Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights on dealing with the past in Kosovo

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights on dealing with the past in Kosovo

On 10th of April 2017, the Commissioner for Human Rights of Council of Europe published its memorandum following Commissioner’s mission to Kosovo in February. Drawing from the meetings held by the Commissioner with key stakeholders in Kosovo during his visit, in particular members of the government, international organisations and civil society organisations, the Memorandum reaffirms important issues to be addressed by Kosovo to enforce human rights and deal with its past.

The report acknowledges some positive actions taken at the government level, such as the acknowledgement of all victims that two recent presidential initiatives – the letters addressed to Kosovo prosecutors and announcement of a national truth and reconciliation commission – demonstrates. It however overall highlights the lack of efficient and genuine political support to dealing with the past processes, all the more evident in the failure of the Inter-Ministerial Working Group for Dealing with the Past and Reconciliation to draft a national strategy on transitional justice as it was meant to.

Referring to the findings of the Kosovo Memory Book with regards to the width and spread of human casualties,[1] the report calls for concrete steps to fight impunity for war crimes to be taken. These will require to improve effective regional cooperation, and to address the issue of witness protection, which will otherwise affect the work of the upcoming Specialist Chambers. The report also expresses the Commissioner’s concerns at the ability of domestic judiciary to handle complex war crimes cases in the future, due to the structural shortcomings of the judiciary capacities.

With regards to the access to effective war reparations, the Commissioner reaffirms the shortcomings of the Law on the Status and Rights of Martyrs, Invalids, Veterans, Members of KLA, Civilian Victims and their Families that were reported on in Humanitarian Law Center Kosovo’s report in February 2017.[2] According to the report, the dispositions of the Law regarding the perpetrator and time of the killing is excluding many victims from its reach, in particular from minority communities. The Commissioner supports the amendment of the Law to provide access to adequate reparation to all civilian victims of the war.

Finally, it is particularly worrying, according to the report, that  nationalistic and prejudicial interpretations of events from the recent war-time past are still dominating schoolbooks and other teaching materials used in both Serbian-administrated and Kosovo-administrated school systems. The Commissioner encourages an institutional approach being taken to educate its future citizens to tolerance, intercultural understanding and non-discrimination, in order to further social reconciliation.

For further information, you can find the full version of the memorandum 

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