News 01 Jun 17

UN Response to Kosovo Lead Poison Claims Condemned

The European Roma Rights Centre and other organisations condemned the UN's refusal to provide compensation for Kosovo Roma victims of lead poisoning.

Die Morina
Photo: ERRC

The European Roma Rights Centre, ERRC, and other Roma NGOs on Thursday condemned the UN's lack of commitment to offering medical care and recognition to victims of lead poisoning whose plight is blamed on the UN Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK.

The organisations called for the UN to implement the recommendations set by its own Human Rights Advisory Panel.

These include a full apology, compensation to the 138 individuals represented before the panel, and provision of urgent medical treatment to those affected by lead poisoning.

Last year,a UN advisory panel formed to examine complaints made against the UNMIK called on the UN to hold UNMIK accountable for leaving Roma families exposed to lead poisoning in camps set up for people displaced by the Kosovo war in 1998 and 1999.

The camps were established close to the Trepca mining complex in northern Kosovo, which has been known as a cause of lead contamination and other forms of poisoning in its surroundings since the 1970s.

The camps, which were intended to provide only temporary accommodation for up to 90 days, operated for several years.

The UN has instead launched a trust fund, which will facilitate community-based initiatives to finance “assistance projects”.

These are mainly expected to operate in North Mitrovica, South Mitrovica and Leposavic, but according to the UN, will more broadly benefit the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities.

“Whilst we welcome the UN response to the pressure from civil society and the thousands of people who petitioned for justice, this Trust Fund does not make up for the injustices done, nor does it do much to alleviate the immediate problems of the people who suffered in the Mitrovica, Leposavic IDP camps,” a statement signed by ERRC and other organizations reads.

The organisations say the lack of recognition by way of a public apology is an insult to the people who have long suffered from lead poisoning in the camps.

On May 15, the ERRC submitted over 10,000 signatures in a petition to the UN Secretary General, demanding a full apology and compensation for the abuses carried out by UNMIK.

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