Documentary film by Emmy award winning director shines a spotlight on challenges of prosecuting conflict-related sexual violence

To shed a light on the fight against impunity of conflict-related sexual violence, UN Women and the Embassy of the United States of America in Kosovo organized a special screening of the documentary, ‘The Prosecutors’ in Pristina on June 19 to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict.


Emmy Award winning director, Leslie Thomas during a Q&A session with the audience, after the screening of "The Prosecutors." Photo: UN Women
Emmy Award winning director, Leslie Thomas during a Q&A session with the audience, after the screening of "The Prosecutors." Photo: UN Women

Around 200 people filled the Kino Armata in Pristina, Kosovo[1] to watch the documentary ‘The Prosecutors’ directed by Emmy-award winner and human rights activist, Leslie Thomas. The film follows three dedicated lawyers on three continents in their journey towards justice to ensure that sexual violence in conflict is not met with impunity. Jasmin Mesic from Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of the prosecutors featured in the film, mentored the special prosecutors and police investigators in Kosovo working on conflict related sexual violence (CSRV).

As part of the event, Mesic addressed the captivated audience through a pre-recorded video message, touching on the many difficulties that victims of this type of violence still face in getting justice. “Many survivors do not want to participate in these procedures mainly because of trauma and stigmatization from the environment in which they live and work.”

To date, twenty years after the conflict in Kosovo, only four people have been found guilty by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia of persecution by means of sexual violence. Many challenges, such as lack of international legal cooperation and passage of time, remain in investigating and prosecuting these crimes from a legal perspective. These are often directly linked to societal attitudes towards sexual violence. The highly skilled and committed investigators and prosecutors working on conflict-related sexual violence in Kosovo are working hard in overcoming the obstacles towards increasing this number of convictions by courts in Kosovo itself.

Economically empowering survivors in Kosovo is a crucial first step towards justice. This is now supported by the Government Commission for the Verification and Recognition of CRSV, which in February last year began granting reparations.

Meanwhile, after Kosovo Assembly in March 2014 approved a law that gave legal recognition to victims of sexual violence during Kosovo’s armed conflict, UN Women supported the establishment of the government Commission to Recognize and Verify Survivors of Sexual Violence during the conflict. This built on UN Women’s work since 2006 with civil society organizations and Kosovo authorities to help secure legal recognition and redress for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence.

The screening of the documentary "The Prosecutors." Photo: UN Women
The screening of the documentary "The Prosecutors." Photo: UN Women

"Survivors are not defined by victimhood. They are among the most courageous people I have met and they deserve justice,” said Philip Kosnett, Ambassador of the United States to Kosovo at the film event. Former President of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga also addressed the audience at the event. “Survivors still face stigma and are living with the fear that the past will be repeated. It is our obligation to guarantee that they live a life in dignity and have access to justice.”

Meanwhile, Ruairi O’Connell, Ambassador of the United Kingdom said that: “Peace has two pillars: truth and justice. Only by speaking openly and supporting survivors will we have the space to hear the truth.” Picking up on the theme of the day captured by the film, Christian Heldt, Ambassador of Germany underlined that: “Justice is about respect. We owe this to those who suffered from this terrible instrument of warfare, which some have chosen to use in the belief that they will get away with it because of the culture of impunity.”

Vlora Nushi, UN Women Head of Office echoed these comments and called for everyone to work together to end the stigmatization and silence around this issue. “Key actors working towards this goal, such as the Special Prosecution, the Governmental Commission on the Recognition and Verification of the Status of Survivors of Sexual Violence, as well as the different NGOs, need sustained support from all of us so that such crimes are not repeated and justice is ensured,” she said.

The screening was followed by an interactive Q & A session with the film’s director, Emmy award winner and activist, Leslie Thomas, who uses art as a way of promoting human rights. She noted her team spent six years making the film with the support and collaborations of survivors, impacted communities, advocates, legal representatives and social workers.

“This work was done so that the film could support the expansion of justice and an end to impunity. We are very excited to see the positive developments in Kosovo and are deeply hopeful for the future,” she said.

[1] All references to Kosovo on this website shall be understood to be in full compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).