European Commission concerned over Kosovo’s lack of deradicalization programs

In its latest country report for Kosovo, the Commission mentioned a number of shortfalls in Kosovo’s war against violent extremism and called for a coherent judicial policy and community efforts to reintegrate returned fighters.

Kosovo must address several key challenges and limitations in its fight against terrorism and violent extremism, according to the latest European Commission’s annual Enlargement Package report.

The European Commission acknowledged that Kosovo authorities increased efforts to counter violent extremism and radicalization by approving a law that makes fighting abroad a criminal offense for Kosovars and a strategy and action plan on prevention of violent extremism and radicalization.

The report also admitted that the number of Kosovo citizens engaged in the conflict in Syria and Iraq is decreasing.

“Nonetheless, challenges remain with the lack of programmes for de-radicalisation and reintegration, considering the high number of Kosovo citizens returned from the conflict zones,” the report says.

The Commission noted that the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters needs a dedicated approach by the intelligence and law enforcement community and a “coherent judicial policy on offenders together with social, community-based responses aimed in particular at marginalised young people.”

According to the Kosovo police, 316 Kosovars have travelled to join the conflict in Syria and Iraq, most of them between 2013 and 2014, while 117 have returned.

Following the recent multiparty offensive against ISIS, several security officials, including Rob Wainwright, the director of Europol, have warned of a potential fresh wave of returned fighters.

Around 70 terrorism cases are being processed by the Kosovo criminal system of justice and dozens of former fighters have been found guilty in first-instance rulings. While there are no official data on the exact numbers of those indicted and imprisoned, the Kosovo judiciary has pursued a tough policy on returned fighters.

The European Commission also says that improved cooperation among intelligence services, especially between countries in the Western Balkans, could also help to counter the threat of extremism and radicalization.

Kosovo is not a member of Interpol, and the recent application for membership was suspended on November 7.

“Specialised training on investigation techniques for prosecutors and police is needed. Kosovo law enforcement agencies also lack expertise and equipment to investigate complex terrorism cases,” the EC report says.

Vesa Kelmendi, researcher at the Kosovo Center for Security Studies, KCSS, said that although there are no operative deradicalization programs, KCSS was involved in the drafting of such programs, which were expected to commence in a matter of months.

“These programs have been drafted and their implementation is expected to commence in the beginning of 2017,” Kelmendi said.

10/11/2016 - 15:04

10 November 2016 - 15:04