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UN Urged To Compensate Kosovar Minorities Suffering From Lead Poisoning

A child warms himself by a fire in a lead-contaminated Roma camp for internally displaced persons in northern Mitrovica in December 2012.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on September 7 urged the United Nations to pay compensation to Roma and other minorities in Kosovo who were resettled in UN-run camps in the late 1990s and now suffer from lead poisoning.

The rights group said that about 600 people forced from their homes in Mitrovica after the 1998-99 Kosovo war were resettled in camps known to be contaminated by lead from a nearby industrial mine.

The rights group said it interviewed 19 men and women in June whose families, including more than 30 children, were affected by lead poisoning in the camps. It found many are experiencing health problems including seizures, kidney disease, and memory loss.

Last year, a UN panel found that the UN mission in Kosovo was aware of the health risk in 2000 but failed to relocate the displaced people, violating their rights. It recommended that the UN pay compensation and apologize, but it has not done so.

"The UN should stop ignoring its own experts," said Katharina Rall of HRW.

The UN mission in Kosovo was set up at the end of the war in 1999 and helped govern it until Kosovo's 2008 independence.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP