Access to justice and rule of law for the citizens of Kosovo
Title: Legal and Administrative Reform Project
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Lead excuting agency: Kosovo Judicial Council (KJC)
Overall term: 2019 to 2021
More than ten years after the declaration of independence, Kosovo’s level of the rule of law and the access to justice for its citizens still remain low. Key elements for a trustful citizen-state-relation and an attractive business climate - still remain low. The administrative and administrative conflict procedures are lengthy and constitute major obstacles for citizens to defend themselves against administrative decisions. Moreover, the Court is hindered to adequately exercise its control function over the administration and contribute to an effective separation of powers. Deficiencies in the justice system also lead to a low access to justice for citizens and usually exclude low-income groups, especially in rural areas. At the same time, environment protection is crucial for Kosovo’s further sustainable economic and social development. Nonetheless the enforcement rate of fines for violations of environmental law remains very low and does not guarantee compliance by citizens and companies.
The transparency and efficiency of Kosovo’s legal reform process has been improved.
In cooperation with the Kosovo Institute for Public Administration, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH provides trainings for civil servants to issue better administrative decisions including a reference to a legal base, the possible remedies against the decision and an understandable reasoning. This should increase the transparency and consequently the acceptance by the citizens. On the other hand, the judges of the Administrative Department of the Basic Court in Pristina are trained at the Kosovo Justice Academy in the application of administrative law and administrative conflict procedure with the aim of increasing the number of decided cases.
GIZ also aims to increase the capacities of the Inspectorate of the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning to issue fines in accordance with the law and ensure their enforcement. In addition to that, the project plans to set up an efficient appeal procedure and ensuring a better coordination among the various institutions involved, especially the Inspectorate of the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning, the Minor Offence Divisions of the Basic Courts, the Administrative Department of the Basic Court in Pristina and the Private Enforcement Agents.
The development of an effective and human rights-based legal aid system is a major step towards enhancing access to justice for indigent citizens. GIZ is supporting the Agency for Free Legal Aid in their efforts to provide needs-based and profound legal advice, especially in rural areas. This includes capacity building measures as well as training courses for the legal aid officers in the relevant fields such as social welfare law, family law and property law. On the other hand, GIZ aims to promote the services of the Agency for Free Legal Aid and inform the citizens about the opportunities, but also requirements. Special attention is also given to the considerate processing of domestic violence cases.
After the official integration of judges and prosecutors in the North of Kosovo, GIZ continues to support the operationalisation of the Basic Court in Mitrovica. In close consultation with the court management, deficiencies in processing cases are identified and addressed to increase the number of decided cases and reduce the backlog. Furthermore, the capacities to hold bilingual court sessions are improved. The individual capacities of judges and support staff are strengthened in cooperation with the Kosovo Justice Academy through a needs-based training offer in the Serbian language. The training measures are accompanied by events to promote professional exchanges between judicial and administrative personnel from different regions. Finally, the citizens are informed about the benefits of the court’s work and the requirements to file actions.
During the last years, GIZ accompanied the Kosovo Justice Academy on its way to become a modern training centre providing needs-based training courses with a standardised modern methodology for judges, prosecutors as well as judicial support staff. This resulted in the publication of several legal tools such as legal commentaries, handbooks as well as a legal dictionary and an introductory study book of Kosovar law.
In cooperation with the Agency for Gender Equality, GIZ identified and addressed the gender inequalities in the administration and the jurisprudence. The interventions led to a higher level of gender responsive budgeting and a more equal application of law through the administration and courts. The fight against domestic violence was supported through a review of the respective Standard Operation Procedures.
The integration of the newly appointed judges and prosecutors from the North of Kosovo was accompanied through an Orientation Training Program developed jointly with the Kosovo Justice Academy. The needs identified during this programme were later addressed through the development of a training offer in Serbian language.
GIZ supported the Agency for Free Legal Aid to establish eight legal aid focal points in rural areas which offer free consultations for citizens with low income. During the first half of 2019, this resulted in a provision of legal aid for 520 cases.