May 25, 2007
Kosovo: Gay, Lesbian Youth Leaders Under Serious Death Threats
The leader of a gay and lesbian youth advocacy group and his staff have today received death threats which the police initially refused to take seriously. The threat email was sent to the leader of Centre for Social Emancipation (QESh), Mr. ‘K.Z’. Starting “In the name of Allah”, the email condemns ‘Mr. Z’ for his activities with the youth group and says he will end up in hell. The email continues, in translation: “We will fu** you mother, burn you with all your belongings, amd will make you carry your intestines in your own hands, you lewd man”.
Mr. Z and his group are accused of “smearing the pure and freedom-seeking nation”, and that members of the group “will have their heads cut off”. The email is said to have come from an email address that begins (in translation) “sharpknife”. QESh is taking the email very seriously, especially as it says that Mr. K’s family should “prepare his funeral within two weeks”.
The group, who was joined by the Youth Initiative for Human Rights demanded that the Kosovo Police Service conduct a thorough investigation and bring the perpetrators in front of the justice. But the police initially refused to open a case – they were said to have considered the case not serious enough. The chief of the shift said that such threats are not considered serious and that he should initiate a private lawsuit.
“We believe that Mr. Z’s right to use all the possible legal remedies has been violated by the police officers,” said a spokesperson for the Centre for Social Emancipation of Kosovo tonight. His privacy was not respected as he was being interviewed in the reception room and at least seven different police officers and random citizens walked into the room, thus stopping the interview process and finding out what had happened.”
Act to Protect LGBT Activist Threatened in Kosovo
A man known as K.Z., the head of a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights organization in Kosovo, has received a death threat linked to his work. Though K.Z. has reported this threat to the police, he has not received any protection, and his life may be in danger.
On 24 May, K.Z., leader of LGBT rights organization, the Centre for Social Emancipation (QESh), received a death threat via email from an unidentified person calling himself "Sharp Knife." The email said the sender would "fuck your mother, burn you with all your belongings, and will make you carry your intestines with your own hands." It also said that K.Z.’s family should prepare his funeral within two weeks, and that K.Z. would "end up in hell "as a result of his work for LGBT rights.
On the day he received the threat, K.Z reported it to the police, who initially refused to investigate it. The officer in charge of the police station at the time said that such threats are not considered serious and that K.Z. should initiate a private lawsuit. Despite the fact that his life was threatened, he was interviewed in a public area of the police station, and at least seven different police officers and several members of the public passed through the area during the interview. Eventually police agreed to investigate the threat but refused to provide K.Z with protection. According to reports, the leaders of the Centre for Social Emancipation have received five previous death threats in recent months.
Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible:
expressing concern for the safety of K.Z., head of the Centre for Social Emancipation (QESh);
calling on the authorities to take immediate measures to ensure the safety of K.Z. in accordance with his own wishes;
expressing concern at the failure of the police to protect K.Z.;
calling for a thorough, prompt and impartial investigation into the death threat against K.Z., and into the conduct of the police to whom K.Z. reported the threat, for the results to be made public and for those responsible to be brought to justice;
reminding the Chief of Police that the UN Declaration on the Rights and Responsibilities of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties recognizes the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders and their right to carry out their activities without any restrictions or fear of reprisals;
additionally reminding the Chief of Police that it is his duty to ensure that all officers under his command are informed of their duty to protect the life of all individuals, irrespective of the political, sexual or other affiliation, as set out in the European Convention of Human Rights, and that discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is prohibited under Kosovo Assembly Law No. 2004/3 on Anti-Discrimination;
urging the authorities to take immediate measures to end the intimidation of LGBT people.
