Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape against all persons but does not specifically address spousal rape. By law, rape is punishable by two to 15 years in prison. EULEX noted that courts often applied penalties lighter than the legal minimum in rape cases. EULEX found that courts rarely took steps to protect victims and witnesses, nor did they close hearings to the public as required by law.
A section of the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor helped to provide access to justice for victims of all crimes, with a special focus on victims of domestic violence, trafficking in persons, child abuse, and rape.
According to the Kosovo Women’s Network, more than two-thirds of women had been victims of domestic violence. The law treats domestic violence as a civil matter unless the victim suffers bodily harm. Failure to comply with a civil court’s judgment relating to a domestic violence case is a criminal and prosecutable offense, although prosecutions for this offense were rare. When victims pressed charges, police domestic violence units conducted investigations and transferred cases to prosecutors, though the rate of prosecution was low. Advocates and court observers asserted that prosecutors and judges favored family unification over victim protection, with protective orders sometimes allowing the perpetrator to remain in the family home while a case was pending. Sentences ranged from judicial reprimands to six months’ to five years’ imprisonment.
In 2017 the judicial system adopted stricter procedures to prioritize the assignment of prosecutors for domestic violence cases. NGOs reported it was too early to assess the impact of the changes.
On August 8, Pjeter Ndrecaj, who was indicted and awaiting trial on domestic violence charges, allegedly murdered his wife and nine-year-old daughter in Gjakova/Djakovica. The victim’s relatives claimed she had contacted KP multiple times in the months preceding the killing to request assistance. The KP claimed the victim never requested police protection and said they made every attempt to locate the husband following the victim’s report of death threats four hours before the murder. The incident sparked protests in Pristina and Gjakova/Djakovica. NGOs demanded the dismissal of the local police chief and other KP officials. In November, the Gjakova Basic Court found Ndrecaj guilty of murder and sentenced him to 24 years in prison.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare included a family violence unit. The government and international donors provided support to seven NGOs to assist children and female victims of domestic violence. There were 10 shelters for victims of domestic violence, which also housed victims of trafficking and other crimes.
In 2017 the government created an independent commission to verify the status of and compensate wartime sexual assault survivors. As of July, the commission had granted this status–and its accompanying pension–to 130 of 645 applicants. It rejected 106 applications due to incomplete documentation; 84 rejected applicants filed a request for a second review. The remaining applications were pending review. The SPRK designated one prosecutor for cases of wartime sexual violence. The KP established a unit for war crime cases, including cases of wartime sexual violence.
Sexual Harassment: The law defines sexual harassment in civil proceedings. While the criminal code includes the offense of sexual harassment, it does not contain a specific standard or definition. The code stipulates enhanced penalties for sexual harassment against vulnerable victims, including victims of sexual abuse. NGOs believed internal procedures and regulations for reporting sexual harassment hampered implementation of these laws.
According to women’s rights organizations, harassment was common at workplaces in both the public and private sectors and in public institutions of higher education.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men. The law requires equal pay for equivalent work. The law stipulates that the partners in marriage and civil unions have equal rights to own and inherit property, but men usually inherited family property and other assets. In rare instances, Kosovo Albanian widows, particularly in rural areas, risked losing custody of their children due to a custom requiring children and property to pass to the deceased father’s family while the widow returned to her birth family.
Relatively few women occupied upper-level management positions in business, police, or government. NGOs claimed women were often subject to discriminatory hiring practices.
Gender-biased Sex Selection: According to the Kosovo Agency for Statistics, in 2017, the male-to-female gender ratio at birth was 111.2 to 100. According to the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the government did not take steps to address the imbalance.
Birth Registration: Children acquire citizenship from citizen parents or by birth in the country to parents from certain minority communities whose citizenship was not documented. Those not registered at birth were primarily from the Roma, Ashkali, and Balkan Egyptian communities. UNICEF indicated that lack of registration could adversely affect a child’s access to social assistance, particularly for repatriated children. Children who were not registered were considered stateless.
Child Abuse: The Criminal Code does not specifically criminalize child abuse, but addresses various elements of child abuse, including in sections on sexual assault, rape, trafficking in persons, and child pornography, among others. Penalties range from five to 20 years’ imprisonment. NGOs urged the Assembly to pass the Law on Child Protection, which would explicitly define child abuse as a crime. The incidence of child abuse in the majority population is unknown, but in 2015 UNICEF found that 30 percent of children in the country and 40 percent of ethnic Romani, Ashkali, and Balkan Egyptian children were victims of abuse.
Early and Forced Marriage: The law allows persons to marry at age 16. Child marriage was rare but continued in certain ethnic communities, including among Roma, Ashkalis, Balkan Egyptians, and Gorani. According to a government report that focused on these communities, approximately 12 percent of children, mostly girls, married before the age of 15.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits possession, production, and distribution of child pornography. Persons who produce, use, or involve a child in making or producing pornography may receive a prison sentence of one to five years. Distribution, promotion, transmission, offer, or display of child pornography is punishable by six months’ to five years’ imprisonment. Possession or procurement of child pornography is punishable by a fine or imprisonment of up to three years.
The minimum legal age for consensual sex is 16. Statutory rape is a criminal offense punishable by five to 20 years in prison.
International Child Abductions: Kosovo is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.
Approximately 50 Jewish persons resided in the country, according to the Jewish Community of Kosovo. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, and guarantees equal access to education, employment, and other state services. The government did not effectively enforce these provisions, and persons with disabilities faced discrimination.
According to Handi-Kos, a disability rights organization, health and rehabilitative services, social assistance, and assistive devices for persons with disabilities remained insufficient, and physical access to public institutions remained difficult even after the implementation of bylaws on building access and administrative support.
