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Kosovo criminal justice system in shambles: HRW

[JURIST] The criminal justice system in Kosovo [JURIST news archive] is failing, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said Tuesday in a report [text; press release] focusing on the criminal justice response to renewed violence between Serbs and ethnic Albanians [BBC Q/A] that broke out in March 2004 in the UN-administered territory still nominally part of Serbia. Despite almost seven years under international administration, HRW concluded that victims in Kosovo still do not receive justice even though international authorities have had plenty of time to create an effective legal framework. Outlining several failures, HRW pinpointed the insufficient preparation and training for the impact of major reforms immediately following the 2004 outbreak, the failure of a special, separate international police operation to investigate the violence, ineffective policing and witness protection measures, and poor oversight by the United Nations.

HRW called on key actors in Kosovo to reform the criminal justice system, including the United Nations [official website; UN Mission in Kosovo website], the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) [official website], the police, and the provisional government. To achieve reform, HRW would like to see oversight of the courts, a judicial police branch to work directly with investigators, a more effective witness protection program, and cooperation between international and national authorities involved in all parts of the criminal justice system.

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