Following the cases of refugees in camps in northern Kosovo who suffered health consequences as a direct result of being placed in camps near a mine smelter storing toxic waste, the UN has established a trust fund to help vulnerable people from their communities instead of directly compensating the families concerned, the UN said on May 26.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the advisory panel took into account an expert panel report on alleged human rights violations by the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) to reach their decision. One case among the alleged rights violations was a complaint submitted by 138 individuals from the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities that they had suffered lead poisoning and other serious health consequences as a result of their relocation to internally-displaced persons (IDP) camps in northern Kosovo. The camps, demolished in 2010, had been situated near a mine smelter that stored poisonous lead and zinc waste.
The trust fund will finance community-based assistance projects, mainly in North Mitrovica, South Mitrovica and Leposaviæ, but will benefit more broadly the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities, the statement said. Guterres’ spokesperson said that the projects will concentrate “on the most pressing needs of those most vulnerable communities, including with respect to health services, economic development and infrastructure”.
“The Secretary-General is keenly aware of the particular plight of those individuals, as well as the other members of these most vulnerable communities who also lived in the IDP camps” and “wishes to express the Organisation’s profound regret for the suffering endured by all individuals living in the IDP camps,” the spokesman said.
However, the UN is not providing individual compensations. Furthermore, the organisation is yet to mobilise the necessary resources in support of the trust fund. The UN hopes to raise $5mn for the fund, the New York Times reported.
Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch, commented, “By creating an unfunded Trust Fund for community assistance projects, instead of individual compensation for victims of its own negligence, the UN is selling the victims of lead poisoning at its camps in Kosovo short.” Charbonneau called on Secretary-General Guterres to provide the victims and their families with adequate individual compensation.
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