Deferment of Gender-Based Violence Cases by the Judicial System

Violence against women is the most prevalent form of domestic violence in Kosovo. Based on gender research statistics and monitoring of court hearings, men exercise violence against women or girls in more than 95% of cases.

According to the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kosovo (CCRK), domestic violence is a criminal offense punishable by up to three years of imprisonment.

However, based on the monitoring of the KWN in the Criminal Division of the Basic Court in Prishtina, the sentences imposed on the offenders of domestic violence are mainly conditional sentences and fines.

In more than 90% of domestic violence cases based on the monitored hearings, the offenders have been aware of their actions, which means that in the majority of cases there has been criminal responsibility as an element of the criminal offense. However, in the end the judges have found the offenders of violence guilty, but the imposition of the sentence has been conditional and by fine. 

Besides domestic violence, last year there was an increase in the number of sexual violence cases. According to a EULEX report, in 2021 alone, 107 cases of sexual violence have been reported in Kosovo, compared to 60 in 2020. This increase is continuing in 2022 as well, however the response of the institutions is disproportionate.

Based on the data from the registers of the Basic Court in Prishtina, Serious Crimes Department, since 1 January 2022 until 16 August 2022, only four indictments have been filed, out of which two were indictments for the criminal offense of rape, one indictment for human trafficking and one indictment for the criminal offense of sexual assault. The accused in these cases are men, whereas the injured are women. In this very Department, in the Preliminary Proceedings, the Prosecution Office is investigating 11 cases of sexual violence committed by men, while no indictment has been filed yet.

The main factor directly enabling the deferment of the court hearings in domestic violence and sexual violence cases are the rulings for postponement of the court hearings. Based on the monitoring of the hearings, those accused of crimes of sexual violence in most cases intentionally do not appear in the court hearings so that the court proceedings are postponed, which serves to favor the accused.

As a consequence of the postponements and the absence of the accused in the proceedings, the victims of violence as injured parties in the proceedings are suffering in the court proceedings, since the ascertainment of the facts (factual situation) and the collection of evidence before the court is getting more and more difficult, causing the case to “fade” over time.

A concrete case of a criminal offense which resulted in an unfair judgment for the victim of violence as a consequence of postponing the hearings due to the absence of the accused was the case for the criminal offense of sexual abuse of persons under the age of 16. The Basic Prosecution in Prishtina/Juvenile Department only filed the indictment against the accused of this offense in 2014, whereas the investigations related to the case had started in 2012.

The accused had missed tens of hearings, trying “to evade” the court proceedings, and after many decisions by the Court to postpone the hearings, 8 years since the indictment had been filed, the Basic Court in Prishtina/Juvenile Department announced the Judgment in July 2022, whereby it acquitted the accused of the indictment.

Since October 2021, until the 1 August 2022, out of 114 hearings monitored, predominantly domestic violence and sexual violence cases, around 35 hearings had been postponed.