Torture and other ill-treatment
In January the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture reported on its March 2007 visit to places of detention in Kosovo then under UNMIK's control. It reported the denial of detention rights and ill-treatment by Kosovo Police Service officers, and criticized conditions in most psychiatric and social welfare institutions. The Committee also described illtreatment in several prisons by the elite Intervention Unit, including the beating of juvenile males at Lipjan/Lipljan Correctional Centre.
In March the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG), citing security reasons, refused to allow a public hearing before the UNMIK Human Rights Advisory Panel (HRAP) relating to UNMIK's failure to bring to justice members of the Romanian Formed Police Unit. An internal investigation had found them responsible for the death of two men, Mon Balaj and Arbën Xheladini, on 10 February 2007 and for the serious injury of two others through the improper use of rubber bullets. Although the HRAP decided a public hearing would take place in June, the SRSG said in May he would not attend the hearing "under the procedure envisaged by the panel". In October an Administrative Directive was adopted which potentially rendered the case inadmissible.
In September the UN Secretary-General reported on the growing number of security-related incidents affecting minority communities. Inter-ethnic tensions between Kosovo Serbs and ethnic Albanians and attacks continued, especially in Serb-dominated north Mitrovicë/a. In July and August Roma were attacked and threatened in Gjilan/Gnjilane and Ferizaj/Uroševac respectively.
In March the Supreme Court overturned the conviction in June 2008 of Kosovo Albanian Florim Ejupi for the bombing in February 2001 of the Niš- Ekspress bus near Podujevë/o in which 11 Serbs were killed and at least 40 injured. A new investigation opened in May.
In April Kosovo Albanian returnees to Kroi i Vitakut/ Br?ani in north Mitrovicë/a were prevented from rebuilding their houses by Kosovo Serbs. For 10 days EULEX police and troops of the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) used tear gas and stun grenades against protesters, one of whom was injured. In mid- May Serbs also were allowed to rebuild their houses, and a barbed wire fence was erected between the construction sites, patrolled by EULEX police. In mid-August and September violence again broke out.
Discrimination - Roma
Discrimination against Roma remained pervasive, including in access to education, health care and employment. Few enjoyed the right to adequate housing. The majority remained without personal documents that would enable them to register their residency and status.
The action plan to implement a Strategy for the Integration of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians had yet to be implemented. An estimated 75 per cent of Romani women were illiterate and had little access to protection from domestic violence. In October NGOs alleged discrimination against Roma applicants for "multi-ethnic" apartments in the predominantly Serbian village of Llapje Sellë/Laplje Selo.
In June the HRAP declared partially admissible a case brought against UNMIK by 143 displaced Romani, Ashkali and Egyptian residents of UNMIKadministered camps in northern Mitrovicë/a. The residents alleged they had suffered lead poisoning and other health problems from the Trepçë/Trep?a smelter and mining complex.
Several EU member states and Switzerland negotiated bilateral agreements with Kosovo on the forcible return of minorities, including Roma. Kosovo Serbs were forcibly returned from Luxembourg in November. A return and reintegration strategy agreed by the Kosovo authorities and UNMIK in 2007 was not adequately resourced or implemented by government and municipal authorities.