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Letter to the Kosovo Assembly Regarding the Ombudsperson's Selection Process

I am writing on behalf of Human Rights Watch to ask you to re-open the selection procedure for the post of Ombudsperson, in order to ensure that the person selected has the proper qualifications for this important, independent role.

Human Rights Watch regards the Ombudsperson Institution as an important mechanism of accountability. It has played a vital role overseeing the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government, and the United Nations Mission in Kosovo. We believe it should exercise the same function in relation to any future EU-led mission. We have repeatedly expressed our support for the Ombudsperson Institution in our reports and advocacy efforts, most recently in our June 2007 briefing paper Better Late than Never: Enhancing Accountability of International Institutions in Kosovo.

We believe that the candidates for the post of the Ombudsperson Institution should be both independent and seen to be so, and that they have the relevant and sufficient experience and expertise in human rights to carry out their important task effectively. The UNMIK regulation governing the Institution states that the persons occupying the post of Ombudsperson should “possess a demonstrated commitment to human rights.” Human Rights Watch believes that a “demonstrated commitment to human rights” in this context means that candidates should have particular experience in the area of human rights. Such prior experience should be an essential requirement for leadership of one of Kosovo’s most important human rights bodies. Based upon information available to us, it appears that none of the three short listed candidates has such experience.

We believe that as the Ombudsperson Institution is an independent one and that those occupying the posts must act independently, it is crucial that the Kosovo Assembly carry out the selection of the Ombudsperson on the basis of candidates’ qualifications, human rights experience and suitability for the post, and without regard to their political affiliation. This is all the more important as the Ombudsperson now enjoys sole authority for appointing his or her deputies.

Your leadership in supporting an effective Ombudsperson Institution would undoubtedly enhance accountability of the Kosovo Institutions and ensure better governance and greater respect for human rights for all persons living in Kosovo.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

Holly Cartner
Director
Europe and Central Asia Division

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