Launching Ceremony of the Kosovo National Strategy against Domestic Violence 2016-2020

Deputy Chief of Mission Colleen Hyland’s remarks at the launching ceremony of the Kosovo National Strategy against Domestic Violence 2016-2020, April 19, 2017

Good morning everyone.

Greetings Minister Hoxha, Deputy Minister Basha and Ms. Gusia.

I am pleased to be here for the launch of Kosovo’s National Strategy on Protection from Domestic Violence.  Kosovo has taken the important step of creating an action plan that considers both services for victims and prosecution of offenders.  Both elements are important to protect against domestic violence.  Victims need support so that they have the resources and assistance to escape violent relationships.  Offenders need to know that their behavior has consequences.  And hopefully, consequences which will deter them from acting in the future.  Once implemented, Kosovo’s action plan will take substantial steps to ensuring protection and justice for victims.

Kosovo is a regional leader in the area of victim’s rights.  The Victim Protection and Assistance Office is proactive in assisting victims with filing for Protection Orders and guiding them through the criminal justice system.  The Forum of Women Judges and Prosecutors, with support from the United States Department of Justice OPDAT program, drafted a bench-book as a guide for judges and prosecutors to dealing with the complex issues that arise in these intricate cases.

With U.S. Embassy support, Kosovo passed the law on Crime Victim Compensation.  Last month, the Ministry of Justice was finally able to secure funding to implement the law.

These are commendable steps.  However, the Government must include a budget line for the program in the mid-year review, in order for the law to be fully functional.  Crime Victim Compensation is essential for Kosovo to meet international standards but, more importantly, it is essential for the security of crime victims.  Kosovo must make the crime victim compensation program functional as soon as possible.  The treatment of victims is a key indicator for the strength of a criminal justice system.

Supporting Kosovo as you develop a strong justice system is a priority for the United States.  A strong rule of law is essential for combatting domestic violence.  Victims must have faith that the justice system will consider their cases with fairness and without prejudice or impunity.  A criminal justice system works only when cases are fully prosecuted and offenders are justly convicted.  Blaming or turning away a domestic violence victim because the violence is just a “family matter” allows the offender to act with impunity and ensures the victim will continue to be victimized.

This has larger impacts as well, because ignoring or minimizing domestic violence undermines the overall credibility of the justice system. And systems with low credibility cannot effectively fight crime at any level.  A stronger approach to stopping domestic violence is only one step to improving the criminal justice system.  But it is an essential one.  Kosovo has made significant efforts to improve the treatment of victims of domestic violence and to prosecute offenders.  You should be very proud of what you have achieved.

I look forward to seeing Kosovo continue to be a regional leader on victim’s rights.

Thank you.