The State Department is committed to assisting U.S. citizens who become victims of crime while abroad. We help in two ways:
- Overseas: consular officers, agents, and staff work with crime victims and help them with the local police and medical systems.
- In the United States: our office of Overseas Citizens Services will stay in touch with family members in the United States, and help provide U.S.-based resources for the victim when possible.
For more information regarding crime victim assistance overseas please visit here.
Help for U.S. Citizen Victims of Crime in Kosovo
Please note: The Department of State assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the entities or individuals whose names appear on the following lists. Inclusion on this list is in no way an endorsement by the Department or the U.S. government. Names are listed alphabetically, and the order in which they appear has no other significance. The information on the list is provided directly by the local service providers; the Department is not in a position to vouch for such information.
Being the victim of a crime in a foreign country can be a devastating and traumatic experience. While no one can undo the emotional trauma, physical injury, or financial loss you may have experienced, the U.S. Embassy in Pristina, Kosovo is ready to help. We are very concerned about violent crimes committed against U.S. citizens in Kosovo. We will assist you with the practical consequences of being a victim of crime and provide you with information about accessing the local criminal justice system as well as other resources for victims of crime abroad and the United States. Our office of American Citizen Services can assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family or friends on your behalf, explain how funds can be transferred to you from overseas, and help you better understand the judicial system in Kosovo, which is very different from the system in the United States.
We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Kosovo enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the U.S. Embassy to contact you in the event of an emergency. Enroll here.
- Replace a stolen passport.
- Put you in touch with family, friends, or employers.
- Supply a list of medical service providers.
- Address emergency needs that arise as a result of the crime, such as returning to the U.S.
- Provide information on the local criminal justice process.
- Request updates about your case from local authorities.
- Connect you to local and U.S.-based resources to assist victims of crime.
- Obtain information about any local and U.S. crime victim compensation programs available.
- Provide a list of local, English-speaking lawyers.
- Investigate crimes.
- Provide legal advice or represent you in court.
- Serve as official interpreters or translators.
- Pay legal, medical, or other fees for you.
VICTIM ASSISTANCE IN KOSOVO
Kosovo has a victims’ compensation program (PDF 599KB) for certain categories of crime, It also has an active Victims’ Assistance Program that offers non-monetary support. The Victims Advocacy and Assistance Office (VAAO) operates under the mandate of Kosovo’s Chief State Prosecutor. The VAAO’s directive is to institutionalize the rights of victims of crime and provide them with guidance, advice, and support in accessing the justice system while seeking to establish a functional network of victim advocates.
Previously, the Victims Advocacy and Assistance Office assisted a limited number of domestic violence, trafficking, and sexual crime victims. With the implementation of the new Criminal Procedure Code, the VAAO is mandated to represent all victims of crime and provide services as legal advocates in the courts (provided in English or through translators). However, in the courtroom, victim advocates may only supplement the prosecution’s case and pursue restitution/compensation on behalf of victims.
Responsibilities of the Victims Advocacy and Assistance Office:
- Contact the victim immediately upon learning of the crime from official sources.
- Explain the entity’s procedures to advocate for the rights of victims.
- Provide information on procedures to initiate protection/restraining measures.
- Inform the victim of his/her rights and other relevant information.
- Inform the victim on legal aid and assist in the procurement of legal services.
- Participate in hearings and monitor, represent, and assist the victim in court proceedings/sessions.
- Compile requests for a protection orders.
- Pursue restitution/compensation on behalf of victims.
- To not jeopardize ongoing criminal investigations.
Victims Advocacy and Assistance Office in Kosovo:
The VAAO has a 24/7, toll-free, operational help line tasked with providing information and guidance to callers and referring cases to the appropriate institutions. The help line also provides the opportunity for the general public and victims to report crimes.
