Among the questions discussed were: What is happening with the judiciary in Kosovo? Why are the judicial sessions being postponed? What do judges say about this situation? Why are judges skeptical about which code of penal procedure should be used in judicial reviews? Were the judges and prosecutors trained before implementing the Code of Penal Procedures? Was there any interpretation given from the highest instance? What do citizens and the advocates say about this judiciary standoff?
The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network monitoring team found out that during January around 20 sessions were postponed in the municipalities in areas like Prishtine, Gjilan, Mitrovice, Peje and Prizren.
The new system reforms have surprised the judges because it happened rapidly: “We knew that the reform was going to happen but none of them saw the Code of Penal Procedure until the beginning of this year,” said Elmaze Syka, Head of Basic Court in Gjilan. The new Code of Penal Procedure increases the role of the prosecutor and decreases the role of the judge.
In addition, there was no training held for the new procedures: “The problem is that we cannot all be trained and leave the court without judges. We will have a meeting with all the judges and we will find a solution,” said Syka.
Despite the problems that the judges’ face, all the courts of Kosovo should implement the new Code of Penal Procedure according to the Supreme Court of Kosovo. Head of the Prosecution of Basic Court, Syle Hoxha said that this code came to power without training sessions: “The postponement of trials is the main problem because it is affecting our job and it seems that this situation is going to last for a few more months,” said Hoxha.
Postponing trials has directly touched the citizens and the defendants. Shukri Krasniqi, a defendant from Prizren, said, “My trial has been postponed twice. They say that the codes have changed and this is causing us problems because we have families.” There are many severe/serious cases that are being postponed. The judges have not explained why the trial was postponed.
The changes of penal code have also brought some change to criminal offense sentences. Until now the maximum sentence was 40 years in prison, but from now and on the maximum sentence is a life sentence.
Lavdim Krasniqi, the Head of Judiciary Institution in Kosovo, says that all courts in Kosovo will be trained starting February.