Democratising Transitional Justice: Towards a Deliberative Infrastructure for Dealing with the Past in Kosovo


Twenty-one years since the end of violent conflict in Kosovo, the country has not managed yet to devise a national strategy on transitional justice due to lack of political will and commitment among national and international stakeholders to genuinely engage with the legacies of the past. Only a handful of war crimes trials have taken place through international, hybrid and national courts. A large number of alleged perpetrators are free at large, while victims and survivors continue longing for a measure of truth, justice, recognition, and closure. Governmental mechanisms for DwP in Kosovo have half-heartedly attempted to respond to the needs and rights of affected communities, but the lack of political will accompanied by weak institutional capacities and resources and politicisation of those initiatives has had little or no impact on advancing truth, justice, and reconciliation in Kosovo. Worse, this situation perpetuates enemy images and ethno-nationalist sentiments which could become breeding grounds for renewed conflicts. Other initiatives run by non-governmental bodies have tried to compensate these institutional weaknesses. Yet without a proper institutional infrastructure for DwP these project-based and scattered initiatives have had a limited impact.

This study suggests that Kosovo needs an integrated and deliberative infrastructure for transitional justice to ensure the legitimacy and efficiency of efforts for dealing with the past in Kosovo. The study proposes a four-step approach, which includes:
1. Generating a citizen-informed national understanding on the principles and ethics for dealing with the past and transitional justice in Kosovo;
2. Developing an integrated knowledge base and repository of existing sector specific strategies, initiatives, and mechanisms for transitional justice in Kosovo;
3. Developing a bottom-up and victims-centred national strategy; and
4. Designing an integrated institutional infrastructure for dealing with the past.

Every violent conflict is unique in its characteristics. And so are the transitional justice needs and dynamics. However, Kosovo’s twenty-one year experience offers lessons that may be useful for other societies having to deal with war legacies: 1) there should be no peace agreement without transitional justice provisions; 2) timing and political commitment is central to the success of transitional justice processes; 3) justice without strategy can undermine transitional justice processes; and 4) deliberative and victim-centred approaches to dealing with the past and institutional infrastructure may hold the key to overcoming blockages to truth and justice.

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