The list of Victims Advocacy and Assistance Offices in Kosovo is available here.
|Toll free help line||0800 11 112|
|Pristina||+383–(0)44 278 738|
|Gjilan||+383–(0)44 310 467|
|Ferizaj||+383–(0)44 161 138|
|Prizren||+383–(0)44 310 468|
|Gjakova||+383–(0)44 418 668|
|Peja||+383–(0)44 348 164|
|Istog||+383–(0)44 352 934|
|Deqan||+383–(0)44 425 469|
|Mitrovica||+383–(0)44 310 466|
SPECIAL INFORMATION FOR CASES OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AND RAPE
Physical evidence is very important in sexual assault cases and can deteriorate as time passes. As such, victims should not change clothes, avoid bathing if possible, and have a medical exam at the first opportunity. You should take these steps even if you are unsure about whether to report the crime to police. By receiving medical attention you will also be able to determine if you have been injured in any way and will be able to discuss treatment and prevention options for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases with a physician. If you decide to pursue a prosecution at a later time, these steps can preserve and obtain evidence which will assist the prosecutor. A Victims’ Assistance Officer should be available to accompany victims of sexual assault to the medical exam to the Forensic Medical Institute. Obtaining other medical exam may not be considered valid for trial purposes.
For sexual assault, statutory limitations expire after 20 years and the law provides for prison sentences of up to 10 years. Forensic evidence should be collected by the investigating authorities.
According to local law, sexual assault and rape are considered felonies. Both are subject to long-term jail sentences. The prosecutor’s office determines whether a forensic sexual assault exam must be performed, and this decision is case specific. The forensic examination, according to the law, has to be conducted by a qualified physician or nurse. If a forensic doctor is not available, a gynecologist performs the examination. After an initial criminal report to the police, the investigator will request the victim go to a doctor at the Kosovo medical center. When necessary, hair and follicle samples, saliva, urine, nasal swabs, swabs from skin surfaces (including the groin area), fingernail/under fingernail samples, and other similar samples that do not entail bodily intrusion can be taken during a forensic examination. A blood sample can only be conducted with a court order or with the voluntary consent of the person concerned. The victim is allowed to bring a support person. Since the request for a physical examination is made by the authorities, they will cover the costs of the exam.
While rape/sexual assaults charges can be filed without an exam, social workers and the Victims’ Advocate Office strongly encourage having an exam to obtain evidence as it is in the best interest of the victim. Confidentiality of the victim’s identity is guaranteed by local law, including during court proceedings: a judge can order an “assignment of pseudonym’” or “anonymity” to protect the identity of sexual assault victims.
Sexual assault/rape victims will be interviewed by the same gender (female or male) police officer. Usually, a maximum of two police officers are allowed to interview the victim. Acquaintance rape, also known as date rape, and spousal rape are both considered a crime. If the victim is a male, the case will be treated like any other rape case. Currently, there is no rape crisis hotline in Kosovo.
Local pharmacies in Kosovo allow the purchase of medicines usually regulated by prescription in the United States. Emergency contraception (the morning-after pill) may be available in large pharmacies, over the counter, under the names “Smart Pill 1.5 (Levonorgestrel Tablet Single Pill)” and “Levonorgestrel-Richter 0.75 mg (2 tablets in a box)”. HIV prophylaxis are generally not available.
Emergency contraception is generally available over the counter at pharmacies in Skopje, Macedonia, approximately an hour or hour and half drive from Pristina although HIV prophylaxis are also not generally available in Macedonia.
The U.S. Embassy has a list of local doctors available here.
Forensic medicine contact list:
(Generally coordinated through the Victims Advocacy and Assistance Office)
- Forensic Nurse Examiner, +383-(0)38-200-18-557; +383-(0)44-377-275
- Victims Advocacy and Assistance Office in Kosovo, 0800 11 112
- The U.S. Embassy’s medical services list
SPECIAL INFORMATION FOR CASES OF CHILD ABUSE
While the Center for Social Affairs (CSA) in each municipality has the primary responsibility for the protection of children, police have the initial responsibility to respond to any reports of acts or threats. When the victim is a child, the CSA representative may request a protection order or emergency protection order to the municipality where the victim resides. If the child is at risk, the Custody Body (the municipal body responsible for protection of the interest of children and adults) is entitled to take the child from the family without a court order for up to 72 hours provided that the Body initiates procedures to obtain a court order during this period. Children can stay at a shelter with parents or alone. For children older than 14, CSA can shelter boys in separate facilities. If the child victim is accommodated in a shelter and needs health services, the Custody Body is obliged to respond to a shelter’s call to take the victim to a health institution for care. Crimes of this nature can be reported to the police directly or through the Victims’ Assistance Office.
