DASH report

DASH for Kosovo: Serious problems with the independence of the judiciary, serious restrictions on freedom of expression

State Department

The report of the State Department for Human Rights states that there were no significant changes during 2023 for the human rights situation in Kosovo. Among the most important human rights reports were serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; serious restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of the media, including through violence or threats against journalists; serious government corruption; widespread gender-based violence, including violence in the family, or against partners; as well as violent crimes, or threats of violence against ethnic minorities and other communities.

The State Department report says the Kosovo government took credible, but not consistent, steps to identify, investigate, charge and punish officials who may have abused human rights.

The situation with the judiciary and concern about corruption

Although Kosovo's constitution provides for an independent judiciary, the report says that the judiciary has not always managed to provide a fair trial. With shortcomings in the accountability of justice officials, judicial structures were affected by political interference, controversial appointments and unclear mandates.

Meanwhile, civil society criticized the government for public interference in the independence and impartiality of judicial institutions, in particular for cases of corruption investigation of government officials.

Although Kosovo legislation provides for criminal punishment of official corruption, the government did not implement the law effectively. There were numerous reports of government corruption, and officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. The lack of effective oversight of the judiciary and a general weakness in the functioning of the rule of law further contributed in this direction.

Freedom of expression and freedom of the media

Although Kosovo's constitution and laws guarantee freedom of expression, including for employees of the press and other media, there were credible reports that some public officials, politicians, business and underworld elements and even religious groups attempted to intimidate representatives of media and used violence or threats against journalists. The Association of Journalists (AJK) reported that it became the target of attacks when it defended journalists and the media. The association reported that government officials, including the prime minister and ruling party leaders, engaged in campaigns to undermine public trust in the media. With nearly 60 cases of attacks reported during the year, journalists said that due to pressure from politicians and criminal groups, they often resorted to self-censorship of their reporting.

Attacks on journalists during the tensions in the north of Kosovo in May and June damaged equipment, burned vehicles and physically injured employees of media groups in the field. Journalists said some of these attacks were directed and approved by political leaders in the north of the country, although they have denied any possible involvement.
The report notes that the Serbian government continued to maintain illegal parallel governance structures in Serb-majority areas and used these structures to influence these communities and their political representatives.

Gender-based violence and women's rights

Gender-based violence is recognized in legislation as a form of discrimination, but there is a lack of a definition of it to be used in criminal and civil processes. Rape and domestic violence are recognized as criminal offences, but the government did not enforce the law effectively. EULEX noted that courts often hand down sentences lighter than the minimum and law enforcement agencies rarely take measures to protect survivors and witnesses.

There continue to be few women in leadership positions in businesses, in the police, or in the government of Kosovo, and in general only one in five women is found in the labor market.

Discrimination against ethnic minorities

Racial or ethnic discrimination is prohibited by the Kosovo constitution, but reports of violence and discrimination against ethnic minority groups continued. According to the People's Advocate, there were problems in the full and effective implementation of laws, as well as deficiencies in institutional capacities. Social violence, particularly employment discrimination, continued against Kosovo Serbs and other ethnic minority groups. Minority groups faced discrimination of various levels in education, social services, use of language, freedom of movement and other rights guaranteed by law./VOA