From 14 March to 6 April, the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) organized a series of seven workshops for rule-of-law representatives focused on promoting a victim-centered approach to improve the handling of cases of child abuse and sexual abuse cases in Kosovo.
The workshops brought together more than 130 representatives from the Kosovo Police, the Victim’s Advocacy Offices, prosecutors, judges, regional investigation officers, Centre for Social Welfare officials, and defense lawyers from the regions of Mitrovica, Pejë/Peć, Prizren, Gjilan/Gnjilane, Gjakovë/Đakovica, Ferizaj/Uroševac and Pristina.
The participants analyzed different case studies and discussed best practices and international standards related to the interview process of children as victims of abuse, as well as the role and responsibilities of the entire justice chain in dealing with these cases.
Opening the first workshops, EULEX’s Gender Advisor, Chiara Tagliani, highlighted the Mission’s continuous commitment to supporting Kosovo’s institutions in fighting gender-based and domestic violence, in line with international standards, including the Istanbul Convention.
“As part of our monitoring work, EULEX also issues specific monitoring reports which include recommendations for the relevant rule-of law authorities. In 2022, the Mission issued the report ‘Assessment of the Handling of Rape Cases by the Justice System in Kosovo’, offering a preliminary assessment of how Kosovo’s justice system handles cases qualified as rape,” Tagliani explained, adding that the Mission is also focused on raising awareness among the Kosovo public through information and advocacy campaigns on different types of gender-based-violence violence.
Satu Hannele Varri, EULEX’s Thematic Lead Monitor – Gender-Based Violence, stated that it is of crucial importance for all stakeholders to communicate and exchange experiences on how to improve the handling of cases of child abuse and sexual abuse, also looking at international standards and best practices.
Varri introduced the participants to the so-called Barnahus model, which is often referred to as an example of child-friendly justice, and it is currently promoted at European level by the Council of Europe: “This model represents a multi-professional approach to child victims of abuse, and it has the double aim of facilitating the legal process and ensuring that the child receives the necessary support and treatment”. She also stressed the need to involve, in order to support in the best possible way the child along the whole process, child welfare services and health care professionals, such as social workers, psychologists, pediatricians and forensic doctors.
The Prosecutor of the Mitrovica Basic Prosecution, Department for Minors, Shpëtim Peci, elaborated on how the interview process should be handled by Kosovo institutions in cases involving a minor: “First of all, according to the Juvenile Justice Code, a sexual abuse victim who is a minor cannot be interviewed more than twice due to the psychological and physical sensitivity,” Peci explained, adding that a correct modality of handling a child abuse case should involve psychologists and social welfare workers from the moment the case is reported to the police by the health authorities until the final verdict is reached.
This series of workshops was part of EULEX’s small-scale project “Capacity Building of Institutions Dealing with Violence against Women.”