Children can be exempt from testifying based on age and intellectual development unless the court determines that the child is capable of understanding the process. By law, a child is considered to be anyone below the age of 18. If a child is present at a hearing as a witness or an injured party, he or she shall be taken out of the courtroom as soon as his or her presence is no longer necessary.
There are no medical facilities specifically dedicated to child-abuse cases; however, the following resources may be consulted. When needed as part of an investigation, the police and Victims’ Assistance Office should coordinate medical examinations.
Forensic medicine contact list:
- Forensic Nurse Examiner, +383-(0)38-200-18-557; +383-(0)44-377-275
- Victims Advocacy and Assistance Office in Kosovo, 0800 11 112
- The U.S. Embassy’s medical services list
SPECIAL INFORMATION FOR CASES OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Domestic violence is considered a crime in Kosovo. Kosovo law prohibits domestic violence and convictions can carry prison terms of six months to five years. At any stage of the proceedings, the prosecutor, defendant, defense counsel, victim, injured party, or witness may file a written petition with a judge for a protective measure or an order for anonymity if there is a serious risk to the victim, witness, or his or her family members. The court can prohibit the defendant from approaching a specific place or person. Police enforce restraining orders through court-issued lawful orders. There are domestic violence shelters in Kosovo, but there is no hotline. Please note that current laws and confidentiality of the sites may not be as secure or anonymous as in the United States. Usually, shelter capacity is up to 17 beds. Shelters can take clients on a walk-in basis.
A comprehensive document describing the responsibilities of Kosovo governmental and non- governmental institution in responding to and protecting victims of domestic violence is available:
- Standard Operating Procedures for Protection from Domestic Violence (PDF 2,526KB) (English version available on pages: 225-334)
- Declaration of Damages Form (PDF 581KB)
The Victim’s Assistance offices guide individuals through the process of requesting a protection or restraining order, when desired. The legal basis is the local law on the protection against domestic violence (PDF 172KB). According to the law, violation of such orders may result in a fine or imprisonment up to six months. Victim’s Assistance offices are also able to obtain copies of police reports, per the request of the reporting individual. This office has English speaking staff or translators available.
The procedure to file a protection or restraining order is:
- File a police report.
- Request that the police arrange a meeting with the Victim’s Assistance (VA).
- The VA office will explain procedures, compile documentation, and file a protection order request.
- The victim can choose to file for emergency, temporary emergency, or regular protection. The verdict for an emergency protection order must be issued by the court within 24 hours. The temporary emergency protection order is valid only during the weekend, when the court is resting and is issued by the police. The verdict for the regular protection order must be issued within 15 days of filing.
- The victim will be represented by an authorized person from the VA. This service is free and it is equally available to citizens, residents, and visitors in Kosovo.
- Center for Protection of Women and Children: +383 (0) 38-534 351, email@example.com
- Center for Women’s Welfare: +383 (0) 39-431 386, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Shelter Center for Women and Children: +383 (0) 29-225 518, email@example.com
- Safe Home: +383 (0) 390-330 098, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Liria: +383 (0) 0280-325 700, email@example.com
Responsibilities of the shelters:
- Provide 24-hour security and care.
- Contact the Victims’ Assistance Office for legal aid for victims.
- Provide a safe and supportive environment.
- Provide clothing and food as needed.
- Provide medical care and medication.
- Provide psycho-social counseling.
- Provide special treatment/special space for victims with special needs/disabilities.
