Kosovo*

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KOSOVO* 2021

Proceedings continued at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers established in The Hague in 2016. Journalists faced indirect pressure and online violence. Kosovo courts issued their first conviction for wartime sexual violence. Impunity for cases of institutional negligence in addressing domestic violence continued. A hydropower company withdrew its lawsuits aimed at silencing activists.

Background

Following snap elections in February, the Vetëvendosje (Self-determination Movement) party won power, replacing the government of Avdullah Hoti. The parliament elected Vjosa Osmani as president.

Right to truth, justice and reparation

In September, the trial began of Salih Mustafa, commander of a Kosovo Liberation Army unit, indicted on charges of arbitrary detention, cruel treatment, torture and murder. Pristina Basic Court sentenced former reservist policeman Goran Stanišić to 20 years’ imprisonment for war crimes against ethnic Albanians committed in 1999.

Enforced disappearances

More than 1,600 people remained missing. In June, 11 bodies of Kosovo Albanians were exhumed from a mass grave at the Kiževak mine in Serbia. In September, the remains of seven Kosovo Albanians were returned to Kosovo authorities. Kosovo authorities returned the remains of three Serbs to Serbian authorities.

Wartime sexual violence

In Kosovo’s first conviction for wartime sexual violence, Pristina Basic Court sentenced former Kosovo Serb police officer Zoran Vukotić to 10 years’ imprisonment for raping a 16-year-old girl in 1999.

As of December, a government commission had granted the status of survivor of wartime sexual violence to 1,048 of 1,618 applicants, although over 4,500 rape survivors had been counselled by the NGO Medica Gjakova.

Violence against women and girls

Impunity for cases of institutional negligence in addressing domestic violence continued. The murders of two women, Sebahate Morina and Marigona Osmani, both victims of femicide, sparked public protests against gender-based violence. The Ombudsperson found the state institutions responsible for violating Sebahate Morina’s right to life because they neglected a domestic violence report filed by her daughter days before she was murdered by her ex-husband. Kosovo courts handed down one life sentence and a 25-year sentence in femicide cases. A judge and a prosecutor faced disciplinary proceedings for convicting the rapist of a 15-year-old girl to only eight months’ imprisonment.

Freedom of expression

Three doctors were penalized for speaking to the media about practices in a public hospital cardiology clinic “without permission and damaging the image of the institution”. Two of them were prohibited from promotion or salary raises for three years, and one received a 40% pay cut for three months.

Journalists

Journalists faced threats, indirect pressure, obstruction, online violence and attacks. In February, journalist Visar Duriqi was injured by unidentified people. In October, journalists were attacked by protesters while covering a police action in Mitrovica. In December, Pristina Basic Court ordered the house arrest of two people for threatening journalist Vehbi Kajtazi.

Human rights defenders

Amnesty International called on Austrian hydropower company Kelkos Energy to withdraw defamation lawsuits against activists Shpresa Loshaj and Adriatik Gacaferi, who had criticized the environmental impact of its Kosovo operation.1 Kelkos withdrew the lawsuits in October.

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

The government agreed to provide shelter and grant temporary protection to up to 2,000 Afghan evacuees waiting to be resettled in other host countries. Afghans hosted in the camps enjoyed no freedom of movement outside and visits by media and other observers inside the camps were restricted.

LGBTI people’s rights

The government approved a draft Civil Code allowing same-sex civil unions, to be regulated by a special law.

Discrimination

Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian people

Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian people continued to face barriers to accessing drinking water and employment, as well as accessing online education for children during Covid-19 school closures.

Following a civil society petition, the government awarded €20,000 in damages to the family of Kujtim Veseli, an 11-year-old Ashkali child who was repeatedly raped and finally murdered in 2019. Months before the murder, Kujtim’s abuser had confessed to the police that he had raped Kujtim but he was not arrested or detained. The Ombudsperson found a violation of Kujtim’s right to life.


  1. Kosovo: Defamation lawsuits seeking to silence environmental activists must be withdrawn”, 28 June