There were no reports of abuses of religious freedom.
Religious leaders stated the lack of a mechanism allowing religious groups to register and obtain legal status created a number of practical challenges. Although many groups found alternative methods, some reported difficulty owning and registering property and vehicles, opening bank accounts, and paying taxes on employees’ salaries.
Protestant group representatives alleged ongoing institutional discrimination by the central and municipal governments, including not being allowed to establish their own cemeteries. Municipalities reportedly regularly ignored Protestant requests for dedicated cemetery space, which resulted in Muslim clerics performing funeral services for Protestants in Muslim-controlled municipal cemeteries. Members of Protestant groups asserted this violated their religious rights and constituted the imposition of another religious tradition over their own. Protestant group leaders remained concerned about their inability to establish a cemetery or build a church facility in Decan/Decani, and reported facing similar difficulties in Pristina.
The BIK and Muslim-oriented nongovernmental organizations reported public schools prevented some students from attending classes while wearing headscarves. School officials selectively applied a 2010 Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology administrative directive prohibiting primary and secondary students from wearing headscarves on school property. Gjilan public schools expelled 14 students wearing headscarves before the town mayor and the education minister agreed the girls could temporarily return to school while wearing headscarves. No solution was reached by year’s end. The ombudsman’s office received two additional reports of schools forbidding students to attend classes while wearing headscarves.
In November the government announced plans to form a religious freedom committee charged with investigating the admissibility of headscarves in schools. According to the announcement, the five-member committee will include representatives from the government and Muslim community and is to submit its report after visiting European Union countries that allow headscarves in schools.
The ombudsman’s office received one complaint from a woman in Gjilan claiming she was denied employment because she wore a headscarf.
In July the BIK’s formerly privately funded Islamic Faculty formally joined Pristina University, a public institution, and became the country’s only accredited higher education program in religious studies.
Council of Europe (COE) experts, with participation from the government and the SOC, conducted a survey during the year assessing work completed by the Reconstruction and Implementation Council (RIC). Authorities formed the RIC after riots in March 2004 damaged 34 SOC sites. The COE stated 16 sites still need reconstruction work at an estimated cost of approximately 4 million euros.
The process of “unfixing,” or transferring responsibility for the round-the-clock security of SOC religious sites from the NATO-led peacekeeping forces (KFOR) to the Kosovo Police (KP), progressed smoothly, although the SOC complained about KP treatment of visitors at some monasteries. Only two sites remained under KFOR protection. No significant security incidents occurred at SOC facilities under KP protection.
On December 27, a Special Chamber of the Supreme Court ruled a settlement brokered by the now-defunct Kosovo Trust Agency (KTA) giving ownership of disputed land parcels to the Visoki Decani Monastery was valid. The Tito regime originally confiscated more than 700 acres from the monastery in 1946; the Milosevic regime returned approximately 57 acres of that land to the church in 1993 and 1997. In the early 2000s KTA negotiated a settlement allowing the SOC to retain the contested agricultural land adjacent to its monastery in exchange for relinquishing any interest in another parcel of land located in the municipality’s center. SOC officials considered the agricultural land critical to the monastery’s self-sustainability and future security. Decan/Decani municipal authorities said they would appeal the court’s decision.
The Implementation and Monitoring Council, responsible for arbitrating disputes concerning SPZs and other matters related to religious and cultural heritage, did not function during the year.