Amnesty International released a report this week accusing the international community of encouraging the sex trade in Kosovo. But NATO and the UN say the report is out of date and unreliable.
NATO troops in Kosovo are apparently frequent supporters of the sex industry.
The human rights organization slammed the United Nations and NATO for not doing more to punish its people for contributing to what has become a flourishing sex industry in the Balkan country.
Since 1999, when international peacekeepers entered the country after negotiating an end to the conflict between Kosovo and Serbia, the number of institutions where women and girls are being exploited has mushroomed from 18 to 200 in 2003, according to the report. Girls as young as 11 have been lured under false pretenses from places like Moldova, the Ukraine and Bulgaria to work in the sex trade.
"We were his property," one women told Amnesty of her treatment in Kosovo. "By buying us, he had the right to beat us, rape us, starve us and force us to have sex with clients."
International workers spend money on sex
Especially abhorrent, alleges Amnesty, is the complacency with which the international community has treated the problem. Most of the women are still being treated as criminals by Kosovo authorities, charged as prostitutes or illegal immigrants, according to the report. Rather than condemn the abuses, the international community makes up an estimated 20 percent of the clientele that supports the sex industry, Amnesty claims.
"With clients including international police and troops, the girls and women are often too afraid to escape and the authorities are failing to help them," according to Amnesty.
There are an estimated 40,000 soldiers, police officers and international workers in Kosovo. NATO
An ethnic Albanian man looks back as U.S soldiers past by construction site of a new mosque while patroling the streets of the eastern Kosovo town of Vitina on Sunday July 22, 2001. U.S President George Bush is expected to visit U.S troops serving in peacekeeping mission in Kosovo on July 24, 2001. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
has an international contingent of more than 17,500 troops (KFOR) patrolling the country, and the large majority of the rest works for the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).
From 2002 until July 2003, Amnesty reported that up to 27 KFOR soldiers were suspected of offenses related to the sex trade. UNMIK said 10 of their police officers had been dismissed on similar charges in 2003.
NATO, UN: Report Outdated, Unbalanced
But the two institutions criticized the report as unbalanced. A NATO spokesman said that some accusations seemed out of date and said that each country was responsible for the conduct of their soldiers.
The United Nations said in a statement that the report was outdated and drew "heavily on conditions existing in 1999-2001, when the UN Mission in Kosovo was at the incipient stage."
"Outdated information from that period is extrapolated on and presented as current," the statement continued.
Germany not aware of any investigations
The German Defense Ministry, which has 3,600 soldiers as part of the NATO mission in Kosovo, said it had yet to read the report. In 1999 and 2000, German soldiers were accused of visiting underage sex workers, according to reports and a defense ministry spokesman. But the spokesman told DW-WORLD that the ministry found no wrong doing. He said he was not aware of any current investigations.
"There are very clear taboos for German soldiers," the spokesman said, adding that soldiers are restricted to living on military bases. "There is legal consequences if a soldier ignores them. That is made very clear in training."
The UN said that it too had implemented tough punishment for violators as early as 2001, setting up a Trafficking and Prostitution Investigation Unit to work together with police and women's advocacy groups.
Amnesty says more needs to be done, including guaranteeing victims redress and reparation and setting up some sort of witness protection program for the women.
"Trafficking of women and girls in Kosovo and other post-conflict situations will never end as long as the perpetrators go free," said the organization. "And as long as civilian and military personnel are allowed to commit human rights violations with impunity."