Until recently the issue of survivors of sexual violence during the conflict and their access to rights and reparations was a matter neglected by the institutions, while women’s organizations have been providing support to the survivors since 1999. “We do not want flowers, we want justice for women raped during the war,” was the slogan of the protest organized on 8 March 2012 by Kosovo Women’s Network to break the persisting silence and seeking support for the survivors.
Albeit late, on 20 March 2014, the Parliament adopted the law recognizing the survivors as war victims, which constitutes a vital step in recognizing their legal status and mitigating the consequences of the armed conflict in Kosovo.
The core of the overarching efforts is the establishment of the National Council for Survivors of Sexual Violence during the War by President Jahjaga on 7 March 2014.
In February 2018, in a key step forward, the Government Commission on the Recognition and Verification of the Status of Survivors of Sexual Violence During the War in Kosovo was established, allowing for survivors to apply for financial reparations with the guaranteed safe handling of information and upholding of their rights.
UN Women has supported the establishment of the Governmental Commission on the Recognition and Verification of the Status of Survivors of Sexual Violence During the War in Kosovo. Together with the Kosovo Institute for Public Administration, we developed training modules for the members of the Commission, authorized NGOs and DFDIL officials assisting in the process of recognizing and verifying the status of survivors. This support will continue even further, in order to ease this very important process.
The provision of reparations is one step in the process of achieving justice for the survivors that have been delayed and denied for so long.
It is important to emphasize that the needs of survivors of conflict-related sexual violence are not uniform and that survivors continue to face many challenges, including their limited access to employment, health, (re) education and social inclusion, which adds to the difficulties and limits hardship and limits their ability to engage in society.
In order to create sustainable livelihoods for the survivors, economic empowerment and the right to inheritance and property need to be tackled simultaneously. To facilitate access to justice for survivors, UN Women continues to support the capacity building of Kosovo Special Prosecutors and investigators of the Kosovo War Crimes Investigation Unit, which have taken on the important role to work with cases of sexual violence during the war in Kosovo.
In cooperation with Kosovo Women’s Network and four organizations specialized in treating survivors of sexual violence, UN Women provided micro-grants for survivors towards their economic empowerment. These actions were coupled with psychosocial support as well as joint advocacy with organizations to represent the interests of the survivors more broadly.
Supported by the European Union and in partnership with other UN agencies and local NGOs since 2013, UN Women is implementing the Gender Sensitive Transitional Justice Programme, with the overall goal of enhancing the efficiency of transitional justice processes.
We hope that the Government of Kosovo will continue to work with dedication in strengthening the support mechanisms, improving the access to justice, raising public awareness, and mobilizing public support for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence.
We expect greater commitment from the institutions to recognize this war crime that has occurred in Kosovo and to bring those responsible to justice.
It is important for all to recognize that survivors of conflict-related sexual violence are not people in need of charity, but rather active agents in the society whose rights have been violated and who have begun to be compensated for crimes committed against them.
We call upon society to alleviate the suffering of the survivors by supporting them and to facilitate the realization of their rights, which have been violated for such a long time.
Help them to rebuild their lives.
Head of Office
The article also published on Koha Ditore special leaflet “Koha për të mbijetuarat” (Time for Survivors), on 19 June 2018, page 6.