Horizontal Rule

#UNJustToRoma: Justice for the Kosovo Victims of Lead Poisoning!

2 September 2016

 

Watch our campaign video for a brief explanation of the crisis and how the ERRC wants to take action to gain compensation for the victims of lead poisoning as well as a formal apology from UNMIK.

In 1999, a UN mission (UNMIK) took over the administration of Kosovo. The mission was legally required to respect the human rights of the people – Serb, Albanian, and Kosovar – under their jurisdiction. This was not the case.

A Roma settlement in Mitrovicë/Mitrovica was destroyed at the end of the war, so the UNMIK moved the Roma, Ashkali, and Balkan Egyptians to Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps next to a dangerously polluting lead smelter. The UN officials knew the area was dangerously polluted. French soldiers with incredibly high levels of lead in their blood were evacuated from the area, but the Roma, Ashkali & Balkan Egyptians– including children and pregnant women – were allowed to remain.

For the next decade their health worsened under UNMIK’s watch. Women regularly miscarried or terminated their own pregnancies however they could. It was hell on earth, and the UN knew what was happening and how to stop it. Instead, they made some periodical, half-hearted attempts that probably only made things worse.

Exposure to lead in any amount is dangerous. But the levels in the blood and hair samples of the Romani children living in these IDP camps were off the charts – European and American scientists had never seen anything like it. These children, many of them now adults, are condemned to a short life of mental and physical health problems because of the inadequacy of the UNMIK.

Needless to say, this did not happen to non-Roma living in the same area as they were safely relocated.

In February of this year, the victims got some measure of justice. With the help of former ERRC legal director, Dianne Post, 138 Roma, Ashkali, and Balkan Egyptians secured an opinion from the UN Human Rights Advisory Panel in their favour.

The 80-page opinion is damning. It slams the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for not cooperating with the process, including actively withholding key documents. It finds that the SRSG officer relied on their own discriminatory stereotypes by accusing the Roma of being responsible for their health problems because of their “lifestyle”. And it condemns UNMIK for violating a litany of human rights obligations: the right to life; the right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment; the right to health; the right to an adequate standard of living; the right to be free from race discrimination; the right to be free from gender discrimination; the rights of the child…

The SRSG’s response? On 22 April 2016, he expressed his regret and said he’ll think about it.

That’s not good enough.

The Roma, Ashkali & Balkan Egyptians exposed to the horrors of long-term lead poisoning deserve an unreserved apology and compensation for the hellish conditions they endured at the hands of the UNMIK administration.

Mr. Secretary-General – we call on you to take up this matter directly and give these Roma what they deserve. The way you are handling this matter brings shame on the UN and discredits your organisation’s stated commitment to the human rights of women, children, and ethnic minorities.


Support us on:

      

Horizontal Rule

Roma Rights 1 2017: Roma and Conflict: Understanding the Impact of War and Political Violence

16 May 2017

The impact of conflict on minority populations merits special attention, especially if those minorities have long been marginalized, viewed by the warring parties with a mixture of ambivalence and contempt, and deemed to be communities of little consequence in the peace-building processes that follow the conclusion of hostilities. This issue of Roma Rights Journal takes a look at the fate of Roma during and after conflicts.

Sometimes Roma have been the direct targets of murderous aggression or subject to reprisals. Then there have been the many times where individual Roma actively took a side, but too often the roles played by Roma, Travellers and other minorities were elided from the dominant national narratives that followed.

In many conflicts, caught between warring groups with no foreign power or military alliance to champion their claims, Roma found themselves displaced, despised and declaimed as bogus refugees, nomads and “mere” economic migrants in the aftermath.

As long as Europe’s largest ethnic minority is written out and rendered invisible in the histories of Europe’s wars and conflicts; and excluded from the politics of reconstruction and peace-making, the continent’s self-understanding will remain fatally flawed.

Editors: Marek Szilvasi, Kieran O’Reilly, Bernard Rorke

Roma Rights 1 2017 (PDF)

more ...

horizontal rule

Macron Election Call Out

5 May 2017

more ...

horizontal rule

ERRC submission to UN CERD on Bulgaria (April 2017)

20 April 2017

Written Comments by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) concerning Bulgaria to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, for consideration at its 92nd session (24 April - 12 May 2017)

 

more ...

horizontal rule