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10 January 2006 -- The Council of Europe today urged NATO to give its inspectors immediate access to a NATO-run detention facility in Kosovo.
The Council, Europe's top human rights body, has been trying to reach agreement with NATO for years to be able to inspect a prison at Camp Bondsteel, the only known detention facility in Europe where it does not have unlimited access.
The Council of Europe's chairman, Terry Davis, said in a statement that if there is nothing to hide, the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture should be given immediate and unlimited access.
NATO says there are no detainees in the camp.
The call for access to Camp Bondsteel comes at a time when the Council of Europe is investigating reports of secret CIA prisons in Europe.
THE WORLD'S NEWEST NATION? The region of Kosovo has a population of more than 2 million, some 90 percent of whom are ethnic Albanians. It was one of the poorest regions in the former Yugoslavia, but has considerable mineral wealth and an enterprising population, many of whom work abroad but keep close contact with Kosovo. All ethnic Albanian political parties seek independence on the principles of self-determination and majority rule. They feel that Serbia lost its historically based claim to what was its autonomous province under the 1974 constitution by revoking that autonomy in the late 1980s and then conducting a crackdown in 1999 that forced some 850,000 people to flee their homes.
Since NATO's intervention that year to stop the expulsions, Kosovo has been under a UN administration (UNMIK). The UN has begun to gradually transfer functions to elected Kosovar institutions. The primary Serbian concerns are physical safety for the local Serbian minority, a secure return for the tens of thousands of Serbian displaced persons, and protection for historic Serbian religious buildings. The main problems affecting all Kosovars, however, are economic. Until Kosovo's final status is clarified and new legislation passed and enforced, it will not be able to attract the investment it needs to provide jobs for its population, which is one of the youngest and fastest growing in Europe. Prosperity is widely seen as the key to political stability and interethnic coexistence in Kosovo, as is the case in much of Southeastern Europe.
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