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news 22 Sep 17

Kosovo Serb Judges Dubious About Integrated Justice System

Weeks before the justice system in Serb-run northern Kosovo is due to be integrated with the justice system in the rest of Kosovo,  Serbian judges in the north say they are still in the dark about how it will work.

Die Morina, Filip Rudic
North Mitrovica | Photo: BIRN

An agreement on integrating the justice system in the Serb-run north of Kosovo with the justice system in Kosovo generally – signed between Kosovo and Serbia on February 10, 2015 – is due to take force on October 17.

However, with only a few weeks to go, whether it will happen remains unclear, as both sides differ on how ready they are.

Kosovo's Minister of Justice, Abelard Tahiri, told BIRN on Thursday that the Kosovo side had prepared everything on time.

“The Ministry of Justice ... is in close coordination with the responsible bodies to provide the necessary assistance, so that the agreement is implemented within the foreseen timeframes,” Tahiri said.

The ministry was “deeply interested in the rule of law being extended throughout the territory of the Republic of Kosovo”, he added, referring to the north.

“The Kosovo Judicial Council and Kosovo Prosecutorial Council ... took all the necessary measures and we are still working on this direction,” the minister continued.

Kosovo's Judicial Council also confirmed to BIRN that everything would be ready in a timely manner.

“The Judicial Council has already made a record of the situation in the north with regard to facilities, equipment and other necessary means for the proper institutional functioning of the courts there,” the Judicial Council told BIRN.

“This planning makes it possible for the courts [in the north] to open on October 17 and enables other preparation, such as training and case registration,” it explained.

The Kosovo Prosecutorial Council spoke likewise.

The Implementation Agreement on Justice foresees the implementation of Kosovo laws and a unitary justice system over the whole of the country, including the northern, Serb-run part.

"The plan foresees ... the integration of Serbian judges and prosecutors into the Kosovo justice institutions in accordance with Kosovo law," reads a document issued by the Kosovo government on March 2015.

According this report, the concrete aspects include the basic court president being an ethnic Serb while the president of the prosecutor's office will be Albanian. It also details the ethnic composition of other court functions.

However, Serbian judges in the north reportedly feel unclear about how this new system is going to work, claiming they have received no hard information on the issue.

The President of the Judges’ Association of Serbia, Dragana Boljevic, said judges from northern Kosovo that she contacted had been told nothing about the content of the agreement on justice between Serbia and Kosovo.

“Nobody ever contacted them, so they have no idea what the treaty is about,” Boljevac told BIRN.

The Kosovo newspaper Koha Ditore also reported on Tuesday that Jelena Krivokapic, a judge of the Mitrovica/Mitrovicë north Basic Court, said they had not received any information from Belgrade or from Brussels about their duties as foreseen by the agreement.

Speaking on behalf of her colleagues, she said they would not willingly transfer into the Kosovo system until their status is regulated by a special law.

“The courts will not be functional on the foreseen date since nothing has been done as yet. Neither I nor my colleagues will accept the new posts if there are no written documents,” Krivokapic was quoted as saying in Koha Ditore.

The agreement featured during a meeting of Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Brussels, where both promised to implement it by October.

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