Thursday, April 5, 2007

Parallel courts continue in Kosovo

An important development yesterday concerning the proposal for Kosovo’s independence (discussed in my previous post): the OSCE issued a report finding that Serbian parallel structures continue to exist in Kosovo and “have a direct impact on the rights of individuals and the rule of law.” What are parallel structures and why do they matter? One of the crucial questions for Kosovo’s success as an independent state is whether it can adequately protect and integrate its Serb minority (as well as other minority populations). In 2002, the UN Special Representative in Kosovo established a “Standards Before Status” policy that set out benchmarks for Kosovo to meet in the areas of democracy and rule of law, among others, before its political status could be addressed. These standards have not been met in many areas, and while the UN envoy’s report acknowledges this only indirectly, the details of the proposal for independence calling for further institution-building and EU supervision are tacit acknowledgement of that fact. One of the unmet standards is the integration of Serbs and other minorities into Kosovo’s government and the end of what are called “parallel structures” – Serbian courts, schools, hospitals, and other facilities that the Serbian government has maintained within the Serb enclaves in Kosovo for the Serb population there. The OSCE report attributes the continued existence of these parallel structures to a combination of lack of physical security, trust, and political certainty. Yet the UN envoy's proposal calls for the integration of Serbs into Kosovo institutions, without so much as mentioning the existence of these parallel structures. As I’ve discussed at length elsewhere, the parallel courts (and other parallel administrative structures) both represent and perpetuate the social and political divisions that have proven so intractable in Kosovo. At a minimum, to be successfully accommodated, they must first be openly acknowledged.

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