EVENING NEWS

The first hearing in absentia for sexual violence during the war fails

This was the first hearing in absentia for sexual violence during the war in Kosovo. Judge Vesel Ismaili said that the case was handled by a retired prosecutor and then it was assigned to another prosecutor. For the previous hearing, according to the Kosovo Center for the Rehabilitation of Torture Survivors, neither the organization that supports the survivors before, during and after the judicial process, nor the victims have been notified.

The initial review session in the case where Dejan Racic is accused of sexual violence during the war failed on Tuesday, due to the absence of the representative of the Special Prosecution.

This was the first hearing in absentia for sexual violence during the war in Kosovo.

Judge Vesel Ismaili said that the case was handled by a retired prosecutor and then it was assigned to another prosecutor.

"We have sent the invitation and notification to the Special Prosecutor's Office for this trial session on 11.12.2023 and it has been confirmed that the invitation has been accepted, but the prosecutor in charge of this case according to the information received via email from the chief prosecutor of the Special Prosecution of the Republic of Kosovo, the same is outside the state of Kosovo and that for today's session no prosecutor has been appointed to represent the indictment", said judge Ismaili.

E Amer Alija, legal expert at the Fund for Humanitarian Law, has stated that this is a situation that should have been avoided.

"The prosecutor's office had to send someone to represent him at least in the initial hearing so that the indictment was read," he said.
Meanwhile, Fatmire Haliti, part of the Kosovar Center for the Rehabilitation of Torture Survivors, an organization that supports survivors of sexual violence, said that neither the organization nor the victim received an invitation to the initial review session.

In this organization, they say that the publication of the hearing notice is not enough and that the victims should be notified personally, who should normally be at the center of the whole process.

"The court has done its job. He scheduled the session. He has notified the Prosecutor's Office with a special invitation to participate, but in such cases of sexual violence during the war, it is a slightly more sensitive and special procedure, where the victims are not treated as in other cases, but they must be prepared in advance due to the protection of confidentiality, the sensitivity of the case and the emotional state they have, so they need time to prepare to participate in the process", she said.

"So it is not the invitation or the publication of the notification for the hearing as in ordinary cases, because in cases of sexual violence during the war there are some other specifics that must be respected, that is, confidentiality, the preparation of the victim for representation in court, as well as a host of other activities other actions that must be taken, so that the victim is represented as best as possible during the process".

This week, other hearings for war crimes in the absence of the accused are scheduled.

One of them is expected to be held on Wednesday for Milan Jovanović, who is also accused of sexual violence during the war.

The Special Prosecution has filed a total of eight indictments for war crimes in the absence of the accused, four of them are for sexual violence during the war.

During the last war in Kosovo, it is estimated that around 20.000 people were raped, most of them women.