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From: Wally Keeler 
Subject: Current Situation of Roma in Kosovo (long)
Date: Friday, July 09, 1999 8:54 PM

European Roma Rights Center
P.O.Box 10/24 - 1525 Budapest - Hungary –
Phone: +(361)327-9877 Fax: +(361)338-3727

PRESS STATEMENT
9 JULY 1999

The Current Situation of Roma in Kosovo

The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) conducted field research in Kosovo
during the period June 30-July 7, 1999, in the course of which the ERRC
documented numerous abuses, primarily by ethnic Albanians evidently intent
on purging Kosovo of Roma in the wake of the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces
from the region in early June 1999. Abuses documented include killings of
Roma by ethnic Albanians; abduction and illegal detention of Roma by ethnic
Albanians; torture, beatings and other physical abuse; rape; expulsions of
Roma from homes and communities; house burnings; forced labour; forced entry
into Romani houses; and confiscations of houses and other property, all
during the period June 16-July 7, 1999. ERRC interviews with local ethnic
Albanians elucidated a strong anti-Gypsy sentiment animating many ethnic
Albanians in Kosovo. The ERRC has gathered reports of violence and threats
of violence against Roma in Kosovo. Most of the Kosovo Roma are presently
displaced, both inside and outside Kosovo. Inside Kosovo they are living
either in improvised camps in unsanitary conditions or in small enclaves,
often together with Serbs, who are also targeted collectively by members of
the Albanian majority. In addition, Roma fleeing Kosovo to the Serbian
interior of Yugoslavia have been forcibly returned by Yugoslav authorities,
which in the circumstances amounts to the grave human rights violation of
refoulement. The current situation is one of ethnic cleansing of Kosovo Roma
and Serbs by ethnic Albanians; instances of pogroms have occurred in some
instances and a general threat of pogroms exists. International authorities,
and particularly the KFOR, have reacted inadequately, especially to abuses
of Roma, and to the evident urgent need for international protection of the
Roma in Kosovo.


Killings

A prominent member of the Egyptian   community of Djakovica, Mr B.G.,
reported to the ERRC on July 6 that since the entry of KFOR troops in
Kosovo, he has heard reports of three people being abducted and killed by
ethnic Albanians in the communities in and around the town. These persons
are:

1. Mr Rex Hahxi Shola
2. A man he could identify only as "Bajram"
3. A man he could identify only as "Rruli"

Forcibly displaced Roma interviewed  on July 3 in the Serbian part of
Kosovska Mitrovica told the ERRC that they believe that Mr Aziz Azemi, an
elderly invalid, probably died in his house when ethnic Albanians burned his
house on Fabricka street in Kosovska Mitrovica on or around June 25. The
same sources said that they thought Mr Avdush Golubar (60) and his wife
Nevzija might also have burned in their house in the same quarter around the
same time.

Roma in Prizren reported to the ERRC that ethnic Albanians had killed "an
entire family" in recent weeks in the village of Landovica, north-west of
Prizren.


Abductions, Disappearances, Kidnap and Detention

The ERRC heard numerous reports of abductions by ethnic Albanians, described
either as "KLA" (in and out of uniform) or simply "Albanians"; these take
place during the day or night, from houses or off the street. Roma (and
“Egyptians”) as a group are accused of having looted buildings while the KLA
was abroad, or of having collaborated with the Yugoslav army. The ERRC
documented detentions in the Romani neighbourhoods of Orahovac; the Terzi
Mahala, Dusanova and Durmis Aslano quarters of Prizren, as well as persons
abducted from the street in Prizren; the Romani settlement in the village of
Velika Krusa; the Egyptian and Romani neighbourhoods of Piskota, Mahala
Cerim, Mahala Culit and Mahala Cefes in Djakovica, as well as persons
abducted from the street in that town. Roma in the Dusanova settlement in
Prizren told the ERRC that local ethnic Albanians now regularly come to the
settlement and take women for periods of several hours to perform forced
labour; allegations that Roma and Egyptians were made to perform forced
labour by Yugoslav police prior to the end of NATO bombing were also heard
in Orahovac and Prizren.

