Judge Suspended After BIRN Reporting on Lenient Rape Sentence

BIRN reports on the Peja Court’s mild verdict in the case of a raped teenage girl highlighted glaring violations and prompted Judicial Council to Suspend Judge.

A verdict issued by the Peja Court in July this year, sentencing the accused to only eight months in prison for raping a teen, which BIRN recently published, drew angry reactions in Kosovo. 

Now, following the BIRN report regarding the eight-month jail sentence imposed for raping a minor in Gjakova, the Kosovo Judicial Council KJC has suspended the judge of the case. This was announced through a notification from the KJC. The suspension of Judge Florije Zatriqi will be valid until another decision of the Judicial Council.

“The investigative panel for the disciplinary case No. AD/KGJK/10/2021/GJTHPE-AD/GJTHPE/15/21 has been established and it has been decided to suspend Judge FZ, until another decision of the Kosovo Judicial Council,” the KJC said.

BIRN had called for disciplinary proceedings against the judge.

A 15-year-old girl from Gjakova was raped while leaving the town hospital in 2012. She was seized by two people, armed with knives, who took her to an uninhabited house where they raped her until the early hours of the next morning.

Nine years later, the Basic Court in Peja sentenced the accused, named as P.K., to only eight months and eight days in prison. The prosecutor did not appeal, agreeing with the sentence, which was in contradiction with legislation in Kosovo. 

A second instance verdict in 2014 deemed the low sentence imposed by the Court of Peja unreasonable and asked the same court to decide again on the case.

Three months after the Basic Court verdict, BIRN released data that prompted civil society to demand a criminal investigation. Meanwhile, the justice system also reacted, demanding disciplinary responsibility against the judge and prosecutor of the case.

Public pressure mounted after BIRN report

Shortly after BIRN reported the verdict, reactions came from civil society and human rights activists who sent several requests to the Kosovo Judicial Council and the Prosecutorial Council.

The President of the Kosovo Supreme Court, Enver Peci, during a debate on KallxoPernime, admitted that public pressure had prompted him to seek action on the case. He said the case judge should face disciplinary penalties.

“I have no right … to initiate disciplinary proceedings, but for the sake of the public … I have asked for such a thing,” he said.

Non-governmental organizations that advocate for women’s rights demanded the dismissal of the case judge and the prosecutor.

Contradictions and violations found in judgment

BIRN reporting found several procedural violations in the trial of the accused, P.K.

They involved the way the hearing was scheduled and how the case was tried by one judge and not, as provided by law, by a panel. 

BIRN also queried how the mitigating circumstances were assessed and no aggravating circumstances were found, and how a sentence was imposed in violation of the legislation in force.

The Juvenile Justice Code says that, when the convicted are punishable by more than 10 years of imprisonment, the trial panel should be composed of three judges, not just one.

Article 48 of the Code defines when a single judge can decide on a criminal case and when it should be decided by a trial panel.

The legal provisions that Judge Florije Zatriqi invoked when she decided to sentence the accused to eight months in prison do not allow a sentence of less than three years of imprisonment.

Based on the new Criminal Code, Articles 70, 71, she reduced the sentence to eight months, although the crime for which the accused was charged was based on the Provisional Criminal Code. So, two different criminal codes were applied to the same case.

It also turned out that the accused had spent exactly that many days – eight months and eight days – in detention already.

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