Allegations about violence, discrimination and lack of professionalism continue toward the Kosovo Police.
Migjen* together with his brother and a friend, on Saturday afternoon, November 14, were returning home after having dinner out. A few meters away from the center of Fushë Kosovë, they ran into a police car with two police men in it. One of the policemen signaled Migjen — who was not wearing a mask — to come closer and hand him his ID card.
“I do not have an ID card, I’m 14 years old,” Migjen answered.
The policeman told him that he would send him to the police station to verify his allegations. The minor told him that he wanted to call his father, while continuing to say that he is not an adult. He alleges that the policeman grabbed him by his arm and pushed him into the car to head toward the police station. During the police car ride in Fushë Kosovë the minor asked the policemen once again to allow him to use the phone to let his father know that the police had taken him.
“During the ride [to the station, the same policeman] insulted him and yelled at him just because the boy asked him ‘Can I call dad?’” Refik Hyseni, the father of the minor, alleges toward the policeman with the badge number 2085, at the Fushë Kosovë police station.
Hysen’s other son, a 16 year old, was a witness that day when a few minutes after 4 p.m., Migjen was escorted to the police station. He called his father, who was at home in the Miradi e Epërme village, and let him know what had happened.
“I just got in the car and started driving; there was traffic at the roundabout in Fushë Kosovë, you know,” he says, remembering the road to the station.
Entering the police station he asked for information from the receptionist. “I swear he brought someone, but I do not know who,” he alleges is the answer he received. After a few minutes, he remembers that the policeman who escorted his son appeared in the hallway. “You took my son, your honor, you have not notified me for 40 minutes, he’s 14 years old,” he says he told the policeman, whose name he has already made public.
“When I told him he is 14 years old I think he figured it out, and nagged me for not wearing a mask, and started yelling at me,” he continues. The policeman kept repeating that he’d pay the fine for not wearing a mask, but Hyseni wanted to know what had happened with his son.
After this exchange, he says that he called the Kosovo Police Inspectorate (KPI), and informed them about the policeman’s behavior toward his minor son. The answer he got through the phone was that at the moment it was impossible for the inspectors to go to the police station in Fushë Kosova, since they did not have capacities “because of the pandemic.” He says that they told him to go to the headquarters of KPI to give a statement on Monday, November 16.
“I swear dad, they beat me” the 14-year-old told his father
the 14-year-old told his father
While he was in the station Hyseni says that they put him in a room with the excuse that he was resisting the police. Hyseni says he only demanded to know where his son was, and that if the camera footage of the police station lobby are reviewed, his allegations would be proven true. K2.0 has requested the police station camera recordings around that time, but received no answer.
Hyseni left the police room with a fine for not wearing a mask and was not charged for resisting the police. He insisted on taking his son with him, who was being held in another room. But the policeman who had escorted Migjen to the station notified Hyseni that it was not possible without bringing his birth certificate. He returned home and brought back the document that confirmed Migjen’s age and his parental status.
“I did not enter [the station] again,” he says, saying he did not want to see that policeman again and when he took the document, he handed it to another policeman in front of the station.
A few minutes later Migjen exited the police station. Father and son headed toward home in their car, and Hysen says that on the way he attempted once again to call KPI but with no success. K2.0 has contacted KPI to verify these allegations, but got no answer.
“I swear dad, they beat me,” the 14-year-old told his father once he hung up the phone. “I immediately turned the car toward the emergency room,” says Hysen.
The doctors from the Family Medicine Center (FMC) in Fushë Kosova released him after the check: “‘He’s fine’ they told me, but his pulse was 145, he’s 14 and he hadn’t been running or anything,” Hyseni recalled from the medical visit. For people under the age of 15, the normal heart pulse is 70 to 100 beats per minute.
