Reparations soon for conflict related sexual violence survivors in Kosovo*

Kosovo begins implementation of the law that gives legal recognition to civilian survivors of the armed conflict and allows them to claim survivor benefits.

Date: 15 March 2016

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Skirts donated by survivors of conflict related sexual violence for the art installation “Thinking of you”. According to the statements written on them, these particular skirts have a “bitter history” as the survivors wore them the day they were assaulted. Photo: Jetmir Idrizi 

On December 30, Kosovan authorities approved a new regulation that will allow survivors of conflict-related sexual violence to be identified and given official status as civilian victims of war eligible for survivor benefits that include a monthly pension.

The regulation begins the implementation of the Kosovo Assembly’s Law No. 04/L-172, approved in March 2014, which gives legal recognition to survivors of sexual violence during the conflict in Kosovo.

Survivors of sexual violence during the Kosovo conflict, which ended in 1999, welcomed the regulation but asked for comprehensive support to fight the stigma and culture of shame and silence that continues to surround the issue.

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Experts from Bosnia and Herzegovina meet with relevant stakeholders working on drafting the approved regulation in January 2015 in Tirana, Albania. Photo: UN Women/ Art Murtezai

“Survivors are happy at the approval of this regulation that guarantees their rights, dignity and integration into all aspects of life,” said Ms. Mirlinda Sada, Executive Director of Medica Gjakova, an NGO that works with survivors. “A lot more work needs to be done to empower survivors, though. Women say they need comprehensive psychosocial, medical, legal and economic support.”

UN Women has worked with civil society organizations and Kosovan authorities since 2006 to get legal recognition for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence in Kosovo. It actively participated in Kosovo’s National Council on the Survivors of Sexual Violence – a Government body established by the President – and provided technical support to draft and adopt the legislation. Through generous financial support provided by the European Union, a Gender Specialist from the Justice Rapid Response - UN Women SGBV Justice Experts roster has been deployed to work with the Office of the President to support the design of a reparations programme under the new regulation, as part of UN Women’s support to Kosovo’s broader transitional justice policy.

UN Women also supported the drafting of Kosovo’s Action Plan on UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, which aims to provide redress to survivors of sexual violence in conflict. UN Women also facilitated exchanges with survivor groups in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Government-appointed working group that drafted the regulation after public consultations included representatives from ministries and the President’s and Prime Minister’s offices, line ministries, civil society groups and UN agencies.

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Representatives from civil society organizations and courts in Bosnia and Herzegovina share their experience regarding legal recognition of survivors of conflict related sexual violence, with their Kosovo counterparts in January 2015 in Tirana, Albania. Bosnia and Herzegovina was the first country in the region to legally recognize survivors of sexual violence as civilian war victims. Photo: UN Women/ Art Murtezai

“In drafting this regulation, we had broad public consultations, with many NGOs able to contribute,” said Mr. Besim Kajtazi, working group chair and director of Prime Minister’s Office Legal Office.

A nine-member Commission that will be established in the coming months will review and confirm that applicants are conflict-related sexual violence survivors. Once the Commission begins its official operations, survivors will have five years to submit their applications to the Commission’s Secretariat, Regional Offices of Department of Martyrs’ Families and War Invalids, or to authorized NGOs.

UN Women’s continued efforts to support redress to conflict-related sexual violence survivors include support for the commission’s establishment, developing training modules and training commission members, NGOs and other participants. In addition, the office is developing a transformative reparations program that should be completed and presented to stakeholders in spring 2016.

* References to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999)