- Accompany victims to visit the police, hospitals, and forensics.
- Complete a request for a protection order for the victim.
- Accompany and represent the victim in court procedures.
- Facilitate contact between the victim and his or her family.
- Keep victims’ data confidential.
- Inform the family, police, and the Victims’ Assistance Office when the victim leaves the shelter.
- Contact the police if there is a safety risk.
Responsibilities of health institutions:
- Identify victims of domestic violence (screening).
- Provide health services to victims.
- Provide free-of-charge services.
- Inform the police when there are suspicions that a patient’s injuries are the result of domestic violence.
- Prepare a medical report.
- Keep case files confidential on the basis of the Law on Protection of Personal Data.
- Submit files only upon the request of the judicial entities in line with the law.
- Prepare a written report on cases when asked by justice entities.
- Implement requests for compulsory medical treatment for drug and alcohol dependency and psycho- social treatment for perpetrators of domestic violence based on measures imposed by the court.
Regional hospitals in Kosovo:
|Pristina University Hospital Operator||+383-(0)38-500-600-09|
|Pristina Hospital ER||+383-(0)38-500-600-2345|
|Gjilan/Gjilane Hospital ER||+383-(0)280-320-190|
|Mitrovica Hospital ER||+383-(0)28-530-745 / +383-(0)49-736-173|
|Vushtrri/Vucitrn Hospital ER||+383-(0)28-571-406|
|Prizren Hospital ER||+383-(0)29-222-222 / +383 (0)49-769-711|
|Gjakova/Djakovica Hospital ER||+383-(0)390-322-445|
|Peja/Pec Hospital ER||+383-(0)-49-930-294 / +383-(0)-49-930-295|
|Ferizaj Hospital ER||+383-(0)290-325-789 / +383-(0)290-194|
RESOURCES FOR CRIME VICTIMS IN THE UNITED STATES
- General victim assistance:
- National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) – Toll-free hotline available Monday-Friday, 9am- 5pm EST, provides information and referrals to victim assistance programs: 1-800-TRY-NOVA .
- Contact information for non-emergency services in communities throughout the United States:
- National Crime Victim Center – Information for crime victims on the impact of crime, safety planning, legal rights and civil legal remedies, and options for assistance and referrals to local programs.
- http://www.ovc.gov/help/ – Contact information for non-emergency services in communities throughout the United States.
- Some U.S. cities and communities offer programs to help victims of overseas crime, including:
- Rape crisis counseling programs.
- Shelter and counseling programs for battered women.
- Support groups and bereavement counseling for family members and friends of murder victims.
- Diagnostic and treatment programs for child abuse victims.
- Assistance for victims of drunk-driving accidents.
All U.S. states provide victims compensation programs, but only some offer benefits to residents who are victims of crime overseas. Most compensation programs require the victim to file a report at the time of the incident and to provide a copy with the application. Programs include financial assistance for:
- Medical costs, including counseling.
- Funeral or burial expenses.
- Lost income or loss of support.
- Expenses related to the repatriation of remains.
Information about each state’s compensation program and how to apply for benefits is available from the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards.
- Domestic violence:
- National Domestic Violence Hotline – Toll-free 24/7 hotline for crisis counseling and referrals: 1-800- 799-SAFE (7233).
- U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women – Information about local domestic violence victim assistance coalitions.
- National Coalition Against Domestic Violence – Safe home and shelter programs, public education, and technical assistance, as well as a list of state and international organizations that can assist domestic violence victims: 303-839-1852.
- Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center – Serves abused Americans, mostly women and children, in both civilian and military populations overseas. The 24/7 international crisis hotline 1-866- USWOMEN (1-866-879-6636) can be called toll free from overseas.
- International Directory of Domestic Violence Agencies – Global list of abuse hotlines, shelters, refuges, crisis centers, and women’s organizations, plus domestic violence information in over 90 languages.