The whereabouts of the following persons were, as of July 6, not known to
family members or to the ERRC:

According to family members, 27-year-old Mr T.F. was seen by friends of his
being kidnapped by KLA members from a main street in Djakovica in broad
daylight as he went to work on June 27. He was reportedly seen by another
Egyptian man detained by the KLA two days later, apparently unharmed, in
detention in a KLA headquarters in the "Junik" building in the centre of the
town. On July 2, another Egyptian man detained by KLA and taken to the
"Junik" building in Djakovica reportedly saw Mr T.F., again apparently
unharmed. The family reported the case to KFOR, who have allegedly taken no
action in the case.

According to the testimony of his family members, 21-year-old Mr S.H.
disappeared from in front of his house in the Durmis Aslano street in
Prizren on or around June 18. His whereabouts as of July 6 were not known.

A Romani man from the town of Orahovac known by the nickname "Skelzen" was
reportedly last seen in custody and severely physically abused in a KLA
detention centre in a private house in the village of Drenovce on June 30.

Mr  H.C. (41), interviewed in his home in Orahovac, told the ERRC that on
June 21 uniformed KLA officers abducted five Romani men who are family
members of his from their homes in Orahovac. They are Q.C. (19),  D.Y. (26),
S.R. (35),  X.R. (38)  and L.B. (48), all from Orahovac. Mr H.C. told the
ERRC that he had risked his own safety to go to the local headquarters and
inquire about the fate of his relatives. Local KLA officers reportedly told
him that they knew nothing about the whereabouts of the men. The ERRC was
also told of the abduction of Mr F.R. (19) on June 27 from Orahovac by
uniformed KLA. Again, local KLA have reportedly denied all knowledge of his
whereabouts.

It was reported to the ERRC that the following sites were, at the time of
ERRC field research in Kosovo, used by the KLA as detention centres:

--A school for the deaf and mute in Prizren; KFOR reportedly raided this
site on or around July 1 and confiscated weapons from the building;
according to testimony provided to the ERRC by Roma in Prizren, it is still
being used as a detention centre. A high-ranking KFOR official in the
military police in Prizren claimed no knowledge of the centre.

--The "Junik" building in Djakovica;

--A private L-shaped house in the village of  Drenovce. There is reportedly
a KLA or red Albanian flag flying in front of this house, which is at the
back of a vineyard;

Roma state that in larger towns, KLA have established detention centres in
public buildings or other prominent cites, while in villages, Roma are
brought to private houses when kidnapped.


Torture and Physical Abuse

The number of instances of physical abuse documented by the ERRC are
numerous and only an incomplete list is provided here: the ERRC has
interviewed victims and eyewitnesses of physical abuse in Djakovica,
Gracanica, Kosovo Polje, Kosovska Mitrovica, Prizren, and Velika Krusa.
Reports include beatings with fists, iron bars and truncheons and kicking;
torture such as forcing individuals to place their feet on a stool while
persons identified as "KLA" sit on the legs and beat the soles of the feet;
in one instance, the ERRC was told that the victim was subsequently required
to stand on one foot at a time for periods of fifteen minutes. In addition,
ethnic Albanians have threatened to shoot Roma, to cut or stab them with
knives, as well as to kill and mutilate. Abuses take place both day and
night, in detention as well as in the houses of the victims.

Mr Z.P. (19), who was, at the time the ERRC interviewed him on July 2, a
displaced person in Kosovo Polje, told the ERRC that he was seized and
beaten by civilian Albanians in his home town of Pristina while checking the
damage to his aunt’s house on June 21.  They reportedly brought him to the
local KLA headquarters. In custody he was repeatedly beaten by uniformed KLA
soldiers and officers. He was threatened with a knife, a pistol and a
submachine gun; at one point he was brought to a table which he described as
being full of tools “ready for a [surgical] operation”. The KLA alleged that
he had committed crimes against the Albanians and that he should confess
them. He was also shown photographs of approximately 200 persons and asked
to identify any of them. He denied having committed any crimes or knowing
any of the persons shown in the photographs; he was then beaten further,
with blows to the head and kicks to the body. He was released approximately
seven hours after the abduction.

The ERRC documented the injuries of 65-year-old Mrs L.L. (65) and also of a
nine year old girl named J.Q. in the school Roma camp at Kosovska Mitrovica.
The woman and the parents of the child reported that the beating had taken
place at the time they were evicted from their homes in the Fabricka street
district in Kosovska Mitrovica. Family members of 23-year-old Ms O.N. told
the ERRC that after she had been beaten by ethnic Albanians on or around
June 26 at the time of their expulsion from their home in Kosovska
Mitrovica, Ms O.N. had "stopped talking”. The ERRC observed that Ms O.N.
appeared to be in apparently psychologically traumatised state at the time
of the interview.

