PRISTINA, Kosovo-A human rights group criticized Kosovo's justice system Friday, saying its failure to fairly and adequately prosecute criminals is to blame for its ongoing ethnic and political violence.
New York-based Human Rights Watch urged Kosovo's government and European overseers to improve Kosovo's "extremely weak" justice system.
The report came about a month after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia and as a 1,800-strong European Union rule of law mission, known as EULEX, began its deployment there.
"Kosovo's criminal justice system is broken," Holly Cartner, Human Rights Watch's director for Europe and Central Asia, said in a statement. "It's in urgent need of fixing and that will take a real commitment by the government and the EU."
The 34-page report criticized the system's insufficient police support for prosecutors and deep divisions between national and U.N.-appointed judges and prosecutors. It said prosecutors were suspicious of national officials' ability to conduct fair investigations and deliver unbiased verdicts in sensitive cases such as ethnic crimes, political violence and corruption.
It also reported widespread witness intimidation and lack of witness protection programs, as well as unfairly lenient sentences because of the intimidation of national judges who "are threatened and bullied by defendants, their relatives, or their supporters."