On 19 October, the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) presented it first ever public Systemic and Thematic Justice Monitoring Report. The report covers the period from September 2019 until mid-March 2020 and includes findings of 107 monitored cases and 312 hearings, as well as specific recommendations for the Kosovo authorities to improve the justice system.
Addressing the participants, the Head of EULEX, Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, emphasized two unique features of the Mission’s justice monitoring work:
“Firstly, the Mission enjoys full access to judicial, prosecutorial and police systems granted by the Kosovo authorities in June 2018, when EULEX phased out its executive functions in the judiciary. This allows us to complement the trial monitoring performed together with other international organizations and specialized civil society organizations with a ‘behind the scenes’ review and assessment of how specific cases are dealt with before and after a court session. Secondly, the Mission’s monitoring covers the entire chain of the criminal justice system, as well as aspects of the civil justice system.”
Kosovo’s Minister of Justice, Selim Selimi, spoke about the reform process to strengthen the justice system: “The Functional Review of the Rule of Law and the accountability process, including the vetting, are indicators that Kosovo is moving from reflection to the implementation stage, and that it will not stand still when confronted with segments that undermine the justice system. Both these processes are part of the reform, the aim of which is to increase accountability, efficiency and professionalism in the judicial and prosecutorial system, in order to restore the citizens’ trust in justice. Therefore, safeguarding the independence of and strengthening the judicial and prosecutorial system is our battle, which we shall win.”
The Head of EULEX’s Case Monitoring Unit, Hubert van Eck Koster, presented the report’s findings and recommendations, key among which is the continuous trend of less unproductive hearings; some progress made in the pace of adjudicating high-profile cases and a recommendation for the courts to ensure that such trials are not unduly delayed; too many trials are returned for retrial; an overreliance on detention on remand as a security measure, often without sufficient reasoning; and the inconsistencies in the implementation of the cross-examination principles and announcing of judgements. The cooperation between the police and the prosecution needs to be improved in anti-corruption and gender-based violence cases. In addition, there should be a long-term strategy to clear the backlog of privatisation-related civil cases at the Special Chamber of the Supreme Court and steps should be taken to address the excessive length of civil procedures related to property and the many adjournments that these cases are suffering from.
Following the report’s presentation, the Chair of the Kosovo Judicial Council, Skender Çoçaj, said: “The Justice Monitoring Report of EULEX is considered to be a report that contributes to the development and enhancement of the judicial system, as well as to the increase of its efficiency.”
Focusing on the report’s recommendations, the Chair of the Kosovo Prosecutorial Council, Bahri Hyseni, said: “The Kosovo Prosecutorial Council appreciates the work done in the finalization of the Justice Monitoring Report. The resulting recommendations will be addressed, whereas there has already been progress in terms of the implementation of a part of them.”
The Director of Kosovo Police’s Investigation Department, Riza Shillova, said: “Kosovo Police highly appreciates and welcomes this report. We think that this is a very unique report because it includes findings and recommendations of the entire chain of rule of law institutions, namely police, prosecution and the judiciary. Among many priorities, fighting the increasing trend of domestic & gender-based violence, will remain a top priority for us.”
The event took place at EULEX’s Headquarters in Pristina and brought together representatives of rule of law civil society organizations, media outlets and international organizations active in the justice area, who had the opportunity to ask questions and discuss the report’s findings and recommendations./ibna