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The Impact of COVID-19 on the Rule of Law in Kosovo - The EU Rule of Law Mission presents its special report

18 May 2021

On 18 May, the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) presented its “Special Report on the Impact of COVID-19 on the Rule of Law in Kosovo”, covering the period from March 2020 to March 2021. The report identifies the challenges faced by the justice system and the correctional service during the coronavirus pandemic, and offers concrete and actionable recommendations for the Kosovo rule-of-law system to better respond to the ongoing health crisis.

During the presentation, the Head of EULEX, Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, noted that striking a balance between enforcing the law and protecting the health of the citizens has been a major challenge for all rule-of-law systems worldwide, including in Kosovo.

“Well over a year into the pandemic, this report comes at the right time and will hopefully be a useful tool for the Kosovo authorities to assist them in dealing with the consequences of the pandemic. Out of every crisis comes new experiences and wisdom. Some of the lessons learned, for instance, about the use of modern technology to conduct trial hearings may even serve to improve the overall efficiency of the judiciary," Wigemark said.

Kosovo’s Deputy Justice Minister, Nita Shala, said: “Preventing, containing and managing the pandemic is the main priority of our government. Guaranteeing the functioning of rule of law also remains a top priority. The report provides a critical overview of actions taken by responsible institutions in all stages as a response to the pandemic and also valuable recommendations in regards to the rule of law.”

Presenting the report’s findings and recommendations on the justice system, the Chief of EULEX’s Case Monitoring Unit, Hubert van Eck Koster, said:  “Judicial authorities are now faced with the unprecedented challenge to ensure that trials remain public, as a fundamental fair trial principle, while guaranteeing that courtrooms are safe as the pandemic continues to unfold.”

The Chief of EULEX’s Correctional Unit, Ritva Hannele Vahakoski, presented the report’s findings and recommendations on the correctional system and said that the Kosovo authorities recognised early on the need to make preparations to prevent an outbreak of the pandemic in the correctional facilities. “EULEX’s direct observation of the implementation of the preventive measures in the correctional facilities revealed a generally high level of compliance and have led to a relatively low number of infections registered among Kosovo Correctional Service (KCS) staff and prisoners,” said Vahakoski.

Following the presentation of the report, the Chair of the Kosovo Judicial Council (KJC), Skender Çoçaj, said: “KJC welcomes the recommendations from the report, and we, in the Council, will work on implementing the recommendations that depend on the Council."   

Jetish Maloku, Chair of the Kosovo Prosecutorial Council (KPC) noted that following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Kosovo, KPC undertook actions to deal with it. “The Council and the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor, in cooperation with the British project ‘Strengthening of the justice system in Kosovo’, drafted the Crisis Management Plan in the prosecutorial system, a plan for the COVID-19 management in the prosecutorial system. The Council continued to monitor the situation with the COVID–19 pandemic within the prosecutorial system, and prepares a report on the number of infections on a weekly basis.”

The Deputy Director General of KCS, Rasim Selmani, noted that the KCS is a good example of how the pandemic can successfully be managed in the correctional facilities due to the commitment of the staff and the measures taken in cooperation with the prison health system and experts. “Today, thanks to this management, we have the lowest number of infected prisoners and staff compared to all countries in the region and Europe. Regarding the recommendations given, KCS is committed to implementing them through their incorporation into legislation,” Selmani stressed.

This special report, which follows in the footsteps of a broader report EULEX launched end of last year on its systemic and thematic monitoring of Kosovo’s criminal and civil justice, is a testament to the commitment, professionalism and resilience of many Kosovo police investigators, judges, prosecutors, correctional officers and other rule-of-law personnel, who have been working relentlessly throughout the pandemic to serve justice under difficult circumstances. 

The report is available online here: 

https://www.eulex-kosovo.eu/eul/repository/docs/Covid%20Report_EN.pdf

The factsheet is available here: https://www.eulex-kosovo.eu/eul/repository/docs/Factsheet_EN.pdf

The video of the presentation is available here:

https://www.facebook.com/EULEX.KOSOVO/videos/4050684858383193/

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