The creation of a judicial police branch within the Kosovo Police Service was mandated by the 2004 Criminal Procedure Code, to ensure that the police are able meaningfully to assist prosecutors, given the latters new role of directing investigations and gathering the necessary evidence for prosecution.
To date, no judicial police branch has been created. In February 2006 an internal KPS memorandum declared all officers in each police station judicial police and indicated that the commander of each station should be considered the head of the judicial police at each station.5 Since then no further action has been taken. No individual officers have ever been designated as judicial police and no training has been provided to facilitate the establishment of such a specialized force.
National prosecutors expressed concern to Human Rights Watch in 2006 about the lack of investigative support provided by the KPS.6 A national prosecutor echoed this concern in 2008, arguing that [police] capacities are limited, their professionalism is not yet at the required level, and improvement is needed.7 A high-ranking KPS officer interviewed by Human Rights Watch in January 2008 acknowledged that there is no training in place to develop judicial police capacity within the service.8
The explanation for the lack of progress lies in opposition from the police. National and international police representatives interviewed by Human Rights Watch in 2006 and 2007 were firmly against the idea of a judicial police branch, fearing that its creation as a separate body would create unnecessary divisions within the police.9 They emphasized that training the general police body to handle cooperation with prosecutors would be a better alternative. Nevertheless, they failed to articulate concrete plans to achieve this goal.
An international prosecutor interviewed by Human Rights Watch said there is an urgent need to operationalize the judicial police to increase the quality of cooperation between these two sectors.10 Officials from UNMIKs Department of Justice (DoJ) suggested that a compromise may lie in prosecutors training designated police officers to fulfill this role, rather than insisting that they be formally constituted as a separate structure.11 A high-ranking KPS officer with whom Human Rights Watch spoke in January 2008 suggested that the KPS is more likely to be sympathetic to the idea of a selected group of police officers receiving judicial police training than the creation of a separate judicial police branch.12
At present, a new police law is being drafted without a provision creating a judicial police branch, notwithstanding the requirements of the criminal procedure code.
Lack of effective coordination between the KPS and UNMIK police was a complaint of victims and witnesses of the March 2004 riots interviewed by Human Rights Watch. One witness described being interviewed by both forces on the same matter, which was then never followed up. 13 This may partly be explained by the fact that UNMIK established a special international police operation that took sole responsibility for investigating the cases. The operation was disbanded in January 2005 due to ineffectiveness.14
According to KPS and UNMIK police officials interviewed by Human Rights Watch, there is good cooperation between the two forces.15 Nevertheless, the great majority of sensitive investigations (relating to organized crime, war crimes, serious political violence, etc.) continue to be carried out solely by international investigators, who cite the need for witness and data protection.16 This is very much in line with earlier practices.
The tension between the need to protect witnesses and data on the one hand and training and empowering the KPS on the other remains a key obstacle to closer collaboration between the KPS and UNMIK police (witness protection issues are discussed in more detail below).
There is recognition within UNMIK and the KPS that the KPS must progressively take over the international workload. In order for that to happen, the KPS must demonstrate that it is capable of dealing with sensitive cases. That in turn requires a willingness on the part of international police to work jointly on such cases with the KPS to develop its capacity.
There were allegations of misconduct against KPS officers arising from the March riots. Some KPS officers are alleged to have remained passive or in some cases participated in the violence. Out of 67 criminal investigations opened against KPS officers, none resulted in charges being filed.17 The professional standards unit within UNMIK (which up until October 2005 was in charge of overseeing KPS conduct) initially suspended 12 officers while the investigations were ongoing. All 12 were subsequently reinstated. No further action was taken against any individual officer in relation to the March allegations once the KPS had taken over the professional standards unit in October 2005.18
The creation of the Police Inspectorate of Kosovo (PIK) in June 2006 is a step forward. The PIK is intended to provide external oversight of the KPS. It is composed of around 40 civil servants specially trained by the OSCE. The PIKs method of dealing with complaints against the KPS is based on inspection visits, during which the PIK inspectors have access to both KPS officers and electronic and paper files.19
The inspectorates ability to conduct effective investigations, however, is compromised by the fact that it is composed of fairly new and junior staff, who are required to manage very high-profile cases and interact with high-ranking officials. According to an international official interviewed by Human Rights Watch, the inspectorate needs additional staff training and more senior staff to allow it to operate with greater authority and confidence.20
In September 2006 the Kosovo Assembly created the parliamentary Committee on Security, to exercise democratic oversight over the KPS, government ministries, and other national agencies responsible for security in Kosovo.21 In addition to calling witnesses, it can direct inquiries to relevant Kosovo institutions to solicit actions and responses.22
The committee was particularly active following the February 2007 Vetevendosje protest, in which two protestors were killed by rubber bullets fired by UNMIK police. The committee summoned and questioned a number of senior KPS and Kosovo government officials.23 Its investigation determined the sequence of the events, but was unable to establish who should be held responsible.24
In terms of internal oversight mechanisms, the draft police law under consideration reportedly preserves the existing accountability arrangements, which rely on the internal procedures such as the PIK and the disciplinary unit within the KPS. It also reportedly preserves the role of the Ombudsperson as the key external oversight body.25
5 Human Rights Watch, Not on the Agenda, p. 31.
6 Ibid., p. 33.
7 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a national prosecutor, January 22, 2008.
8 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a senior KPS official, January 31, 2008.
9 Human Rights Watch interviews with Kosovo Police Service representatives, Pristina/Prishtine, July 16, 2007, and with UNMIK Police representative, Pristina, July 13, 2007. See also Human Rights Watch, Not on the Agenda, p. 33.
10 Human Rights Watch interview with an international prosecutor, Pristina, July 18, 2007.
11 Human Rights Watch interviews with UNMIK Department of Justice officials, Pristina, July 17-18, 2007.
12 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a senior KPS official, January 31, 2008.
13 Human Rights Watch, Not on the Agenda, p. 42.
14 Ibid., pp. 33-36.
15 Human Rights Watch interview with KPS representatives, Pristina, July 16, 2007; Human Rights Watch interview with UNMIK Police representative, Pristina, July 13, 2007.
16 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a national prosecutor, January 22, 2008.
17 Human Rights Watch, Not on the Agenda, p. 43.
18 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a senior KPS official, January 31, 2008.
19 Human Rights Watch email correspondence with an international official, February 3, 2008.
20 Human Rights Watch interview with an international official, Pristina, July 16, 2007.
21 Human Rights Watch email correspondence with an OSCE official, February 5, 2008.
22 Human Rights Watch email correspondence with an international official, February 5, 2008.
23 Human Rights Watch email correspondence with an OSCE official, August 8, 2007.
24 An UNMIK internal investigation, overseen by the PIK, concluded that a Romanian special police unit was responsible for the deaths, and determined the deaths to be unlawful. But the internal investigation was unable to determine individual criminal responsibility and no charges have been brought.
25 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with an international official, January 1, 2008.