KLI: No high profile individuals were sentenced with effective imprisonment for corruption, solution – vetting

Thursday 21 December, 2017

Tryeza IKD - 21.12.2017

Pristina, December 21, 2017 – Kosovo Law Institute (KLI), with the support of the British Embassy in Kosovo and NED, on Thursday, held the roundtable titled “Fight, persecution or amnesty in the name of the fight against corruption? – Solution/Vetting?”. In this roundtable, was published the report “Fight, persecution or amnesty in the name of the fight against corruption?”, as a result of monitoring the handling of corruption cases in the prosecutorial system and the judicial system. Along with the six-month report, were also published two bulletins of the monitoring of all Basic Courts and Prosecution Offices and the Court of Appeal in Pristina in quarterly periods (January-March 2017 and April-June 2017). During this roundtable was discussed about the performance and results of the justice institutions in fighting corruption.

Part of the panel of this roundtable was the Ambassador of Great Britain in Kosovo, Mr. Ruairi O’Connell, Head of the Committee on Legislation, Mandates, Immunities, Rules of Procedure of the Assembly and the Oversight of the Anti-Corruption Agency, Mrs. Albulena Haxhiu, Minister of Justice, Mr. Abelard Tahiri, Head of the Judicial Council, Mr. Nehat Idrizi, Head of the Prosecutorial Council, Mr.Blerim Isufaj and Betim Musliu, Executive director of the Kosovo Law Institute.

Musliu has presented findings, evaluations and recommendations of systematic monitoring of handling of corruption cases by courts and prosecutors’ offices, saying that the fight against corruption in Kosovo continues to develop mainly towards the low and middle profile. “High profile is seldom followed, but even when prosecuted, high-profile indictments fail in initial court proceedings. KLI findings of the monitoring show that from the cases adjudicated during 2016, and completed in the first instance until December 2017, 67% of them have failed in the courts”. Musliu also mentioned the indictments of high profile, filed in the first six months of 2017. “Unlike the previous year, in the first six months of 2017 indictments were filed against three high profile persons. For two of these persons (Minister of the Ministry of Communities and Returns, Dalibor Jevtic and former Mayor of the Municipality of Gjakova, Pal Lekaj) indictments filed by prosecutors have failed during the initial stage in the court, while the third person (former Mayor of the Municipality of Lipjan, Shukri Buja) is still undergoing judicial proceedings”. According to Musliu, KLI evaluates that this trend proves that indictment against high profile persons were raised without evidence with the purpose of persecution or permanent amnesty.

Following, the executive director of KLI said that it is time to open a public debate regarding the start of the vetting process in the Police, Prosecution Offices and Courts. “Verification should include a comprehensive debate of all political parties represented in the Kosovo Parliament, with the requirement that the implementation of the verification process in practice be conducted by the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany”.

The Ambassador of Great Britain in Kosovo, Mr. Ruairi O’Connell, in the opening speech said that Kosovo has no greater challenge than fighting corruption – especially high-level corruption. “Regretfully, I have to say it again, the results are missing. No high-profile person has been convicted for corruption with an effective prison sentence. There is a lot of noise at the beginning, but in the end all are released or they receive soft sentences. This year, two out of the three high-profile indictments failed. Where is the accountability?”- said O’Connell.

Further, the Ambassador of Great Britain said that there are brave, courageous, committed prosecutors and judges who work honestly and fight corruption, but it is obvious they are not enough. “Throughout this year, together with other international partners, we expressed our concerns about the recruitment of judges and appointments of Court Presidents. The Kosovo Judicial Council made several procedural changes, which is welcome, but our most important concerns regarding the transparency of the appointment of Court Presidents were ignored by the Kosovo Judicial Council. Similar problems were encountered in the Kosovo Prosecutorial Council, criticized for making appointments not based on merit. In such situations, it is difficult to argue that Kosovo is committed to the rule of law and the fight against corruption”.

