Access to Justice for Survivors of Domestic Violence and Gender-based Violence

DCM Hyland’s Remarks at the Regional Conference, “Access to Justice for Survivors of Domestic Violence and Gender-based Violence”, 10 December 2018

Good morning. Thank you Minister Tahiri and Deputy Minister Qelaj for the opportunity to participate in this conference on domestic violence.  Prime Minister Haradinaj,  Ambassadors, Ambassador Apostolova, others here today, distinguished visitors and especially participants, it is a pleasure to be here with all of you, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak once again about finding ways to end domestic violence. We at the U.S. Embassy have worked continuously with Kosovo to improve the treatment of domestic violence victims.

Some of our collaborative efforts include a bench book produced by OPDAT, and the Women’s Forum of Judges and Prosecutors to encourage consistent, proactive treatment of protection orders and Domestic Violence criminal cases. OPDAT worked with the Kosovo Prosecutorial Council to develop and train specialized prosecutors to handle domestic violence cases. And the U.S embassy is working with the Kosovo Justice Academy and the Council to develop a victim centered approach to domestic violence for judges and prosecutors. This is part of our continuing work with Kosovo institutions to combat domestic violence. We all know, domestic violence is often a taboo subject. But the more we speak about domestic violence, and bring it into the light, the less taboo the subject becomes, the easier it is to put an end to it.  And, with this in mind, we should strive to give space to victims to tell their stories. Allowing them to tell their story is also allowing them to ask for help. It also allows state actors and service providers to offer support to victims. As we heard Ambassador Apostolva say, there are many elements to combating domestic violence in Kosovo, from the government, to the municipalities, to civil society, to communities, and down to the individual. And this giving voice to the victims allows all of us to tell abusers that their behavior is unacceptable.

I have heard stories about police, prosecutors and even judges discouraging victims from speaking out. They treat the abuse as a shame on the victim that will reflect poorly on the family and the community. This approach does not help victims. In fact, it represents further victimization and it enables, and even protects, abusers who continue with their violence.  It definitely does not move anyone closer to justice.The real questions we should ask are:  “What will people think when they find out that I turned this victim away when she asked for help? How will it reflect on our town, our village, and our people if I allow this abuse to continue?” So we must ask ourselves: What kind of person do I want to be?  What kind of future do I want for Kosovo, or my country? How do I encourage victims to get help?”

Let us ask ourselves, “Am I the person that enables abuse or, am I the person who protects the abused?”

I know all of you want to be protectors. We all want to find ways to empower the victims. You all have the ability to give victims the tools the law provides so they can get the protection they need and deserve. Next year, I hope you all will be able to tell stories about how the system worked to protect victims, and how Kosovo is a country willing to confront this problem, and is a country that does not tolerate domestic violence.

Thank you for your attention, and the opportunity to speak to you today.