On July 3, a 22-year-old Romani man named G.S. in the Dusanova settlement in
Prizren told the ERRC that in the first days of the KFOR presence in Kosovo
he had been detained by uniformed KLA officers while returning from work and
brought to a public building in the centre of Prizren where, between the
hours of six and ten in the evening, he was brutally beaten with fists and
truncheons by ten KLA officers. He states that there were fifteen other
Romani men in custody in the building. KLA officials accused Mr G.S. of
having stolen and looted during the Yugoslav military action in Kosovo and
demanded to know the whereabouts of Luan Koka, Romani leader from Pristina
who attended the negotiations in Rambouillet, France, on the Serb side. Mr
G.S. reported that he was "totally black" following the abuse and could not
walk. The ERRC noted that three weeks after the incident, bruises were still
visible on his arms and torso. He reported that he continued to have pains
in his legs and kidneys. He told the ERRC that he knew of four other Romani
men in his street alone who had been detained and beaten by ethnic Albanians
during the past three weeks.

On July 4, 40-year old Mrs M.L. in the Terzi Mahala neighbourhood of Prizren
reported that her son, 22-year-old T.L., had been kidnapped by members of
the KLA on June 30, and released following severe abuse. He was reportedly
severely injured and immobilised in his home in the village of Velika Krusa.
He had reportedly been warned that if he reported the abuse to anyone, the
KLA would kill him. Mr T.L. subsequently reported to the ERRC  that ethnic
Albanians who were not in uniform had detained him, along with his father
and sister-in-law at approximately 4:30 in the afternoon on July 2, taken
him to a house in the village of Drenovce, where, over a period of three or
four hours, they had severely physically abused him. Mr T.L. had visible
bruises all over his body, reported pain in his legs, shoulders, back and
head, and was unable to walk when interviewed on July 5.

On July 5, 1999, Mr M.L., a Romani man from Terzi Mahala in Prizren told the
ERRC that three uniformed KLA officers had come to his home in the afternoon
of June 27 and told him to come with them to their headquarters in a school
for the deaf and mute in the centre of Prizren. While in detention, fifteen
uniformed KLA officers beat him with their fists, with truncheons and with a
wooden plank. They interrogated him as to the whereabouts of Luan Koka and
as to his own activities during the war. They released him approximately
four hours later and threatened him with further abuse if he reported the
incident. He reported the incident to KFOR, who subsequently photographed
his visible injuries, interviewed him and raided the school, where,
according to Mr M.L., they found and confiscated weapons, but no persons in
the building. Mr M.L. was confined to bed for seven days and told the ERRC
that he was still in pain as of July 5. Mr M.L. told the ERRC that four
other Roma in his street in Terzi Mahale had been detained beaten in the
past three weeks. Mr M.L.'s mother, Mrs. P.L., told the ERRC that KLA
officers had again come to his house to look for him and to order him to
report again to the school building on four separate occasions on July 1,
but that they had not found him. Mr M.L. is presently in hiding.


Rape

The ERRC interviewed 24-year-old Mr B.K. of the Piskota neighbourhood of
Djakovica. He provided the ERRC with eyewitness testimony documenting the
rape of his sister and his wife in his home by four armed KLA members in
uniform during the night of June 29. On the following morning, the entire
family fled to the Dusanova neighbourhood of Prizren, where the ERRC
interviewed him on July 3. His present whereabouts are not known, however,
since on July 6, a large number of the Roma remaining in the Dusanova
settlement fled under threat by Albanian neighbours in surrounding houses
that they would burn the settlement to the ground and kill persons remaining
in the houses. On July 6, the ERRC again visited the settlement and
documented that one house had been burned to the ground during the previous
night. When the ERRC visited the settlement again on July 7, it was not
possible to enter, since ethnic Albanians surrounded the members of the
ERRC, evidently intent on keeping the ERRC from speaking with the few Roma
remaining in the settlement. Senior KFOR officials in Prizren told the ERRC
that they were unable to protect the settlement, since on one occasion they
had been shot at from the windows of the surrounding buildings.