Ambassador O’Connell said that, despite this, they will not give up. “Kosovo needs clean, meritorious, professional, independent and honest judges and prosecutors. You are aware of our project with the Government and Assembly of Kosovo, through which we aim to combat nepotism, corruption and clientelism. We are ready to do this with the Judicial and Prosecutorial Council in the recruitment process of prosecutors and judges; but also of Court Presidents and Chief Prosecutors. I am convinced that all the honest judges, prosecutors and police officers are ready for Kosovo to begin the process of detailed verification of their past, that is the vetting process, as soon as possible. I am curious to hear your views in this regard today”.

Head of the Committee on Legislation, Mrs. Albulena Haxhiu during this roundtable said that it is not logical that justice only deals with low profile cases, supporting so KLI findings that there are no effective sentences for major cases. “Large cases are left out or are reaching the statutory limitation or are being acquitted or convicted with suspended sentence, for example. The case of Enver Hasani. I can never even amnesty Eulex, which is installed in Kosovo to fight corruption, but what we are seeing is that even Eulex officials are involved in such corruption affairs”, said Haxhiu.

Haxhiu also stated that she mentioned the vetting process, and for that she was criticized by judges and prosecutors who, according to her, were afraid that it aims their elimination. ” It is important for Kosovo to have the Law on Vetting. This is also demanded by judges and prosecutors, as Ambassador O’Connell also mentioned. We have good judges and prosecutors, but they are few, “concluded Haxhiu.

In the opening speech, the Minister of Justice, Mr. Abelard Tahiri said that KLI report speaks of many aspects of the justice system and its constituent components, including those components that are more sensitive, and that deserve more appropriate treatment and attention. According to Tahiri, this report contributes to the identification of real problems. “As a minister, I am very interested for realistic problems to be identified and resolved. Therefore, I consider that this report is a contribution in this direction, “said Tahiri.

As for the vetting process, the Minister of Justice has said that they still do not have a clear direction on how to go. “We need to be extremely careful in such a process, the conclusions of this process should be neither political nor biased, but to be what our society expects. I am in favor of starting to prepare the legal basis in order for the vetting process to begin. We need to create mechanisms in order to happen such a process within a certain time”, said Tahiri.

Head of the Judicial Council, Mr. Nehat Idrizi, spoke about KLI recommendations made for the judicial system, saying that it is necessary to set legal deadlines regarding the handling of corruption cases in accordance with legal obligations. “I agree with your recommendation. We will have accountability and results in the justice system if we only demand the respecting of these deadlines”, said Idrizi.

The head of the KJC has further said that corruption cannot be fought within the night but it requires the engagement of all institutions. “Judges and prosecutors should never be reminded that fight against corruption is a priority, but they must be aware of it. Such an approach eliminates all doubts, whether public or partners doubts, “said Idrizi.

Idrizi added that they will take in consideration KLI recommendations, and that there is nothing to be afraid of monitoring and criticisms, given that those serve for improvement.

Meanwhile, the Head of the Prosecutorial Council, Mr.Blerim Isufaj said that he appreciates such meetings, as they serve as an important forum of their work, in order to improve the work of the Prosecutorial Council.

Isufaj spoke about the efficiency of the State Prosecutor in resolving cases, according to which these problems are moving towards resolution and elimination. “During 2016, SP has resolved 20,718 more cases than during 2015. During 2014, 27,56 cases were resolved.  While 24% more cases were resolved during this six months of 2017 compared to last year,” said Isufaj.

Further, the Head of KPC has stated that the prosecutorial system is still not perfect, but they are at the end of work planning for next year.

Participants in this roundtable were the President of the Supreme Court, representatives of the Court of Appeal, Presidents of Basic Courts, Chief Prosecutors of Basic Prosecutions, Judges, Prosecutors, Director of the Office of the Disciplinary Prosecutor, representatives of the British Embassy, American Embassy, representatives of the civil society and the media.