Prishtine/Pristina, 3 July 2008 – The Kosovo criminal justice system still faces difficulties in handling cases concerning the March 2004 riots, according to a new report published by the OSCE Mission in Kosovo today.

The report noted continued difficulties in securing witness statements, widespread failure to sentence alleged perpetrators according to appropriate criminal offence and long delays in proceedings. According to the report, courts in many cases did not account for an ethnic motive as an aggravating factor.

“One cornerstone of a modern society which guarantees the protection of human rights and rule of law is that the justice system ensures that individuals who participate in ethnically motivated violence face justice,” said Ambassador Tim Guldimann, Head of the OSCE Mission. “Deeds cannot be undone, but proper legal action must follow.”

The report, which is a follow up to an earlier OSCE report on the March 2004 riot cases, found that there has not been significant progress in handling the cases since the OSCE Mission issued the first report in December 2005.

The riots on 17 and 18 March 2004 were a serious setback to Kosovo’s struggle to become a tolerant multi-ethnic society. Nineteen people were killed in the violence, more than 900 were injured and more than 800 buildings, including churches and monasteries, were destroyed or damaged.

The OSCE Mission monitors the justice system in Kosovo, focusing on its compliance with rule of law and applicable international human rights standards. Based on its monitoring activities, the OSCE makes concrete recommendations to the responsible authorities on how the shortcomings identified during the proceedings should be addressed. These efforts aim to contribute to the development of a functioning and more effective justice system.

The report is available for download here (in English/in Serbian/in Albanian).

Source: OSCE