The ERRC interviewed Ms K.F. on July 3, in the improvised “Vuk Karadjic”
school refugee camp in Kosovska Mitrovica. She reported that her cousin,
30-year-old Mrs A.D., a mother of two, was raped at approximately 8:00 PM on
June 20 in her home in Fabricka street in Kosovska Mitrovica by six
uniformed KLA members. The ERRC photographed Mrs A.D. but did not attempt an
interview, as members of her family and other camp inmates said that she
“had stopped talking”. She would also hardly move her eyes or body.

The ERRC also heard allegations of rapes of Egyptian women by ethnic
Albanians in the Mahala Lepraven near Djakovica.


Expulsions of Roma

Roma and "Egyptians" throughout Kosovo interviewed during ERRC field
research detailed expulsions from homes and communities by ethnic Albanians.
Mrs K.Z. (45), interviewed in a school in the village of Gracanin where
displaced Roma were staying at the time of the interview on July 3, told the
ERRC that she and her family were chased from their home in Urosevac by
uniformed and armed KLA men “led by an Albanian neighbour”. Mr R.N. (36),
also displaced to the improvised camp in Kosovo Polje, accompanied the ERRC
to his native village of Crkvena Vodica on July 2. There, the ERRC witnessed
around thirty houses burnt or burning. Mr. R.N. told the ERRC that he had
fled together with his family on June 25, when around 20 unknown civilians,
armed with automatic weapons, rifles and bombs, had come and warned the Roma
“to be out by the next day.”

Egyptians in the town of Djakovica detailed a pattern of abuse in which
ethnic Albanians raided the homes of Egyptian families, terrorized them and
then ordered them to leave by morning or be killed. Most of the Egyptians
harrassed or abused had indeed left Djakovica.


Burning of Romani Houses by Ethnic Albanians

The ERRC documented many cases in which ethnic Albanians set fire to the
houses of Roma. Most of these abuses had taken place after June 20; some
happened only several hours before the interviews.

Mr G.P. (33), who at the time the ERRC interviewed him on July 2 was a
displaced person in Kosovo Polje, brought the ERRC to his still burning
house in the Romani quarter of Lozionica in Kosovo Polje. Ethnic Albanians
had expelled him and set his house on fire in the morning of the same day.
Other Romani houses in that large Romani neighbourhood of around 1500 houses
were also on fire at the time of the ERRC visit. KFOR officers were visible
on the main road, approximately 500 metres from the neighbourhood, but they
did not react .

Mr J.S. (36), a displaced Romani man interviewed on July 2 in an impromptu
refugee camp for Roma in Kosovo Polje, told the ERRC that ethnic Albanians
had set his house on fire in the village of Subotic in his presence, just
after they had expelled him and his family on or around June 26. "We weren't
ten steps from the door," he said.

The ERRC also witnessed the pillaging and burning of houses in the Romani
quarter of Pristina around Moravska street at around 2:00 PM on July 2.
There were at least fifteen teams of persons looting the buildings who
appeared to be ethnic Albanians and were also so described by a Romani man
from the area. The teams were repeatedly filling trailers pulled by tractors
or cars with goods from the abandoned houses. At least ten houses were
burning.

The ERRC witnessed one house burnt by ethnic Albanians in the Romani
neighbourhood of Dusanova in Prizren at around 11:00 PM on July 5, as well
as one house burnt by ethnic Albanians in the Piskota settlement in
Djakovica on the night of July 4 at approximately 10:30 PM. In the first
case, it was reported to the ERRC by eyewitnesses that three ethnic
Albanians dressed in civilian clothes and armed with pistols, entered the
house of Ms T.G. in Dusanova, forced a pistol into the mouth of 72-year-old
Mr L.R., doused the house with gasoline and set it ablaze. Five Romani
persons were reportedly in the house at the time. Mr L.R. suffered a bruised
face in the attack. The house was rendered uninhabitable. At approximately
9:30 AM on July 6, KFOR authorities told the ERRC that they had documented
the case and called the fire department, who had extinguished the blaze.
Roma in the Dusanova settlement subsequently told the ERRC that they had put
out the fire themselves and that neither KFOR nor a fire brigade had been to
the house. At approximately 11 AM on July 6, while the ERRC was interviewing
witnesses to the attack, KFOR troops arrived at the house in Dusanova and
began what appeared to be a preliminary investigation. The ERRC visited the
house burnt in the Piskota settlement on the night of July 4 in Djakovica
and spoke with eyewitnesses, but the inhabitants of the house had already
fled the area.

