UN transfers prison authority to local government in Kosovo

1 February 2005

The United Nations today handed over complete management of detention centres in Kosovo to local officials as it continues to prepare for final status talks on the ethnically divided province, which it has run since the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) drove out Yugoslav troops amid fighting in 1999.

The United Nations today handed over complete management of detention centres in Kosovo to local officials as it continues to prepare for final status talks on the ethnically divided province, which it has run since the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) drove out Yugoslav troops amid fighting in 1999.

“This is yet another manifestation of the SRSG’s (Special Representative of the Secretary-General) and my own commitment to the continued transfer of responsibilities and competencies to Kosovo,” Principal Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General Larry Rossin told a ceremony at UN headquarters in Pristina, the capital.

“The transition in penal management must continue in tandem with that in the police and judiciary, to ensure a balanced growth of all three arms of justice in Kosovo,” he added, hailing this milestone achievement.

The move followed the transfer last month of some economic powers from the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), including the chairmanship of the Economic and Fiscal Council to Prime Minister Ramush Haradina.

The centres handed over today were in Prizren and Peja/Pec. “In its quest for international standards, Kosovo has the advantage of having a brand new correctional service that has been bred in modern democratic values and does not carry the burden of retrograde penal management practices,” Mr. Rossin said.

Last month Special Representative Søren Jessen-Petersen announced agreement with Mr. Haradina’s government on speeding up moves towards a multiethnic society, noting that all involved had a very tight timetable to meet by mid-2005, when they need to show clear progress to move on to final status talks.

Both stressed then that the highest priority remained progress on the so-called Standards – eight goals in areas such as democratic institutions, minority rights and an impartial legal system – which are seen as a crucial step on the road to determining the final status of Kosovo, where Albanians outnumber other communities, mainly Serbs, by about 9 to 1. Before NATO’s intervention the province was ruled from Belgrade, the capital of Serbia and Montenegro.

Last March the province was shaken by the worst violence in the five years of UN administration when an onslaught by Albanians to drive out Serb, Roma and Ashkali communities led to 19 people being killed, nearly 1,000 injured and hundreds of homes and centuries-old Serbian cultural sites razed or burned.

 

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