KLI roundtable: “Corruption in Kosovo: “Catching small fish, while big fish go free”

KLI roundtable: “Corruption in Kosovo: “Catching small fish, while big fish go free”

KLI roundtable: “Corruption in Kosovo: “Catching small fish, while big fish go free”

Pristina, 28 March 2017 – Kosovo Law Institute (KLI), with the support of the British Embassy in Kosovo, on Tuesday, held the roundtable titled “Fighting corruption: Catching small fish, while big fish go free”. In this roundtable, the report was published “Sea of corruption in Kosovo: “Catching small fish, while big fish go free”, as a result of monitoring the handling of corruption cases in the prosecutorial system and the judicial system. KLI only last year monitored 1505 court hearings in 383 cases of corruption where 989 defendants were involved in all Basic Courts in Kosovo. 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, Ruairi O’Connell, Minister of Justice, Ms. Dhurata Hoxha, 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. “Despite the approved policies and the expression of declarative will by the judicial and prosecutorial system in fighting corruption, concrete results in its fight are still missing, particularly of high-profile corruption.

Year 2016 has continued with spectacles, communication fighting and anti-corruption statistics. State prosecutor during this year, have dismissed over 60% of corruption cases or ceased investigations”. Musliu said that the largest number of indictments is related to low level criminal offenses of corruption, in those high level cases, there are no punitive verdicts. In over 60% of corruption cases, indictments fail in the courts, not being tried and protected by prosecutors. “Efforts to fight corruption through indictments, more are proving as a justification to the public and to the international factor that corruption in Kosovo is being fought. The KLI’s research found that in many high profile cases, the prosecution raised indictments that have been dismissed or rejected by the court in certain cases since the first hearing or even at later stages of court proceedings, such as cases against Enver Hasani, Lutif Haziri, Agim Bahtiri, Shpresa Bakija, etc. In cases where there is no fighting corruption, then there is promotion. The Office of the Chief State Prosecutor, prosecutors identified as violators of the law, has continued to share gratitude for merit in promoting the prosecutorial system”.

The Ambassador of Great Britain, Mr. Ruairi O’Connell, in the opening speech said that in 2016 the number of raised indictments has increased, but according to him, based on the findings of the KLI report hardly can be found results, considering the findings of the report for 2016 as worrying.

The Ambassador O’Connell said that the findings of the KLI show that prosecutors and judges are inaccessible to the public, and according to him this is a good overview. “We as internationals, shown to us to create a database where some cases of corruption are targeted, but you have to do work for the sake of citizens, not just with international requirements, as the results are lacking”.

In the opening speech, the Minister of Justice, Ms. Dhurata Hoxha said that Kosovo is no exception in terms of the presence of corruption, a phenomenon which, according to her, has damaged and is damaging institutions and citizens. Minister Hoxha estimated that not only rhetoric should be enough, conveying the message that the corrupt have no place in institutions or society. “The fight against corruption can only be done with zero tolerance against this phenomenon, so the active role of all of us is needed. It is the last time that all of us, the legislature, the executive and the judiciary, win this fight, always respecting the independence of each”. Minister Hoxha said that the MJ has drafted anti-corruption policies, and have started with deep reform in the justice system, supplementing the amendment of the Law on Prosecutors and Courts, and a sentence guide that will increase the independence of prosecutors and judges. “Rule of law should not be an option, but the only alternative. The best way to fight corruption is to increase transparency. To point the finger to the corrupt, we have a lot of work, but I guarantee that we will do this war”, said Minister Hoxha.

Head of the Kosovo Judicial Council, Mr. Nehat Idrizi said that the findings and recommendations of the KLI report will serve and will assist the KJC in improving the quality and efficiency, guaranteeing that they will also assume responsibility for ineffectiveness. Idrizi admitted that treating corruption cases is a challenge for judges. “The treating of corruption cases is a challenge for the Kosovo judiciary, so we have taken with priority treating of these cases. We have drafted a plan in 2015 and we have created a commission that will monitor these cases. “Head of KJC welcomed the work of the KLI, saying it has helped the work of the Council also through recommendations.  “KLI report says that we have deficiency, and we will take responsibility for it”, said Idrizi.

The head of the KJC has further said that he will demand from the presidents of the courts that all high-level corruption trials to be public, claiming that transparency in the trial of these cases has not been satisfactory so far. “Transparency in the trial of corruption cases is not pleasant, especially in the high profile, we will ask the presidents of the courts to justify exclusions of the public from the sessions.  Exception of the public from the sessions should be done in special cases, and monitoring of these cases is our commitment in front of everyone to fight this phenomenon”, said Idrizi.

Meanwhile, the Head of the Kosovo Prosecutorial Council, Mr. Blerim Isufaj, said that the Prosecutorial Council supports monitoring of civil society and that external reports and evaluations are useful for advancing their work. However, he was convinced that prosecutors have shown efficiency in their work when it comes to raising indictments for corruption. He also commented on the criticism of Ambassador O’Connell regarding the selection of Chief Prosecutors of Basic Prosecutions, as well as the drafting of secondary legislation. “I have read the report very carefully with enough information’s, but I’m disappointed with the estimates when it is said that the raised indictments are without facts, but also criminal charges are dismissed.  Only with indictment, how can corruption be fought, the prosecutor cannot raise indictment without evidence, it is our job not to raise indictments without facts”, said Isufaj.  Head of KPC added that they welcome the criticism, but also expect positive assessments.

Participants in this roundtable were Presidents of Basic Courts, Chief Prosecutors of Basic Prosecutions, Judges, Prosecutors, Director of Anti-Corruption Agency, representatives of the British Embassy, American Embassy, representatives of Kosovo Prosecutorial Council, Kosovo Judicial Council, representatives of the Office of the Disciplinary Prosecutor, representatives of the Kosovo Chamber of Advocates and Civil society.