Members of the UN's World Food Program told the ERRC that they had witnessed
houses of Roma burning on July 2 in the town of Suva Reka. Eyewitnesses told
the ERRC that on July 5, ethnic Albanians had burnt one house in the Romani
settlement of Berkoc, near Djakovica and that ethnic Albanians had burned a
further three houses in the same settlement on July 6. Roma from Velika
Krusa told the ERRC that local ethnic Albanians had burned an unspecified
number of houses in that village. The ERRC noted that burning houses were
visible at any hour of the day from the main roads linking Kosovo towns.


Forced Entry into Romani Houses

Roma and “Egyptians” in the Durmis Aslano, Dusanova and Terzi Mahala
quarters of Prizren and the Piskota settlement in Djakovica told the ERRC
that ethnic Albanians had broken into their home repeatedly during the
course of the previous three weeks, usually at night; threatened and
intimidated Romani and Egyptian inhabitants; and told them that they would
kill them if they remained in Kosovo.

Mr L.T., 36 years old, from the Piskota settlement of Djakovica told the
ERRC that during the night of July 4, four uniformed KLA officers armed with
automatic weapons, knives, iron bars and an axe entered Mr L.T.'s home at
around 2:00 AM while Mr L.T. and his family slept, woke him up, and bound
his hands. Although the KLA officials told him they had come "from Albania
and Pristina", Mr L.T. recognised them as locals. From approximately 2:00 AM
until approximately 4:30 AM, KLA officers interrogated Mr L.T. concerning
what he had been doing during the war. At one point, KLA officers asked him
whether two girls present in the house, one of them fifteen- and the other
sixteen-years-old, were married, and two of them accompanied them upstairs,
causing Mr L.T. to fear that they would be sexually abused. Mr L.T. states
that they were not sexually abused. Mr L.T. told the ERRC that he fears that
he will be killed or expelled, since KLA officials have told other Egyptians
in the Piskota quarter "You will be killed" and "We will kill you". The ERRC
interviewed victims of similar incidents in the Durmis Aslano, Dusanova and
Terzi Mahala quarters in Prizren. Often such incidents are accompanied by
physical abuse.


Confiscation of Houses and Other Property, Looting and Plundering

Egyptians in Djakovica told the ERRC that ethnic Albanians had confiscated
approximately fifty houses from local Egyptians and Roma in the town, as
well as 20-30 cars owned by Roma and Egyptians. According to local
Egyptians, ethnic Albanians in Djakovica presently take whatever they like
from Roma. Roma in Prizren reported that Albanians had confiscated two
houses in the Ortokol neighbourhood and one house in the Dusanova settlement
as of July 4. Mr K.C., interviewed in the Romani quarter of Orahovac on July
2, told the ERRC that he had been stopped by six or seven local ethnic
Albanians on the street in broad daylight. They reportedly beat him and
stole his identity card. Mr K.C. told the ERRC that he believes he would
have been abducted, had a KFOR patrol not intervened. Mrs J.K. (58),
interviewed in a school in Kosovska Mitrovica inhabited at the time of the
interview by displaced Roma, that on June 20 while they were expelling her
family from their home, also in Kosovska Mitrovica, ethnic Albanians
confiscated a tractor, a car, and a wagon. Confiscations of property such as
televisions, stereos, video equipment, refrigerators and, in the words of
one Rom in Prizren "anything not nailed down", were reported in many
localities visited by the ERRC.


Inadequate Reaction by KFOR ; Lack of Adequate Protection of Roma

ERRC researchers in the British, French and Italian KFOR areas repeatedly
witnessed KFOR representatives not reacting in situations of mass or
individual looting, carried out openly and in broad daylight. The ERRC has
also documented cases of KFOR failing to adequately investigate cases of
abduction and the disappearance of persons allegedly arrested by the KLA and
to rescue the victims. ERRC researchers in the German and American KFOR
areas documented responses by KFOR which remain inadequate due to a lack of
troops assigned to civilian policing.

