Innovations for Successful Societies By Malcolm Simmons

Influences such as the United Nations and the European Union

An October 2007 report by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) stated that only about 1 in 5 Kosovars surveyed expressed satisfaction with the court system and the prosecutor’s office—a rating lower than any other government institution’s.2

Xharra and her two civil society colleagues— Faik Ispahiu, who headed Internews, the media nongovernmental organization (NGO) that produced Xharra’s show, and Haki Abazi, a Kosovar who had joined the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a New York–based foundation, in 2007— recognized the need to better know the problems affecting the courts and to repair the frayed relationship between the people and the judicial system. With little legal knowledge and no template to work from, the three looked for a window into courts.


Recent history had created the challenges that confronted the reformers in 2008. The relationship between international and local authorities was complex and confusing, and the structure of the court system kept changing as the UN and local institutions adopted new rules and regulations.

An UN-administered territory until 2008, still recognized by most countries as part of Serbia, The vast majority of identified as ethnic Albanians and spoke the Albanian language. In the 1998–99 war, Serbian forces had fought with Albanian separatists until a NATO intervention against Serbia forced an end to the conflict, in effect breaking away from the Serbian state.

International organizations had rebuilt judicial system after the war. In 1999, the UN Interim Administration Mission (UNMIK) took the lead in building institutions and oversaw the functioning of the judiciary. In 2002, the new Kosovo parliament established by UNMIK chose judges and prosecutors to be appointed by the special representative of the UN secretary-general.

Because no bar examinations during the 1990s, lawyers who were qualified for judicial positions had been in short supply. Most appointees were former judges and prosecutors who had held similar positions prior to 1989, under the former Yugoslav regime.3 in 2005, UNMIK regulations created a new Ministry of Justice and Judicial Council, both of them independent local institutions. UNMIK granted the ministry limited responsibilities over the justice sector, and the judicial council became the authority for appointing and disciplining judges.

When declared independence in February 2008, UNMIK ceded most of its judicial responsibilities control, but another international organization stepped in. The European Union Rule of Law Mission brought in judges, prosecutors, and police from European and North American countries who worked parallel to their counterparts, applying the same laws but using the mission’s own personnel. Could choose to process cases it saw as difficult for nascent institutions to handle, in effect placing a limit on control over its own justice system. The mission focused on cases involving war crimes, corruption, organized crime, and terrorism. Judges and prosecutors worked in English, necessitating the use of simultaneous translation to and from local languages in all court sessions.

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