To begin with, I will introduce myself. I am Leona Shala, a Law student from Staffordshire University, and I have chosen to briefly talk about the corruption within the police system in Kosovo, due to my own experiences in Kosovo with the police. Kosovo is a small country with a lot of potential, which is held back due to corruption.
I will begin with one of my experiences in Kosovo with the police this year (2020). Being stopped by the police, [made me aware of] the lack of law-governing authorities. In England and Wales, we have the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 which governs the police, but in Kosovo there is no [strict] legislation. There is not a specific format that is followed when stopping someone. For example, in the England And Wales the police must follow PACE code of conduct when stopping [citizens] and citizens have rights: [such as the well-known] ‘you do not have to say anything- but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence’. However, in Kosovo this does not exist. Evidently, it could be argued that authorities abuse their powers due to the lack of law and protocols.
Kosovo does have regulations put in place for the police, however these regulations are not followed [and] many of them are breached on a daily basis.
Based on Article 65 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo; Article 1 concerns itself with the guiding principles, these being:
- The actions of the Kosovo Republic Police shall be guided by the following principles:
1.1. fair and equal treatment of all persons;
1.2. respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms;
1.3. neutrality and impartiality regarding persons’ political views and affiliations;
1.4. integrity, honesty and accountability in public service;
1.5. transparency – providing information to the public and being open to public;
1.6. legitimacy, suitability and proportionality;
1.7. commitment to employment, advancement and assignment of duties in comprehensive, merit-based and non-discriminatory manner, by reflecting the multi-ethnic character of Republic of Kosova and by recognising the principles of gender equality and human rights foreseen by the Constitution.
- Police officers shall exercise their authorisations and perform their duties in a lawful manner, based on the Constitution, on other applicable laws, and in the Code of Ethics compiled by the Police of Republic of Kosovo and approved by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
- The Code of Ethics should be in accordance with the above-mentioned principles and with the European Code of Police Ethics.
If you ask any person who has travelled to Kosovo, they will most likely tell you that they have been stopped many times just because they have had foreign number plates (for example driving a car with a British number plate). Recently, Kosovo implemented guidance that police officers must stop harassing tourists. I have heard many people tell me that the police, upon stopping them, have asked for money [in order to waver the] fine [and] a criminal record; now this can sound like hearsay but it has evidently been proven that this happens. This form of corruption breaches many of their regulations which I have stated above.
On one occasion, I was stopped by the police in Kosovo. A young officer approached me and asked me for my driver’s licence and vehicle documents (this is one protocol the police follow). He stopped me due to not having a face covering on in my vehicle when I was the only one in the vehicle. There was no law stating that I had to wear a face covering in my vehicle. The first thing I picked up on was the fact that he did not state his name, station or even let me know what my rights were; he himself did not have a face covering on.
This then made me think that there must be a significant number of vulnerable and less confident citizens who pay fines in a corrupt system, in which some police officers abuse their power. I know of many situations where police officers have stopped young women just so they can get their names and then have followed them on social media, [from asking] for their driving licence. [Asking for a driving licence is normal protocol, but] where does the line stop? It is not okay for male police officers to use their power to harass young women or any citizen regardless of gender.
The officer would have breached several procedural codes in England and Wales in this stop alone. It is clear this is probably the case with other individuals who are stopped daily and [are] uncertain about the law[ and their rights] and thus end up paying fines for offences that do not exist. It was useful to see the contrast between a country with a highly developed criminal justice system, compared to a very young country with a developing administrative system and administrative laws which have only recently been introduced.