On July 2, at about 2:00 PM, the ERRC visited the Romani quarter of Pristina
known as Moravska street. The quarter was empty of its inhabitants. Several
houses were burning. There were people about, though, whom a local Romani
man identified as ethnic Albanians. These were in plain clothes and unarmed;
they seemed to be working in teams, a typical team consisting of two adult
men and one or two boys, aged approximately ten to thirteen. The ERRC
witnessed these groups bringing pieces of furniture out of abandoned houses
and loading it into trailers drawn by light tractors or cars. Approximately
fifty meters from this spot stood a British KFOR jeep with four fully armed
soldiers. These did not react to the tractors and trailers that had trouble
passing them on their way up, empty, or down, full of loot. The ERRC is
unaware of any pronouncements by KFOR authorities to the effect that looting
is banned.

The ERRC presented lists of neighbourhoods and streets in Prizren and
Djakovica inhabited by significant numbers of Roma and/or Egyptians and
therefore in need of special protection, to a senior officer of the KFOR
military police in Prizren, Lieutenant Grotzow. Lieutenant Grotzow stated
that he was aware of the situation of Roma, but that he did not have enough
men; he expected a reinforcement, but even that would not be enough.

Other KFOR officers told the ERRC unofficially that there had been over 250
killings in the German sector alone since the entry of KFOR into Kosovo.
They additionally stated that on any given day, 30-150 persons were detained
in the military police prison for the crimes of murder, homicide and rape.
There is reportedly a "mobile court" established to try persons detained and
charged by the KFOR military police, but no KFOR official with whom ERRC
spoke was willing to comment on what sentences, if any, had been handed down
by the court.


Flight and Internal Displacement

Many Roma have fled Kosovo in recent days. Some of these have left Kosovo;
others are internally displaced. The international press has reported large
numbers of Roma fleeing Kosovo abroad, most notably the arrival of
approximately 700 Roma, most of them from Pec, in the Italian Adriatic port
town of Bari on July 6. Roma in Prizren told the ERRC that there are no
longer Romani communities in the towns of Pec, Gnjilane and Urosevac. Roma
were reportedly fleeing to Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia. It was later
reported to the ERRC that there was at least one Rom left in Urosevac as of
July 6, and the ERRC has reason to believe that some Roma may still be
present in all three towns. Roma were fleeing into Prizren from Djakovica
and the villages around Prizren, since it was the only town in the German
and Italian areas which appears to have even a semblance of effective KFOR
military police presence. Roma in Prizren have fled the Dusanova settlement
for other parts of the city, however, since KFOR is evidently incapable of
protecting Roma in Dusanova. No Romani community which the ERRC visited had
more than half of its pre-war inhabitants. As of the evening of July 6, the
Roma from the settlement of Berkoc-- approximately 200 Roma-- were
reportedly sleeping in the open near a bridge over the Brekovac river,
several kilometres from Djakovica, and were under KFOR protection. At least
three persons from the Berkoc settlement had fled to Prizren as of the
evening of July 6. A large number of displaced persons from other parts of
Kosovo were, as of June 30, reportedly concentrated in Leposavic, a village
in northern Kosovo, near the Serbian border. There were reportedly around
2500 displaced persons there, roughly half of them Roma.

ERRC presented a list of areas populated by Roma in the towns of Prizren and
Djakovica and therefore in need of special security measures to United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Protection Officer Dietrun
Gunther on July 4, 1999. She stated that she was aware of the situation of
"minorities", but at the moment was preoccupied with UNHCR returns of ethnic
Albanians from Macedonia and Albania and "spontaneous returns" -- persons
returning to Kosovo outside the framework of UNHCR-organized returns -- of
ethnic Albanians from those countries in large numbers. Ms Gunther
additionally stated that she would begin looking into the situation of Roma
on July 6 or July 7, following which she would make recommendations to her
superiors in Geneva. The international press reported that Ms Sadako Ogata,
the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, had on July 7, during a
visit to Pristina, stated: "I think the protection of the Roma, the Gypsies,
is probably the most difficult and serious problem. The first priority is to
protect them where they are. But when we fail in that and want to take them
out of the country, we have to make sure that the receiving country has at
least some capacity of readiness to help. This has not proven the case in
some situations."