The law regulates the commitment of persons to psychiatric or social care facilities and protects their rights within such institutions but has not been implemented. The KRCT described mental health facilities as substandard. The KRCT also reported overcrowding of mental health facilities.
Security incidents against Kosovo Serbs persisted. On January 16, unknown assailants killed prominent Kosovo Serb opposition politician Oliver Ivanovic in front of the office of his political party, Serbia, Democracy, and Justice, in Mitrovica/e North. Ivanovic was facing a retrial for a war crimes indictment. An investigation was ongoing, but police had not identified any suspect as of September.
In the first seven months of the year, there were more than 100 incidents involving thefts, break-ins, verbal harassment, and damage to the property of Kosovo Serbs and the Serbian Orthodox Church. International organizations stated at least six incidents showed explicit ethnic motivations, while ethnic motivations for other incidents were likely but difficult to prove. The government condemned the incidents, and the KP initiated investigations, which in some cases resulted in the arrest of perpetrators. In May the KP arrested an ethnic Albanian suspected of vandalizing of two Serbian Orthodox churches in Ferizaj/Urosevac municipality. The mayor pledged the municipality would cover the cost of repairs.
The Kosovo Security Force (KSF) Ministry reported 51 Kosovo Serbs from the south resigned from the KSF between May and July, citing alleged pressure from Serbian authorities and local Kosovo Serb community representatives. There were no resignations reported from KSF Serb members living in the four northern municipalities. Despite the resignations, the number of Kosovo Serbs in the KSF remains three times higher than in 2015. The KSF indicated it would conduct additional recruitment of Serbs and other minorities.
Access to justice for Kosovo Serbs improved somewhat during the year due to the 2017 integration of the judiciary system in the four northern Serb majority municipalities and integration of Kosovo Serb judges and staff in other Basic Courts in Kosovo. Poor or delayed translation in proceedings before the courts, a backlog of cases in the north, the nonexecution of court decisions, limited numbers of non-Albanian staff, and inconsistency between Albanian and Serbian translations of legislation, continued to hinder the proper delivery of justice for Kosovo Serbs and other minority communities.
Ethnic minorities, including the Serb, Roma, Ashkali, Balkan Egyptian, Turkish, Bosniak, Gorani, Croat, and Montenegrin communities, faced varying levels of institutional and societal discrimination in employment, education, social services, language use, freedom of movement, the right to return to their homes (for displaced persons), and other basic rights.
Roma, Ashkali, and Balkan Egyptian communities experienced pervasive social and economic discrimination. They often lacked access to basic hygiene, medical care, and education and were heavily dependent on humanitarian aid for subsistence.
The prime minister’s Office of Community Affairs and the Ombudsperson Institution noted discrimination in public sector employment in almost all local and national institutions. Although the law mandates that 10 percent of employees at the local and national levels of government be members of minorities, their representation remained limited and generally confined to lower-level positions. Smaller communities, such as Gorani, Roma, Ashkali, and Balkan Egyptians were particularly underrepresented. There were no legal remedies to address these concerns.
The EU, the OSCE, and NGOs reported attempts by universities to discriminate in admissions and hiring against persons wearing Muslim religious garb, including hijabs. The law prohibits the wearing of religious symbols in elementary and secondary schools, but antidiscrimination statutes protect religious dress at the university level. Islamic community leaders believed the prohibition against religious symbols in elementary and secondary schools led some Muslim families to keep their female children out of school, and saw the law as discriminatory.
The law requires equal conditions for all schoolchildren and recognizes minority students’ right to public education in their native languages through secondary school. This law was not enforced. Bosniak, Croat, Gorani, Montenegrin, Romani, and Turkish community leaders cited unavailability of textbooks and other materials.
The Office of the Language Commissioner monitored and reported on the implementation of legislation that conferred equal status to the country’s two official languages, Albanian and Serbian, as well as official languages used at the local level, including Bosnian, Romani, and Turkish. The commissioner reported that local municipal administrations did not fully respect the Law on Use of Languages. He also noted the lack of translation into Serbian language within most public institutions, including during court proceedings. Courts regularly failed to provide adequate translation services to minority defendants and witnesses, and did not provide adequate translation of statute and court documents as required by law.
Amendments to administrative rulings permit Bosniaks, Roma, and Turks to have identity documents issued in their own languages, but minority representatives often complained of poor implementation.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The constitution and law prohibit direct or indirect discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, health care, and education. When the motivation for a crime is based on gender, sexual orientation, or perceived affinity of the victim with persons who are targets of such hostility, the law considers motivation to be an aggravating circumstance.
According to human rights NGOs, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community faced overt discrimination in employment, housing, determination of statelessness, and access to education and health care. NGOs reported that societal pressure persuaded most LGBTI persons to conceal their sexual orientation or gender identity and noted that police were insensitive to the needs of the LGBTI community.
According to NGOs, as of November, LGBTI persons had not reported any hate crimes during the year, although they emphasized that fears of retribution discouraged reporting.
An Advisory and Coordinating Group consisting of representatives of eight ministries, the Office of Good Governance, and two NGOs cooperated to protect and promote the human rights of the LGBTI community, including through passage of the 2016-2018 National Action Plan for LGBTI Rights in Kosovo. Implementation of the plan began in April and includes revision of school textbooks to provide descriptions of human rights and training for KP officers and social workers on human rights, including LGBTI issues. Government officials signaled support for the human rights of the LGBTI community by sponsoring and attending numerous public events on the issue.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
There were no confirmed reports of official discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS during the year.