News 19 Feb 13

Kosovo ‘Not Dealing With War Crimes’

Kosovo society is struggling to come to terms with war crimes and systematic human rights abuses because of past grievances and denial, said a new UN report.

Edona Peci

“The overwhelming majority of respondents from all communities in Kosovo do not consider that members of their community have committed war crimes,” said the report published on Tuesday by the UN Development Programme, UNDP in Pristina.

The report, based on a public opinion survey of 1,250 people from all Kosovo’s ethnic groups, said that past grievances were obstructing progress.

Petrit Skenderi of UBO Consulting, the company that carried out the UNDP survey, told a press conference in Pristina that “each side thinks that the criminals belong only, or in the majority, to the other side”.

The UNDP report, ‘Perceptions on Transitional Justice’, outlines the current problems Kosovo is facing over reconciliation, missing persons, reparations and other key post-conflict issues.

Since the end of the conflict between the Kosovo Liberation Army and Serbian forces in 1999, more than 300 war crimes remain unsolved and 1,775 people are still missing.

The UNDP survey found that 63.2 per cent of those questioned believed that finding the truth about war crimes committed during the armed conflict in Kosovo was important for the reconciliation process.

“Increased efforts should be taken by judicial authorities to investigate all war crimes that occurred prior, during and after the 1998-1999 armed conflict in order to respond to the high expectations of respondents for criminal prosecution,” the report said.

The report also called upon the authorities to consider establishing a special reparations fund for those whose lives were damaged by the conflict, including “non-recognised victims such as victims of sexual violence”.

A large majority of people from all ethnic groups interviewed for the survey agreed that “civilian victims, regardless of their ethnicity, should receive material reparations for their suffering”.

Besides financial reparations, over 30 per cent of the respondents said that “rehabilitation and socialisation programmes should be offered to the victims”, while more than 20 per cent said there was a need for “public apologies from crime perpetrators”.

Kosovo “needs to conduct a comprehensive process of dealing with the past and build reconciliation between the communities” to overcome barriers created by the past and forge a European future, the Netherlands’s deputy ambassador Emma Key told the press conference.

The Pristina government established a ministerial working group in June 2012 to prepare a national strategy for dealing with the past.

The UNDP survey’s authors interviewed 850 ethnic Albanians, 200 ethnic Serbs and 200 people of other ethnicities.

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