Kosovo Failing to Punish Violent Crime, BIRN Finds

Police and prosecutors in Kosovo are struggling to solve violent crimes, particularly when they occur in a northern pocket of the country populated mainly by Serbs, according to a BIRN analysis of crime data illustrated in an interactive map.

Violent crime in Kosovo frequently goes unpunished, particularly in the Serb-majority north, according to a BIRN analysis of 62  incidents involving firearms, knives, stones and physical assault since 2017. In the few cases in which justice is served, the process can take years.

Thirty one of the cases, or half, occurred in the north, where Serbs are the majority; in the Mitrovica region, which itself is split between Serbs on the north side of the Ibar River and Albanians in the south, around 89 per cent of cases occurred in the Serbian majority municipalities in the north of Kosovo: North Mitrovica, Zvecan, Leposavic, and Zubin Potok.

In these 31 cases, BIRN managed to confirm that the police made arrests in three cases – of four Kosovo police officers apprehended on suspicion of failing to report a criminal offence in 2023, in the case of the murder of Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic in 2018, and in an attack against journalists in 2020.

One of these cases concerned the shooting and wounding of Kosovo Serb Milan Jovanovic on April 10 this year. Jovanovic told media he was passing through a Kosovo police checkpoint when he heard a shot and felt a pain in his shoulder. The four officers were suspended and then subsequently arrested, one of them on suspicion of attempted murder.

In addition, BIRN managed to confirm that the police identified one suspect in one other case – an attack on 15-year-old Kosovo Serb L. M., who received head injuries when four people attacked him on the morning of January 22, 2023, in Suhodoll/Suvi Do in the municipality of North Mitrovica. 

He told local Serb-language media outlet Kosovo Online that the attackers first spoke to him in Albanian from a moving car but he did not respond since he did not understand and tried to move on. They caught up with him and began beating and kicking him. Kosovo Police told BIRN it had filed a criminal complaint to the prosecution on this case.

Just as worrying, in 13 separate cases between 2018 and 2022 in which media workers – including members of BIRN – were attacked in the north, the court ordered one month detention in only one case and the police has filed a complaint in another.

The police told BIRN it had filed a criminal complaint to the prosecutor’s office initiating a case of “minor bodily injury” for the November 17, 2022, attack against a cameraman of Kosovo online media Insajderi, Jetmir Muji. He was attacked in North Mitrovica when he saw a minor being put into a car by several people and he began filming. The people attacked Muji, who was treated in the Emergency Hospital in south Mitrovica.

BIRN was not able to confirm if any other suspects have been identified or arrested in  other eleven cases, contributing to a climate of impunity. 

Of the 62 cases analysed by BIRN, prosecutors have filed indictments in 11 and police have filed criminal complaints in another seven. In one case, a verdict has been reached in court, while one other is in the trial phase. In just over half of the cases – 34 – investigations are ongoing.

Less than a dozen indictments

In one of the cases, from October last year, a Serb man was shot in the leg. In another, from February 2021, a Kosovo Serb politician said his son was assaulted; eight people were detained, including the son, and an indictment was filed against all eight at the end of last year. Another indictment was filed against a member of the Kosovo Security Forces, KSF, who is accused of shooting into the air and injuring two Kosovo Serbs, including a minor, who had been celebrating Orthodox Christmas in the Serb-majority town of Shterpce/Strpce in January this year.

In the case of the KSF member, a court hearing scheduled for March 9 was postponed by one week after lawyers for the injured party said they had not been provided with case documents in Serbian, a recurring issue in Kosovo courts that frequently delays proceedings. A few days later, on March 16, the accused entered a plea of not guilty and the court ordered house arrest.

In another case, two individuals were charged with assaulting Kosovo Serb Petko Miletic, a returnee to the village of Oprashke/Opraske, Istog/Istok municipality, after he tried to stop them cutting trees on his land. Kosovo’s then Minister for Communities and Returns, Dalibor Jevtic, had claimed the attackers were Kosovo Albanians, but Kosovo police said they were ethnic Egyptians. The defendants were convicted on January 13, 2021, but BIRN was unable to determine what punishment they received.

Kosovo police have not made any arrests or identified any suspects in six cases in which the victims were Kosovo police officers, Latvian members of the NATO-led peacekeeping mission, KFOR, and members of the EU rule-of-law mission, EULEX.

With regards a complaint by Kosovo Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla on April 15 last year that Kosovo police officers had been attacked in the northern municipality of Zubin Potok with hand grenades and an AK47 and a border patrol shot at the day before, police told BIRN on May 15 this year that “these two cases have not been initiated”.

Graphs showing violent incidents and attacks involving guns, knifes, stones, and physical assault throughout Kosovo since 2017 identified by BIRN. Graph: BIRN/Igor Vujicic

An issue that continues to hamper judicial proceedings in Kosovo is the lack of cooperation with Serbia’s judicial system.

In one of the cases identified by BIRN, in which a Kosovo Serb is alleged to have shot another Kosovo Serb in March 2021, the Kosovo police said they were unable to arrest the alleged perpetrator because he had been arrested in Serbia for the same crime.

Serbia continues to consider Kosovo part of its own territory, despite Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence that has been recognised by more than 100 states around the world.

Despite a 2013 agreement brokered by the European Union concerning ‘mutual legal assistance’, cooperation on criminal cases remains a major issue.

The members of the special forces of the Kosovo police control vehicles at the entrance to the Serb majority Kosovo municipality North Mitrovica, Kosovo, two days after the murder of Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic, January 18, 2018. Photo: EPA-EFE/DJORDJE SAVIC

This has been demonstrated in the trial for the murder of Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic in 2018.

Hearings in the trial have been repeatedly postponed because the court was unable to secure the presence of witnesses, most of which are in Serbia. One of the original suspects in the case, Belgrade-based politician and businessman Milan Radoicic, managed to flee to Serbia despite a warrant for his arrest in Kosovo. The warrant for the murder case was later withdrawn.

Even in the cases when witnesses have testified, they have often been reluctant to name names or have altered their testimony about organised crime figures in the north, likely out of fear of retaliation.

The situation may worsen further following the mass resignation of Serbs from public sector jobs in the north in November last year, prompting the Kosovo Judicial Council to transfer 83 cases from Mitrovica Basic Court to other courts.


BIRN identified violent incidents and attacks involving guns, knives and stones and in many cases physical assault and which ended up with injuries or contributed to a climate of fear among different ethnic communities in Kosovo in the time period from February 2017 to April 2023.

Specific information on each case came from the Kosovo police, the Kosovo Police Inspectorate, Kosovo Basic Prosecutions, the Serbian government’s Office for Kosovo, and media reports. In each case, the information was analysed and fact-checked.

BIRN focussed on the type of incident in question, where it happened, when, and in what context, before ascertaining whether any suspects were identified, arrested, indicted and/or put on trial.

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