UN internal human rights oversight body says it failed to hold Kosovo mission accountable for abuses such as housing Roma on contaminated land
The online news server Prishtina Insight reports that the 2015/2016 annual report published by the United Nations' own internal human rights mechanism, the Human Rights Advisory Panel (HRAP) has harshly criticized UN failures with respect to human rights in Kosovo. The HRAP called its efforts to achieve some sort of formal judgment regarding human rights abuses committed by the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) a "total failure" and said it apologized "profusely to the complainants for its role in this sham.”
The HRAP has run for 10 years, ostensibly to deal with complaints that UNMIK itself has committed human rights abuses in Kosovo since its inception in 1999. The HRAP mandate is now over and its members fear justice will never be attained for the wrongdoing discovered, according to Prishtina Insight.
“UNMIK remains as unaccountable now for the human rights violations that it committed as it was in 2004 when the Venice Commission proposed to establish a mechanism to bring some oversight to UNMIK’s compliance with human rights standards,” states this most recent report, which reviews the 88 cases it handled during 2015 and 2016. HRAP issued its greatest number of decisions (247) in 2012.
“Due to UNMIK’s unwillingness to follow any of the Panel’s recommendations and UNMIK’s general intransigence, the HRAP process has obtained no redress for the complainants. As such, they have been victimized twice by UNMIK: by the original human rights violations committed against them and again by putting their hope and trust into this process,” the HRAP report says.
After the Kosovo war, UNMIK administered Kosovo, including its courts and police, and was responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes until a government could do so. This most recent recent HRAP report finds that UNMIK's administration involved a “lack of adequate criminal investigations in relation to disappearances, abductions and killings.”
The report for 2015/2016 especially stresses UN negligence in housing displaced Romani inhabitants of Kosovo on lead-contaminated land and then failing to resolve that crisis for more than 10 years. Prishtina Insight reports that Dianne Post, the lawyer representing the Romani IDPs seeking compensation for the damage caused to them by lead poisoning, said the lack of action on the panel’s recommendations over the years emphasizes that the UN is basically incapable of following its own rules.
“This is 2016. UNMIK was told over and over again to make a public apology, which they never did,” said Post. “When they became the authority, they had the responsibility, and they didn’t act when they were told repeatedly to act. That’s what we’re asking you to apologize for. This is not acceptable behavior by an international organization that has such an important role in the world to uphold human rights and law.”
Prishtina Insight reports that Jennifer Brush, who served as Deputy Special Representative to the Secretary-General for UNMIK in 2014 and 2015, said UNMIK no longer functions with the authority it once held and that the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) is now responsible for dealing with complaints. Brush told Prishtina Insight that she began advocating for "alternative efforts to console the victims" after receiving what the news server called "disinterested responses" from EULEX.
Post also told Prishtina Insight that in order to hold the UN accountable there needs to be a directive that first states to whom the UN is accountable. “There always has to be some balancing power when you have such a powerful organization. The only thing balancing the UN’s power is the money that the member states put in. That’s not a very positive way of bringing about change,” she told Prishtina Insight.
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