New president of integrated Mitrovica court ready to get to work

An interview with Nikola Kabasic, the president of the newly integrated Basic Court in Mitrovica, about the challenges of consolidating Kosovo’s justice system.

The Basic Court in Mitrovica — which integrates the north and the south of the town — started work on November 1, 2017. Nikola Kabasic, the president of this court, was among the Serb judges who were sworn in by the Kosovo President on October 24 as part of the Brussels-facilitated dialogue agreement to get rid of Serbia’s parallel institutions and unify the legal system throughout Kosovo.

“We are still in the process of transferring the case files from the court building in Vushtrri, where the Mitrovica court functioned up until the integration,” said Kabasic in an interview with BIRN’s program Justice in Kosovo.

“We are doing an inventory of cases, setting up the equipment, connecting them to the internet, setting up a land line between Leposavic, Zubin Potok, and Mitrovica. The staff and the judges have been assigned, and we’ve begun working on some urgent criminal cases, with pre-charge detention cases, as well as urgent civil cases such as domestic violence.”

The newly nominated judges however will not take on new cases before finishing a several month-long training, expected to start in early December.

“I expect the new judges to begin their work with cases from January 1, 2018,” said Kabasic.

Kabasic said that this court will act in the same way like any other court in Kosovo for all cases, including general criminal cases, serious crimes, corruption, or organized crime.

“This court will work based on the investigations and indictments that come from the prosecution,” said Kabasic.

The court will also have six European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, EULEX, judges who will work on severe cases regarding organized crime, as well as cases with special interest ot the public, as is detailed in Kosovo laws.

“The court will mainly deal with civil cases, defending the rule of law, property issues, and civil issues,” said Kabasic. “This means: cases of divorce, alimony, damage compensation, distribution of property.”

Kabasic told Drejtesia ne Kosove that all of the unfinished cases will be logged into the court’s system and will then be forwarded to the newly sworn-in judges.

According to Kabasic, in instances when a verdict from a parallel institution would come into possible conflict with the one from the newly-integrated Kosovo system, then a separate three-judge panel will be formed to resolve it.

“But such a conflict could arise in only two types of cases,” said Kabasic, “if the decision of the old [parallel institution] court was taken in the absence of the party involved, or, if the party involved does not recognize the jurisdiction of that old court.”

Kabasic noted challenges around language that this court could expect to face. While there are some laws that are translated well, Kabasic mentioned a large number of regulations and administrative orders that are missing in Serbian language.

“The translation of laws is one of the main issues that is [directly related to] the fast and efficient incorporation of the new judges into the system,” said Kabasic, adding that for the moment, the court has 29 new Serb judges and only two translators. “Once the court becomes fully operational and begins to work in full capacity, we will have up to 10 court sessions per day — there will be a great need for translation.”

According to Kabasic, because of the abovementioned practical reasons, but also per the Brussels-facilitated agreement, the distribution of cases will be done on based on the representation of the residents in a given area.

“Criminal cases committed in the four municipalities in the north will be given to the newly nominated [Serb] judges,” said Kabasic, “whereas cases committed in the south will be given to the judges who worked previously.”

Kabasic told Drejtesia ne Kosove that the parallel court in North Mitrovica ceased all its activities on October 24. But, he could not give the exact number of cases that the parallel courts had worked on.  

“It will take us some time until we collect all the cases from the court units in Ranilug, Gracanica, Strpce, and sort them out into what is an active case and what is an archive.”

Yet another unsolved issue is that of court stamps — the more time passes, the more likely it is that they could be misused to forge documents and add to the troubles with which Kosovo courts are faced with.

“I say it with full responsibility that the official stamps of the former [parallel] courts are not in use since October 24,” said Kabasic. “All of the stamps remain in the old court building … Now we have to collect them into one place, sort them out, and decide which [stamps] to keep here, and which to ship to central Serbia.”

06/12/2017 - 10:45

06 December 2017 - 10:45

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