27 September 2011Albania has told the United Nations that it would like to develop and consolidate its relations with Serbia, but it also criticized Belgrade for maintaining control of three ethnic Serbian areas in northern Kosovo. In a speech to the General Assembly’s general debate on Saturday, Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha said Serbia’s decision to maintain control over three ethnic Serbian homogenous communes in Kosovo demonstrated that Belgrade “still believes in reshaping borders in our region based on the failed and long overdue idea of ethnically ‘clean’ countries and Greater Serbia.”Serbia’s President Boris Tadic told the Assembly on Friday that his country cannot accept Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in 2008, but Serbia will also not abandon the negotiations process between Belgrade and Pristina. Any progress between the two sides needed trust, and “negotiations and reconciliation are not achieved through unilateral concessions from one side only.”In recent weeks tensions between ethnic Serbs and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo have flared anew, particularly in the north, sparking concerns from United Nations officials.Mr. Berisha said that “Serbian culture in Kosova is today more secured that ever. I would like to reassure distinguished representatives of the Member States that the only threat they face is their exploitation to serve purposes of a bitter past that must not ever return.”He also said that inter-ethnic relations in all areas where Serbs and Albanians live together in the same communities are “very good.”“However, the parallel structures paid by Belgrade in the three Serbian homogenous communes north of Mitrovica, where no other ethnic groups reside, have turned them in[to] safe havens for organized crime and smuggling of all sorts.”Exercising the right of reply, Serbia’s representative said the speech by the Albanian Prime Minister contained “misrepresentations and falsehoods.” He said Kosovo had taken unilateral actions of a “coercive nature” in the negotiation process, attempting to create a “fait accompli” on issues that were still pending.He said Mr. Berisha had also misrepresented an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), asserting that the court did not decide that the declaration of independence of Kosovo was in full compliance with international law.In fact, it had only found that Kosovo did not violate international law because the law contained no applicable prohibitions on declarations of independence, he said.The Serbian representative said also that inter-ethnic relations where Albanians and Serbs lived together were not “very good” and he added that the criminal groups referred to by the Albanian Prime Minister are actually Albanian groups with a history of disrupting the rule of law in Kosovo.Also exercising the right of reply, the representative of Albania said an independent Kosovo was the only solution to the conflict. Albania continued to hope that Serbia would come to terms with that “undeniable and unreversable” reality, he added.
‘Address disparities’The violations are occurring against a backdrop of stigmatized rights defenders, especially those living in rural areas, which lack basic social services and have high levels of poverty and illegally-armed and criminal groups.“There is an urgent need to address disparities in the enjoyment of all rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights and especially in rural areas”, Mr. Colville stressed.A wide range of activists have been targeted, including community leaders, Afro-Colombians, indigenous people, environmentalists, journalists and women’s rights defenders, some involved in local politics.“Community leaders are particularly vulnerable and account for more than 70 per cent of all recorded killings”, the OHCHR spokesperson explained, adding that some were targeted because they supported aspects of the historic 2016 Colombian peace agreement, including land restitution and victims’ rights.Mr. Colville went on to express concern that, with local elections in October,” the number of violent attacks may increase even further”.While acknowledging the steps taken by the State to better protect rights defenders, such as the President’s recent announcement to appoint specialized judges in the field, Mr. Colville called on the authorities “to redouble their efforts to expand and strengthen efforts to safeguard a free and secure environment for civic engagement”.“Despite some positive actions by the Office of the Attorney-General, we urge the State to make sure all killings, attacks and threats are properly investigated and the perpetrators – including those directing them, as well as those carrying them out – are brought to justice”, he asserted.UN heavily invested in lasting peaceAfter decades of civil war, in 2016, rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a landmark peace deal with the Government. Joining them as part of a trilateral mechanism to verify and monitor the cessation of hostilities and surrender of weapons, with the unanimous approval of the Security Council, the UN opened a political mission there on 25 January 2016.By that October, the mission had verified the destruction of 620 kilogrammes of munitions and explosives held by the FARC.On 26 September 2017, the UN Verification Mission in Colombia was established to verify the commitments of the Government and former FARC rebels on reintegrating them back into society, and on ensuring security in territories most affected by the decades-long conflict.This past January, Special Representative Ruiz Massieu updated the Security Council on the situation in the country, noting the “important milestone” of the May 2018 inauguration of a ‘Truth Commission’ to examine past human rights violations, including sexual violence. OHCHR described the dozens of deaths since the beginning of the year as a “terrible trend” that seems to be worsening.Spokesperson Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva that the rights office in Colombia is “closely following up on the allegations” reported by civil society, State institutions and the national human rights institution, that in the first four months of 2019 recorded a total of 51 human rights defenders and activists have been allegedly killed.“This staggering number continues a negative trend that intensified during 2018, when our staff documented the killings of 115 human rights defenders”, he said.#Colombia: We are alarmed by the strikingly high number of #HumanRights defenders being killed, harassed & threatened – 51 in last 4 months alone. We urge authorities to take all necessary measures to tackle the endemic impunity around such cases.👉 https://t.co/iB6M5VRZJQ pic.twitter.com/U78vZs9qkx— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) May 10, 2019