Pristina, November 18, 2019 – Kosovo Law Institute (KLI), with the support of United States Department of State – Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and NED, on Monday, held the rountable entitled “Impunity of corruption”. In this roundtable KLI published two reports, as a result of systematic monitoring and research of corruption cases and other criminal cases in the prosecutorial and judicial system, which reports contain concrete findings, assessments and recommendations on how to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of these systems in handling corruption cases and how to improve the sentencing policy.
Part of the panel of this roundtable were the Director of INL for Kosovo- United States Department of State, Mr. Shawn Waddoups, the President of the Supreme Court, Mr. Enver Peci, the Head of the Judicial Council, Mr. Skender Çoçaj, the Deputy Head of the Prosecutorial Council, Mr. Arben Ismajli and the General Director of the Kosovo Police, Mr. Rashit Qalaj.
KLI researcher, Arrita Rezniqi presented the findings of the report “Special failures in fighting corruption”, according to which, Prosecution offices and Courts have their commodity by basing their fight against corruption only against low profile and rarely they fight high-profile corruption. According to her, also sequestration and confiscation of assets obtained unlawfully through corruption criminal offences still remains taboo and, in this regard, there is no result shown by the prosecutorial and judicial system.
Rezniqi said that the Special Prosecution, also in this year, maintains the trend of avoiding responsibility in handling corruption cases. “This prosecution since January 1 until September 30, 2019 has not filed any indictment against high profile individuals regarding corruption offenses. Another distinctive of SPRK is the fact that prosecutors within this prosecution is related to the fact that prosecutors in this prosecution office are not specialized in specific fields, including the specialization in corruption cases and economic crimes”, she said.
Ongoing, Rezniqi made it known that sentencing policy in corruption cases still remains a challenge to all the judges in all Kosovo’s courts, and that the judicial system is unable to implement unique sentencing policy and ones that are in accordance with the purpose of the Criminal Code of Kosovo. “During this reporting period, the largest number of sentences imposed by the courts are suspended punishments and punishments of a fine, then come the imprisonment punishments. However, in the year 2019, different from the previous years, for the first time, imprisonment punishments imposed by courts in Kosovo have increased”, she said.
Researcher Rezniqi also said that 2019 was also characterized with the phenomenon of postponing a large number of corruption cases’ court hearings and with the lack of public transparency and accountability of the judicial and prosecutorial system.
KLI researcher, Gzim Shala presented the findings of the report “Sentencing policy in Kosovo” according to which the Sentencing Guidelines in Kosovo, issued by the Supreme Court of the Republic of Kosovo, on 15 February 2018, have had the same fate as many other adopted policies and documents, in the sense that they were not implemented in practice, but have remained a policy and document only in paper.
Research and analysis of 73 judgments that fall into different categories of criminal offenses which were decided by courts with judgments of conviction, according to Shala show two phenomena. “The first one is that in principle there is no uniform practice in the judicial system of the Republic of Kosovo which would then be made more concrete depending on the specifics of a case. And the second one is that no part of the Guidelines has been implemented to a satisfactory level, which may otherwise be translated into virtually no implementation of the Guidelines in practice”, he said.
From the way in which judgments are reasoned in the part that determines the type and amount of punishment, in addition to non-application of Guidelines requirements, Shala said that IKD KLI finds that courts have already established some reasoning templates, which they apply in most judgments without adapting them to specifics of each case. This finding refutes the justification of stakeholders within the justice system that the divergences in sentencing exist because each case is specific, as the created templates were not affected by specifics of cases but by the approach taken by judges.
Furthermore, Shala said that in addition to the reasoning part there are also templates related to imposed sentence, especially on corruption cases, with the reasoning that out of 34 effective imprisonment and suspended sentences in corruption cases, a total of 23 contain imprisonment term of six months
“Regarding the severity of punishments, the findings indicate that of all the categories analyzed in this chapter, the most lenient sentencing policy is in cases of corruption. Indeed, sentences in corruption cases were more lenient than those for cases tried in the General Department. Out of the total of sentences imposed in judgments analyzed in this report in the corruption chapter, courts have issued a total of 14 judgments with effective imprisonment. However, of these 14 sentences with effective imprisonment, courts have converted 9 of them 7 to fine, which implies that we have only 5 judgments with effective imprisonment, while 9 of them have been identified in the chapter of criminal offenses tried by the General Department” said Shala, adding that out of 25 analyzed judgments, courts imposed accessory punishment in only one case while the same was not applied in 24 other judgments.
The Director of INL for Kosovo – US State Department, Shawn Waddoups said that KLI is lightning the road on the justice system and that the US Embassy will support judges and prosecutors to apply the Sentencing Policy Guideline effectively. Waddoups also invited all justice institution stakeholders to cooperate on the fight against corruption and for the rule of law in Kosovo.
Further, according to the Chairman of the KJC, Skënder Çoçaj, it is shown that there is progress in the fight against corruption, even though he expressed himself as not very satisfied with the level of this progress, and regarding that he said that will continue to work on that direction and that cases of this nature still remain “top priority”. Whereas, regarding the Sentencing Policy Guideline, Çoçaj stated that it is in its initial stage of being implemented and according to him everyone is working on implementing this guideline in practice.
The President of the Supreme Court, Enver Peci said that KLI is going faster than the courts, since, as he said, the reports presented are very substantial and include cases of public interest. According to him, the Sentencing Policy Guideline and KLI’s report, both, say that the provisions of the Criminal Code must be applied when imposing punishments, which according to Peci are not being implemented. He also stated that the aforementioned guideline cannot be mandatory, but its usage can improve the system.
Further, the Deputy Chairman of KPC, Arben Ismajli, stated that the prosecutorial system has no cases that have reached the statutory limitations period and that cases such as the one remaining unsolved since 2008 can happen for different reasons, since according to him, especially corruption cases are treated with priority since the moment they are presented in Prosecution offices. As for the transparency and accountability of the KPC, Ismajli said that the law allows them to be more reserved, because of the confidentiality. Whereas, regarding the sentencing policy report, Ismajli stated that prosecutors have had appeals regarding the non-implementation of the guidelines.
While, the General Director of Kosovo Police, Rashit Qalaj stated that KLI reports are a great tool for institutional influence regarding the approach against corruption, Qalaj also said that justice institutions can do more to fight this phenomenon.
The participants of the roundtable also had a substantial debate on this topic, among which were the Presidents and Chief Prosecutors of all levels of Courts and Prosecutors, judges, prosecutors, representatives of independent institutions, representatives of international institutions and foreign embassies in Kosovo, representatives of civil society and the media.