Briefing from OHCHR on Human Rights covering period 25 September – 02 October
On 25 September, the Government of Kosovo (GoK), among other things, lifted the evening curfew restricting the freedom of movement; extended the working hours of cafes and restaurants to 23:30; and allowed religious, cultural, and sports activities to resume subject to COVID-19 prevention measures. However, the prohibition against gatherings of more than five persons, which restricts the freedom of peaceful assembly, remains in force. COVID-19 containment measures also continue to have the potential to affect a wide range of human rights in Kosovo.
The COVID-19 crisis in Kosovo still raises concerns for the rights to life and health even though the number of new COVID-19 cases, active cases, and deaths continued to decrease in the past week. Hospital services at the University Clinical Center of Kosovo (UCCK), including non-emergency operations, are reportedly normalizing. However, COVID-19 patients at the UCCK reported facing difficulties in securing medicines for their treatment due to the high cost.
Despite the restrictions on the freedom of peaceful assembly, technical workers at the UCCK and the Regional Hospital of Prizren held additional in-person protests against the failure to include them in the wage supplements under the GoK’s COVID-19 emergency fiscal package, stating that their non-inclusion amounts to discrimination. Business owners in North Mitrovica also protested against the ongoing demolition of about 200 illegal constructed buildings in the municipality.
The lifting of severla COVID-19 measures alleviated some of the impact on the freedom of religion and cultural rights. The Islamic Community announced the resumption of in-person religious activities, while cultural institutions began operating again after being closed for six months.
The COVID-19 pandemic and related measures continue to impact the realization of economic and social rights in Kosovo. On 28 September, the AoK failed to pass the Draft Law on Economic Recovery – COVID-19 for a fourth time due to a lack of quorum. The GoK allocated €87 million for distribution out of the €385 million recovery fund established under the Law on Amending and Supplementing the Law on the Budget Appropriations. Among other things, €60 million was allocated to provide wage subsidies to active private businesses, while €7.5 million was allocated to expand social assistance. The GoK also allocated about €4 million from a separate fund to pay overtime wages to members of the Kosovo Police, resolving an issue impacting their labor rights.
Several primary schools temporarily shut down and reverted to only online education infections after COVID-19 infections were reported amongst staff and students. Concerns were raised that the 60 K-Roma, K-Ashkali, and K-Egpytian students who attend the primary school, during the shut down in Ferizaj/Uroševac may not be able to attend online classes due to the lack of IT equipment.
The COVID-19 crisis continues to disproportionately affect the rights of persons in vulnerable situations and members of non-majority communities in Kosovo, especially K-Roma, K-Ashkali, and K-Egyptians. Tailored assistance remains essential to address this disproportionate impact and to ensure that communities and persons in vulnerable situations are not left behind.
The AoK’s adoption of a constitutional amendment making Istanbul Convention directly applicable in Kosovo is welcome development that will help address the reported increase of gender-based violence in 2020, an increase that civil society organizations partly attribute to COVID-19 restrictions and the difficult economic situation.