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UN rights experts: Kosovo mission should be held accountable for lead poisoning

[JURIST] Two independent human rights experts called upon [press release] the UN Friday to put into motion a plan [text, PDF] to redress damages suffered by internationally displaced persons who were exposed to lead poisoning at camps settled by the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) [website] in 1998 and 1999. Special Rapporteurs Rita Izsák-Ndiaye and Chaloka Beyani [official profiles] also urged the UN to take responsibility for its actions leading to noncompliance with international obligations. When the UNMIK first found high levels of lead among those living in the camps, it failed to adequately remedy the situation and did not evacuate the camps of vulnerable people until 2004. The camps were set up for people displaced by armed conflict in the region and were established too close to a mining operation, which led to the contamination. Originally, the facilities were intended to last for months, but ultimately lasted for years and often times lacked basic resources. The experts recommend that the UN acknowledge their failures and make a public apology.

Kosovo has been confronted with numerous lasting effects of the Kosovo War since declaring independence from Serbia beginning in 1998. Relations between Serbia and Kosovo remain strained. In response to the widespread commission of war crimes during the conflict in Kosovo, the EU's justice mission in Kosovo (EULEX) [official website] was created in 2008 [JURIST report] to assist in the effort of bringing perpetrators to justice. In February the Basic Court of Pec, a region in western Kosovo, issued an indictment charging 14 Serbians in the region with committing war crimes in 1999 [JURIST report]. A EULEX prosecutor in the Kosovo Special Prosecution Office filed an indictment [JURIST report] against 15 defendants in November 2014 in the EULEX Mitrovica Basic Court. The individuals were accused of war crimes against civilians that occurred at a Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) detention center in Likovac in 1998. War crimes committed during the Kosovo War have been prosecuted in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and the establishment of a Kosovan war crimes court in The Hague was announced [JURIST report] in January.

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