On 28 March, the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) and the Academy of Justice co-organized a workshop for 22 police officers, prosecutors, judges and representatives of the Kosovo Probation service on the challenges in the implementation of the so-called “diversion measures” on juveniles in contact with the law.
The workshop, developed with the support of the Basic Prosecution Office in Mitrovica, aimed at facilitating an open discussion on the importance of diversion measures as an essential tool to help prevent the commencement of court proceedings against juveniles and to assist their rehabilitation and reintegration process. The workshop focused on the identification of requirements for imposing diversion measures and on the legal provisions regulating their application.
Based on the Juvenile Justice Code, whenever a measure or a sentence has been imposed on a juvenile, the minor’s best interest shall prevail and diversion measures - such as regular school attendance, unpaid community work, reconciliation with the injured party or police warning - should be considered as the first option.
However, the last three years have seen a decrease in their application; hence the need to jointly address the underlying issues.
In his opening remarks, the Head of EULEX’s Monitoring Pillar, Benny Jensen, said: “We observed a lack of a unitary practice at the level of prosecutors’ offices in Kosovo and the need to unify the judicial practice in this segment.” Jensen also highlighted that EULEX presented its conclusions on the application of diversion measures in its last Justice Monitoring Report.
The workshop was facilitated by the Permanent Trainer of the Academy of Justice, Ramadan Gashi, and by the Prosecutor at the Basic Prosecution Office in Mitrovica, Shpëtim Peci.
Presenting the legal framework that regulates diversion measures, Gashi stressed: "To increase the imposition of diversion measures on the minor who is in conflict with the law would be in the best interest of the minor, it would prevent the development of a criminal procedure and it would positively affect the resocialization and reintegration of the minor."
Prosecutor Peci presented the multiple obstacles and challenges hampering the implementation of diversion measures, focusing in particular on the “police warning”, a rarely applied type of diversion measure which was introduced in Kosovo in 2018, when the new Juvenile Justice Code entered into force.
“The shortage of police officers who are specialized and trained in dealing with juveniles, alongside the lack of a police warning database are the main obstacles to the application of this recently introduced measure,” Peci explained.
At the end of the workshop, all participants agreed on the fact that the Chief Prosecutor's Office should issue instructions on how to apply diversion measures in a unified way to facilitate a more frequent application of diversion measures.
The workshop was part of a series of activities planned under EULEX’s Project “Strengthening the professional capacities of prosecutors and the cooperation between police and prosecution in criminal investigations”. Under the same project, in February the Mission organized a roundtable discussion for prosecutors and judges on the harmonization of the amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code with the Juvenile Justice Code, while in December 2022, EULEX organized a training for lawyers on the amendments to the Kosovo Criminal Procedure Code.