Advocacy Contributes to Landmark Indictments in Kosovo Gender-based Violence Case

Advocacy and monitoring by the Kosovo Women’s Network (KWN), supported by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), has contributed to another landmark indictment of six defendants on 30 October 2019 by the Basic Prosecution in Pristina, Kosovo.

The case involves a then 16-year-old girl who suffered sexual violence from her teacher. When she reported the case, the police investigator perpetrated further sexual violence against her. Four additional persons allegedly were involved in her abuse, including her lawyer. All six persons have been indicted.

When the case first became public in February 2019, some media portrayed the case in a scandalous manner, insensitively revealing the identity of the young woman. Further coverage and social media debate ensued, inappropriately “blaming the victim” for the sexual violence perpetrated against her and placing her in grave danger.

KWN immediately sought protection for the young woman and publicly demanded that the justice system be fully engaged in punishing such crimes against women and girls. KWN worked with institutions to ensure her full protection from further abuse.

KWN also participated in an organising group that engaged many citizens and activists in rallying publicly to demand justice. On 7 February, people protested in Pristina. Many protesters continued the following day, with transport supported by KWN, marching from the Drenas Gymnasium to the police station with the slogan “To Learning, against Rape”.

Representatives from KWN and the Kosovo Law Institute also arranged a meeting with the prosecutor engaged with this case.

According to Ariana Qosaj-Mustafa, KWN Board Chair, the meeting sought to ensure that the prosecution took appropriate steps using a “victim-centred approach”, particularly considering the “sensitivity of the case and her young age”. “It is very disappointing that the approach of ‘blaming the victim’ is still widespread, and this affects the way the case is proceeded,” Qosaj-Mustafa said.

Indeed KWN’s report “From Words to Action?”, published in 2018 with support from ADA, also found that several representatives of responsible institutions still blame victims for crimes perpetrated against them.

“These charges filed now by the Prosecutor show the role of civil society in monitoring the rights of victims during criminal proceedings,” added Qosaj-Mustafa. “We will continue to actively monitor this case and continuously seek to enforce the rights of the victim, as guaranteed by law, which unfortunately still lack implementation.”

The results of KWN’s advocacy, together with that of other activists and citizens, can be observed with the recently filed indictment. Although stories of institutional abuse have been murmured in the shadows, never before have they become so public. In KWN’s view, such a wide-reaching indictment against several institutions allegedly engaged in the abuse of a minor also represents a significant shift in how the public reacts to violence against women and how more citizens are becoming engaged in demanding accountability and justice. This is a result of the longer-term awareness-raising, monitoring and advocacy that KWN, among others has undertaken. It evidences that long-term support to work on such an important issue, can contribute to results over time.

“A life free from gender-based violence” remains a programmatic focus area in the KWN Strategy 2019-2022.

Other information: Find HERE the charges against the defendants. (Available in Albanian only).

HERE a recent BBC article on this case.

On November 6 in Drenas KWN launched the traveling exhibition “Break the Silence: Ending Violence Behind Walls”, supported by ADA.