Monday, 28 April, 2003, 20:08 GMT 21:08 UK
Kosovo minorities 'under threat' - BBC
Serbs and other ethnic minorities in Kosovo remain at serious risk of death or injury despite almost four years of peace and the presence of UN and Nato peacekeepers, a new report by Amnesty International says.
Tuesday's report, titled Prisoners in our own homes, says beatings, stabbings, abductions, drive-by shootings and the use of hand grenades to intimidate and kill members of these minorities are common in the province.
As the vast majority of these crimes remain unsolved, perpetrators are free to commit further attacks contributing to a climate of fear and the denial of basic human rights, it adds.
Ethnic minorities in Kosovo, of which the largest are the Serbs and Roma, make up about 8% of the predominantly Albanian population.
The report describes the daily lives of children living in mono-ethnic enclaves who are forced to have a K-for armed escort to school.
It says that discrimination in healthcare has led to an increase in mortality rates among minority communities, and up to 90% unemployment among the Serb and Roma communities.
Ethnic Albanians living in areas of Kosovo where they are in the minority suffer the same security concerns and restrictions on their freedom of movement.
Kate Allen, the UK Director of Amnesty, said that failures by the international community in Kosovo should serve as a lesson for other post-conflict situations.
"It is clear that the international authorities in Kosovo were unprepared for the massive abuses of human rights against minorities that accompanied the rapid return of the Albanian community," she said.
"As the international community discusses the future of Iraq it is essential that we learn the lessons of the past and ensure that measures are put in place to protect the human rights of vulnerable groups. It must be ensured from the outset that there is no impunity for the perpetrators of human rights abuses."
Amnesty is concerned that the ongoing persecution of ethnic minorities makes it unsafe for minority refugees and internally displaced people to return to their homes.
Of more than 230,000 Serbs, Roma and other minorities who fled Kosovo in 1999, only 5,800 have returned.
"While the viability of return continues to depend on K-for's presence, Amnesty International urges the international community to ensure that
no- one from a minority community is forcibly returned to Kosovo," Ms Allen said.
Amnesty is calling for proper resources for the UN civilian police force
(Unmik) and local authorities to ensure the thorough investigation of ethnically motivated human rights abuses.
To begin with, Unmik must extend witness protection to the witnesses of such crimes.
After the end of the conflict in July 1999 more than half the pre-war minority population fled to Serbia or Montenegro or took refuge in mono-ethnic enclaves in Kosovo guarded by K-for and Unmik.
About a third of the 100,000 Serbs and Roma in Kosovo live in three predominantly Serbian municipalities in the north of Kosovo.
Others live in mono-ethnic villages or under K-for protection in majority Albanian urban areas.
More than half the pre-war Slavic Muslim community of 67,000 fled in 1999. Now about 3% of the population, they are mainly concentrated in and around Prizren town.