Kosovo’s Failures in Addressing Domestic Violence Highlighted in Amnesty International Report

By: Vudi Xhymshiti

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Amnesty International’s damning report reveals Kosovo’s failure to protect domestic violence survivors. Injustice prevails despite pleas for change, leaving women at risk. A stark call for action.

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Amnesty International released a scathing report on Thursday, shedding light on the dire state of women’s rights in Kosovo. Despite a surge in protests and appeals for action in the wake of several femicides in recent years, Kosovo authorities are falling short in their efforts to protect victims of domestic violence.

The report, titled ‘From paper to practice: Kosovo must keep its commitments to domestic violence survivors,’ outlines the harrowing challenges faced by survivors, predominantly women and girls, as they seek protection, justice, and support.

“Human rights are not optional; they are the foundation of all societies. Together, we must defend and protect them for everyone.” – Amnesty International
Lauren Aarons, Deputy Program Director and Head of Gender at Amnesty International, remarked, “In recent years, Kosovo authorities have taken commendable steps to strengthen legislation and improve policies aimed at addressing survivors’ needs. However, our findings reveal numerous gaps in state support for domestic violence survivors and a concerning lack of action to involve them in decision-making processes, which jeopardizes their rights.”

These gaps encompass barriers to compensation and other legal entitlements, including alimony, along with inadequate support services for survivors leaving shelters. Survivors have also reported facing harmful prejudice from police officers, overburdened social workers, unhelpful or absent victim advocates, and a lack of information about their rights and available remedies.

Survivors from ethnic minority communities such as Serb, Roma, Ashkali, Kosovo-Egyptian communities, and LGBTI survivors confront additional barriers due to the compounded forms of discrimination they experience.

Kosovo’s women face significant socio-economic hurdles that hinder their ability to escape abusive situations and live without fear and violence. Shockingly, in 2017, only 17% of women in Kosovo were formally employed, compared to 50% of men. Additionally, as of 2021, only 18% of property was owned by women, whereas men owned a staggering 79%. Women often find themselves excluded from family inheritance, and property division in divorce proceedings tends to disadvantage them.

Aarons urged Kosovo authorities to translate their commitment to survivors into concrete actions, emphasizing the necessity of providing sufficient resources and actively engaging with survivors to develop more comprehensive and rights-respecting responses.

Amnesty International’s report also highlights the importance of early intervention and support from institutions. Ana*, a survivor from Pristina, underscored the significance of informing women about available support, asserting that women should not have to worry about their children or their living situation when seeking help.

State-sponsored information campaigns in Kosovo have primarily focused on encouraging survivors to report cases to the police. However, survivors often face disrespectful treatment when approaching the authorities. Some police officers question the survivors’ decision to report, while others attempt to make them feel guilty for speaking out against their abusers.

A review conducted by Amnesty International of criminal court decisions on domestic violence showed that, despite the legal authority to do so, courts rarely ordered perpetrators to compensate victims. Furthermore, the sentences handed down to perpetrators of domestic violence were deemed inadequate when considering the gravity of the offences.

Kosovo has witnessed a series of femicides in recent years, sparking widespread protests demanding justice and reparations, including more fitting sentences for perpetrators. For instance, on March 14, 2021, Sebahate Morina lost her life at the hands of her husband. The Constitutional Court later ruled that state authorities had failed to protect her, thereby violating her right to life. In another case, on August 4, 2023, the men responsible for the brutal murder of 18-year-old Marigona Osmani in August 2021 were sentenced. Dardan Krivaqa received a life sentence for aggravated murder, while Arbër Sejdiu was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment for aiding in the commission of the criminal offence.

“People in Kosovo are taking to the streets to demand action against the ongoing violence against women. Kosovo authorities now have an exceptional opportunity to make a difference by listening to survivors and protestors, who hold the solutions. They should align their legal commitments with the concrete actions necessary to end violence against women,” emphasized Aarons.

Amnesty International’s report serves as a poignant reminder of the work that remains to be done in Kosovo to ensure the safety and rights of domestic violence survivors. The international community watches closely as Kosovo grapples with this critical issue, hoping for a brighter future for its women and girls.

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Botuar: 02/09/2023

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