Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. Nicholas J. Giacobbe’s Remarks at the Launch of Kosovo’s Corruption Sentencing Guidelines

Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. Nicholas J. Giacobbe’s Remarks at the Launch of Kosovo’s Corruption Sentencing Guidelines, September 23, 2021

Minister Haxhiu, President of the Supreme Court Judge Peci, distinguished guests present here today in person and online, thank you for the invitation and the opportunity to speak with you.

This empty room today is a reminder that we are still in the midst of a pandemic. I commend the Supreme Court for setting an example by organizing this event, in full compliance with the Government of Kosovo’s COVID-19 mitigation measures. I hope others will follow these examples, particularly as we approach municipal elections. We all need to do our part in keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe. It is only together that we can defeat COVID-19.

Let me start by saying the United States considers Kosovo a key partner in the fight against corruption. I would like to congratulate the Supreme Court on the adoption of yet another important document—the most recent Corruption Specific Guidelines. This is a significant step forward for the rule of law in Kosovo. I am particularly pleased that the Sentencing Commission set its sights beyond sentencing, and clarified the elements of these crimes.

Kosovo is making progress in rule of law, but there are still many challenges that must be addressed. Unfortunately, we have witnessed recently that failures of the justice system to execute decisions and implement laws have resulted in the loss of precious lives.

As President Biden has said, “Corruption is a cancer, a cancer that eats away at a citizen’s faith in democracy, diminishes the instinct for innovation and creativity.”

Providing consistency and transparency is necessary for building citizens’ faith and trust in justice institutions. Failing to do so, will destroy it and eat away at the innovation and creativity in Kosovo that is such a source of pride and hope for the future.

Judges in the United States regularly apply sentencing guidelines, and corruption-related cases are no exception. It is through the application of sentencing guidelines that corrupt government officials and those who corrupt them—no matter how influential—face consistently stiff sentences. The Kosovo Corruption Guidelines will allow you to do the same. The higher the position of responsibility, the higher the sentence. This is the key message of these Guidelines.

All of you here today have a role to play. I strongly encourage every judge to make use of these guidelines. Adoption is an important step, but it is only the beginning.

I understand that Kosovo has an amazing tool, which we do not yet have in the United States—a criminal fine calculator that the U.S. Embassy helped to develop. This calculator, coupled with the corruption guidelines, provides a powerful tool for crime deterrence. I urge you to make use of them both.

The same is true of other justice sector actors as well. Ensuring correct judgement is applied in corruption cases depends on prosecutors and defense attorneys doing their part by actively engaging at sentencing, instead of finger pointing at judges.

Success will also depend on the Law School, the Justice Academy, and the Bar Association. Sentencing must be considered as a core topic for training to provide this country with stronger, more well-rounded lawyers.

And, of course, success will depend on each and every citizen of Kosovo demanding accountability, with civil society organizations acting as watchdogs and holding the justice system responsible to the people.

In return, you—the judges of Kosovo—must prove to the people of Kosovo that you are worthy of the independence the Constitution provides. As judges, you have the independence at adjudication and sentencing to provide equal justice for all. This is the foundation of your Constitution. This is democracy.

Thank you.