Head of the Kosovo Police Service:
Colonel Sheremet Ahmeti
UNMIK Police Headquarters
Fax: 011 381 38 504 604 ext 2201
Salutation: Dear Colonel Ahmeti
Minister of Interior:
Government Building 9th Floor
Mother Theresa Street
Human Rights Coordinator of the Government in Kosovo:
Mother Theresa Street
Fax. 011 381 38 200 146 43
UNMIK Police Commissioner:
UNMIK Police Headquarters
Fax: 011 381 38 504 604 ext 5114
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Please Send Appeals Immeiately. Check with the AIUSA Urgent Action Office if sending appeals after 6 July 2007.
July 10, 2007
Persecuted Gays Seek Refuge in U.S. – Foreigners’ Abuse Increasingly Seen as Grounds for Asylum
by Pamela Constable, Washington Post Staff Writer
One night in 2003, on the wintry streets of Kosovo, a group of thugs stalked and beat Gramoz Prestreshi almost to death. Police in the war-scarred Balkan province laughed and called him names. The emergency room workers made him mop up his own blood. It was a sordid but hardly unusual episode in the hostile environment homosexuals encounter in societies of all kinds. Unlike many such victims, though, Prestreshi kept his wits about him. He had photographs taken of his injuries. He complained to the press and clipped every article. When his family disowned him, he joined a gay rights organization and slept in its office. This spring, his determination bore unexpected fruit, and Prestreshi was accepted as a legal refugee in the United States. He now lives in the District.
"I am happy because I don’t have to live like a prisoner anymore in a society where no one is allowed to be different," said Prestreshi, a slight, nervous man of 22, who won his asylum case with help from Whitman-Walker Clinic in the District. "But I can never forget what happened. It hurt when the police called us ‘faggots.’ It hurt when my parents screamed and beat me after they found out. It still hurts." Harassment and abuse of gay men and lesbians is becoming increasingly accepted as grounds for legal asylum in the United States, even at a time of conservative judicial activism, fear about HIV/AIDS transmission and increased scrutiny of asylum seekers. The government does not disclose a breakdown of reasons for granting asylum petitions, but legal advocacy groups in several major U.S. cities said they have won dozens of cases.
Homosexuality, once a de facto condition for barring foreigners from entering the country, is now officially recognized by the U.S. government as a category that might subject individuals to persecution in their homeland, just as if they were political dissidents in a dictatorship or religious minority members in a theocracy. But although petitioning for asylum on the basis of sexual orientation has become far easier since 1994, when then-Attorney General Janet Reno ordered that a groundbreaking case involving a gay Cuban refugee be viewed as a legal precedent, such asylum cases are still extremely difficult to win, according to lawyers in Washington and elsewhere. One reason is that applicants face multiple burdens of proof. They must demonstrate that they were abused or harassed by authorities, not merely by angry relatives or drunken hooligans, or that the authorities failed to protect them. They must also prove that they were abused because they are homosexual — and thus prove that they are, in fact, gay.
Raul Calderon, 40, the ex-soldier from Colombia, said he was raped as a recruit of 15 but commanded by officers who constantly exhorted the troops "not to act like women." In an atmosphere of civil war militarism, he said, he felt equally threatened by the guerrillas, the armed forces and members of the right-wing squads who called themselves social cleansing committees. "To them, people like me were filth," he said. Often, Pilcher and others said, foreigners living in the United States who have possible grounds for asylum on the basis of sexual orientation are afraid to come forward or unaware that there is a one-year deadline to apply. Even in societies with freewheeling, tolerant urban cultures, homosexuals can be harassed to the point of seeking refuge abroad. Brazil, for example, has a huge population of gays and transvestites, and last month’s annual gay pride festival in Sao Paolo drew 3 million people, according to Gay Life, a Baltimore newspaper.
Yet J.C., a District man from Rio de Janeiro who spoke on condition he not be further identified, won his asylum petition in 2001 after proving that he had been repeatedly beaten and abused by powerful, armed street gangs in his hillside slum, known as a favela, and that the local police force had failed to protect him. Fear of AIDS is another frequent factor in public and private harassment of homosexuals abroad. A doctor from Venezuela, who treated people with HIV and AIDS there and championed their cause within his profession, was granted asylum this year after being kidnapped, beaten and sexually humiliated by a police squad. "I was lucky because I could prove my case, because I speak good English and have a useful profession," said the man, a D.C. resident who spoke on condition he not be identified because he does not want to jeopardize his job as a U.S. government medical researcher. "A lot of people don’t have winnable cases, but they are living desperate lives."
