Mirëmëngjes! Dobro jutro. Good morning.
Ministers, Chief State Prosecutor, Mayor, Diplomatic colleagues, justices, prosecutors, other distinguished guests, thank you very much.
I’ve been in Kosovo only about six months now, but this is the second time I’ve been able to speak at the inauguration of a prosecutorial office. Like in Gjilan, the United States helped rehabilitate the basic courthouse in Ferizaj. The construction of modern courthouses and prosecution offices throughout Kosovo helps improve citizens’ access to justice. These buildings also speak of our commitment to strengthening the rule of law in Kosovo.
Buildings are important, but the rule of law is not just about buildings. It is far more about people. It is about the people who implement justice, and about the people who are victims of crime. We expect that those implementing justice to vigorously pursue this end without regard to the political, familial, or historical affiliation that the accused might have.
I’m happy to see the President of the Basic Court in Ferizaj, Mr. Hyseni, again. We met in late August 2015, on one of my very first trips outside of Pristina. Prosecutor Qalaj came to our reception in September 2015. They both graduated from the Wake Forest University last May as part of our Justice Abroad Scholarship Program. Through this program, the U.S. Department of Justice has for the last four years sent Kosovo justices, judges and prosecutors to Wake Forest University School of Law, where they earn a master’s degree and bring back the knowledge and experience on how the American legal and judicial system really works. I am certain that they will use what they learned in the United States to help Ferizaj improve the rule of law in Kosovo.
At the same time, we strongly back Kosovo’s support mechanisms for victims. Victims’ advocates and victims’ shelters are absolutely vital for keeping them safe. The U.S. Government has worked with victims’ advocates throughout the country to improve their abilities to advocate on behalf of their clients. We have had teams in town over the past few weeks helping Kosovo implement the recently passed Crime Victims Compensation Law. I am also proud of our joint efforts to ensure crime victims have a safe place to go by opening a shelter in this town – one of only a few in Kosovo.
Working with Kosovo to strengthen the rule of law at all levels is – and will remain — one of my top priorities. Over the next year we will donate over $12 million in development aid and expertise focused on this issue. I am particularly pleased about the next phase of our cooperation — a new USAID program called the “Justice Sector Strengthening Project.”
This $9.3 million program will focus on enhancing accountability, transparency, and efficiency in the justice system. It will also support the important work needed to integrate Kosovo’s judicial structures under the Brussels agreement. It is impossible to overstate the importance of the justice system in Kosovo and the important role that judges and prosecutors have in implementing and strengthening the rule of law in this country. Judges and prosecutors need to work every day to win and keep the trust of the public, of the citizens of Kosovo, who are in fact their employers. This is a tremendous responsibility, but I also think it can be a great source of pride that you are serving the people, who are your employers, the citizens of Kosovo, and serving them well.
Once again, I am very happy to be here at the inauguration of this new building. On behalf of the U.S. Embassy, I congratulate you all on the new office and wish a terrific success to the prosecutors who will work here!
Thank you very much! Faleminderit! Hvala!