Challenges persist in Kosovo's criminal justice system, OSCE Mission says

Published on December 18, 2006,

Category: Organized Crime in Kosovo

PRISTINA, 14 December 2006 - Kosovo's court system must continue to work toward effective fulfillment of the rule of law, which is the best way to ensure public confidence in the criminal justice system, according to an OSCE Mission report published today.

The OSCE review addresses the problems of witness protection, the administration of justice in minor offences courts and juveniles in criminal proceedings.

"The challenges faced by the courts in Kosovo are not unsurpassable," said Jens Modvig, OSCE Deputy Head of Mission. "It is important to have an effective court system that can administer justice and have the confidence of the public, in order for the rule of law to become a daily reality."

The report focuses on violations of domestic law and international human rights standards that arise in the courts and affect the right to a fair trial. Among the main areas of concern are:

- The failure to adequately protect witnesses and witness intimidation.

- Charges filed and decisions issued in minor offences courts are of poor quality and often not well reasoned, while using collective punishment that fails to assign individual responsibility.

- The courts' failure to appropriately handle juveniles who are charged with crimes, including unlawful and excessive periods of detention.

The report urges authorities to tackle deficiencies in the law to ensure that witnesses are protected before, during and after the trial. It recommends minor offences courts and courts handling criminal proceedings with juveniles to comply with procedural rules.

The report also notes that the Kosovo Judicial Institute and the Chamber of Advocates should continue train judicial and legal officials to ensure that human rights are fully promoted and protected.

"These concerns need to be addressed to help the local judiciary to foster a culture of respect for the rule of law, which will work for the benefit of all who live in Kosovo," said Henry McGowen, Director of the Mission's Human Rights and Rule of Law Department.

The OSCE, which is tasked with monitoring human rights in Kosovo, applies a human rights perspective to its monitoring of the judicial system. This monitoring has helped the United Nations Mission in Kosovo create a justice system that functions more effectively and is striving towards international standards.

The report is the eighth in a series on the development of the judicial system in Kosovo.

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