Annual Report: Serbia 2013

Report
May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Serbia 2013

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  • On the Serbian religious holiday of Vidovdan in June, the Kosovo Police removed Serbian flags and other insignia including T-shirts from Serbian men travelling across the border. Many Kosovo Police and at least four Serbs were reportedly injured in the ensuing violence. Sixteen children returning from Vidovdan celebrations were injured when their bus was attacked by ethnic Albanians in Pristina.

In December, a Serbian government proposal for autonomy for the north was dismissed by Prime Minister Thaçi.

Crimes under international law

EULEX recruited two additional prosecutors for the investigation and prosecution of war crimes. The 2011 Law on Witness Protection, which entered into force in September, was not implemented before the end of the year.

In May, the former Minister of Transport and KLA leader Fatmir Limaj and three others were acquitted of war crimes at Klečka/Kleçkë prison camp in 1999, including ordering the torture and killing of Kosovo Serb and Albanian civilians. Six other defendants were acquitted in March. In November, after the Supreme Court overturned the May verdict, ordering a retrial, EULEX arrested Fatmir Limaj and three other defendants. The Prime Minister immediately challenged EULEX's right to arrest them, but they remained in detention pending trial at the end of the year.

Two Kosovo Serbs suspected of raping Kosovo Albanian women in April 1999 were arrested in September, under the first indictment issued in Kosovo for war crimes of sexual violence.

Enforced disappearances and abductions

The Special Investigative Task Force established by the EU continued to investigate allegations that the KLA had abducted Serbs and subsequently transferred them to Albania, where they were tortured, murdered and some allegedly had their organs removed for trafficking.

In December the Human Rights Advisory Panel (HRAP), established to decide on alleged human rights violations by the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), considered three complaints, in which they decided that UNMIK had violated the right to life of Kosovo Serbs abducted following the 1999 armed conflict, by failing to conduct an effective investigation.

By September, the Department of Forensic Medicine had exhumed the remains of 20 individuals; 51bodies, (including 33 ethnic Albanians and 18 Kosovo Serbs), identified by DNA analysis, were returned to their families for burial. Exhumations concluded at Zhilivoda/Žilivoda mine, thought to contain remains of 25 Kosovo Serbs; however no bodies were found.

The Kosovo Government Commission for Missing Persons largely failed to implement the 2011 Law on Missing Persons. Relatives demanded the authorities address the issue of missing persons in talks with Serbia.

Excessive use of force

Kosovo Police used excessive force at demonstrations against government policy organized by the political movement Vetëvendosje in January and October.

Freedom of expression

Physical attacks on journalists continued. Journalists and government officials protested against the retention of restrictions on constitutional rights to freedom of expression in the revised Criminal Code, which criminalized defamation and provided for the imprisonment of journalists who refused to reveal their sources. In May, Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga refused to approve the Code and returned it to the National Assembly; a law removing the articles was adopted in October.

In December, the launch of a magazine examining heterosexual and same-sex sexuality in Western Balkans was disrupted by a violent homophobic attack. The following day, the office of Libertas, an LGBTI NGO, was attacked.

Discrimination

Roma faced widespread and persistent discrimination. According to the OSCE, implementation of the Kosovo Action Plan on the Implementation of the Strategy for the Integration of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian Communities was hampered by a lack of funding, co-ordination and relevant data.

In August, the HRAP declared partially admissible a complaint by 147 Roma, that UNMIK had violated their right to health by allowing them to remain in lead-contaminated camps for more than 10 years. The majority had been resettled, but children affected by lead-poisoning lacked adequate health care. The Roma had been denied compensation in a separate UN process.