At the end of January 2019, Makfire Ilazi, a member of the Ashkali community in Fushë Kosova, learned that her 11-year-old son Kujtim was being sexually abused by 19-year-old Sefedin Osmani. She informed the abuser’s father, Rexhep Osmani, who then reported his son to the police station of Fushë Kosova, further motivated by the fact that his son was a drug user and acted aggressively towards family members when he did not have drugs.
However, after interviewing Rexhep Osmani and Makfire Ilazi, the Police failed to notify the Basic Prosecution in Prishtina properly and continued to investigate the case within the Kosovo Police. This decision constitutes the first mistake of judicial organs in Kujtim Veseli’s case — they should have issued an arrest warrant for the abuser.
Kosovo Police interviewed Sefedin Osmani in April and he admitted he had raped Veseli. The Basic Prosecution in Prishtina then ordered the investigation of the case for the criminal offense of “engaging in a sexual act with a person under the age of sixteen,” but in a regular procedure. After a week, Kosovo Police also interviewed Veseli, who testified that Sefedin Osmani gave him drugs and abused him physically and sexually.
The next day, Kosovo Police filed criminal charges for “sexual abuse of persons under the age of sixteen.” Still, they released Sefedin Osmani even though he had numerous cases: 26 criminal charges and 15 indictments, including one for murder. This is the second mistake of the prosecuting authorities.
The Basic Prosecution in Prishtina invited Sefedin Osmani to appear in May, but he did not respond to the invitation, despite having received it. The Prosecution sent him another invitation after ten days, and again, even though he received it, he did not appear. After almost a month, at the end of June, the Basic Prosecution in Prishtina suspended the investigation. This is the third mistake.
On July 11, 2019, Kujtim Veseli was found dead beneath the staircase of a residential block in the Xhemail Mustafa neighborhood of Fushë Kosova. Without a doubt, police and juridical organs are responsible. By neglecting to stop the abuse against Kujtim Veseli, they violated his fundamental right to life.
Sefedin Osmani was arrested and interrogated in June 2019, and he admitted to murdering Veseli. The prosecutor ordered to classify the case as aggravated murder. In June 2020, the Basic Prosecution in Prishtina filed an indictment against him for the criminal offenses of aggravated murder and sexual assault. In October 2020, Sefedin Osmani was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the offenses.
Disciplinary procedures toward the police officials involved in this case were ceased because no elements of disciplinary violations were found during the investigations.
Regarding the prosecutors involved in the case, the Kosovo Prosecutorial Council concluded that the prosecutor, Raze Loshaj, did not commit any disciplinary violation because there was no evidence that she had been notified by the police about the case. Prosecutor Ruhan Salihu received a disciplinary measure for not requiring the detention of Sefedin Osmani in April 2019, when he admitted he had raped Kujtim Veseli. Salihu’s salary was cut to 30% for six months.
This disciplinary measure is incommensurate with the consequences of the prosecutorial mistake — the rape and murder of an 11-year-old. Responsible institutions in Kosovo should initiate serious investigations and undertake harsh measures against both the police officers and prosecutors involved in the case, as their negligence is one of the central reasons why Kujtim Veseli is no longer with us.
This is not only to punish but also to correct the police officers and prosecutors involved in Kujtim Veseli’s case. Their colleagues must be made aware so that when similar crimes occur, the police and the prosecution do not respond with negligence. Measures should be taken not only to recognize the fact that we lost Kujtim Veseli unjustly and to empathize with his family, but also to assure the Ashkali community that the state of Kosovo treats them as citizens with equal rights.
The current government of the Republic of Kosovo — as opposed to previous governments that mainly gave financial compensation to the families of those related to power — decided to give a compensation payment to the victim’s family. The decision should be praised, but it is not enough.
It is the obligation of the government of the Republic of Kosovo and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kosovo to do their utmost to ensure adequate measures are taken against police officers and prosecutors who, in their negligence, are also responsible for the murder of Kujtim Veseli.
Feature image: Jeta Dobranja.
This publication is part of the op-ed series published by the campaign Justice for Kujtim, supported by the grants scheme “Kujtim Veseli” managed by NGO Voice of Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian.