In my previous blog on Kosovo (Kosovo: A Beacon of Hope for Gender Equality?) I sought to explain how Kosovo is making strides toward gender equality. Although there are laws in place to enforce an evolution toward an egalitarianism of the sexes, these laws seem to be symbolic at best in this country that is continually faced with turmoil. Kosovo’s laws on human trafficking, which will be the focus of my future blogs, appear to have the same problems.
According to the UNHCR (The United Nations Refugee Agency): “Kosovo is a source, destination, and possibly a transit country for women and children who are subjected to sex trafficking, and children subjected to forced begging (UNHCR).” In September of 2010 the Government of Kosovo began to focus on the prevention of trafficking by staging a massive educational campaign that used television, radio, SMS messages, billboards, and elementary school visits. As well, the Kosovar police force has increased its trafficking task force by 50% in the past year. Although there has been an increase in the arrests of “traffickers,” their prosecution and conviction rate remains low (UNHCR).
An October 2011 report by the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) found that although Kosovo has the laws in place, they are not being enforced properly. The report focuses on the three main problems Kosovo faces in eradicating trafficking and helping victims receive justice: “first, the issuing of trafficking indictments when the requisite elements of the offence of trafficking are not present; second, a failure to prosecute additional criminal activity committed in the course of trafficking; and, third, converting trafficking activity into an offence less severe than that of trafficking, which results in lighter penalties for perpetrators (OSCE).” Offenders are either mischarged, not-charged for all offences, and/or given lax sentences.
Even though it falls in line with European and World standards, the Criminal Code of Kosovo’s definition of trafficking is complex and it is OSCE’s belief that in some cases it is that judges/prosecutors misunderstand the verbiage of this definition and incorrectly convict the offenders resulting in charges of the wrong crime or too short of a sentence. It is the OSCE’s recommendation that the problem be treated with judicial education because it appears that Kosovo is making efforts to reform and prosecute (OSCE), but is unable to finish the job. Much like their ground-breaking laws for gender equality, Kosovo has the correct foundation for decreasing human trafficking, but its enforcement is ineffective.
For such a small country we must ask ourselves, why is this a hotbed of human trafficking? What is it about Kosovo that makes this crime so prolific here? Is it the high poverty level; is it that the government is trying to stabilize itself in a hostile environment; is it the discrepancy in gender equality; is it that racism is rampant; is it culturally acceptable? Even though it is small, Kosovo is watched and supported by several world organizations because of its fledgling government and its history of genocide. Kosovo is also aware of itself; it is sensitive to becoming a part of the EU and to maintaining its countryhood. Because it is so scrutinized can it become a model of reform? If we can begin to find why human trafficking succeeds here, perhaps we can begin to find solutions that will help to eradicate it world-wide. Kosovo has to be willing to participate and at this point, it seems to be.
In the coming weeks I will explore cases where Kosovo has been successful and also where they have failed in terms of prosecuting and convicting human traffickers and what these cases mean for the victims, for Kosovo and for the world.
Sources are hyperlinked within the article above: