New EU mission must bring justice to Kosovo

The new European Union (EU)-led mission in Kosovo is being urged to take urgent measures to resolve the country’s massive backlog of war crimes and other human rights violations. The EU Police and Justice Mission (EULEX) is to formally take over responsibilities from the United Nations (UN) mission, on 9 December. Charged with overseeing the reform of the criminal justice system in Kosovo, the mission will take responsibility for aspects of policing. It will also continue the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) practice of employing international prosecutors and judiciary to investigate and prosecute war crimes and other serious crimes. “Ten years after the end of the war in Kosovo, the EU-led mission should ensure that the relatives of more than 3,000 disappeared and abducted people are told the truth about the fate of their loved ones, and the perpetrators of those crimes brought to justice,” said Nicola Duckworth, Director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme. “With more than 1,500 unresolved war crimes investigations and hundreds or even thousands of war crimes which remain to be investigated, the mission should dedicate its resources to bring justice to the victims on all sides.” Amnesty International has also urged the EU to ensure the accountability of all members of their mission. “The EU mission as a whole must be subject to much greater scrutiny and accountability than its predecessor UNMIK, which has itself left a legacy of human rights violations, many of which will never be resolved,” Nicola Duckworth said. “In the absence of effective human rights institutions to which the international community may be held accountable, it is of paramount importance that EULEX starts its mission with making public mechanisms ensuring the accountability of its members.” Amnesty International has expressed concern that the US made an agreement that its own citizens participating in the EULEX mission would not be subject to EULEX’s jurisdiction. The organization also notes that there is currently no independent mechanism to oversee the NATO-led peacekeeping Kosovo Force (KFOR), which will remain in place. The accountability of KFOR depends on the measures taken by troop-contributing countries to KFOR to ensure that allegations of human rights violations are fully investigated. Over the past 10 years Amnesty International has documented cases of where UNMIK or its personnel have been responsible for violations including unlawful killings, unlawful detention, torture and ill-treatment, involvement in trafficking for the purposes of forced prostitution and the continued violation of the right to health of Romani, Ashkalia and Egyptian communities living in lead-contaminated refugee camps. The Human Rights Advisory Panel, introduced by UMIK in 2006, will address some 52 cases of human rights violations, including the killing of two young Albanian men by Romanian UNMIK police officers during a demonstration in February 2007. “We are concerned that this is not enough and that, for most human rights violations, impunity will prevail,” said Nicola Duckworth.