Deputy Chief of Mission Nicholas J. Giacobbe Remarks at the Annual Prosecutors Conference, January 17, 2020
Good morning. It is an honor to be here today to commemorate this annual conference alongside so many of my international colleagues.
I am proud that the U.S. Embassy has helped sponsor this important event since its inception. Over the years, it has been exciting for us to see the Prosecutorial Council gradually taking full ownership and showing commitment. The agenda you have assembled for today demonstrates the seriousness you take in your position as prosecutors.
The international and dignitary attendance today is a great testament to just how important prosecutors—and those that support the prosecution of criminal offenses—are to the rule of law. Annual conferences such as this are an important forum for us to exchange ideas, celebrate results, establish priorities, and discuss challenges and strategies.
This past year the U.S. Embassy has been pleased with improvements to the approach and the success of specialized prosecutors in handling domestic violence cases in Kosovo.
You have made great strides by embracing a victim-centered approach, and engaging victim advocates and service providers to support and provide treatment to the victims.
I would like to also commend the victim advocates for their efforts and dedication to protecting victims’ rights. You are instrumental in ensuring victims have an avenue to seek their rights and you have taken this role to heart.
Kosovo’s cutting-edge legislation allows for the robust protection of victims, and I hope you will continue to make the fullest use of these laws in addressing the needs of victims.
I recently attended the opening of a newly-renovated multi-purpose interview room for victims that shows institutional commitment to attending to the needs of victims. Experience has shown that having a victim-centered approach and the specialized prosecution units that victims need generates better results.
But just as this conference today celebrates your accomplishments, I urge you to also use these annual gatherings as a vehicle to embrace necessary change. Gathering inspiration from your recent successes can assist you in initiating difficult and much-needed change.
Therefore, I encourage you to seriously consider extending the specialization of prosecutors—just as you did with domestic violence cases—to other areas as well. Let me remind you that this is not a new recommendation. We have been making it for years.
In fact, many recommendations keep getting repeated without any substantial progress being made. The repeated discussions surrounding the lack of results in the fight against corruption also seem to be an ongoing theme when we gather together at these conferences.
Let me remind you that during past events, you have heard my predecessor Colleen Hyland and our Ambassadors make repeated calls to take the fight against corruption more seriously.
Deputy Chief of Mission Hyland encouraged you in 2017 to show the people of Kosovo that you are working hard to fight corruption and to change their perceptions. But since then, only a few cases have been successfully prosecuted. And in 2019, it does not appear that even a single high-level corruption case was filed.
In 2018, U.S. Ambassador Greg Delawie told an audience—nearly identical to today— and I quote “the people of Kosovo do not believe that their rule of law institutions are taking seriously the need to fight corruption.”
He called on you to change that. He urged you to take decisive action against corruption and reminded you that “the eyes of the people of Kosovo are on you.”
I do not believe that standing before you today and simply making these same pleas will be the catalyst for change that is needed. I am, however, confident that you do possess the ability to make this change. But you must have the earnest desire to do so and show the courage.
The United States is committed to helping Kosovo strengthen its rule of law. Helping Kosovo fight corruption and organized crime and helping prosecutors make improvements in your challenging work remain two of the highest priorities for the U.S. Embassy.
However, we can only help you to accomplish these goals, if your commitment is greater than ours. Kosovo is your country. The international resources that are currently available to you will—at some point—go away. I urge you to seize the opportunity before it is too late.
The reason I remind you of these difficult things is that we know you can accomplish so much—even in the fight against corruption—but you must want to. Just look at your impressive accomplishments in handling terrorism crime cases.
Despite the many challenges that these investigations bring, your close cooperation with the police led to numerous successful prosecutions for terrorism-related offenses. This is a testament to the importance of working together as one prosecution team—the police and the prosecutors in lock-step. The success of this close collaboration on terrorism prosecutions highlights how critical it is to have the investigators and the prosecutors work together in other types of cases.
Going forward, we hope to see you work together with your police counterparts day in, and day out, as you build cases together. But the successful handling of terrorism crime cases by the Kosovo prosecutors and police also goes to show—that where there is political will, Kosovo can shine.
So, now embrace this same challenge in other areas, even when it means acting independently of political interference or attempts to exert influence.
As prosecutors, you are the lynchpin of the rule of law. It is both a burden and a privilege. It requires your professionalism and ethics. It means that sometimes you must make decisions that are unpopular — but fair. It requires you to review your case carefully and thoroughly before bringing it forward. It also requires each one of you to strive every day to treat everyone equally, regardless of social standing, political power, ethnicity, or background.
And you must resist attempts by politicians or criminals to influence your profession from the outside. It is not easy. You have a very difficult job as prosecutors, but your efforts have real impact. With every just conviction you secure, you make your community your country safer.
I urge you to take this plea to heart.
Please know that the U.S. Embassy will continue to stand alongside you every step of the way in these efforts.
I wish you a productive conference—and more importantly—productive work going forward.