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Europe rights commissioner criticizes Germany-Kosovo repatriation agreement

[JURIST] Council of Europe Commissioner on Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg [official profile] on Thursday criticized an agreement reached Wednesday between Germany and Kosovo that would return to Kosovo thousands of refugees who fled to Germany during the 1998-1999 Kosovo War [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The agreement calls for Germany to repatriate up to 2,500 refugees per year [AFP report] and ensures that refugees from all ethnic groups will face repatriation, rather than only Roma [JURIST news archive], who may face persecution in Kosovo. Hammarberg worried that Kosovo does not yet have the infrastructure [DW report] to care for the returning refugees or to protect them from ethnically motivated violence.

Kosovo is currently struggling to be recognized as an independent nation. In December, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] began oral arguments regarding an advisory opinion requested by Serbia on the effectiveness of Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence [JURIST reports]. Last year, in an effort to further the legitimacy of their independence, Kosovo began operations of its own judicial system. In March 2009, more than 100 Serbian judges, prosecutors, and legal professionals prevented the opening [JURIST report] of the first EU-backed trial in Kosovo by protesting in front of the Mitrovica court house. A panel of three judges had been set to preside over a criminal case involving two Serbian defendants. As Serbia and Kosovo's Serbian population have refused to accept Kosovo's independence, the demonstration was intended to bar the EU from holding trial [B92 report] in Kosovo except under UN laws. The trial court was established by European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) [official website], an EU mission designed to guide Kosovo toward independence in accordance with the Rule of Law.

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