EULEX Head participated in KFOR-organized Domestic Violence Forum

14 June 2023

On 14 June, the Head of Mission of the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, participated in the Domestic Violence Forum organized by KFOR with the participation of EULEX and of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo. The Forum gave to representatives of Kosovo rule-of-law institutions, international organizations, NGOs, and civil society the opportunity to openly discuss the well-being, security, safety and re-integration of victims of domestic and gender-based violence, with a strong focus on the current functioning of the multi-stakeholder response mechanism.

The event was the culmination of a series of seven briefing sessions organized from April to May for around 100 police officers from seven police stations across Kosovo on how to utilize the victim-centered interview rooms in the best way possible. Victims of gender-based and domestic violence have indeed the right to be interviewed in a manner that prevents any re-traumatization, and victim-centered interview rooms - when properly utilized- can greatly help provide a safe and comfortable environment for this purpose.

Over the years, EULEX, in partnership with KFOR and the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, has supported the opening of seven victim-centered interview rooms in the police stations of Lipjan/Lipljan, Pristina, Prizren, Suharekë/Suva Reka, Mitrovica North, Skenderaj/Srbica, and Pejë/Peć, and it has facilitated these briefing sessions to ensure that the potential of the established rooms is fully exploited.

In his opening remarks, the Head of EULEX, Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, highlighted that EULEX is a committed partner to the rule-of-law and justice institutions in addressing this issue, from advocating and raising awareness against any form of gender-based violence to its monitoring of the entire criminal justice chain on how these cases are being dealt with.

“Domestic violence is something very difficult to completely eradicate. We saw that during the pandemic, when there was a parallel pandemic in terms of increase of domestic violence,” Wigemark pointed out, adding: “This is why these interview rooms are so important: so that the victims feel safe and comfortable.”

The Chief of Staff of KFOR, Brigadier General John Bozicevic, reiterated KFOR’s commitment to helping fight this phenomenon explaining that the goal of the forum is to foster awareness and dialogue.

“The suffering of many women and girls compels us to work to end this suffering. Domestic violence is a crime that must be addressed in close cooperation between the various organizations here, healthcare and social workers, religious representatives, the Kosovo Police, prosecutors, judges, NGOs, civil society organizations and other international partners.”

The Head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, Michael Davenport, highlighted the importance of this training initiative to improve law enforcement investigative services when dealing with cases involving survivors of domestic violence. “Victims must have access to tailored support such as victim-centered police services. We must be the voices of those whose voice often cannot be heard,” said Davenport, adding: “Domestic violence has massive collateral impact on family members, friends, the wider society. It also, as we know, has the potential to create further victims and produce new offenders. Of course, these crimes cannot be tolerated. Victims must receive the protection that they need and perpetrators of domestic violence must face justice.”

The forum continued with two panel discussions about domestic violence in Kosovo and gender-sensitive policing.

Commenting on the importance of having victim-centered services such as the interview rooms, EULEX’s Gender Advisor, Chiara Tagliani emphasized: "Establishing a relationship of trust with victims of gender-based violence is fundamental to protecting them and to ensuring their ability to give statements, avoiding re-traumatization.  The effective use of the victim-centered interview rooms allows the creation of a safe environment and is also an essential tool for the Kosovo Police to apply a victims-based approach."

The discussion further focused on the fact that the effective protection of women and girls should be treated as an urgent matter. The utilization of these victim-centered interview rooms is certainly a positive way forward in ensuring that the victims come forward to report and receive the proper support and protection.