VICTIM COMPENSATION IN KOSOVO
The Government of Kosovo does provide monetary compensation for certain categories of crimes. For more information please see victim compensation programs in Kosovo. (PDF 599KB)
The information included below relating to legal processes in Kosovo is provided for general information purposes only. The information provided may not be accurate or relevant to a particular case. Questions involving interpretation of the laws of Kosovo should be addressed to legal counsel licensed to practice law in Kosovo. The investigation and prosecution of a crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) may assist local authorities in certain cases of kidnapping, hostage-taking, and terrorism.
Victims may wish to contact the nearest police station or the regional police if they want to file a report. A list of regional police telephone numbers is available here. While every police station should have an officer who deals with victims of crime, no special police unit assists foreigners. Sexual assaults and domestic violence incidents are usually under the purview of the regional police, and victims are encouraged to report incidents within 48 hours so a medical examination can be performed if forensic evidence is required. If a further delay occurs, the likelihood of gathering evidence diminishes, although the report may still be filed legally. Victims may file a report: in person, by phone, by letter, on social media, or online here. Crimes may also be reported through a parent or an attorney. Crimes may be reported if the victim has already departed Kosovo as well. Once the complaint comes to the police’s attention, an investigation will typically commence, and an investigator will contact the victim to complete the process.
If you have difficulties filing your police report, please contact the U.S. Embassy immediately. You may need a police report to file for crime victim compensation or insurance reimbursement. If you decide to file a report, please send a copy to the Embassy along with your email address, physical address, and phone number in the event further communication is needed. While the Embassy is not authorized to act as your legal representative, prosecutor, or investigator, it can help you track the progress of your case and inform you of any developments. Victims can request protective measures, including the omission of their personal data and anonymous testimony, if they feel that there is a serious risk to them or their family. A victim is not required to return to Kosovo for trial in most cases. The U.S. Embassy does not have any information on the effectiveness of these requests for protective measures.
In most cases, the Kosovo Police are the first point of contact for the victim. The police investigate cases, protect victims, provide information to victims, guide victims through the investigation process, and inform other relevant agencies, as necessary.
The Kosovo Police:
The police can be reached 24/7 at 192 or 112 and can:
- Provide emergency protection and conduct risk assessments.
- Provide advice on legal aid, psychological assistance, and other assistance available.
- Help the victim contact service providers.
- Provide transport to a safe location for the victim.
- Issue and enforce temporary emergency protection orders.
- Ensure contact with a police officer and translator to give a statement.
- Prepare police reports and provide victims with a copy of the report.
- Contact the Center for Social Welfare when victims are under 18 years of age.
- Assist in recovering victims’ personal belongings.
- Initiate criminal procedures.
- Provide security, including transportation to court sessions, if the victim is still at risk.
- Inform the victim on the status of investigations and the location of the perpetrator.
Unfortunately, many criminal investigations do not result in the arrest of a suspect. Before a criminal proceeding is initiated by the state prosecutor, the police may take initial steps to investigate criminal acts. In the initial phase, the police are required to inform the victim about the progress of the investigation. Any threats, harassment, or intimidation should be reported to the police. These initial police actions may be followed by a report to the state prosecutor who may initiate the formal investigation stage. Depending on the nature of the crime, cases may remain open for a long period of time, and pre-trial periods can last years.
Local police may only apprehend individuals when observing a crime in progress or using evidence- based warrants issued by a judge or prosecutor. Kosovo law requires prosecutors to charge suspects within six hours of their arrest in a language the arrestee understands. Authorities must ensure those who are arrested prompt access to a lawyer of their choice or one provided by the state, and they must bring arrestees before a judge within 48 hours or release the suspect. Suspects may remain silent and refuse to answer questions that are related to their identity, questions that are required to obtain the assistance of an interpreter (which will be provided at no cost), or questions necessary for medical or psychiatric treatment. The police are obliged to notify the victim of an arrest made in a case in which s/he is the complainant. Victims are asked to identify perpetrators in-person or at a police lineup, if appropriate.
