Author: Teuta Avdimetaj, Researcher at Kosovar Centre for Security Studies
Kosovo’s legal and policy framework in addressing the threat of violent extremism reflects its approach consisting of punitive and integrative aspects. Even though existing legislation does not make any direct references to the concept of (de)radicalization, looking into provisions regarding fundamental rights and protections as well as criminalization or related acts of terrorism enables a better understanding of how those are currently being applied in Kosovo. It is important to note that the policy approach and – by extension – the resulting legislation has narrowly focused on addressing religious-based extremism and involved a number of changes in legislation to respond to foreign fighter travel to Syria and Iraq. This implies that Kosovo’s current legal and policy framework does not seem to correspond with a more comprehensive conceptualization of violent extremism along the ideological spectrum.
The constitution of Kosovo provides general key provisions that indirectly cater for grievances or possible causes of (de)radicalization as the lack of freedom of religion, freedom of expression, right to assembly and similar may pose. Taking into consideration the social cleavages and the legacy of war, the constitution of Kosovo provides strong guarantees, especially when it comes to regulating the rights of ethnic minority groups. Importantly, Article 8 of the constitution declares Kosovo a secular state that maintains neutrality in matters related to religion (The Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo, 2008). It declares the right for freedom of conscience and religion for all residents, including the right to change, express, or not express religious belief, with limitations for reasons of public safety and order or for the protection of the health or rights of others. The constitution also provides for the preservation and protection of cultural and religious heritage, which is particularly relevant in the context of Kosovo considering how religious and cultural sites have at times been targets of ethnic-based violence. These general constitutional provisions are supplemented by specific laws despite issues such as freedom of religion still needing a re-elaboration to amend the current law and address its existing deficiencies. Specifically, the draft law, which is yet to be approved by the parliament, foresees procedures regarding how to regulate the legal status of religious communities in Kosovo. At the moment of writing, religious communities are not able to obtain legal status which, among others, would regulate issues of funding, tax exemptions, etc. Moreover, specific gaps in the current legislative framework relate to the challenge of regulating behavior in online space, especially as it pertains to what is permissible.
From a punitive perspective, Kosovo’s legal and policy framework is considered to provide a sufficient basis to prosecute cases of terrorism-related offenses with the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code serving as central guiding documents. However, as Kosovo sought to address radicalization as manifested through the foreign fighter phenomenon, gaps in the existing legal framework became apparent. For that reason, Kosovo adopted specific legislation which made joining foreign conflicts punishable with up to 15 years in prison (Law on the Prohibition of Joining Armed Conflicts Outside State Territory, 2015). This law has been considered one of the more effective laws in preventing radicalization as, in conjunction with other measures, it drives from a need to respond to stop the flow of foreign fighters. Further, the same law fills an important gap in the Criminal Code as it facilitates the prosecution of returnees from conflict-zones. Many of them are still imprisoned based on terrorism-related charges while several others have already completed their sentence or are currently on probation. These individuals, alongside others that returned from conflict-zones that have never been charged ( e.g. minors) are often part of reintegration programs led by the Ministry of Internal Affairs in partnership with other institutional stakeholders and members organizations from civil society. Yet, even when it comes to their reintegration, existing legislation must also be supplemented to address the fast-shifting circumstances or challenges that rehabilitation and reintegration (R&R) of former violent extremist offenders and other individuals formerly affiliated with extremist groups pose. Notably, there is no specific legislation that addresses deradicalization as a specific concept and approach. The existing programs suffer from the lack of a methodical approach that includes regular monitoring and evaluation components. Moreover, there is a need to adopt strategic documents at the national and municipal level which would lay out how various stakeholders can contribute to the R&R processes and prioritize fields of action. The adoption of such legislation is especially relevant for providing guidelines on how to reintegrate and rehabilitate children returnees as a separate category in these intervention programs.
For more insights, see the Report >> which overviews Kosovo’s the legal and policy framework on (de)radicalization. The report provides a conceptual account on how existing policies and laws address radicalization in Kosovo and identify some of the key critical aspects as well as good practices that can inform evidence-based policymaking.