Speech by the Head of Mission during the presentation of EULEX’s Monitoring Report: “Assessment of the Handling of Rape Cases by the Justice System in Kosovo”

06 July 2022

Pristina, 6 July 2022

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Good afternoon everyone,

President Osmani,

Thank you for honoring us with your presence and for your very clear and powerful message    Thank you all for being here and taking time to join us today.

Since the end of its executive mandate in the Kosovo justice system in June 2018, the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, also known as EULEX, is monitoring, mentoring and advising Kosovo rule of law institutions.  We seek to do so in a transparent way, sharing our main findings with both Kosovo rule of law institutions, who are here today, as well as with the general public.

Based on the Mission’s robust monitoring of the whole chain of the justice system, the Mission has so far issued five comprehensive reports. With each report we provide concrete and operational recommendations to our counterparts, be it the Kosovo Police, the Judiciary or Correctional Services.  Many of these recommendations do not require changes in legislation but can be implemented simply through adjustments in rules and procedures of the responsible institutions.  They are practical and results oriented.

The special report we are launching today is dedicated to the victims of sexual violence, especially rape, whose quest for justice, not only in Kosovo but everywhere, is still too often unanswered, unreasonably delayed, or even denied.

The report is based on the Mission’s monitoring of how sexual violence cases are dealt with by the justice system in Kosovo. It does not cover the cases of rape during the war in Kosovo, although there may be still be some observations and recommendations in the report, which could also apply to the systematic rape of women and men, boys and girls in a conflict.

The report is part of a wider effort by EULEX to support Kosovo institutions in addressing violence against women in general and rape in particular. This is in line with the requirements of the Istanbul Convention, that was just explained by President Osmani.  By amending its Constitution in September 2020 - under your leadership, as Speaker of the Assembly, President-  Kosovo undertook a commitment to fulfill these obligations. And in your letter - Madam President - to the High Representative and Vice President of the European Commission, Mr. Josep Borrell, on June 14th of last year, you, President Osmani, expressly invited EULEX to support the implementation of the Istanbul Convention, and, therefore, in many ways today’s report is due to your initiative. 

Over the past year, the Mission engaged in a number of activities, ranging from conducting awareness-raising campaigns on so-called gaslighting and the link between property rights and domestic violence, to contributing to the drafting of various programmatic strategies and documents, such as the new National Strategy and Action Plan on Protection from Domestic Violence and Violence against Women, which has been adopted, - and I congratulate the Kosovo Government for that - as well as the drafting guidelines, more specific guidelines for the establishment of referral systems for dealing with sexual crimes.

Sexual violence, in particular rape,  - as you all know - causes deep physical and psychological scares for those who live through it.  The trauma involved can never be fully measured by forensic instruments, reports such as this one, or statistics.  International human rights standards, including the Istanbul Convention, set clear obligations for domestic authorities in all countries to prevent sexual violence, prosecute the offences, provide protection to victims and offer legal redress.

All too often victims of rape are not given sufficient priority by the justice system - and I am not speaking just about Kosovo. And they, the victims, have to endure a lengthy and complicated legal process. All too often their cases are dismissed for lack of substantive evidence or for procedural reasons. What is therefore needed is a so-called “victims-based approach”. Again something that the President just touched upon.

It is a controversial decision and the jurisprudence on the basis of the legislation in Sweden is still developing, but I do believe it behooves us to consider how to overcome the lack of guilty verdicts in rape cases.

Sexual violence is not a private matter; it is the result of unequal power relations and gender inequalities. Gender-based violence is a human rights violation.

The initial treatment of victims of sexual violence is essential. And let’s also not forget that it is not only violence against women and girls.  Men and boys are also exposed to sexual violence and abuse, in particular in conflicts, but also domestically. This is sometimes an even greater taboo to talk about. 

Among the initiatives this Mission is currently working on, I would like to mention how we have drafted a roadmap to establish specialised support services for victims of sexual violence.  Furthermore, the Mission is currently supporting a working group established in March this year by the Ministry of Justice to draft a National Protocol for Sexual Violence Offences. And I am pleased to see here today a number of members of this working group. 

The short program for today’s event provides an opportunity for the high level representatives of the relevant institutions, the Kosovo Police, the Institute of Forensic Medicine, the Prosecution and the Judicial Councils, to provide their comments on the report’s specific recommendations.

Following the question and answer session, the Minister of Justice, Ms. Albulena Haxhiu, will sum up and outline the way forward from the perspective of her Ministry, the Ministry of Justice.

I hope we can have a good discussion today and I also invite you and the audience to pose questions and hopefully we can give some answers.

Thank you for attention and presence.