Lead poisoning victims in Kosovo UN-run camps await long overdue reparations

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Victims of lead poisoning in UN-run camps in Kosovo have still not received adequate reparations more than 20 years after the war, rights advocates said at a UN roundtable Thursday.

“These victims have not received adequate reparation,” said Fabian Salvioli, UN Special Rapporteur on Truth, Justice and Reparation.


“It is not charity,” he added.

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Around 600 people from Roma minorities sheltered in UN refugee camps after the end of the conflict in 1999, were contaminated by toxic lead from a nearby steel complex that was in the air and soil.

The severe poisoning they suffered has led to ongoing injuries and suspected deaths.

After hundreds of people complained, the UN published a 2016 report which found the organisation responsible for human rights violations and concluded it had failed to provide necessary protection to those in the camps.

It recommended the UN apologize and pay compensation to those affected, some of whom were children.

“Reparations remain urgent for the victims concerned in light of life-long health impacts and continued suffering,” said Barbara Fontana, head of the human rights section at the permanent UN mission in Switzerland.

“Lack of a fully funded and effective reparation mechanism is a cause for concern.”

The UN set up a fund in 2017 to support projects for those affected by the poisoning, with the Secretary General Antonio Gutierrez’s expressing the organisation’s “deepest regret for the suffering endured.”

But Salvioli said Thursday the “entity remains unfunded and non-operational, despite efforts led by the United Nations to mobilise resources.

“Funding for reparations must also be differentiated from funding development aid, it is not the same.”

The UN did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for comment.

The UN camps in northern Kosovo were disbanded in 2013, but victims’ lawyers said that justice is long overdue.

“This began in 1999 and is still ongoing today because the people have not received appropriate medical treatment,” said Dianne Post, a lawyer for Roma victims.

“They have never received compensation for their losses that they experienced.”

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