When they returned home, Hyseni said that Migjen “vomited and was shaking” so together with his wife they decided to take him to the University Clinical Center of Kosovo in Prishtina. They went to the Emergency Room, and from there they were directed to the Pediatric Clinic. Their son was admitted as a patient at the clinic since the doctors found he had high blood pressure and Hyseni left him there under the doctors’ care.
Refik Hyseni has denounced police violence toward his minor son in a Facebook post. Photo: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.
The following day, November 15, police inspectors visited the minor at the hospital. According to his father’s words, they told him that as soon as he is released from the hospital he should go give a statement. Migjen was released from the hospital on Monday at noon and went to give his statement at the Inspectorate, where he talked to the police inspectors for more than an hour in his father’s presence.
Up until now, the only information released from the KPI concerning this case is that “KPI investigators have started a preliminary investigation. Other investigative actions are expected to be taken in accordance with the legal mission of the Kosovo Police Inspectorate.” In that same statement they mentioned Hyseni’s phone call, on November 14, to KPI.
The allegations of violence “between the four walls” of Kosovo Police Stations (KP) are old, they are even followed up with audio and video recordings.
‘They slapped me and I fell down’
The evening of April 24, 2018, in the park in front of the Art Faculty in Prishtina, several friends were getting ready to smoke a joint, when two people in civilian clothes and with small bags under their arms came near before they could smoke the marijuana cigarette. The two civilians pulled out their badges and informed the youngsters that they were policemen.
“They found my weed,” says Agan,* one of the young people, continuing that “there was a little over 1 gram [of marijuana],” according to the measurements that the policemen made at the station.
“I believe that they followed me when I bought it, because they came directly at me,” he says, remembering his first contact with them. His friends left the policemen in peace after being searched and nothing illegal was found. The two policemen cuffed Agan and took him to the police station at the Muhaxherri neighborhood, walking, almost 1 kilometer from the University of Prishtina campus where he was caught.
He alleges that he was taken roughly even though he did not resist. “I remember that they made me cross the street [near the Ministry of Education, exiting the campus] against a red light,” while they were holding him by the arm, he alleges.
As soon as they sat him in one of the police station offices where another policeman was waiting for him, the first question he was asked was: “Who did you buy it from?” He answered: “If you go to the park at that time someone approaches you and offers it.”
During the interview at the station he remembers that at least three other policemen stood next to him. Feeling under pressure, the at-the-time, 20-year-old, managed to record the conversation in the station on his phone without being detected by the policemen. From the first minutes of the recording one of the policemen can be heard exercising violence toward Agan.
From the first minutes of the recording one of the policemen can be heard exercising violence toward Agan.
About one month ago, a 7-minute audio clip of Agani’s interview with the police of Muhaxherri station was distributed among Kosovar media. K2.0 has the remainder of the recording of the night’s conversation that lasted over an hour. The questioning is heard, the violence of one of the policemen toward Agan, the verbal pressure from the others, as well as their backing away after Agan insisted that he knew his rights in a Kosovo police station — even if he was caught violating the law.
A fragment of a few minutes of the questioning that Agani shared with K2.0.
From the first minutes of the recording one of the policemen can be heard exercising violence toward Agan. “That policeman that arrested me — it was open — he slapped me and I fell down from the chair,” remembers Agan.
At the beginning of the questioning he asks for water from the policemen, and demands a lawyer. One of the policemen can be heard refusing his requests. “Do you have money for a lawyer?” “He won’t come for this little [amount of marijuana], “he won’t come for no money,” are some of the things the policeman said.
Agan can be heard as he insists that for whatever reason he has the right to a lawyer. He tells them that he has been at a police station even before, somewhere in Dukagjin, since he was a witness to a massive beating where his friend was involved as well. He says that the policemen had escorted him, secured him a lawyer, and his father was allowed to stay with him.
The young person who was questioned by the police in 2018 says that he knows his rights in a police station. Photo: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.
Aside from the accusations of the use of violence, there were accusations from citizens about Kosovo policemen who have used harsh words and racist language.
