Kosovo (HRW) – They have fought for justice for more than a decade. Hundreds of families from ethnic minority communities who were forced to live in camps in northern Kosovo known to be highly contaminated by toxic lead are still waiting for an apology and compensation for the harm they suffered. When Kosovo was under United Nations administration from 1999 onwards, the United Nations moved several displaced Roma, Ashkali, and Balkan Egyptian communities to camps in Mitrovica after they fled their homes in fear of their lives in bouts of ethnic cleansing. But soon many residents in those camps started to display telltale symptoms of lead poisoning like paralysis, stunted growth, miscarriages, and developmental disorders. Some residents even died.
Now there’s some reason for hope. In anopinion issued last week, the UN Human Rights Advisory Panel found that the UN Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) failed to protect the rights of Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian communities, and recommended that UNMIK pays compensation and issues a public apology to victims and their families.