The court may order a person’s detention (i.e., held in jail) only after it explicitly finds that there is a grounded suspicion that said person has committed a criminal offence (local law assigns misdemeanors or felonies). If it is believed that the suspect might endanger evidence, endanger or threaten victim or witnesses, or might escape, the suspect will be detained without judge’s approval up to 48 hours. Most arrestees are either detained until trial with limited bail options, released to house arrest (sometimes with limited supervision), or released without restriction until the trial. If the state prosecutor files an indictment and the defendant is held in detention, the initial hearing should be held within 15 days. Usually, one of the seven Basic Courts within Kosovo has jurisdiction in criminal cases. At the initial hearing, the judge will provide the defendant with copies of the indictment, rule on any motions to extend or implement measures to ensure the presence of the defendant, ensure the defendant has defense counsel and understands the charges in the indictment, and allow the defendant to plead guilty or not guilty. Plea bargaining can be used in some criminal cases but not for cases of domestic or sexual violence. You may want to consider obtaining legal counsel, although it is not required. Victims’ Assistance Offices may also be of help (see “Victim Assistance in Kosovo” below).
Detention on Remand Prior to Indictment: After an arrest, the detainee may be held in detention on remand for a maximum period of one month from the day of arrest. After that month, the detainee may be held only upon a ruling by the appropriate judge ordering an extension.The judge has discretion on the amount of detention time based on findings. If the criminal offence being investigated carries a sentence of less than five years imprisonment, the judge may not order a detention period exceeding four months (including the original month of detention). The judge’s decision can be appealed. For more serious crimes, longer detentions may ensue. However, the law does not allow detention to exceed 18 months from the day of arrest unless an indictment is filed.
Detention on Remand After Indictment: Kosovo law does not set a maximum time for detention after an indictment is filed – detention is determined by the trial’s time frame. Judges try to hold a trial as quickly and fairly as possible, though trials are known to have excessive delays in Kosovo.
Trials are public, do not use juries, and should last in total between 90 to 120 days but can be extended depending on circumstances including but not limited to the number of witnesses. In many cases, trials are delayed excessively for a variety of reasons, many of which are unknown or not transparent.
Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty and have the right to be informed promptly of detailed charges, be present at their trial, remain silent and not be compelled to testify or confess guilt, confront adverse witnesses, see evidence, have legal representation, and appeal court verdicts. These rights extend to all citizens without exception. The court must provide translation for witnesses who do not speak either of the two local languages. Routine court protocol, such as appearing in appropriate clothing and standing when the judge enters, applies in Kosovo. Spectators or media may be present in some cases of special interest.
If the suspect is found guilty, sentencing may take place at the same time as the guilty decision is made. The victim has the right to speak against the accused at sentencing. In the event of a jail term being ordered, confinement will be imposed immediately or extended if the perpetrator was already detained. After sentencing, victims are not usually notified when the perpetrator is transferred or released from prison, though they may request notification through legal counsel.
Parties appeal decisions of the Basic Court in the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals serves as the second-instance court for the Basic Courts on all decisions. The Supreme Court of Kosovo is above the Court of Appeals. An appeal against a judgment by the Basic Court must be filed within 15 days. If the appeal contains new evidence and facts, the appellant must give reasons for failing to present them beforehand. Likewise, the appellant cannot assert grounds for appeal not raised in the Basic Court unless he or she asserts an extraordinary reason or new evidence. There are only a few instances in which a party can appeal a Court of Appeals judgment to the Supreme Court. In certain circumstances, the court may summon the victim or authorized representative to testify during the appeal process. It is common for criminal convictions to be appealed.
Local legal procedures differ from those in the United States, so you may want to consider hiring a local attorney to secure appropriate legal guidance and promote your interests with the police and the courts. While the Embassy cannot recommend specific attorneys, a list of attorneys who have expressed interest in representing U.S. citizens is available here.
The Victims Advocacy and Assistance Office, described above, can also inform the victim on legal aid and assist in the procurement of legal services.