The easiest prey: Victims of child abuse in Kosovo

On a Thursday afternoon in July 2019, Makfire Veseli was told her son, nine-year-old Kujtim, was found dead in a basement in a slum neighborhood in Fushe Kosovo, outside the capital of Pristina.

For more than a year Kujtim, a Roma child, was systematically raped by a 19-year-old Roma man. Makfire said she reported the case to the police, and had tried to protect her son by not letting him stay long outside playing with other children, and sometimes keeping him from school. She added he suffered violence every day he went outside. “His body used to be full of bruises and he was forced to not tell what was happening to him”.

January 17 was the last time she reported this to the authorities, and the prosecution interviewed the perpetrator on April 4, 65 days after it was reported. He admitted he abused the child but was released again, despite the fact that he hada criminal record. “By neglecting the case and failing to take any protective measure they sent him to death,” his mother said.

“Racism kills, and this is pure racism against a child; a failure of our institutions and our society,” said Vjosa Osmani, former Speaker of the Kosovo Assembly and currently President of Kosovo.

Last year the court in Pristina convicted the perpetrator of murder and sentenced him to 25 years in prison, but not for rape which is being adjudicated in a juvenile court.

The prosecutor of the case was fined, halving his salary for six months, but no other criminal action was developed against the police officers and prosecutors who neglected the case.

Rina Kika, the Veseli family lawyer described it as an exemplary case which speaks of institutional neglect in the protection of children, especially those from the Roma community. “The child was raped for months while institutions were informed not only about his rape he was experiencing but also that he was a child in a street situation. However, they took no measure”.

Failure of state institutions to take appropriate measures to fight child abuse and trafficking has frequently resulted in grave consequences for victims and their families, especially females. Several women and children have been victims of domestic violence and rape as a result of breaks in the chain of institutional responsibility. Such negligence by state institutions has been the subject of civil and human rights research.

Klevis Vaqari, of the Coalition of NGOs for Child Protection in Kosovo (KOMF), said “the legal framework is not being properly implementedin cases of child trafficking and sexual abuse.”

Judges imposed lenient sentences on convicted traffickers, and prosecutors continued to downgrade trafficking cases to a lesser crime. Observers reported the non-specialization of prosecutors and judges resulted in lenient sentences or cases downgraded to a lesser crime, especially cases involving emotional control or psychological coercion of a child victim.

Kosovo Police statistics suggest a growing number of children in Kosovo being victims of trafficking in the past five years. A total of 47 child tracking cases have been registered since 2016.

In the last five years, children between ten and 17 years were identified as potential victims of modern slavery and human trafficking and given help,but only in 11 cases did the prosecutors manage to file indictments against traffickers; only 6 people were sentenced.

Kujtim’s family recently received a kind of reparation of 20, 000 euros, but most of the victims of abuse don’t have access to the state scheme for compensation of victims of crime.

Reports like the US State Department report on trafficking concluded that the Government of Kosovo does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and it doesn’t provide adequate funding for NGO-run shelters.

Copyright Serbeze Haxhiaj