Ironically, experts said, it might be harder for homosexuals to win asylum claims on grounds of sexual orientation if they come from countries with dictatorial governments that repress a variety of people. Victoria Neilson, legal director of a private New York agency called Immigration Equality, said that seeking asylum from a country with a great deal of violence might work against a gay applicant. "We have cases from all over the world, but sometimes people who come from the scariest countries have the hardest time proving their case," said Neilson, whose office currently represents asylum seekers from 26 countries including Albania, Indonesia, Jamaica, Turkmenistan and Zimbabwe. "If you come from Iraq, where nobody feels safe, it is hard to show why you would be singled out," she said.
In one recent groundbreaking case, a lesbian from Uganda won U.S. asylum after her family had a stranger rape her as a "cure" for being gay. Neilson said the woman’s petition was rejected initially because the abuse had been carried out in private, but an appeals court in Minnesota reversed that decision and approved her claim, noting that conditions in Uganda were so hostile that she could not seek protection from the state. Often, even in countries where legal help is available theoretically, social hostility to homosexuals can overshadow their formal rights. Kosovo, for example, is governed under a postwar U.N. mandate. It has laws banning discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation and has an active, liberal press. None of that, however, was enough to protect Prestreshi or his friend Korab Zuka, 23, who fled to the United States this spring and is awaiting an asylum hearing. Zuka was a leader of the fledgling gay rights movement in Pristina, and he was featured last year in a British gay magazine article called "Europe’s Hidden Homos."
Zuka said his public profile led to unbearable pressure and a series of threats. He said he repeatedly called the Kosovo police, who shrugged off his complaints. "It was very frightening to live there as a gay person," Zuka said during a recent interview at Whitman-Walker. "You always had the fear that someone would come up and kill you. At least here I can walk down the street without looking around to see who is behind me."
25th February 2008
Catholics unhappy at rights for gay Kosovans
by PinkNews.co.uk staff writer
Catholics unhappy at rights for gay Kosovans The draft constitution of Europe’s newest nation is under attack from Roman Catholic political organisations because it seeks to protect gay people from discrimination. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia earlier this month, backed by the US, the UK and other leading nations. Its draft constitution contains specific provisions to protect Kosovans from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and enshrines the right to marry but does not limit that right to a man and a woman. It also states that interpretation of the rights contained in the documents will rely on "the case law of the European Court of Human Rights and other international bodies that oversee the implementation of internationally guaranteed human rights."
Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute has raised objections to the draft document, which must be adopted within four months. The group says its mission is "educating the public at large about the pressing issues debated at the UN and at other international institutions." It claims the new constitution "would transform the traditional Muslim and Orthodox Christian society by removing all legal protection from unborn children and granting special rights on the basis of sexual orientation. "Article 25 of the draft document on the "Right to Life" removes protection from the unborn stating that, "every individual enjoys the right to life from birth," and Article 26 grants "the right to make decisions in relation to reproduction in accordance with the rules and procedures set forth by law," further giving each Kosovar "the right to have control over his/her body in accordance with law.""
In December 2007 LGBT rights organisation ILGA-Europe reported: "Minorities and other vulnerable groups face restrictions in exercising their right to freedom of assembly and association across Kosovo. There is a need to promote more actively the rights of groups such as homosexuals to fight prejudice and verbal and physical violence."
The UK government has given strong backing to Kosovan independence, despite objections from Russia and Serbia. The country has been under the interim control of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) since the 1999 Kosovo war. 16,000 troops from 34 countries, 1,500 of them from the UK, are stationed in the country, forming a NATO-led peacekeeping force.