PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — A leading European human rights official expressed concern Monday that 18 years after the end of the conflict in Kosovo, thousands of people are still denied justice.
Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks issued a memorandum Monday following his Kosovo visit in February.
Muiznieks said Kosovo, with a predominantly ethnic Albanian population and an ethnic Serb minority, needs "to change course and build a just and cohesive society" by prosecuting wartime crimes, promoting inter-ethnic tolerance, caring about displaced persons and clarifying 13 murders and disappearances of journalists in the years after the war.
"Major conditions for achieving this are to prosecute and effectively sanction all persons involved in wartime crimes, clarify the fate of all missing persons, provide war victims with adequate reparation and facilitate the voluntary return of displaced persons," Muiznieks said.
A special court, Kosovo Specialist Chambers, has been created in The Hague, Netherlands, with international judges from European Union member countries, the United States and Canada to prosecute ethnic Albanian rebels for crimes during and immediately after Kosovo's war for independence.
He urged Kosovo to ensure an "effective protection and support to witnesses in the context of wartime criminal proceedings."
The Commissioner called for more efforts to foster reconciliation, especially in establishing new teaching methods in the education system which promote inter-ethnic tolerance and respect.
"All schools' textbooks and teaching material containing elements of nationalism and prejudice should be revised," he said.
Some 10,000 people died and 1,660 are still missing from the 1998-1999 Kosovo war that ended after NATO intervened on behalf of the Albanian majority.
Muiznieks called on Kosovo and Serbia "to address this pressing issue, including by opening the archives of the army and police that may contain valuable information about missing persons."
He called on Kosovo to address the situation of thousands of people, mainly Kosovo Roma, who were forcibly displaced during the conflict.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, which Serbia has not recognized.
Semini reported from Tirana, Albania.