Prison and detention center conditions generally met international standards, but significant problems persisted in some establishments. They included deficient physical facilities, prisoner-on-prisoner violence, corruption, and substandard medical care. The government did not always permit visits by independent human rights observers; the OI was the only institution that had continuous access to correctional facilities.
Physical Conditions: The Kosovo Correctional Service managed daily operations at all correctional and detention centers. EULEX retained a limited monitoring, mentoring, and advising role in the prisons. As of October 1, 1,220 convicted prisoners and 596 pretrial detainees were comingled in prison and detention centers. These facilities contained 49 women, 45 minors, and 133 foreign citizens. The corrective service reported three inmate deaths from natural causes and four suicides. Corrections facilities in the country could manage a population of approximately 2,447 inmates. There were four correctional facilities, six detention centers, one center for protective custody, and one prison hospital.
The OI, the KRCT, and the Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms, acting as a task force, established a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) to evaluate prison conditions. The NPM concluded that physical and living conditions remained substandard in some facilities in the Dubrava Prison, which held the largest number of prisoners. On June 26, the NPM called upon the corrective service to make repairs to Dubrava’s solitary confinement facilities or to close them. Deficiencies included poor lighting and ventilation in some cells, dilapidated kitchens and toilets, lack of hot water, and inadequate or no bedding in some prison and detention facilities. According to the KRCT, there was potable water and the food was adequate but of poor quality, but interviews with prisoners, shown on the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network’s “Justice in Kosovo” program on November 12, indicated food at the Dubrava Prison was inadequate. According to the KRCT, the number of prisoners and detainees in the majority of detention centers increased. Detention facilities in Gjilan/Gnjilane and Pristina did not meet minimum standards. In July the KRCT observed overcrowding as well as living spaces smaller than international norms at the women and juvenile facility in Lipjan/Lipljan, with typically six women sharing one cell. Similar conditions prevailed at the detention facility in Mitrovice/Mitrovica North. Lipjan/Lipljan was the only designated correctional facilities for women and juveniles and, according to the KRCT, the facility could not accommodate the increasing number of inmates. Juveniles resided and mixed socially with adults.
Authorities held convicted cooperating witnesses in the same facility with pretrial detainees in the Dubrava Prison, in violation of domestic law that requires separate accommodations.
According to KRCT reports, most prison health-care supplies were adequate, but some problems remained in supplying essential medications. The KRCT documented delays and errors in the delivery of medical treatment to prisoners, and a lack of specialized treatment, such as for drug addicts. In many cases conditions forced prisoners to procure needed medications through private sources. The KRCT observed gaps in the prison health-care system at the Dubrava facility and reported an insufficient number of mental health professionals.
The NPM visited the Dubrava Prison in June and reported that authorities placed a pretrial detainee with a mental disability in solitary confinement after the prison staff at the Pristina psychiatric unit physically abused the detainee. The KRCT observed that the Kosovo Corrective Service had not improved the facilities and treatment for inmates with special needs, although it held such prisoners separately from the general prison population. There were no legal provisions or administrative instructions for the treatment of prisoners with special needs.
On September 19, four cellmates allegedly raped and threatened an inmate who was serving a 22-day sentence at the Dubrava Prison for causing a traffic accident. On December 9, Kosovo Correctional Services Director Shemsi Hairizi told media the case was under investigation and indicated the alleged victim was the fifth person placed in the cell--when the maximum is four--due to overpopulation at Dubrava.
Administration: Officials kept records on prisoners, but Corrective Service administrators claimed that the division of responsibility for detainees and convicts caused problems. For example, prison authorities could not intervene when well-connected pretrial detainees used Ministry of Justice connections to obtain transfers to more comfortable facilities, such as in the Pristina hospital, even when the prison could adequately provide needed medical services. On December 10, EULEX dispatched special police to the Dubrava prison to conduct training, update operating procedures, and assist in performing security functions.
Authorities allowed prisoners to have visitors and permitted religious observance, including the right to request visits by clerics. Prisons and detention facilities offered modified menus for observance of holidays, including for religious fasting.
Detainees could submit complaints and requests for investigations to judicial authorities and the OI without censorship through anonymous boxes in nine out of 10 prison facilities. During the first nine months of the year, prisoners filed 112 complaints with the OI. Inmates told KRCT representatives that they distrusted the internal complaint system. According to prison officials, parts of Dubrava Prison lacked complaint forms for four months. Prison monitors reported that the Corrective Service had a systemic problem of transferring prisoners from one institution to another without giving the prisoner notice or the opportunity to appeal its decisions.
Both inmates and social workers characterized the Conditional Release Panel as “weak” for failing to deal with requests for early release and for a lack of clarity in the justification of its denials.
Independent Monitoring: The government did not permit visits by independent, nongovernmental human rights observers until May 14, when the Kosovo Correctional Service signed a cooperation agreement with the two primary local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that monitored prisons, the KRCT and the Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms. The Ministry of Justice had initially restricted access to correctional facilities in November 2013 due, according to the NGOs, to their critical reports. The Ministry of Justice, on the other hand, claimed the restriction was due to the expiration of the NGOs’ access permits.
Improvements: In May a new high-security detention facility opened near Podujeve/Podujevo that can hold up to 390 inmates. Monitors gave it high marks for safety, recreational facilities, and infrastructure but criticized administrators for prohibiting inmates from leaving their cells after 4 p.m. As of December there were 82 prisoners in the facility, which had a staff of 140. According to the KRCT, this situation demonstrated the poor distribution of resources in the prison system that created hardships elsewhere. According to EULEX the Kosovo Correction Service invested 600,000 euros ($750,000) in the detention facility in Mitrovice/Mitrovica North.
The government partially renovated the Dubrava Prison kitchen, but the facility still lacked some basic equipment. In September authorities transferred the first eight prisoners to the Pristina hospital’s new prison psychiatric facility. The KRCT reported that the facility was capable of providing adequate treatment to patients with mental disorders.