Pristina/Brussels - Kosovo must bolster its failing justice system and establish rule of law throughout the country if it is to achieve prosperity and greater international recognition.
The Rule of Law in Independent Kosovo, the latest International Crisis Group report, reviews the state of the police and courts in the young Balkan state and recommends that the government, the European Union rule of law mission (EULEX) and the wider international community work to fight corruption, adopt needed legal reforms, recruit more judges and prosecutors and improve training. Key players should also address the particular weaknesses of law enforcement in Serb-held northern Kosovo by facilitating the appointment of Albanian and Serb judges and engaging local police.
“The government has made some postitive changes but hasn’t shown the political will to create a strong and independent judiciary”, says Marko Prelec, Crisis Group’s Balkans Project Director in Pristina. “Kosovo cannot afford cosmetic improvements – without the rule of law it will remain poor and isolated.”
When Serb authorities fled the territory in 1999, they took its court records and equipment with them, leaving behind a justice system tainted by a history of discrimination and ties to Slobodan Miloševià107. Improvements were made under the UN Mission in Kosovo, but the transition to self-government has not been smooth. The UN failed to cultivate the senior civil servants needed to ensure effective police and judiciary, and the result of delays in handing over important internal security responsibilities was that some institutions suffered from the impression among Kosovars they were dominated by foreign influence.
Weak legal institutions have allowed organised crime and corruption to grow. Poor record-keeping hamper attempts to tackle impunity, top police officials are beholden to politicians and slow to adopt modern methods, and the courts have such a heavy backlog that many are denied justice. Improved staffing, training, and a willingness to break with the abuses of the past are needed to protect citizens, establish accountability and attract foreign investment.
The Serb-controlled north’s disputed status has left it without a functioning criminal justice system. To combat this, EULEX should propose a compromise to seat Serb and Albanian judges, while its police should act against the region’s worst offenders.
“Virtually no one we speak to on the ground feels the current Kosovo government supports the rule of law, and some think its unwillingness to tackle corruption shows its hostility to foreign investment”, says Sabine Freizer, Crisis Group’s Europe Program Director, “Even if this is only a perception, Kosovo cannot wait any longer to secure the rule of law if it is to have a successful economic and political future”.
© Crisis International
- Wednesday, May 19, 2010