include bodily injury, graffiti, disruption of public order and incitement of religious, ethnic, and racial hatred) was hailed as “making effective scrutiny of police response to inter-ethnic violence difficult.”

HRW spokesperson Ben Ward criticized rule of law authorities for not disaggregating their data.

“The failure to disaggregate between different types of incidents and the lack of stats on the number of cases leading to prosecutions and convictions makes it hard to assess the scale of the problem or whether the police are responding adequately,” he told Prishtina Insight.

HRW further reported inadequate police and judicial responses as contributing to the lack of protection for women suffering from domestic violence.

Regardless of the establishment of a Crime Victim Compensation Program in May allowing survivors to seek reparations for the harm they have suffered, violence against women continues to be prevalent throughout Kosovo.

Despite no major incidents, the first gay pride event ever to be held in Kosovo corresponded to growing online abuse against the LGBT community.

“In October, gay rights activists reported an increase of hate speech online against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people,” the report states.

The report also noted that the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office became fully operational in 2017, allowing the court to begin issuing its first indictments against individuals responsible for war crimes committed during the 1998-99 war.

Executive Director of HRW, Kenneth Roth, emphasized that the report should “induce concern rather than surrender.”

18/01/2018 - 16:07

18 January 2018 - 16:07

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.