News 22 Jun 15

Kosovo Plans Benefits for War Rape Victims

People who were sexually assaulted during the 1998-99 war in Kosovo will soon be able to apply for welfare payments without having to produce witnesses to prove their claims.

Petrit Collaku
BIRN
Pristina
A new monument to war heroines in Pristina.

Kosovo is to set up a verification commission to process benefit claims for victims of wartime sex attacks later this year, the national council working group for survivors of wartime sexual violence decided on Friday.

Victims will be asked for details of the crime and information about the perpetrator but will not be required to produce witnesses, as they are for similar claims in Bosnia and Herzegovina, to avoid any additional psychological trauma.

“Our principle is the protection of the dignity [of the victims]. Members of the commission will be trained how to deal with victims because the commission has the right to invite the victims for direct testimony,” Besim Kajtazi, director of the government’s legal office, told BIRN.

The amount of monthly compensation that the victims will receive remains unknown, however.

“When the verification process starts, we will determine the amount of the compensation,” said Kajtazi.

There is still no accurate estimate of the number of women and girls who were raped or suffered other forms of sexual violence during the war with Serbian forces.

In March 2014, despite strong opposition from some male MPs, Kosovo’s parliament approved legislation on victims of wartime sexual violence to be incorporated into the Kosovo’s Law on the Status and the Rights of the Martyrs, Invalids, Veterans, and Members of the Kosovo Liberation Army.

Linda Sada from Medica Gjakova, an organisation that helps victims of sexual violence, said that women who were assaulted in wartime are still being stigmatised and so the verification process must be handled with great sensitivity.

“There are victims whose close families don’t even know what happened to them. We all want to be careful with the verification process,” she said.

Jeta Krasniqi, an adviser to Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga and a member of the working group for survivors of wartime sexual violence, said the verification could not begin yet because the legislation has still not been finalised.

“We did not want to start the work of the commission before the legal part is finished,” she said.

Krasniqi also agreed that rape victims were still being stigmatised, years after the war ended.

“The stigma that those victims are carrying should be passed on to the perpetrators of the crimes,” she urged.

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