‘Do you think there’s still discrimination?’
Two policemen were standing at the south entrance of the central square in Ferizaj. The evening of November 4, a little before 7 p.m. Kadri Keraku was passing nearby, riding his bicycle home. The place where he works is located nearly 10 kilometers from Dubrava village, and he regularly passes the same road by bike. That night, the two policemen stopped him for wearing his mask under his nose.
“My nose was exposed, I cannot lie,” says Keraku. The policemen demanded his ID and after identifying him, fined him 35 euros.
He was not convinced that he deserved the fine: “A few other passersby were only given notice, ‘Wear your mask properly,’” he insists. Last November, within a week in Kosovo a total of 1,100 fines were issued and over 270 notices according to KP.
“With its notices, the police have impacted the level of awareness, responsibility and the increase in the levels of observance of the measures […], without neglecting the sanctioning in accordance with the legal basis for all those who do not follow the measures, despite the police notices,” it is said on the information bulletin of KP.
After being fined, Keraku moved a few steps from the two policemen and took out his phone to take a picture of himself, as proof of how he was wearing his mask, and how the people around him were wearing theirs as well. He says that one of the policemen approached him and took his phone, but not before verbally attacking him with offensive and racist language. “If I didn’t feel bad I would fuck you up you son of a gypsy, I would kick you,” he remembers the words that the policeman said to him.
He is a member of the Ashkali community and connects being stopped and fined with his ethnicity. “Since they saw I am dark, colored on my face, I believe that’s why they did it,” he accused the two policemen.
As much as the policeman's behavior aggravated him, he was surprised because he hadn’t felt discriminated against before “at school, at work, and in the city” because of his ethnicity.
After arriving home that night, he began writing a Facebook post. “Do you think there is still discrimination and racism in Kosovo?” He asked among other things. His reaction was quickly shared in large numbers throughout the network. Hundreds of commenters showed their support and encouraged him to take the case to the police for further procedures.
“A person from Austria wrote to me and told me: ‘Give me [the necessary information], I’ll send you the money to pay for the fine,’” tells Keraku.
While many supported him, a few close people and friends suggested he delete the post and not to take any action from the fear that the police might take revenge. Keraku says that as much as the policeman’s behavior aggravated him, he was surprised because he hadn’t felt discriminated against before “at school, at work, and in the city” because of his ethnicity.
In the midst of this mess he decided to first pay the fine and then to see what he could do. Later, according to him, one policeman who is a relative, told him that the two policemen “regretted it.” But what pushed him at the end not to undertake any other action were that day’s developments with the Special Court.
“They had taken Hashim Thaçi, [Rexhep] Selimi and these people; do not tell me that I am also bringing the dust and I do not want the best for Kosovo, I left it,” says Keraku, who says that he felt good from the support he received from most of the people who reacted to his post.
Citizens request investigations to continue
The Kosovo Police have been denounced for breach of obligations in the past as well — even from other state institutions such as the ombudsman.
One case that made some noise, after the engagement of activist citizens and civil society, is that of Kujtim Veseli, the 11-year-old from Fushë Kosova. This Ashkali kid in addition to facing harsh economic conditions and being obliged to do physical work, was being sexually assaulted. He told his mother, Makfire Ilazi-Veseli about the abuse that was happening to him.
On January 29, 2019, she accused the 20-year-old Sefedin Osmani at the police on two or three occasions of sexual, psychologic, and physical assault toward her minor son. The Kosovo Police have confirmed Makfire’s allegations that the report was done on that date. Even the Center for Social Work in Fushë Kosovë declared that during February and March of 2019, the 11-year-old had confessed to them about the sexual assault he was experiencing.
But only in April 2019 did the Police file criminal charges toward the suspect, who during an interview admitted guilt in front of the policemen at the Fushë Kosova station. For about three months after this, Osmani was left free, even though there was a batch of documents at the police and the prosecution for crimes — he had 26 additional criminal charges and 15 lawsuits against him, including a murder.
