From: Alice Elizabeth Taylor
Kosovo Made Little Progress in Human Rights Watch Annual Report

According to the latest report from Human Rights Watch, Kosovo has made some progress during 2019 but media freedom, domestic violence, combating LGBTI hate speech, and ethnic minority rights still remain as issues.

Other countries in the region also failed to make significant progress in improving human rights in their territory.

The report, in its 30th year takes a look at human rights practices around the world. Summarising key human rights issues in over 100 countries, it focuses on events and incidents that occurred between late 2018 and November 2019.

The chapter on Kosovo starts by noting that EU-sponsored normalisation dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo stalled in November 2018, following Serbia’s decision to block Kosovo’s Interpol membership. As a result, Kosovo imposed 100% import duties on all Serbian and Bosnian imports.

It also noted the slow pace of accountability for serious war crimes committed during the 1998-1999 Kosovo war. According to the report, journalists investigating such matters and other matters of interest face threats and intimidation and prosecutions in general, of crimes against journalists are slow.

Threats against journalists came in many forms during the period of observation, including via social media and even physical attacks. The Democratic Party of Kosovo was called out for calling Gazeta Express “fake news” and for its head Kadri Velesi, allegedly pressuring its editor-in-chief. The report also noted the attack on reporter Gramos Zurnaxhiu who was reporting the demolition of a building complex in Prizren.

In terms of domestic violence, HRW noted that it remains a problem in Kosovo and it described the police response as “inadequate”. A lack of prosecutions and convictions and the failure of judges to issue restraining orders were blamed for the stalling of improvements. 

A programme to compensate those who survived sexual violence during the war had ‘limited reach” with 800 applications, 145 approvals and 102 rejections. The report noted that women survivors are not automatically entitled to free primary or secondary health care or free psycho-social assistance like other civilian war victims.

Hate speech against LGBTI individuals remains a problem and during the period of analysis, some 18 cases of threats and discrimination were registered, six of which had been investigated by the police. Cel Kosovo, an LGBTI organisation said they were aware of some 150 threats during the year, all of which were reported to the police, none of which were prosecuted. While 2019 saw hate speech against members of the LGBTI community become illegal, this has not resulted in any legal action being taken against perpetrators.

2019 was also a year where ethnic minorities continued to suffer, particularly those who are members of the Roma, Ashkali and Balkan Egyptian community. Difficulties in acquiring personal documents, accessing healthcare, social assistance and education were prevalent and “no concrete progress” was reported in any area.”

The report also detailed the failure of the United Nations to apologise and pay individual compensation to citizens poisoned by lead after living in UN Interim Administration Mission- administered camps after the war. Compensation was recommended by the Human Rights Advisory Panel in 2006, yet no meaningful contributions have been made. The matter mainly affects Roma, Ashkali and Balkan Egyptian communities.