Forced Return of Roma to Kosovo by Yugoslav Authorities; Refusal of Yugoslav
Authorities to Allow Romani Refugees from Kosovo to Enter Serbia

The ERRC documented cases of the forced return by Serbian authorities of
Roma fleeing Kosovo into the Yugoslav interior. As they are fleeing a place
where they have reasonable cause to fear for their lives, such returns
amount to refoulement, a grave violation of international law.  In other
instances, Yugoslav authorities have barred entry to Roma attempting to flee
to the Yugoslav interior, leaving them stranded on either side of the
Serbian border with Kosovo.

Mrs O.V. (41), interviewed by the ERRC on July 2 in the improvised refugee
camp for Roma in Kosovo Polje, told the ERRC that on or around June 22
Yugoslav authorities forcibly returned her and her family of eight to Kosovo
from Serbia. The family had taken three days to move from their native
village of Crkvena Vodica to Nis. At first they went on foot or traveled in
horse-drawn wagons the 110 kilometers distance to Prokuplje in Serbia; there
they took a bus to Nis, 25 kilometers further on. They were part of a convoy
of seven buses of Serbs and Roma fleeing Kosovo. In Nis, upon arrival, they
were met by local authorities who ordered that the buses return to Kosovo.
They were then driven to the village of Kosovo Polje, just outside of
Pristina. The incident was reported in the British daily The Guardian on
June 23. They remained displaced in Kosovo Polje at the time the ERRC
interviewed them.

Other Roma reported that Serbian authorities have prevented them from
entering Serbia. Mr A.U. (25) told the ERRC that on July 1, the same day he
was interviewed by the ERRC in Kosovo Polje, authorities had expelled him
and his family of thirteen from the village of Lesak in northern Kosovo
about 85 kilometers northwest of Pristina, from where they had wanted to
proceed to Serbia. He stated that about 1000 people were assembled at Lesak,
trying to go further on, but were, at the time he was expelled from Lesak,
being prevented by Serbian authorities. In Bujanovac, a village in Serbia on
the border with Kosovo about 80 kilometers southeast of Pristina, Serbian
authorities are reportedly refusing to allow around 3500 Roma refugees from
Kosovo from proceeding further into Serbia.


Conclusions

Roma in Kosovo are in immediate physical danger of attack and pogrom by
ethnic Albanians. Abuses of Roma in Kosovo are presently occurring at an
alarming rate. The abuses detailed above have taken place and continue to
take place in the context of an effective international protectorate over
Kosovo and therefore cannot be regarded as the unfortunate events of
wartime; they are the failure of legitimate authorities to protect against
abuses and to provide remedy when they occur. Measures by KFOR to provide
for the protection of Roma have to date proved inadequate, as have measures
by the international community to apply available mechanisms of
international protection. Indeed, Yugoslav authorities have returned fleeing
Roma to the region. Almost all of the Roma with whom the ERRC spoke stated
that they wish to leave Kosovo as soon as possible because they fear for
their safety. The ERRC therefore calls upon the international community to
act swiftly and effectively and adopt the following recommendations:


Recommendations

The ERRC urges KFOR to provide immediate effective protection of the human
rights of all inhabitants of Kosovo, regardless of their ethnicity. The ERRC
urges that KFOR pay particular attention to the Romani communities in Kosovo
and see to it that individual Roma are provided with adequate protection
where they live or in the places to which they have fled. The international
community must ensure that during the crisis in Kosovo, KFOR is provided
with the means and mandate to conduct adequate policing throughout the
region. The ERRC urges the international community to provide adequate
oversight to ensure that KFOR military police are providing protection to
Roma in all KFOR sectors. Allegations of KLA detention centres, killings,
rape, torture and other physical abuse, arson, expulsion, looting, theft and
other abuses of the rights of Roma should be swiftly investigated and
perpetrators brought to justice. Roma wishing to leave Kosovo should be
protected on their way through Kosovo. They should also be assisted in
finding a safe haven outside Yugoslavia.  Roma currently outside Kosovo
should not be pressured to return to their homes in Kosovo by any authority,
since the security situation is hazardous.


* * * * * *

The European Roma Rights Center is an international public interest law
organisation which monitors the situation of Roma in Europe and provides
legal defence in cases of human rights abuse. ERRC reports and other
information concerning the organisation's activities are available on
Internet at errc.org


Notes






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