Kosovo: authorities fail victims of domestic violence


Kosovo authorities are failing victims of domestic violence, despite widespread protests and calls for action after a large number of murders of women in recent years, Amnesty International said today in a new report.

the report, From paper to practice: Kosovo must fulfill its obligations to survivors of domestic violenceIt details how survivors of domestic violence, the majority of whom are women and girls, face numerous barriers to protection and access to justice and support. The Kosovo authorities should take further steps to combat domestic violence and ensure that survivors’ rights are protected and their priority concerns are addressed. In doing so, it is essential that the Kosovo authorities include survivors in all decision-making processes that affect them.

Survivors of domestic violence in Kosovo face obstacles in every direction as they try to leave abusive situations. The authorities’ response focuses too narrowly on criminal prosecutions. In fact, almost all survivors are required to report violence to the police in order to gain access to shelters. At the same time, not enough is being done to support survivors to live independent lives free from abuse. Marginalized survivors are also forgotten.

Lauren Aarons, Deputy Program Director and Head of Gender at Amnesty International

In recent years, Kosovo authorities have taken significant steps to strengthen legislation and improve policies to meet the needs of survivors. Most recently, in March 2023, the Parliament of the Republic of Kosovo approved in first reading a new draft law on prevention and protection from domestic violence, violence against women and gender-based violence. This is largely consistent with the Istanbul Convention and other international human rights agreements and includes comprehensive policies against gender-based violence.

However, Amnesty International found numerous gaps in government support available to survivors of domestic violence, and a lack of action to involve them in the decision-making process, which undermines their rights.

These gaps include barriers to compensation and other legal entitlements such as alimony, and inadequate support services for survivors leaving shelters. Survivors also described harmful bias on the part of police officers, overworked social workers, uncooperative or absent victim advocates, and a lack of information about their rights or the remedies and assistance available to them. Survivors of ethnic minority communities, such as Serbs, Roma, Ashkali and Kosovo Egyptians, and LGBTI survivors face additional barriers due to the intersectional forms of discrimination they face.

Barriers to accessing support.

Women in Kosovo face significant social and economic barriers that prevent them from leaving abusive situations and living free of fear and violence in the long term. In 2017, only 17% of women in Kosovo were formally employed compared to 50% of men, and in 2021, women owned only 18% of property compared to 79% of men. In addition, women are often excluded from family inheritance, and the division of property between spouses in divorce proceedings also disadvantages women.

If survivors attempt to leave abusive situations, they at best receive initial protection and short-term support, but are then left alone to try to rebuild their lives, without adequate assistance in accessing housing, vocational qualifications or work.

“The Kosovo authorities have committed to putting survivors at the center of their domestic violence response. Now they need to turn that commitment into action. This means providing adequate resources, but also listening to survivors and working with them to develop more inclusive and rights-respecting responses,” said Lorraine Arons.

What institutions can do is let women know, before anything happens, that if something happens to you, you have an open door and support from the state. You don’t have to worry about your children, you don’t have to worry about where to go… Even if your family doesn’t support you, even if you can’t go back to your father’s house, the institutions will support you.

Ana*, a survivor from Pristina.

State-sponsored media campaigns focus almost exclusively on encouraging survivors to report cases to the police. However, when they approach the police, they are often treated disrespectfully. Survivors told Amnesty International that some police officers questioned why they had gone to the police in the first place, while others tried to make them feel guilty for reporting the attacker.

A review by Amnesty International of a representative sample of criminal court decisions on domestic violence revealed that although courts have the power to do so, under the law, they have never ordered perpetrators to pay compensation to victims in criminal proceedings. The review also showed that perpetrators of domestic violence were sentenced to sentences disproportionate to the seriousness of the crime.

Kosovo has seen a series of murders of women in recent years. Protests were held in response to these killings to demand justice and compensation, including sentences commensurate with the seriousness of the crime.

On March 14, 2021, Sebahati Morena was murdered by her husband. The Constitutional Court later ruled that state authorities had failed to protect Morena, violating her right to life. On August 4, 2023, the men responsible for the brutal murder of 18-year-old Marijuna Usmani in August 2021 have been arrested. Convicted: Dardan Krivaka was sentenced to life in prison for murder, and Arbir Sediu was sentenced to 15 years in prison for aiding in the commission of the criminal offence.

“The people of Kosovo are taking to the streets and demanding action be taken to prevent more women from being killed. The Kosovo authorities have a golden opportunity to make a difference: they listen to the survivors and the protesters, who have solutions; they must match their legal obligations with the concrete actions needed to end the conflict,” Arons said. violence against Woman”.

*Name has been changed to protect identity

From paper to practice: Kosovo must fulfill its obligations to survivors of domestic violence


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