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EU Security Official In Kosovo Removed For 'Racist Comments'

PRISTINA -- The European Union's police and justice mission in Kosovo (EULEX) says one of its officials has been suspended amid charges he offended and abused his Kosovar colleagues, RFE/RL's Balkan Service reports.

EULEX spokesman Anne Blanksma told RFE/RL that "[EULEX] head of mission [Xavier de Marnhac] intends for the head of the Close Protection Unit to leave the mission."

Blanksma added that the man in question, who has not been named, has the right to appeal his suspension and possible dismissal.

The suspension came after EULEX launched an internal investigation into charges by Kosovar members of the Close Protection Unit -- which provides security for de Marnhac and other VIPs -- that the head of the unit offended them with various ethnic and religious comments.

Local media reported that the EULEX official also threatened local staff not to report his comments to the authorities.

Blanksma said the entire Close Protection Unit will be reorganized, with several local staffers being reassigned to other jobs within EULEX.

Hajredin Kuci, Kosovar's deputy prime minister, declared last week that "the latest event [involving EULEX] does not interfere in the relations between the government and EULEX."

But the Kosovo Council for the Defense of Human Rights (KCDHR) said the incident is a clear case of racism.

"Offending the national identity, religion, and national symbols of [ethnic] Albanian staff is not a simple case of misconduct but pure racism," the council's Baki Svirca said.

The KCDHR also called for new rules to be established regarding the immunity of international staff working in Kosovo. Currently, foreign workers cannot be prosecuted by Kosovar authorities but are rather subject to the justice system in their countries of origin despite alleged crimes taking place in Kosovo.

EULEX (EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo) has about 3,200 staff members and is the largest civilian mission operating under the EU's Common Security and Defense Policy. Its main duty is to assist and support Kosovar officials on police, judiciary, and customs issues.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and has been recognized by 75 countries.