Rights go unprotected in Kosovo, report says

U.N., local officials failing Serbian minority, it finds


LJUBLJANA, Slovenia - The United Nations mission in Kosovo and local Albanian leaders have been extensively criticized in an annual report on human rights in the internationally administered province.

The report, released by a branch of the U.N. missions, says that the United Nations and the local authorities that have run Kosovo for the past five years have failed to achieve even a minimal level of protection of rights and freedoms, in particular for the province's Serbian minority.

The report was published four months after thousands of ethnic Albanians took to the streets across the province to attack Serb communities. The violence left 19 people dead and more than 800 injured. The head of the U.N. administration, Hari Holkeri, resigned his post last month, citing fatigue.

The annual report is the fourth to be published since the United Nations took responsibility for running the province in June 1999, and covers security and social rights issues. The U.N. mission was established after Yugoslav and Serbian security forces, accused of committing wide-scale atrocities, were forced out of the region by a 2 1/2 -month NATO bombing campaign.

The United Nations and NATO troops were widely praised for helping to return more than 800,000 ethnic Albanian refugees to Kosovo at the end of the war in 1999. Since then, the United Nations has established a provincial police service, courts, a parliament and local councils, and has devolved some governing powers to local politicians. At the same time, both NATO and the United Nations have been criticized for failing to protect the province's minority groups, especially the Serbs.

A large part of the report focuses on the inability of Serbs and other minorities to live, travel and work freely in the province. They have been confined to their homes, relying mostly on escorted transport for occasional visits to other places populated by minority ethnicities, the report's author, Marek Antoni Nowicki of Poland, said in a foreword to the document.

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