05 December 2022
On 5 December, the Head of the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, joined the Kosovo Prime Minister’s Albin Kurti, the Minister of Justice, Albulena Haxhiu, the Head of Office of UN Women, Vlora Tuzi Nushi, and the Executive Director of Kosovo Women’s Network, Igballe Rogova, in launching the new Protocol for Treatment of Sexual Violence Cases.
The Protocol clearly defines responsibilities and obligations of all Kosovo institutions and service providers involved in the treatment and referral of sexual violence cases.
In particular, the newly launched Protocol sets a standardized, comprehensive, and accountable response by responsible institutions for the identification, protection, treatment, documentation, referral, sustainable empowerment, and reintegration of the survivors of sexual assault and violence.
The Kosovo Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, explained how professionality, responsibility, commitment and sensitivity to deliver justice are the features that make the institutions serious in their actions and responsible in the implementation of their mission and obligations. “The elimination of violence is an obligation, separately for everyone, and jointly for all of us. Victims deserve institutional and social support, maximum and adequate health and psychological care”, stated Kurti.
The Prime Minister recalled how: “Violence against women and girls is a matter of public and social security and welfare, and not only a domestic or private issue. Its elimination is a battle of all of us”.
The Minister of Justice, Albulena Haxhiu, acknowledged that the Protocol “is one of the most important documents recently produced by the Ministry of Justice concerning the treatment of this serious form of gender-based violence, namely sexual violence.”
Haxhiu promised: “I will not stop the efforts to progress in reducing this form of gender-based violence, both in terms of updating the legal framework and harmonizing it with international instruments, as well as improving the monitoring of the practical implementation of this legal framework, policies, and tools such as this Protocol.”
The Minister of Justice also thanked international partners, such as EULEX, the European Union Office in Kosovo, and UN Women, for their unconditional support not only in the process of preparing the Protocol, but also for all the support given over the years in fighting violence against women and domestic violence, and in advancing equal opportunities for everyone.
EULEX supports the Kosovo institutions in advancing the implementation of the requirements of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention. In line with this commitment, the Mission has taken part in the working group established in March 2022 by the Ministry of Justice to draft the Protocol.
In his keynote address, the Head of Mission of EULEX Kosovo welcomed the adoption of the Protocol which demonstrates the commitment of Kosovo’s institutions, starting with the Ministry of Justice who has led this process, to deliver justice and redress the victims of these crimes.
“Kosovo finally has a practical, unified, and detailed Protocol to guide the actions and responsibilities of all institutions involved in the treatment of sexual violence offences and their victims,” Wigemark stated, adding how: “This is the result of a long process over several years involving many different actors. And I am proud of the support that we, as the EU Rule of Law Mission on behalf of the European Union, have been able to provide not only to the Kosovo government, but to civil society and all other institutional actors.”
Wigmark also explained how this protocol is a response to the complex needs of victims: “We all know that there is a need to have this kind of protocol in place. The traumatic nature of sexual violence, including rape, but also other types of psychological violence, is clear: victims often need immediate medical care, but they also need to talk to someone; they need to explain to someone what has happened, and there are many stigmas involved,” he said, highlighting the importance of education as preventive measure. “Teaching the values of respect, of gender, of women, of girls, of men, and boys, is a step towards building a culture where sexual violence is unacceptable, not just as a matter of law but also as a matter of principle”, concluded the Head of EULEX.
The Mission has supported the implementation of the Istanbul Convention through a large number of activities, such as awareness-raising campaigns on the importance of preserving biological evidences in cases of sexual violence (the “Speak Up on Time” campaign), on gaslighting, and on the link between property rights and domestic violence. The Mission has also contributed to the drafting of programmatic documents, such as the new National Strategy and Action Plan on Protection from Domestic Violence and Violence against Women.
Furthermore, in July 2022, as part of its robust monitoring of the whole chain of justice in Kosovo, EULEX launched its special monitoring report “Assessment of the Handling of Rape Cases by the Justice System in Kosovo”.