Ambassador Delawie’s Remarks at the Annual Conference of Prosecutors, January 28, 2017
Justice Minister Tahiri, Chief State Prosecutor Lumezi, Prosecutorial Council Chair Isufaj, Supreme Court President Peci, Diplomatic Colleagues, Civil Society members, Honored Guests, and most importantly, prosecutors.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to all of you today. I welcome this annual conference as an important forum for you to discuss the challenges you face and to seek solutions for improvement. I think it’s extremely valuable to have all the prosecutors in the same room to exchange ideas, which is why the US Embassy and the US Department of Justice are proud to sponsor and support this event for the fourth year in a row. This year’s event is especially important, because for the first time, we have prosecutors and support staff i from all of Kosovo’s communities participating in the conference. And I certainly want to take this opportunity to welcome the 21 new prosecutors who were sworn in just a few days ago. We have high expectations of you, and we encourage your commitment to integrity and to doing your part to strengthen Kosovo’s rule of law sector and to fight corruption.
As you know, the United States is a staunch supporter of the rule of law. Helping Kosovo to strengthen its rule of law and helping the country to fight corruption are two of my highest priorities. I firmly believe that a strong rule of law and independent justice institutions that promote fairness and transparency are crucial to the prosperity of your country.
I think it is important to look back at some of the achievements from last year. First, I would like to emphasize the successful implementation of the Dialogue justice agreement to integrate prosecutors and staff in the north into the Kosovo prosecutorial system. This is a significant milestone to expand access to justice for all Kosovo’s citizens and I commend you for your tireless efforts to make this happen. I know that many, many people were involved in getting this done, and I appreciate everybody’s efforts. Unfortunately, prosecutors in the north are already being challenged with the pressure and scrutiny that comes with the high-profile and tragic murder of Oliver Ivanovic. It is essential to pursue this case with the utmost professionalism, despite these challenges.
I am also impressed with the success that you achieved in reducing the backlog of pending cases. An efficient system will help increase the citizens’ trust and a more positive perception of your performance. It allows you to focus on cases that are more complex and require more attention. I compliment the KPC and the Chief State Prosecutor for the efforts to improve efficiency and create a culture of accountability. But you should also remember that simply reducing the number of cases is not sufficient. How those cases are resolved is just as important and I encourage you to continue efforts to ensure that efficiency is coupled with meaningful justice for the citizens of Kosovo.
Finally, I am very pleased with the implementation of the Law on Crime Victim Compensation and the proactive approach by the victim advocates in helping victims to obtain compensation. I am also encouraged by the steps you have undertaken to assign domestic violence prosecutors in each region. You have laid the foundation to tackle domestic violence more vigorously and I hope you will follow this up with the necessary work to make this fully operational. I am proud that we were able to assist you. These are definite steps in the right direction and I encourage everybody to try and continue to make progress in 2018.
But, there were challenges too. I am not alone in saying that the results in the fight against corruption are underwhelming. Kosovo’s approach to this endemic problem lacked urgency and results. The people of Kosovo do not believe that their rule of law institutions are taking seriously the need to fight corruption. You have to change that! You must take decisive action against corruption! You are in the driver’s seat in this fight and the eyes of the people of Kosovo are on you.
Corruption undermines democracy, negatively effects economic development, and facilitates social inequality. In these ways, Kosovo’s future is directly connected to its willingness and track record to fight corruption. I encourage each of you to do your best this year to prosecute corruption with unwavering determination and professionalism.
I also hope that the Kosovo Prosecutorial Council will better cooperate with the Office of the Auditor General and carefully go through its findings on possible misuse of the budget. War veterans’ pensions must be addressed, and endemic corruption within the lists must be eliminated. This continues to be one of the most controversial elements of Kosovo’s annual budget and drains resources that Kosovo citizens can ill afford to spare.
Kosovo also spent the past year preparing a law to implement discipline and accountability within the judicial sector. Passing the Law on Disciplinary Conduct and companion reforms is a critical step toward ensuring checks, balances, and accountability within Kosovo’s justice system. Instilling discipline and accountability for judiciary personnel is an important step to ensuring citizens can trust their judiciary. I call on parliamentarians to look for this draft law when it reaches the assembly, prioritize it, and pass it as soon as possible.
It is impossible for any of us interested in the rule of law to ignore the recent effort by senior political figures to undermine the Rule of Law and promote impunity in Kosovo by repealing the law on the Special Court. Those who care about Kosovo’s future and the fundamental democratic principle of equal justice before the law should oppose these efforts, as I do.
I hope that you will use this conference productively to discuss your most pressing concerns and challenges and come up with concrete suggestions for improvements of Kosovo’s prosecutorial and judicial systems. The U.S. Embassy will continue to assist you in these efforts and we look forward to continuing our work with you.
Kosovo’s future success is really in your hands. Thank you very much.