09 December 2021
Kosovo’s Deputy Minister of Justice, Nita Shala, speaks about the immense importance for a coordinated response from all relevant stakeholders in order to eliminate gender-based violence.
Read the full interview, which is part of the joint EULEX-EUSR activities for the 16 Days of Activism campaign, here:
1. First of all, what is with the name of the phenomenon: domestic violence? Gender-based violence? Sexual violence? Violence against Women?
Shala: “Violence is a complex and multi-faceted phenomenon, covering a broad variety of often changing emotional and physical conducts, situations, and victim-offender relationships. As such, there is a need to advance the scientific understanding of the phenomenon and take steps to define these forms of violence by law. The new Criminal Code takes us a step forward into better understanding and fighting against this phenomenon by defining “domestic violence” as a specific criminal offense. Other forms of violence can be traced in this or other provisions of the Criminal Code. To this complex social problem, there is a need for a comprehensive and multi-sectoral approach with the executive, law enforcement, and judiciary having crucial roles to play.”
2. You have very important issues in your portfolio, including vetting. How important is the fight against gender-based violence in the agenda of the Ministry of Justice?
Shala: “The vision of this Government is to have an independent, unbiased, efficient, and professional justice system. The vetting process is the mechanism through which we believe will be able to achieve a prosecution service and judiciary that is efficient, uninfluenced, and equal for every citizen of our Republic. And this is just one of the five strategic objectives of the Ministry of Justice. Prevention and addressing domestic violence is another strategic objective, just as important and challenging, on which I am dedicated to succeeding.”
3. You are leading the drafting of the new national strategy for the combat of the phenomenon. How are you managing to get all institutions and groups that have a stake to coordinate?
Shala: “By holding as many discussions as possible, with as many individuals as possible. This is a strategy in which the contribution from civil society, media, and every citizen of the Republic is valuable and important to address. In addition to the two Working Group workshops that have been held, I have invited in consultation meetings all employees working in bodies committed against this phenomenon. Until now, 11 consultation meetings have been conducted, with more than 200 individuals. I am appreciative of the positive response from all stakeholders, as well as on international strategic partners who assisted with their expertise and in other ways the drafting of the strategy.”
4. Why is it important? In practical terms, what will the strategy change for a victim of violence?
Shala: “The strategy is based on the vision of: ‘A society where everyone is safe and equal and lives without the fear or threat of domestic violence and violence against women, aiming at preventing and not tolerating violence, protecting and reintegrating victims, and holding perpetrators accountable.’ As such, it includes activities aimed at the prevention of violence in the first place, strengthening the institutional response in protection and treatment of victims, and providing sustainable rehabilitation and reintegration of victims.”
5. A recent verdict sentenced a rapist of a 15 year-old girl to only a few months imprisonment has caused outrage in Kosovo. Can you, as National Coordinator, do anything about these low sentences?
Shala: “The incredibly low sentences of offenders of domestic violence incite me to take action both as National Coordinator and as Deputy Minister of Justice. As National Coordinator, I use the inter-ministerial working group mechanism to discuss them with representatives from the Prosecutorial and Judicial Council, ask questions, and expect a reaction from the KPC and KJC. In the National Strategy, I have insisted on including as specific activity the “peer review for indictments and sentences”. Peer review is a process in which independent prosecutors and judges analyse a specific number of indictments by prosecutors and decisions by judges to identify challenges and provide recommendations for future application of the law. We may expect to see more suitable sentences if the courts follow the example of prosecution and dedicate specialized judges to deal primarily with cases of domestic violence and violence against women. This is another activity included in the National Strategy. As Deputy Minister of Justice, this convinces me about the necessity to move forward with the vetting process, a mechanism to ensure professionalism, ethics, and fair judiciary.”
6. Domestic Violence is a worldwide phenomenon. What can Kosovo learn from other countries, especially from countries in the region?
Shala: “Kosovo can learn from good practices from the countries in the region, emulating what works. I try to identify efficient practices to adapt them in our context. I have inquired information about sexual harassment shelters across North Macedonia and relied on know-how from Albania-based experts concerning this phenomenon.”
7. Shelters for domestic violence/gender-based violence have been underfunded for years, what is the government doing to make them work as a real alternative accommodation that the victims can trust?
Shala: “Understanding the lack of financial stability for shelters, a team at the Ministry of Justice is working towards the creation of the budgetary line for shelters. We are committed to seeing shelters not only being a "shelter" in terms of housing, but a place in which victims will feel safe and are protected, have the opportunity to conduct various activities and assist in personal and financial empowerment.”