Mirëmëngjesi. Good morning. I would like to say thank you to KLI and Mr. Musliu for inviting me today. I am certainly pleased to be here with Ambassador O’Connell. My greetings to Mr. Idrizi, Mr. Isufaj, and Mr. Hasani.
Since I arrived in Kosovo I have been talking about the need to fight corruption. Sadly, I do not talk about the elimination of corruption, because unfortunately its complete eradication is not possible. But what is possible is the recognition and punishment of corruption when it is identified. This is something that Kosovo can and must do.
Fighting corruption requires a whole-of-government approach. No one institution or person can do it alone. It requires support from government, from civil society, and from the public at large. But I think we can all agree that without an effective and efficient justice sector, any approach against corruption is destined to fail.
As you know, the Basic Prosecution Office in Pristina and the SPRK are the two offices within the prosecution service that prosecute the bulk of corruption cases. But right now, the SPRK, which prosecutes the most serious crimes in Kosovo, is missing almost half of the prosecutors that it needs to meet even the most basic levels of staffing. Until the SPRK is appropriately staffed, it is hard to see how there can be much progress fighting high-level corruption. I urge all of you to take action to correct this situation as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, the Basic Prosecution office, which handles most of the other corruption cases, is also understaffed. In recent months, the prosecution service adopted a strategic plan to combat corruption. There have been some tangible results in reducing the backlog of cases, but the work is far from done. Our Department of Justice OPDAT program is supporting those efforts and will continue to do so in the future, and it’s my hope that once the backlog is truly eliminated, prosecutors will be free to conduct thorough and systematic investigations into the sources of corruption, instead of just reacting to single incidents.
There also must be equality of justice. What this means is that the judicial institutions must have a complete commitment to fighting corruption within. No institution can expect others to comply with the law if it does not do so itself. Kosovo must establish clear and objective disciplinary rules within its judicial ranks, and these rules need to be enforced equally and consistently.
To fight impunity, anyone found guilty of corruption must also be sentenced to proportionate, predictable, and consistent punishment or an effective program for rehabilitation. It is difficult to see how justice is served when a sentence leaves a corrupt official in office or lets them continue to enjoy the benefit of their crime. Offenders must be sentenced to meaningful punishments and have the financial gain from their crimes confiscated. Public officials indicted or convicted must be suspended until their cases are resolved.
And this vital concept of citizens’ equality before the law must apply in fields beyond corruption as well. Political party membership, family connections, public office, and community standing should play no role in the arrest or prosecution decisions of rule of law institutions.
Civil society has an important role in this process. I strongly encourage all of you to consider KLI’s suggestions. No one likes to be criticized or told they are not doing a perfect job, but the truth is that there is room for improvement in everything that we all do. Take advantage of the reports, consider them seriously and look for ways to make improvements.
You are all aware that corruption is a significant problem for Kosovo. It deters foreign investment, increases unemployment, and undermines the rule of law. It slows Kosovo’s progress to integration in European institutions. You can and must make the fight against corruption one of your top priorities.
In closing, I urge the Kosovo Prosecutorial and Judicial Councils to take the steps necessary to ensure that their prosecutors and judges adhere to the highest ethical and professional standards possible. The citizens of Kosovo and victims of crime deserve nothing less.
Thank you very much.