- Displaced people from Kosovo were evicted in April from a temporary settlement at Blok 67 in New Belgrade to make way for the June 2009 Student Games. Temporary alternative accommodation was provided, but local residents attempted to set containers on fire to prevent Roma from moving in. Some 60 families accepted alternative accommodation without water or electricity. Others remained at Blok 67 without permanent shelter. A fence erected around them in June for the duration of the games restricted their freedom of movement.
Human rights defenders
Women human rights defenders, in particular those addressing war crimes, transitional justice and corruption, were subject to continued threats to their lives and property, media attacks and malicious prosecutions. The authorities failed to protect them. In June anti-fascist activists were twice attacked by the right-wing group Honour (Obraz) because of their support for evicted Roma.
Violence against women
Amendments to the Criminal Code increased penalties for domestic violence and trafficking, and introduced the offence of knowingly exploiting a trafficked person. A draft law on domestic violence was criticized by NGOs for failing to strengthen protection mechanisms and to ensure the prosecution of those who violated protection orders.
In accordance with a 2008 UN plan, UNMIK retained a role in relations between Serbia and Kosovo. Some of its responsibilities were taken over by an EU-led police and justice mission (EULEX).
A Constitutional Court was established to review legislation and receive complaints of human rights violations by the Kosovo authorities. In June the Kosovo Assembly appointed an Ombudsperson.
In September, 22 members of the NGO Self- Determination! (Vetevendosje!) were arrested for damaging EULEX vehicles during a demonstration against a protocol on co-operation between the Serbian Ministry of Interior and EULEX police.
The ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo won local elections in November which were marred by violence. Despite provisions for the decentralization of municipalities, Kosovo Serbs largely boycotted the elections and failed to win municipalities where they formed a majority.
Justice system: war crimes
EULEX and the Ministry of Justice established mixed judicial panels and an Office of Special Prosecutors, which included local prosecutors, to address war crimes and other serious crimes.
In March Gani Gashi was convicted of the murder, attempted murder and grievous bodily harm of ethnic Albanians in 1998 and sentenced to 17 years' imprisonment.
In September, four Kosovo Serbs were arrested in Novo Brdo/Novobërdë on suspicion of war crimes including the inhumane treatment, unlawful arrest and detention of Kosovo Albanians in 1999.
In October, in a retrial of the Llapi Group ordered by the Supreme Court, Latif Gashi, Nazif Mehmeti and Rrustem Mustafa-Remi were convicted of the torture and inhumane treatment of civilian detainees at Llapashtica/Lapaštica in 1998-9. They were sentenced to between three and six years' imprisonment. The Albanian member of the judicial panel made public his disagreement with the verdict.
Enforced disappearances and abductions
More than 1,800 families in Kosovo and Serbia still did not know the fate of family members at the end of the year. EULEX had in December 2008 taken responsibility for the Office of Missing Persons and Forensics (OMPF). By December 101 mortal remains had been exhumed and 83 returned to their families; 400 previously unidentified remains were sent to the International Commission for Missing Persons for identification through DNA analysis. Investigations were opened in a few cases.
Families of the disappeared held repeated demonstrations calling for the return of missing relatives. Amendments to the 2006 Law on Civilian Victims of War providing compensation to relatives of the disappeared had not been introduced by the end of the year.