Human Rights Watch, HRW, and Amnesty International have called on Kosovo and international authorities to stop a wave of attacks and incidents of harassment targeting the Roma community.
In the town of Gjilan/Gnjilane, four Roma were physically assaulted and injured in separate incidents in mid-August, HRW said.
HRW says the attacks were initially reported on a Roma television programme (Yekhipe) on Radio Television Kosovo (RTK), the public broadcaster.
Yekhipe also reported another case in the town of Ferizaj/Urosevac where Roma families were verbally and physically harassed on a number of occasions between August 17 and 22 by “unknown perpetrators”.
They sought protection from the Kosovo police and municipal authorities. The police are investigating the allegations.
“These incidents underscore how vulnerable the Roma in Kosovo remain,” said Wanda Troszczynska-van Genderen, a western Balkans researcher at HRW.
“The only way to stop these attacks is for both Kosovo and international police and prosecutors to make it clear that they will bring the perpetrators to justice,” HRW holds.
Kosovo police have increased their patrols in identified problem areas in response to the incidents, HRW reports, while claiming that no arrests have been made so far in connection with the incidents.
“It is not enough to react when an incident occurs,” said Sian Jones, a Balkans researcher at Amnesty International.
“A proactive response is needed, including expanded police patrols, to protect the rights of the Roma community, as well as outreach to these communities to encourage people to report incidents to the police, who should promptly and impartially investigate all such allegations,” said HRW.
HRW reports that, over the last decade, the Kosovo and international authorities have routinely failed to protect minority communities from violence and intimidation. This has left the Roma vulnerable to repeated attacks, including a series of ethnically motivated attacks in March 2004.