Kosovo must address war time sexual violence in the law dealing with the rights of war victims, a round table organized by UN Women in Pristina concluded.Members of the round table, which discussed “The status and state of survivors of sexual violence during conflict,” called for the prosecution of all perpetrators of war rapes.
They also urged the Kosovo authorities to include the victims of wartime rape in the existing Law on the Status and Rights of Martyrs, Invalids, Veterans, Members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, Civilian Victims of War and their Families.
Vlora Citaku, Kosovo’s Minister for Integration, expressed the hope that “the issue would be legally addressed soon”.
“There are around 20,000 raped women in Kosovo and yet no one has been punished [for these crimes]. There are around 20,000 raped women in Kosovo and yet we haven’t been able to address their legal needs. There are around 20,000 raped women in Kosovo who need medicine, care and help,” Citaku said.
More than thirteen years after the end of the war in Kosovo, no official data is available on how many women were raped during the Kosovo war.
According to data UN Women relies on, more than 10,000 women were raped in Kosovo between August 1998 and August 1999.
The law dealing with the rights of war victims came into force at the end of 2011. However, under that law, war time rapes were not classified as war crimes.
Suzana Novoberdaliu, the head of the Commission for Human Rights, Gender Equality, Missing Persons and Petitions at Kosovo’s Assembly said “action to amend the current law so that it includes war rape victims has been initiated, but the responsible commission for amendments has yet to reply to this request”.
During the round table discussion, representatives of both local and international institutions in Kosovo, together with human rights NGOs from Bosnia and Herzegovina , shared their expertise and discussed the challenges of supporting the victims and prosecuting the perpetrators of war time rapes.
Signe Justessen, the EU Rule of Law Mission to Kosovo, EULEX, prosecutor and head of Kosovo’s Special Prosecution Office, SPRK, said that timescales are an issue for war rape victims, as the crimes EULEX is currently investigating “ took place many, many years ago”.
“Because we don’t have the normal technical evidence, we sometimes have to rely on the evidence of scratches, blue marks, DNA and so on”, she said.
Justessen also encouraged the survivors and witnesses of war rapes to come forward with their stories so that these crimes could properly be addressed.
The round table was organized as part of the UN’s 16 days campaign on the prevention of violence against women. The campaign was launched on November 25, when Kosovo marked the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.