PRISTINA, 2 December 2005 - A survey published today by the OSCE Mission focuses on how Kosovo's justice system has dealt with the criminal cases arising from the March 2004 riots, and it offers recommendations to help the justice system improve.
The report describes and analyzes the first major test of the justice system as a whole since it was re-established in 1999 - from police, to the prosecution and the courts.
"An effective court system is crucial in any society where the rule of law prevails, and the judiciary's response to this particular set of criminal cases was not strong enough," said Ambassador Werner Wnendt, Head of the OSCE Mission.
"However, necessary changes by the judicial system will help ensure that all residents of Kosovo can be protected under the law."
The findings include a number issues, previously highlighted by the OSCE, demonstrating where improvements still need to be made. This is intended to decide the subjects of future training courses conducted by the Kosovo Judicial Institute.
The report focuses on problems not specific to the riot cases but appear to be systemic within the judicial system. They affect the chances for criminal acts to be punished and effectively dealt with by the courts. Among the main areas of concern are:
- difficulties in gathering evidence;
- difficulties in obtaining witness statements and intimidation of witnesses; and
- problems associated with charging and sentencing of criminal acts.
A general conclusion of the report is the lack of good and consistent co-operation between the police and prosecution dealing with these cases, and insufficient support from the public as a whole.
"Public involvement is fundamental to democratic government, and public support to investigations and trials can only improve the work of the judiciary," added Ambassador Wnendt.
The OSCE Mission monitors the justice system in Kosovo, focusing on its compliance with rule of law and applicable international human rights standards. As a result of its monitoring activities, the OSCE makes concrete recommendations to the responsible authorities on how the shortcomings identified during the proceedings should be addressed. These efforts aim at the development of a more functioning and effective justice system.