No end to attacks on Roma in Kosovo
15 August 2001
"The continued lack of adequate security remains an overriding concern for the remaining minority communities in Kosovo. […] The Roma and Ashkalija communities have suffered from violent attacks involving hand grenades, for example, and other explosions and arson in various locations in Kosovo," stated Mr Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his "Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo," published on March 13, 2001. The violence against Roma in the Yugoslav province continues, and in the vast majority of cases, remains unremedied. What follows is a reverse chronological list of cases from early 2001 registered by local and international institutions in Kosovo. Due to underreporting of attacks, the list is very likely not exhaustive:
- An ethnic Albanian attacked a Romani man and punched him in the head and the stomach on June 18, 2001, in Pejë/Peć, according to the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) police on June 20.
- On June 9, in northern Mitrovicë/Kosovska Mitrovica, a Serbian man threatened to kill a Serbian woman because of her husband's Romani ethnicity, according to an UNMIK police report of June 11.
- Five masked and armed men robbed a Romani family of their money and jewellery in their home in Prizren on June 8, according to UNMIK police on June 10.
- A Romani house was totally destroyed in a fire set by unknown arsonists in Gjilan/Gnjilane, on June 7, according to UNMIK police on June 9.
- Two unknown ethnic Albanian men attacked a Romani man in the village of Vitomiricë/Vitomirica on June 2, according to UNMIK police on June 5.
- A Romani man was found dead in his home in Ferizaj/Uroševac on June 2, according to an UNMIK police report of June 3. The autopsy revealed that the man had been stabbed nine times in his chest and back.
- A 14-year-old Romani girl was reported missing by her family in northern Mitrovicë/Kosovska Mitrovica on June 1, according to UNMIK police on June 2.
- Three young ethnic Albanian men attacked a Romani woman in Pejë/Peć, on May 30, according to an UNMIK police report of June 1.
- A Romani child was seriously wounded in a hand grenade explosion in the garden of his home in Shtime/Štimlje, on May 25, according to the Prishtina/Priština-based non-governmental organisation Council for Defence of Human Rights and Freedoms. The child was taken to hospital by UNMIK personnel.
- The Council for Defence of Human Rights and Freedoms also reported that three young Albanian men physically attacked a Romani woman in Pejë/Peć, on May 24. UNMIK police took the victim to hospital.
- An unknown ethnic Albanian man attempted to abduct a Romani woman from the local bus station in the village of Brekoc/Brekovac on May 16, according to an UNMIK police report of May 18. The report stated that the victim suffered light physical injuries in the assault.
- Two Romani houses were set on fire by unknown perpetrators in the Gnjilan/Gnjilane region, as reported by UNMIK on May 3.
- Unidentified persons set fire to the house of a Romani man in Gjilan/Gnjilane on May 1, according to the Council for Defence of Human Rights and Freedoms.
- Unidentified persons threw a grenade at a Romani house in Gjilan/Gnjilane on April 30, according to the Council for Defence of Human Rights and Freedoms.
- A 12-year-old Romani boy was reported as having been abducted in Ferizaj/Uroševac on April 29, according to the UNMIK Police Kosovo Force (KFOR) Press Briefing of April 30. Further details on the current whereabouts of the boy were unknown as of July 19.
- Unknown perpetrators attacked two Romani men in Gjakovë/Djakovica on April 20, according to UNMIK police on April 22.
- A hand grenade exploded outside a Romani house in the Gllavicë/Glavica village on April 18, according to the KFOR News Update of April 19. One person suffered minor injuries.
- Unknown suspects set an unoccupied Romani house ablaze on March 30, in Rrahovec/Orahovac, according to UNMIK police on March 31.
- A Romani house was set on fire on March 27 in Gjilan/Gnjilane, according to an UNMIK police report of March 29.
- On March 27, in Gjakovë/Djakovica, two masked men, one of them armed with a gun, forced their way into a Romani man's house, fired two shots, and demanded money. When the man was unable to produce any money, the two attackers beat him, according to an UNMIK police report of March 28. The victim was subsequently hospitalised and treated for unspecified injuries.
- An ethnic Albanian man physically attacked a Romani woman on March 21 in GjakovĂ«/Djakovica, according to UNMIK police on March 23.
- Unknown arsonists set an unoccupied Romani-owned house alight on March 18 in the village of Ogoshtë/Ogošte, according to UNMIK police on March 19.
- Four ethnic Albanian men threatened a Romani woman in Gjilan/Gnjilane on March 12, according to an UNMIK police report of March 14.
- On March 8, in Gjakovë/Djakovica, unknown persons left a letter in front of the house of a Romani family, threatening to kill the family unless they brought a specified amount of money to a named location, according to UNMIK police on March 10.
- An ethnic Albanian threatened a Romani man in the Veriq/Verić village, on February 28, according to UNMIK police on March 1.
- Four masked armed men attempted to rob a Romani man in the Pejë/Peć region on February 20, according to UNMIK police on February 20.
- An ethnic Albanian man assaulted a Romani man in the market of Klinë/Klina on February 20, according to the "Assessment of the Situation of Ethnic Minorities in Kosovo (period covering October through February 2001)", a report issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on April 3.
- An abandoned Romani house was set on fire in Shtime/Štimlje on February 19, according to the OSCE and UNHCR report.
- An abandoned Romani house was set alight and destroyed in Viti/Vitina on February 8, according to the OSCE and UNHCR report.
- On February 8, shots were fired at the house of a Romani family in Shtime/Štimlje, according to OSCE and UNHCR.
- On February 2, in Hereq/Ereč, an unknown Albanian-speaking person threatened a Romani man with the destruction of his home, according to an UNMIK police report of February 5.
- On February 1, in Prizren, an unknown man telephoned a Kosovo prosecutor, of Romani ethnicity, and threatened to kill him unless he acted as instructed in a murder case the prosecutor had brought before the courts, according to UNMIK police on February 3.
In only two instances were suspects arrested. In the most recent arrest, an ethnic Albanian man was detained on June 7, 2001, on charges of assault, for an attack on a Romani man in Prizren, according to an UNMIK police report of June 8; there was no indication in the report of when the attack took place. Three ethnic Albanian men were also arrested in Rrahovec/Orahovac on April 5 on charges of arson for an attack that resulted in the death of a Romani woman, according to an UNMIK police report of April 6. The UNHCR/OSCE report also commented on the changing pattern of violence: "The degree of sophistication and planning behind these recent attacks […] challenges the characterisation of continued violence against minorities as isolated attacks motivated by individuals' desire for revenge. It would appear there is an orchestrated campaign, or campaigns organised by, as yet, unidentified elements whose aim is clearly to terrorise minority populations, destabilise the province and prevent democratisation and peaceful co-existence. The number of perpetrators arrested and successfully prosecuted for these attacks remains very low."
Moreover, the situation of Roma internally displaced within the province of Kosovo itself remains precarious. On April 27, 2001, Roma from the municipalities of Kastriot/Obilić, Prishtina/Priština, Lipjan/Lipljan and Skende-raj/Srbica held a peaceful protest at the Plemetinë/Plemetina camp to demand better living conditions, reported the Council for Defence of Human Rights and Freedoms. According to the report, a Romani leader stated that Roma in the camps were facing famine. Further information on Roma in Kosovo is available from the ERRC website: www.errc.org.
(Council for Defence of Human Rights and Freedoms, KFOR, OSCE, UNHCR, UNMIK)