U.N. Representative Ensures Scrutiny of Kosovo Draft Law

Any law that enters into force respects the freedoms of all religious communities in Kosovo, and their adherents, ensured the U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Kosovo (SRSG) in a letter dated Dec. 1, 2004.

Søren Jessen-Petersen’s letter was in response to a letter sent by Joseph K. Grieboski, President of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy, on Nov. 24 regarding a draft Law on Religious Freedom currently under consideration in the Office of the Prime Minister and has not yet been submitted to the Assembly.

"Your concern, together with other concerns already expressed by the representatives of the UNMIK (United Nations Mission in Kosovo) Office of the Legal Advisor and OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) on the drafting group, are being communicated to the Office of the Prime Minister," Jessen-Petersen's letter stated. "The Office of the UNMIK Legal Adviser reviews and scrutinizes all laws adopted by the Assembly of Kosovo to ensure that such laws are in conformity inter alia with acceptable European and international human rights standards, before my promulgation of UNMIK Regulations putting such laws into force."

In commenting on the response, Grieboski said, "While I am pleased to have received the assurances stated in this letter, I would have preferred to have received more secure guarantees that the religion law in its current draft form will not receive serious consideration by the Kosovo Provisional Authority or by UNMIK itself."

According to Norway-based Forum 18, Kosovo’s religious minorities say that many of the draft law’s provisions—such as an apparent ban on religious activities by communities not registered with a new religious affairs commission, the requirement for new religious communities to have 500 members to gain registration and the ban on foreign leaders—violate international human rights norms.

The Evangelical Movement of Kosovo, which brings together several Albanian-speaking Protestant churches, stated in a letter issued on Nov. 15 that they believe the rights of religious freedom within the Protestant community of Kosovo "will be seriously hindered should the existing draft of this Law on Religious Freedom be adopted in its present form."

In his letter to Jessen-Petersen, Grieboski had called on the representative to exercise his authority “in compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244 that places on the international civil presence the responsibility of 'protecting and promoting human rights', and 'organizing and overseeing the development of provisional institutions for democratic and autonomous self-government', as well as in compliance with the Constitutional Framework for Provisional Self-Government of Kosovo, Chapter 4.6, which gives SRSG 'the authority to intervene as necessary in the exercise of self-government for the purpose of protecting the rights of Communities and their members', and to abrogate the current draft of the 'Law on Religious Freedom and Legal Status of Religious Communities in Kosovo.'"

Copies of Mr. Grieboski's letter to the SRSG can be found on the website for the Institute on Religion and Public Policy at www.religionandpolicy.org.