War crimes investigation, 15 indictments during 2023

15 indictments for war crimes were filed during 2023 by the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office (SPO). Eight of them trial in absentia, this is also considered the innovation of 2023, which allows it without the presence of the defendant.

The trial in this form happens for the first time in Kosovo and can be proceeded only after five invitations have been sent to the respective state and they have been announced as wanted for investigation in criminal proceedings for at least six months in the official gazette.

However, monitors of this process declare that not enough has been done to punish the perpetrators of war crimes. The same request from the institutions to increase the resources within the department that investigates war crimes.

At the end of last year, the Supreme Court finally confirmed the sentence against Zoran Vukotic, sentenced to 13 years in prison for sexual violence during the war in Kosovo. This is the first and only case of conviction for this type of crime by local courts.

The director of the Kosova Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims (KRCT), Feride Rushiti, considers the past year to be just.

In 2023, the deadline for the application of victims of sexual violence to the Government Commission on Recognition and Verification of the Status of Sexual Violence Victims has been postponed. However, Rushiti considers that the deadline is unfair.

In addition, she emphasizes that the practices in the region clearly prove that the deadline should not be limited. Rushiti indicates that there are six other cases, which are in court proceedings, where the indictment for sexual violence has been filed.

There were no other punishments, but Amer Alija from the Humanitarian Law Fund considers that there was a more intensive investigation of war crimes.

While talking about the number of prosecutors dealing with war crimes, Alija says that not enough has been done to investigate war crimes.

The non-action of various actors who were mandated to pursue and judge cases of war crimes created the amnesty. This is what Gzim Shala from the Kosovo Law Institute says, who adds that there have been more investigations of Albanians than Serbs.

According to him, the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office should be supported with sufficient resources for the investigation of these crimes.

The Minister of Justice, Albulena Haxhiu, vows that the investigation of war crimes is a priority for the government.

Haxhiu emphasizes that Kosovo for the first time by law has an Institute for the Investigation of War Crimes, where she adds that they are in the initial phase of drafting bylaws. The Minister of Justice says that the finalization of the transitional strategy that will deal with the war victims is expected soon.

The Specialist Prosecutor’s Office has so far filed 33 indictments with about 90 defendants. At the Hague Tribunal, six Serbian superiors, who had high command hierarchies during the war, were convicted, five of them also had criminal offenses of sexual violence.