The Palace of Justice

To the southeast of Pristina, just outside the city, sits the Palace of Justice. This newly-built complex perches on top of a hill, and houses courtrooms and offices. The prison is visible from the northwest side of the complex. On Tuesday morning, I met Mark at his hostel and we took a taxi out to the Palace of Justice. It took a while for us to communicate to the driver where we wished to go. Finally the driver pulled over and Mark was able to find some wifi and pull up a photograph to show the driver. The taxi ride was a short one, costing only five euro. Most cab rides around the city cost five euro. 

The Palace of Justice is operated by EULEX, the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo. An LLM alumnus from William & Mary, Dariusz, now serves on the EULEX Supreme Court. Abby gave me his email address before I left for Kosovo. I emailed Dariusz, asking if I could come observe court proceedings one day before I left D4D. He wrote me back almost immediately and invited me to attend a trial on Tuesday the 19th. He told me that the defendant, Naser Kelmendi, was charged with attempted murder and drug-trafficking, and was named on Obama's list of the biggest drug kingpins in the world. He told me to arrive by nine Tuesday morning.

Mark and I got to the court around 8:45 and went through security. In the elevator we met Kelmendi's defense attorney, who showed us the way to the courtroom. The defense attorney was dressed in a dark suit and tie, while the prosecutor, an American and beat-down Ron Perlman, wore an old brown, cuffed shirt and khakis. The courtroom was small, with wood paneling and three rows of seats. Three robed female judges presided over the proceedings. As the trial was conducted in English, one of the judges asked if we needed Albanian translation. The defendant, wearing a blue jacket and shirt and jeans, was brought in by six officers. He did not speak once during the proceedings. That day, the attorneys took turns questioning witnesses called by the defense.

Each of the witnesses spoke via webcam from Sarajevo, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The first was a former employee of a restaurant the defendant owned in Sarajevo. Everything was said through a translator. The defense attorney began by asking a few questions. The prosecutor then began attempting to formulate questions, but nearly each one was objected to by opposing counsel, and nearly each objection was sustained by the judges. This continued throughout the hearing. The prosecutor came across as rather inept. Next came alleged former associates of the defendant's. Their testimony consisted of denying knowing a number of men, and not knowing anything about a particular murder that took place in Sarajevo.

Around 11:00, Dariusz appeared and ushered us out of the courtroom. He, accompanied by his security detail, led us to the restaurant downstairs. We took the stairs, as Dariusz said he could not take the elevator for security reasons. He is accompanied by security personnel at all times when in Pristina, so chooses to frequently travel out of the city. Over espressos, Dariusz told us about the court system in Kosovo, his memories of Williamsburg, and his time as a judge in Poland, his home country. He told us that Kosovo's judicial system is a mixture of the American adversarial style and an inquisitorial style. I witnessed this in the courtroom; after both attorneys had finished questioning a witness, the judges had the opportunity to question the witness to clairfy his testimony. Dariusz felt this system was more geared towards determining truth than a strict adversarial system like in the U.S. Kosovo courts also have universal jurisdiction. As such, because Kelmendi was arrested in Kosovo, he can be tried in Kosovo for crimes committed anywhere else in the world. This benefits both parties in some cases. Kelmendi actually came to Kosovo to surrender himself, as he did not trust the judicial system in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Dariusz attended William & Mary for two years, during the Kosovo war. Before and after his stint in Virginia he served as a judge in a criminal court in Poland. He mentioned a couple of professors who he met at William & Mary, including a few who still work at the school. Before returning to Poland, he worked for a time at the DA's office in Chicago. He eventually left Poland for Kosovo in order to ensure his family's safety, after presiding over a number of criminal cases in his homeland.

On my last day at D4D, I visited a couple of buildings I had yet to see the inside of. I finally made it inside the national library. The inside was surprisingly less stark than the outside might suggest. However, I did not get to see all of the floors, as there were photographers working on the stairs. 


I also visited the Palace of Youth and Sports, which I pass everyday on my way to work. The structure features prominently in the view of the city from my living room window. I was disappointed to find a rather standard shopping center inside, only with more cigarette smoke than one would find in an American mall. 



After work on my last day, the D4D staff went for happy hour at a bar near my apartment. I stayed for one drink, then said my goodbyes and headed home to pack.