The voices of 34 human rights non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have come together to produce the second joint annual report on the human rights situation in Kosovo.
With a strong focus on the human rights consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout 2020, the report was produced with the support of UN Human Rights and the UN Mission in Kosovo’s (UNMIK) Human Rights Component.
Representatives from different ethnic backgrounds joined forces to produce the report, in line with ongoing efforts to advance intercommunity trust building in Kosovo. The number of contributing organisations jumped from 21 last year to 34 this year.
“In addition to further enhancing cooperation and coordination between civil society actors from different backgrounds, this report continues to fill a critical gap in human rights monitoring and reporting in Kosovo,” said Jerome Bouyjou, Chief of UNMIK’s Human Rights Component and Representative for UN Human Rights in Kosovo. “It also provides concrete recommendations to Kosovo institutions aimed at advancing the realisation of human rights for all people in Kosovo.”
The report provides a solid analysis on a wide range of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights; human rights issues relating to specific groups and people in vulnerable situations; and cross-cutting human rights topics, namely, corruption and human rights, transitional justice, and the environment and human rights.
COVID-19 exacerbating pre-existing human rights challenges
As in many parts of the world, in Kosovo, the COVID-19 crisis disproportionately impacted minority communities and people in vulnerable situations.
Before the pandemic, Kosovo faced a range of human rights challenges, which were only amplified with the onset of the crisis, according to the report.
Gender-based violence, including domestic violence, increased as a result of lockdowns. Members of non-majority communities such as K-Roma, K-Ashkali and K-Egyptians and people living in poverty faced an even greater lack of access to education. In addition, the right to information for non-Albanian speaking communities and people with disabilities weakened further.
The authors therefore urge central and local institutions in Kosovo to place human rights and gender equality at the heart of the COVID-19 response and recovery. The report advises that all interventions should address the specific needs of minority communities and marginalised groups so that they are not left behind in the process of building back better.
Transitional justice and the right to truth
The aftermath of the 1998–1999 armed conflict in Kosovo continues to bring with it enormous human rights challenges, and transitional justice efforts must be approached with a human rights lens, the report advises.
With 1,642 people still missing at the end of 2020, the right to truth for their families is critical, says the report, calling for reforms to address long-standing gaps in the legal framework such as the adoption of an amended and more robust Law on Missing Persons.
The authors also draw attention to ongoing challenges to the process of verifying whether people experienced sexual violence during the conflict, and granting them with the legal status of a survivor of conflict-related sexual violence. This entitles officially recognised survivors to financial support and other forms of reparative assistance.
Kosovo institutions welcome the report
Following its publication, the report’s findings and recommendations were officially presented to the Assembly of Kosovo Committee for Human Rights, Gender Equality, Victims of Sexual Violence of War, Missing Persons, and Petitions (Committee) during a dedicated session in June 2021. The Committee welcomed its publication and congratulated the contributing NGOs on their commitment and work to advance human rights in Kosovo.
The former Ombudsperson of Kosovo and representatives from four NGOs also presented the report’s findings and recommendations to the Prime Minister of Kosovo and other high-level government officials in July 2021.
Marigona Shabiu, Executive Director at the Youth Initiative for Human Rights – Kosovo, underscored that the contributing NGOs will continue to utilise the report’s recommendations as the basis for their joint advocacy with various Kosovo institutions and will follow up on their implementation as part of an ongoing process to advance human rights for all people in Kosovo.
(*) Any reference to Kosovo, whether to the territory, institutions or population, is to be understood in full compliance with Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo.
23 August 2021