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ERRC Demands Justice for Kosovo Victims of Lead Poisoning

15 May 2017

Budapest, 15 May 2017: Today, the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) submitted over 10,000 signatures to the Secretary General of the United Nations calling for a full public apology, compensation and medical treatment for the Roma, Ashkali and Balkan Egyptians suffering from lead poisoning in the UN administered camps at Mitrovica, Kosovo.

The ERRC began the campaign following the damning report published by the Human Rights Advisory Panel in April 2016. This panel called on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) to publicly acknowledge its abject failure to comply with applicable human rights standards and apologise to Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) placed in lead contaminated camps, and to compensate victims for material and moral damage.

The appalling situation in the camps, intended to be temporary, lasted for about a decade under UNMIK’s tenure and during this time the Roma, Ashkali and Balkan Egyptian IDPs remained stranded in hazardous living conditions and without badly needed medical attention. The catalogue of official blundering and willful neglect, which compounded the suffering inflicted upon these IDPs, is a matter of public record. With the findings of the Human Rights Advisory Panel, the facts can no longer be a matter of dispute and denial by UNMIK. The Panel found UNMIK culpable of discriminatory inaction and neglect, which caused IDPs to suffer inhuman and degrading treatment.

It was the children who suffered the most, and in an irreversible manner, from the situation in the IDP camps, including the lead poisoning and the poor living and hygiene conditions. The ERRC, Human Rights Watch and many other organisations insisted from the very outset that the lives and health of children should have been the overriding consideration guiding UNMIK’s response to the situation. In 2015, the Panel fully agreed, and found that UNMIK, through its actions and omissions, irreversibly compromised the life, health and development potential of the complainants that were born and grew as children in the camps, in violation of Articles 3, 6, 24, 27 and 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  

“Thanks to all of you who supported our campaign in pursuit of justice for all the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians who suffered such terrible abuses at the hands of UNMIK. I hope now that the secretary general will act fast and finally remedy these awful crimes against our people” said Dorde Jovanovic, President of the ERRC.

Mr. Secretary-General we call on you to act to ensure that UNMIK fulfills the Panel’s recommendations, and that UNMIK issues a full and very public apology to the victims and their families. Further, UNMIK must take prompt steps to pay adequate compensation to the victims to cover the human rights violations, moral damage, and medical costs they have incurred.

UNMIK’s role in this tragic episode brings the taint of shame upon your organisation, and UNMIK by its prejudiced actions, followed by years of obfuscation and denial, has compromised the universal commitment to defend the human rights of the most vulnerable. Nothing can ever fully compensate for the losses and suffering endured at the hands of UNMIK.

For more information contact:

Jonathan Lee
Communications Coordintator
European Roma Rights Centre
jonathan.lee@errc.org
+36 30 500 2118

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