Six Years of Successful Justice Integration in Kosovo

Speeches Shim

Friday, March 5, 2021
An efficient judiciary (photo from a court session)
DPI MIllenium for USAID Kosovo

As part of the EU-facilitated dialogue to normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia, the Prime Ministers of both countries agreed on a roadmap in 2015 for integrating Kosovo’s Serb-majority northern municipalities into Kosovo’s judicial system.  Prior to this justice agreement, Kosovo courts had been operating two parallel legal systems.  Over the last five years, USAID, through the recently concluded Justice System Strengthening Program, supported the implementation of this agreement by working closely with both Kosovo courts and the Kosovo Judicial Council to make these integrated structures a reality.  Six years on from the agreement, the court located in Mitrovica North, the largest urban area where Kosovo-Serbs form the majority, exemplifies a fully integrated justice system that serves Kosovo citizens of all ethnic backgrounds.  

The Basic Court in Mitrovica is composed of 44 judges—22 Kosovo-Albanians and 22 Kosovo-Serbs—working together as a multi-ethnic team to provide judicial services to seven municipalities, including all four municipalities in northern Kosovo.  With many of the major structural aspects of integration complete, the courts continue to improve the delivery of services based on the needs of the citizens.  Currently, the biggest challenge the team faces is the translation of documents, as all official documents must be translated to Albanian, Serbian, and English.  In 2020, USAID assisted the Mitrovica Basic Court to meet this challenge by establishing a translation unit and developing systems to manage and prioritize court document translation.  In order to ensure these systems remain functional and sustainable, the court recently announced a vacancy for translators to fulfill this demand.

The Advocacy Center for Democratic Culture (ACDC), one of USAID’s local civil society partners, has been continuously monitoring the perceptions of the integrated court system in the North.  ACDC’s Founder, Dusan Radakovic, considers the justice agreement between Kosovo and Serbia to be one of the most successful agreements reached in Brussels.  “In the 2019-2020 period, the Mitrovica Basic Court solved the most cases.  When compared to the other agreements signed between the two sides—which have not been implemented—the one reached on justice has been implemented more than 90 percent,” Radakovic said.

USAID’s Justice System Strengthening Program was a five-year program that advanced the rule of law in Kosovo.  The program officially ended on November 22, 2020, and left a legacy that helps to ensure the justice system operates in a professional, efficient, and accountable manner that serves all of Kosovo’s citizens. 

Last updated: April 12, 2021

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