PRISTINA, Serbia and Montenegro, Dec 2 (Reuters) - The weak judicial response in U.N.-run Kosovo to mass Albanian attacks on Serbs last year added to a sense of impunity in the province for ethnically motivated crimes, the OSCE said on Friday.
Nineteen people died and more than 4,000 fled their homes in 48 hours of Albanian violence in March 2004 that thrust Serbia's southern province back onto the international agenda.
Police estimated 51,000 people took part in torching 800 Serb homes and dozens of Orthodox churches across Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians make up 90 percent of the population.
Just 200 people have been convicted by courts manned by international and local judges. Another 110 cases are pending.
"The justice system failed to send out a clear message to the population condemning this type of violence," said the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
"This relatively weak response ... not only contributes to the impression of impunity among the population for such kinds of ethnically motivated crimes but may also be considered inadequate to prevent similar acts of public disorder in the future," it said.
The report highlighted a lack of diligence in pursuing cases, poor cooperation between the courts and police, undue leniency and frequent intimidation of witnesses.
Publication of the report comes as the U.N. mission prepared to hand control over the judiciary to Kosovo's interim institutions with the creation of justice and police ministries.
Legally part of Serbia, Kosovo has been run by the United Nations since 1999, when NATO bombing drove out Serb forces accused of atrocities against ethnic Albanian civilians in a two-year war with separatist guerrillas.
Thousands of Serbs fled a wave of revenge attacks after the war. The 100,000 who stayed have become the target of sporadic violence that critics say often goes unpunished.
Violence exploded last March under the watch of 17,000 NATO peacekeepers and exposed widespread anger and frustration among 2 million Kosovo Albanians at years of political and economic limbo.
The U.N. Security Council has since given the green light to negotiations to decide between Albanian demands for their own independent Kosovo state, and Serbia's insistence the province remain within its borders. A decision is expected in 2006.
Kosovo Albanian leaders argue they can guarantee the security and rights of Serbs but are likely to be shackled with an international supervisory mission for years to come.