Kosovo is a source and destination country for women and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. The lack of visa requirements for most travelers makes it a vulnerable transit country. Most sex trafficking victims in Kosovo are female citizens, though women from Moldova, Slovakia, Albania, Serbia, and Poland also face forced prostitution in Kosovo. Children from Kosovo and neighboring countries were subjected to forced begging. Traffickers subject Kosovo citizens to forced prostitution and forced labor throughout Europe.
The Government of Kosovo does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government adopted a new criminal code during the reporting period that increased prescribed penalties for trafficking offenders. It updated standard operating procedures for identification and assistance for victims of trafficking, funded shelters for victims, and conducted a trafficking prevention campaign. While courts made progress in reducing a backlog of cases, the government struggled to hold trafficking offenders accountable. The government did not convict any government officials alleged to be complicit in trafficking and did not prosecute an official implicated in sex trafficking.
Recommendations for Kosovo: Continue to strengthen efforts to prosecute, convict, and sentence sex and labor trafficking offenders, including officials complicit in trafficking; provide advanced anti-trafficking training to judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement; enhance efforts to identify and assist child victims of trafficking in begging; update the national action plan to more specifically delegate responsibilities; ensure victims of trafficking have the freedom to come and go in all shelters; provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign trafficking victims and encourage these victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions of trafficking offenders; implement screening for trafficking among migrants at risk prior to deportation; implement and fund victims’ compensation and ensure access to restitution; and disaggregate law enforcement data to demonstrate efforts against sex trafficking and forced labor.
The Government of Kosovo made progress in its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period by improving anti-trafficking legislation and sustaining past levels of convicting trafficking offenders. Kosovo’s new criminal code and criminal procedure code took effect in January 2013. The legislation increased punishment for trafficking offenders, criminalized using services of victims of trafficking, and included forced begging as a trafficking offense. Article 171 prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes punishments of five to 12 years’ imprisonment and a fine. These punishments are sufficiently stringent and are commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.
Authorities initiated 104 new trafficking investigations during the reporting period. Courts began prosecutions in 31 new cases in 2012, compared with 22 in 2011. In spite of serious challenges in the judiciary, courts convicted 41 trafficking offenders in 2012; 37 were convicted in 2011. Courts acquitted nine defendants and 35 prosecutions remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period. Authorities charged all defendants under the previous criminal code. Courts sentenced eight offenders to between two to five years’ imprisonment, one defendant to 18 months’ imprisonment, and 23 to one-year prison sentences. There were no prosecutions or convictions for labor trafficking during the reporting period. The OSCE reported that courts made some progress resolving a backlog of cases, though significant delays in issuing final written judgments detracted from their efforts.
Official complicity remained a problem, and the government did not convict any officials for human trafficking offenses or trafficking-related complicity. Authorities charged a police officer for subjecting his spouse to sex trafficking, though prosecutors did not take the case to trial during the reporting period. Three Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare officials remained on duty after being charged with falsifying documents and misuse of official duty. Authorities charged two police officers with attempting to interfere in the investigation and one senior ranking officer with abuse of authority. All three police officials were suspended during the investigation.
Police began including anti-trafficking training in basic academy instruction for new officers. The Kosovo Academy for Public Safety, as well as bilateral and multilateral foreign assistance programs, provided training to police, victim advocates, immigration officers, and social service workers in identifying possible victims, crisis intervention, rehabilitation, and reintegration. Prosecutors, labor inspectors, health workers, and border police also participated in training to increase identification and referral of victims of trafficking. Kosovo and Albania signed a cooperation protocol on identification, referral, and assisted voluntary return of victims of trafficking, with a special focus on child victims.
The government maintained efforts to protect victims of trafficking through increased funding for victim services. However, lack of legal alternatives allowing foreign victims to remain in the country prevented them from participating in trafficking prosecutions. Police identified 54 victims of trafficking in 2012, compared with 39 in 2011; 12 were children. Authorities identified no labor trafficking victims. The government provided support to 43 identified victims and repatriated 24. The government provided tax incentives to businesses that employed victims of trafficking. The Coordinator of Direct Assistance for Victims of Trafficking reported six victims found employment outside the tax incentive program. The national anti-trafficking coordinator revised standard operating procedures to reflect the new criminal code. New standard operating procedures require police and social workers to call victim advocates after identifying a possible victim of trafficking. The advocates provided legal advice and support to victims. Police improved their ability to obtain victims’ statements through training, and prosecutors used video interview equipment during trials. Although the new criminal procedure code allows for victims’ compensation, the government did not provide support for a victims’ compensation fund and no victims received compensation or direct restitution from trafficking offenders.
The government spent the approximate equivalent of $84,600 on a government-run secure residence facility for victims of trafficking, which did not allow victims the freedom of movement unchaperoned. The government granted two NGO-run shelters the equivalent of approximately $74,600 and $38,800 respectively to fund 50 percent of direct services and a portion of their operational costs. The government spent the equivalent of approximately $198,000 on assistance and protection for victims of trafficking, an increase from the equivalent of approximately $153,000 spent in 2011, for medical care, counseling, and legal assistance provided through municipal social welfare centers under its constitutional obligation to decentralize services. The government did not provide shelter for male victims, but a donor-funded facility nearing completion will accommodate men and disabled victims in 2013. Social work centers assessed child victims of trafficking and placed them in a shelter or provided them with family mediation and school reintegration. The law did not entitle foreign victims of trafficking to visas or residence permits; this prevented them from remaining in the country to assist in investigations or prosecutions of their traffickers. Victims may, however, provide a witness declaration and return to their country of origin before the end of a trial. There were no reports of the government punishing victims of trafficking for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.
The government continued efforts to prevent human trafficking, although funding from the national anti-trafficking coordinator’s office for prevention activities was limited. In coordination with OSCE, the government conducted an intensive, two-week media campaign on television and radio programs in both Albanian and Serbian, highlighting its anti-trafficking and domestic violence hotlines. The campaign resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of calls to the hotline requesting information on trafficking and referrals for potential victims. Kosovo signed a protocol with the Government of Albania on identifying children in begging and arranging safe repatriation. Three national media stars serving as anti-trafficking ambassadors recorded public service announcements on child trafficking and exploitation. The Ministry of Health published leaflets and conducted presentations on trafficking for medical professionals. The anti-trafficking police and NGO partners participated in several media debates and roundtables to increase awareness at national and local levels. The national anti-trafficking coordinator chaired a monthly inter-ministerial working group that included international organizations and NGOs to implement and monitor the national strategy and action plan. The government did not demonstrate efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor.