Kosovo is a parliamentary democracy. The constitution and laws provide for an elected unicameral Assembly, which in turn elects a president, whose choice of prime minister the Assembly must approve. The country held parliamentary elections in 2010-11 that met many international standards but also involved many irregularities, including vote buying; limitations on women’s participation, especially in rural areas; and limitations on freedom of movement for ethnic minorities. The country declared its independence from Serbia in 2008. Civilian authorities maintained control over the security forces. There were some reports that the Kosovo Police (KP) committed human rights abuses.
In July NATO declared full operational capability for the Kosovo Security Force (KSF), ending the executive authority of the UN-authorized NATO Kosovo Force (KFOR) over the KSF. The mandate of the EU Rule-of-Law Mission (EULEX) mandate was scheduled to end in mid-2014. EULEX monitors the KP and the justice sector in a limited capacity. On April 19, the governments of Kosovo and Serbia initialed an agreement to normalize relations through an EU-facilitated dialogue. The two governments worked together to implement this and earlier agreements on integrated border management, freedom of movement, and civil registries. On July 11, as part of the April agreement, the Assembly approved an amnesty law that pardons a number of crimes committed before June 20 and encourages the further integration of northern citizens. President Atifete Jahjaga promulgated the law on September 17. On November 3, municipal elections, held throughout the country, including in northern Kosovo, were an important element of the April agreement to normalize relations.
The most important human rights problem during the year centered on Kosovo Serb hardliners’ efforts to block normalization, including establishing roadblocks in the northern part of the country and restricting basic rights such as freedom of movement of persons and goods. Hardliners and criminal elements employed violence and intimidation against domestic opponents and international security forces, including the killing of a EULEX member in September. During the November municipal elections, assailants entered and ransacked three polling stations in the north, necessitating a revote two weeks later. Societal violence and discrimination against members of ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities, and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community constituted a second significant area of concern. Domestic violence against women was a third major problem.
Other human rights problems included reported police mistreatment of detainees; inmate-on-inmate violence, corruption, and favoritism in prisons; substandard physical conditions in prisons; lengthy pretrial detention and judicial inefficiency; intimidation of the media by public officials and criminal elements; restrictions on religious freedom and vandalism on religious grounds; only limited progress in returning displaced persons to their homes; violence and irregularities in local elections in some areas; government corruption; anti-Semitic rhetoric; trafficking in persons; poor conditions in mental health facilities; sporadic ethnic tensions in the north; and child labor in the informal sector.
The government took steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses, both in the security services or elsewhere in the government, although many assumed senior officials engaged in corruption and acted with impunity