The ombudsperson argued that providing additional funds can improve Kosovo's stalled and increasingly corrupt judicial system.
By Muhamet Brajshori for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 12/09/12
Ombudsperson Sami Kurteshi said the judiciary is “the biggest human rights violator in Kosovo.” [Laura Hasani/SETimes]
Kosovo authorities are arresting judges and prosecutors on corruption charges and appointing new ones, but ombudsperson Sami Kurteshi said he remains concerned with the overall impact of the judiciary's shortcomings on society.
"The judiciary is the biggest human rights violator in Kosovo," Kurteshi told SETimes, referring to the ineffective work of the courts. "In this field, we have a standoff with a worsening trend due to the failure to deliver justice."
Kurteshi said long delays in issuing verdicts, failures to implement court decisions, office abuse and corruption -- often discovered late and not dealt with accordingly -- and especially subjectivity have contributed to the public's loss of faith in the justice system.
It leads to individuals taking the law in their own hands, Kurteshi said, "the worst case scenario you can imagine."
The ombudsperson office has received 1,030 complaints this year; 347 open cases of inquiry, of which 132 were against the judiciary.
The delays are a major concern and a reason for frequent citizen complaints to the ombudsperson, said Betim Musliu, executive director of the Kosovo Law Institute in Pristina.
"[T]his situation is due to ... objective reasons, given the lack of a sufficient number of judges and working conditions for support staff, but also due to subjective reasons, solutions sought in selectively [treating] cases where also [present are] the interests of corrupt individuals within the judiciary," Musliu told SETimes.
Positive steps have been taken -- newly appointed judges and prosecutors comprise 60 percent of the total number -- but other substantive problems remain.
"Of particular burden are the 200,000 unresolved cases, which are inherited from year to year, and this burden hinders any attempt to establish the sequence and order in the courts," Musliu said.
While citizens seek alternative ways to satisfy justice, they still harbour hope in the judicial system.
The EU stated in its latest progress report Kosovo must enhance court efficiency and tackle threats and intimidation of judges and prosecutors, especially in sensitive cases such as concerning property rights.
Kurteshi said if funds for the judiciary are increased, much can be done to improve the situation.
Some of the actions include immediately increasing the number of judges and prosecutors, prioritising cases, raising the professional qualitative and quantitative control system.
"All these can not happen without adequate allocation of material support and giving political [support] for the judiciary," Kurteshi said.
Meanwhile, citizens remain concerned that slow justice is a denial of justice as well as courts' impartiality.
Pristina resident Bekim Alshiqi said he has been awaiting a court decision on a property dispute with his neighbour for five years.
"I really do not know what is going on with my case, sometimes they call sessions and then you wait for months until they call you again, and nothing comes up. Since 2007, I have trouble using my land because I and my neighbour await a decision," Alshiqi told SETimes.