In-depth | Justice

Kujtim Veseli’s killer sentenced to 25 years in prison

By - 12.10.2020

Verdict announced in case that showed institutional racism against minority communities.

Sefedin Osmani was found guilty today, Monday, October 12, 2020, of the aggravated murder and rape of 11-year-old Kujtim Veseli, and sentenced to 25 years imprisonment, the Basic Court of Prishtina announced. 

Rina Kika, the Veseli family lawyer told K2.0 that she will appeal the verdict in order to increase Osmani’s prison sentence. The court said that they couldn’t impose a lifetime sentence as Osmani was under 21 when he committed the crimes according to the limitations in the Criminal Code. But the law provides the option of a sentence up to 35 years, which according to Kika wasn’t taken into an account.

Kujtim was found dead on July 11, 2019, outside under the stairs of a building in the Fushe Kosova Xhemajl Mustafa neighborhood. His death last year sparked the first protest of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities against institutional racism in Kosovo, demanding justice and accountability from the state for the life of the Ashkali boy.

The authorities had been notified that the child was a victim of systematic rape by Osmani, who lived in the same neighborhood and already had 26 criminal charges and 15 indictments against him — including one for murder. 

Osmani’s father told the Kosovo Police that his son raped Kujtim on January 31, 2019, but the Police interviewed Osmani, only months later, in April 2019, when he admitted to sexually abusing the victim. Despite the criminal charges and confession, the Kosovo Police and the Prosecutor for the case, Ruhan Salihu, freed Osmani.

Salihu was punished by a 30% reduction of his 1,500 euro monthly wage for six months.

“This means that when the Police, the Prosecution or state institutions are notified of the danger posed to a person by another person, then they must act to protect the life of the person who is threatened or is threatened by harm such as in sexual abuse or further physical abuse,” Kika told K2.0 in July. “In the case of Kujtim we have a series of violations of the protection of Kujtim’s life that have resulted in a fatality.” 

Kika said that as an Ashkali person, Kujtim should have even greater protection by the state. Because of their dire social and economic circumstances, people belonging to vulnerable groups in the Republic of Kosovo ought to have more protection.

The 2019 Ombudsperson report concluded that Kujtim’s rights as a child were violated by the state institutions and held the Prosecution responsible for the neglect. 

“The investigative bodies have failed to be effective in arresting and detaining the suspect, assessing the case, as well as imposing legal measures to ensure the presence of the defendant in criminal proceedings,” reads the report. 

On August 30, 2020, Kika and human rights activists submitted a petition to the state institutions — signed by over 1,200 people — that demanded justice for Kujtim. It was launched on July 11 this year, on the anniversary of his death. The petition urges a public apology by the Prosecution and Police to Kujtim’s family for neglecting the case and violating his right to life. 

The petition also calls for the initiation of an independent criminal investigation of prosecutors and police officers responsible for the case, and compensation for the human rights violations Kujtim’s family suffered.

In September, Kika and the activists behind the Justice for Kujtim initiative received two responses regarding the petition. As a response to the apology request the Kosovo Police said that they have conducted training with police officers to increase their capacity in the field of human rights. 

They also conducted disciplinary proceedings against two police officers — concluding that there were no disciplinary violations by the officers. In a news release on October 8, the Justice for Kujtim initiative said that the police response is “a refusal in silence toward the request for apology.”

Meanwhile, the Kosovo Chief State Prosecutor, Aleksander Lumezi in a written response expressed “his sincere sympathy as the Chief State Prosecutor, as a parent and ultimately as a person about the way a minor lost his life.” 

But he did not take responsibility to initiate the investigation of the responsible officials and the Prosecution did not publicly apologize for their negligence in the case.

The government still has not responded to the request for compensation.

Kika and the Justice for Kujtim activists have resubmitted all of these demands to the state institutions, Police and Prosecutors.K

Feature image: Video still from K2.0 archives.