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U.N. Offers Regret but No Compensation for Kosovo Poisoning Victims

The United Nations said it would create a trust fund for projects to help the Roma, also known as Gypsies, and other people who lived in the camps. But the trust fund comes with no money, only a pledge to call for contributions from international donors.

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A camp in the northern part of Mitrovica, Kosovo, in 2006. Credit Andrew Testa for The New York Times

“By creating an unfunded trust fund for community assistance projects, instead of individual compensation for victims of its own negligence, the U.N. is selling the victims of lead poisoning at its camps in Kosovo short,” Louis Charbonneau, the United Nations director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

The United Nations hopes to raise $ 5 million for the voluntary fund. “We are aware that there were other people affected beyond the 138 claimants,” Mr. Dujarric said. “We want to see all of the impacted communities benefit from projects.”

Critics of the United Nations say it has also avoided responsibility for other failures by its missions, including sexual abuse by peacekeepers and the introduction of cholera in Haiti, which left hundreds of thousands of people infected and more than 9,000 dead.

“In Kosovo, as in Haiti, the U.N. is substituting charity for justice, evading its legal obligation to compensate by offering to ask other entities to fund charitable projects,” said Sienna Merope-Synge, a lawyer with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, an organization that sued the United Nations over the cholera outbreak.

Philip Alston, a legal scholar who rebuked the United Nations for not apologizing and offering compensation for the cholera crisis in Haiti, said the Kosovo decision followed the same model.

“This locks in the precedent of not handling these cases through an appropriate, predictable or accessible legal process,” Mr. Alston, a New York University law professor and a United Nations special envoy dealing with extreme poverty and human rights, wrote in an email.

The Kosovo camps were set up in 1999 after the war between Serbia and ethnic Albanian separatists. They were intended to temporarily house the Roma and other minority groups who had been targets of ethnic violence, but they remained open until 2010 despite the longstanding concerns about public health.

Source: NYT > World

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