Kosovo: Bush should press Thaci on human rights
President George W. Bush should use his meeting with Kosovo's prime minister to press for improvements to its poor human rights record, Human Rights Watch said yesterday. Bush is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu in Washington, DC, on Monday, July 21.
"Kosovo sees the US as a good friend," said Ben Ward, Europe and Central Asia associate director at Human Rights Watch. "President Bush should use that influence to press Prime Minister Thaci to reform the criminal justice system, improve the rights of the Roma minority, and investigate the fate of missing Serbs."
The United States government was among the strongest supporters of independence for Kosovo, and moved quickly to recognize it following its declaration of independence in February. Washington pledged $400 million in assistance to Kosovo at a donors' conference in Brussels on July 11.
However, Kosovo has a problematic human rights record. Violence, impunity for common and political crimes, intimidation and discrimination are commonplace. If that is to change, Kosovo's government, with the help of the United States and its EU partners, must make human rights a top priority.
"Kosovo needs to tackle its serious human rights problems urgently," said Ward. "If the US makes human rights a priority in its relations with Kosovo, Pristina will be more likely to act."
Kosovo's criminal justice system is a particular concern. Many of Kosovo's ongoing human rights problems, particularly ethnically and politically motivated violence, can be traced back to the failure of the authorities to investigate, arrest, and prosecute those committing the abuses.