Amnesty International has for over a decade highlighted the continuing lack of justice, truth and reparation for the victims of human rights violations (some of which may constitute crimes under international law) committed during and in the aftermath of the 1998-9 war in Kosovo.2 In particular, the organization has focussed on the absence of justice, truth and reparation for the victims of enforced disappearances and abductions, including the relatives of the missing persons.
This report reveals how the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), charged with the protection of human rights in Kosovo, signally failed to initiate prompt or thorough investigations when people reported their family members missing in the immediate aftermath of the war. Based on evidence considered by UNMIK's own Human Rights Advisory Panel (HRAP), it reveals a shocking disregard for the rights of missing persons and their family members. The HRAP's initial opinions, summarised in this report, more than confirm Amnesty International's findings – that such reports were not promptly, impartially and thoroughly investigated by UNMIK police, and that relatives were rarely informed of any progress in those investigations. Indeed, in some of the complaints considered to date, the HRAP has found that no investigation ever took place, or that the investigation was abandoned after the remains of the missing person were returned to their family for burial.
The report also reveals how UNMIK still continues to violate the rights of those family members by failing to implement the recommendations of the HRAP, with respect to reparation. Under the current UN rules related to compensation, UNMIK has no obligation to pay compensation for any human rights violations. This means that UNMIK has no formal obligation to provide the relatives with access to adequate reparation – including financial compensation for their loss, and their pain and suffering.
Amnesty International considers that the abductions which took place after the end of the armed conflict in June 1999, in the aftermath of the war, were part of a widespread, as well as a systematic, attack on a civilian population and, as such, may constitute crimes against humanity and must be investigated as such. Based on the organization's research since 1999, and now confirmed by the cases included in this report, Amnesty International considers that UNMIK's failure to investigate potential criminal liability for such crimes has contributed to the climate of impunity that continues to widely prevail in Kosovo.
Although this report focuses on the abductions of Kosovo Serbs, allegedly by members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), Amnesty International has found similar failings to those identified by the HRAP – with regard to UNMIK's failure to conduct prompt, impartial and effective investigations into enforced disappearances of ethnic Albanians by Serb police, military and paramilitary forces.