Chargé d’Affaires Colleen Hyland’s Remarks at the Launch of Crime Victims’ Rights Week

Chargé d’Affaires Colleen Hyland’s Remarks at the Launch of Crime Victims’ Rights Week, October 22, 2018

Good Morning President Thaci, Minister Tahiri, Judge Peci, Chairman Isufaj, and other honored guests. Thank you, Chief State Prosecutor Lumezi for the opportunity to participate in this year’s annual conference.

I think it’s safe to say, Crime Victims’ Rights Week has become an institution. The fact that Kosovo routinely and reliably holds this event every year is important because it means you understand that rule of law and especially victim services should be routine and reliable.

Consistency is also important because it ensures accountability. Citizens know what to expect when the system is functioning correctly and at the same time, they know there is a problem when they do not receive those services.

This week is an opportunity to remind the public of what they should expect from their institutions if they are a victim of crime. It’s also a time to remind members of the justice system, service providers and government institutions what their obligations are to those whom they serve.

This year Crime Victims’ Week is dedicated to raising awareness about family violence. Those two words, I think we can agree, do not belong together; family and violence. We all assume families will protect and support their members. That parents will nurture and care for their children. And that husbands will respect their wives. When there is violence in a family, it has devastating consequences and leaves permanent scars. Worldwide, it is one of the most pervasive crimes, and unfortunately Kosovo suffers from this affliction as well, but there is significant improvement.

The U.S. Embassy through our OPDAT and ICITAP programs has contributed significantly to helping Kosovo improve the institutional response to Domestic Violence. We have partnered in the drafting of Kosovo’s National Strategy to Prevent Domestic Violence, the drafting of a Bench Book for the prosecution and adjudication of domestic violence, supported the development of specialized prosecutors and police, and encouraged domestic violence be treated as a priority category for Victim Advocates and the Law on Crime Victim Compensation.

Of course, there is more to do. The next step is to weave together links between institutions to create a safety net of support for the victims. Supporting the victim must be at the center of your intentions.

This year Kosovo experienced tragic homicides as a result of domestic violence. Sadly, there were preventable. It is clear everyone must be alert to this issue and encourage victims to seek the assistance available to them, and not hide their situation in shame. And when any victim of violence comes forward, institutions must react. The failure to react leads to these tragedies because all too frequently, reporting is the last desperate attempt by a victim to get help.

We want to work with Kosovo institutions to improve their reactions to early reports of domestic violence, even if they seem minor and hopefully, at next year’s conference we will be discussing successes and improvements in this area. We hope the government will do more to educate the public about early warning signs and available victim assistance. Prevention is always better than prosecution.

People should also be made aware of the crime victim compensation process. And, importantly, it should be easy for people to access these services. Raising awareness of victims’ rights strengthens the rule of law and it strengthens Kosovo. Thank you again for the opportunity to speak at the opening of this very important conference.