On Thursday, July 11, 2019, the 11-year-old Veseli was found dead under the stairs of an apartment complex at Fushë Kosova. Autopsy showed that the minor was sexually assaulted and then killed by blows from a strong object to the head. For the minor’s family, the autopsy was not necessary. The day after the murder, his mother accused Osman in front of the media.
In this case there were reactions from the citizens.
Human Rights activists in Kosovo denounced the negligence of the police in the case of Kujtim Veseli through different means, such as protests. Photo: Images from recordings from the K2.0 archives.
Protests were organized in Fushë Kosova and Prishtina, where apart from accusing legal organs that did not manage to protect the life of the victim, an additional investigation of the police station in Fushë Kosova was demanded. The investigation of the police station was demanded because of the belief that the reason there were no measures taken for over two and a half months had something to do with the ethnicity of the victim. Protestors demanded responsibility from the state and punishment for anyone who neglected the case.
The ombudsman, through an investigation on the death of the minor established that “in the case there has been violation of human rights and fundamental liberties, respectively violation of positive obligations of the state for the protection of the right to life.”
In this report, the ombudsman says that the state failed to protect children “from violence and maltreatment,” and that “relevant authorities have not fulfilled constitutional and legal obligations, nor international standards for the protection of the life of the victim, applicable in the Republic of Kosovo.”
“Investigative bodies have failed to be effective in arresting and punishing the crime of the suspect, in the assessment of the case, and in taking legal measures to ensure the presence of the accused in penal procedures,” it is also stated in the report. Even the Ombudsman joined the calls of the activists for the investigation of the investigative body in Fushë Kosova.
All that has happened up until now is the sentencing of Sefedin Osmani, on October 20, 2020, with 25 years of imprisonment from the Fundamental Court of Prishtina. Legal representatives of the murdered minor’s family, other than demanding an increase in the punishment of the killer, continue to insist that the policemen and the prosecutor of the case of Kujtim Veseli be further investigated.
And during the measures against the spread of the pandemic, the police had their hands full.
Last week, Shaban Beqiri from Mitrovica published photographs of his fragmented skull. In some media it was reported that in the early morning of December 11, the 19-year-old was staying with three friends near the old Mitrovica stadium during the lockdown. They had started a fire to get warm, when two policemen came close and ordered them to extinguish the fire and leave.
The youngsters obeyed the orders, but returned a few minutes later. The policemen returned as well and one of them hit the teenager and fractured his skull. The youngster received medical help at the hospital, while the suspected policeman was suspended until “investigations are over.”
Although many citizens have shown trust in Kosovo’s Police, there are cases when members of the police have violated their trust by violating their basic rights.
While Keraku was abused racially and was fined for wearing his mask under his nose, another citizen was beaten by two policemen in the center of Prishtina under the reasoning that he resisted police orders, and for wearing his mask improperly. The video recording of this case has been widely spread in the media and on social media networks, where there were demands for an investigation of the policemen.
These are not the only cases in which Kosovo’s Police failed to do its job. Kosovo policemen continue to be accused of violence in stations, protests, and other environments, as well as for selective reactions.
Although many citizens have shown trust in Kosovo’s Police, there are cases when members of the police have violated their trust by violating their basic rights. Could there also be cases that have never been made public?
“When I see [policemen] now I change my way,” says Agan for K2.0 continuing to insist that for months he did not feel well on a psychological level after the case that happened to him within the police station, an incident that follows him to day.
Hyseni says that he tried to educate his children that “any time you have an issue, [go] straight to the police.”“Now this mister [ the policemen who escorted his son] threw [my advice] on the ground.”
“I better not say who the policemen looked like to me, because I feel bad.” is Keraku’s last remark.K
*Editorial note: A minor’s and another person’s names have been changed to protect their identities.