The Department of Justice portion of UNMIK is responsible for prosecuting crimes within its mandate. UNMIK regulations mean that DOJ can essentially prosecute any crime it feels fit to prosecute. However, in practice, international prosecutors usually take over the most serious of cases or those cases that, for one reason or the other, the municipal prosecutor’s office does not want or is not willing to handle.
The interesting issue about Kosovo is that both the judges and the prosecutors are part of the same Department of Justice. The problem with this is the appearance of impropriety, bias, and lack of independence. And, if there is an appearance of impropriety, then the legitimacy of the system comes into question. The appearence of impropriety is just as important to curb as impropriety itself.
The judges and prosecution — although they work on cases together — are traditionally separate entities. The judges make rulings and ensure the case runs smoothly. Prosecutors, on the other hand, are charged with initiating investigations and choosing which defendants to take to trial.
But when judges and the prosecution are part of the same department — which is run by Acting Director Robert Dean — it reeks that someone is cooking the books, even when no books are being cooked. It’s like having the police in the same department as the prosecution. Police and prosecutors work together on cases, but they each have their independence from one another for critical reasons.
In a recent article in Newsweek, Julie Chadbourne of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee was quoted as saying, “Prosecutors work in the same offices as judges” in Kosovo. Physically, prosecutors and judges do not work in the same office . . . they are in separate buildings. But the point that Chadbourne makes is essentially correct. If judges and prosecutors are working in the same department, then how can we be sure that they are doing their jobs independently and without collusion?