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3 Dec 2020

KOSOVO: HUMAN RIGHTS PROFILE

On 1 December, Prime Minister Hoti announced that the current COVID-19 measures will remain in force based on recommendations by the Kosovo Institute for Public Health (KIPH). These measures restrict the freedoms of peaceful assembly and religion as well as the freedom of movement for older persons across Kosovo and for people living in red zone municipalities. Three additional municipalities were designated as red zones, bringing the total to 21 red zone municipalities subject to a curfew and entry and exit restrictions from 19:00 to 05:00.

 The epidemiological situation continues to deteriorate with a new record of 13,722 active cases as of 2 December according to the KIPH, raising serious concerns for the rights to life and health. Reports of delayed and inadequate COVID-19 testing, insufficient and high prices for COVID-19 medication, diminishing hospital capacity, and infected medical workers continue to be issues of particular concern. The distribution of the seasonal flu vaccine began in Kosovo on 30 November.

The extraordinary mayoral elections in Podujevë/Podujevo and North Mitrovica were held on 29 November during the ongoing pandemic and required a careful balance between the right to participate in public affairs, including the right to vote, and the rights to life and health. Political parties did not lodge any formal complaints concerning election irregularities. The extension of the curfew to 22:00 in both municipalities on election day ensured that residents could vote if they were unable to do so earlier in the day. Although the CEC established mobile teams to assist people in self-isolation to exercise to vote without posing a health risk to others, its decision requiring the identification of such voters by 26 November may have prevented people who subsequently entered into self-isolation from exercising their right to vote. A civil society network certified to monitor the elections reported that COVID-19 measures were generally not respected.

Despite the restrictions on the freedom of peaceful assembly, political rallies were reportedly held in the lead up to the Podujevë/Podujevo election and hundreds of people gathered in Podujevë/Podujevo to celebrate the Vetëvendosje Movement’s electoral victory.

The pandemic continues to impact the realization of economic and social rights in Kosovo. The Association of Gastronomy called for the immediate lifting of the restrictions on the freedom of movement on the basis that it has not reduced the number of COVID-19 cases and warned that businesses may collapse soon, stressing that workers continue to be dismissed each day. The aoK has still not adopted the Draft Law on Economic Recovery – COVID-19 or the Draft Law on Interim Measures to Mitigate the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic due to a lack of quorum.

Due to the rising COVID-19 cases, the Ministry of Education decided to end the first semester in the government of Kosovo-run school system earlier than planned on 18 December. In the government of Serbia-run school system in Kosovo, students in grades five to eight and high school reverted to distance learning for the next three weeks, while those attended grades one to four continued with in-person education.

The pandemic also continues to disproportionately affect the rights of members of non-majority communities in Kosovo, especially K-Roma, K-Ashkali, and K-Egyptians, and persons in vulnerable situations. Tailored assistance remains essential to address this disproportionate impact to ensure that communities and persons in vulnerable situations are not left behind. Vigilance should also be maintained to address instances of gender-based violence, including domestic and sexual violence, as well as inter-ethnic incidents that continue to be reported during the pandemic.

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