This past week, I continued delving into the legal issues surrounding domestic violence in Kosovo. There have been many improvements in domestic violence law, but it still remains an immense problem in Kosovo. Survivors remain unaware of their resources, shelters remain underfunded, and the values of privacy within the family unit that lead to cases going unreported are persistent. One of the specific topics I have been researching is the education of the legal community when it comes to domestic violence cases. My contact at the Kosovo Justice Academy forwarded me the Guidebook for the Protection of Victims of Domestic violence, which is used to train police officers, prosecutors, judges, and advocates within the legal system. It is a forty page document that is full of resources, including addresses and phone numbers of shelters and lawyers, as well as defined steps for survivors seeking to redress violations. However, the guidebook was last updated in 2011, and there have been many significant changes since that time. The trainers at the Justice Academy tell me that domestic violence training is a priority there, but they continue to use dated materials that do not reflect the current legal landscape. I am planning to follow up next week with a trainer at the Academy to explore options for updated for legal training materials!
The first two pages of the Guidebook:
In major news this week, Kosovo's Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj has resigned. This has caught Kosovo and the international community relatively unawares, though many Kosovars I talked to are relieved. The PM resigned after being summoned by the Hague to face a special war tribunal related to his actions in the Kosovo War, when he was an officer and a leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). This is not the first time this exact scenario has taken place; according to the German news broadcaster Deutsche Welle, the Haradinaj resigned in 2005 from Kosovo government leadership to be tried at the Hague. He was acquitted (though many believe some less-than-legal witness intimidation was to blame) and returned to Kosovo as a hero. Because of this, some see this latest resignation as nothing more than a political stunt. Serbian news outlets in particular have taken up this theory, but Haradinaj maintains that he has resigned because he does not want to appear in front of the Hague tribunal as the Prime Minister of Kosovo.
In general, Haradinaj is known to be quite stubborn, and was the driving force behind the current tariffs on Serbian goods that are a sticking point for Pristina-Belgrade talks. Many Kosovars do support the tariffs, but are not a fan of the continuity of the stalemate with Serbia perpetuated by Haradinaj. Additionally, Haradinaj (as well as others in the European Union including Germany) are strongly against the redrawing of Kosovo borders. This move would maintain independence, but create peace by permitting Serbia to absorb Serb-dominated portions of northern Kosovo. This is a widely-discussed but not widely-approved plan because it would set a dangerous precedent for Serbia to reclaim Serb-dominated territories throughout the Balkans. Both the tariff and the refusal to engage in border negotiations have stalled peace conversations in the region. Overall, people are hopeful that without such a stubborn Prime Minister, talks with Serbia will be restarted, and Kosovo will move that much closer to European Union membership!
This weekend, I took a trip to Prizren! Prizren is a popular tourist destination in Kosovo, known for its historical architecture and old fortress that looks over the city. It was a little bit less than a two hour bus ride from Pristina, with beautiful valley views and some slightly nerve-wracking hairpin turns. It was an extremely hot day, so once I arrived I went down to the river for lunch. The city is very quiet, with little historic streets that reminded me very much of the bazaar area in Skopje. After lunch, I made a very hot trek up to the fortress, and the views were well-worth the climb! From the top, you can see the entirety of Prizren, as well as the valleys and the mountains beyond. The hike down was quick, and after a bit of exploring it was time for dinner on the river. I ordered one of my favorite Balkan appetizers, which is a bowl of roasted peppers topped with salty cheese (served with bread for dipping, of course), and for the main course I decided on steak cooked table side on a hot oven stone. Prizren is one of the most beautiful cities in Kosovo, and I am so happy to have been able to explore it. I am trying to make the most of my last few weeks here, and next weekend I'm going to drive to the Albanian coast!
Until next time!
Me in downtown Prizren with the fortress in the background:
The view from the top:
Meat cooked on an oven stone:
Downtown (and the fortress) at night: