Kosovo minorities leave, claiming discrimination

Published on May 28, 2009, Deutsche Welle

Category: Violence Against Christian Serbs and Their Holy Places

The refusal of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership to ensure minority rights is driving out many non-Serb minorities, a new human rights report says.

The London-based Minority Rights Group International (MRG) says exclusion from political and social life and discrimination are forcing ethnic Bosniaks, Turks, Roma, Croats, Gorani, Ashkali Egyptians and even some Serbs out of Kosovo.

Non-Serb minorities have criticized the international community for paying too much attention to Albanian-Serb relations and ignoring other groups.

"The priority for the international community should be to ensure that there is some kind of international human rights mechanism to which minorities in Kosovo can turn," MRG director, Mark Lattimer, said.

Lack of political will

Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence in February 2008 and Serbia's opposition to the move had resulted in a vacuum in international protection for minorities, the MRG report says.

Since declaring independence, ethnic divisions have worsened between the enclave's two million Albanians, 120,000 Serbs, and 80,000 others from smaller ethnic groups, despite the presence of 14,000 NATO peacekeepers and a 2,000-strong European Union mission overseeing a fragile peace.

"There is a lack of political will and substantive investment in effective implementation of minority rights among majority Albanians," the report says.

"Together with a bad economy, these conditions mean that many members of minority communities are now leaving the new Kosovo state altogether," MRG concludes.

Integration "a fantasy"

The Kosovo government has called the report "not factually accurate" and says minority rights are guaranteed by the constitution. But Lattimer, in an interview with Deutsche Welle, described that claim as "a fantasy" and stressed that the trend toward greater ethnic segregation was continuing.

"Effectively," Lattimer said, "ten years of international rule have seen an increase in segregation between communities."

The MRG report says that the poor treatment of minorities was due to a perception that they had been allies of, or did little to oppose, the former Serb regime in the 1990s.

Serbia still regards Kosovo as part of its historic heartland and has asked the International Court of Justice in The Hague to rule on the legality of its secession.

Serb President Boris Tadic, ahead of a visit to France on Wednesday, told the French daily Le Figaro that Serbia would "never recognize" the unilateral independence of Kosovo.

Kosovo's independence has only been recognized by 60 of the world's 200 countries.

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