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May 26, 2010 | Commentary

Weak leadership and poor political support threaten the advancement of the justice system in Kosovo, according to a recent report by the International Crisis Group. Monitoring and oversight committees such as the Kosovo Judicial Council and Police Inspectorate of Kosovo are not working properly. In the North of Kosovo there is no sense of criminal justice because the Serbian-run courts do not cooperate with the Kosovo Police. The ICG report recommends that the Government of Kosovo, along with the President and the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo, compel the police, prosecutors, and internal affairs and justice ministries to work well together in the fight against crime. But is that enough?

Although Kosovo has the basic components of a justice system, each part operates on its own and without real impact. One of the aims of the Justice Component of EULEX is “to improve and strengthen Kosovo’s judiciary to make it fully multi-ethnic, impartial, free from political influence and capable of holding fair trials according to international standards and best European practices.” Although Kosovo has improved on the World Bank’s Rule of Law index (moving from 13th out of 100 in 2003 to 30th in 2008), EULEX and other organizations working towards a better justice system in Kosovo face a long road ahead.

One of the largest problems currently plaguing the justice system is the disconnect between judges and the civilian population. The judiciary’s average age is 54 (associating them with Serbian rule and weakening their moral authority), while 57 per cent of the population is under 25, one of Europe’s youngest populations. In addition, the May 2009 BIRN report Monitoring the Courts identified several other issues plaguing the justice system in Kosovo including judges and prosecutors not wearing their uniforms and using mobile telephones during trials. Court-appointed lawyers are failing to make contact with their clients before trials and judge’s are holding trials in their offices that are supposed to be open trials. Public prosecutors are stretched thin, having to represent for multiple trials at once and there is a lack of transparency in the court system. From minor rule violations to major inconsistencies across the system, judicial reform in Kosovo still needs a lot of work.