THE SPEECH OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF KOSOVO, MADAM ATIFETE JAHJAGA IN THE ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION MARKING THE DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, ORGANIZED BY THE BRITISH EMBASSY

The use of sexual violence in conflict as a weapon of war to achieve political ends remains one of the most sensitive issues in the aftermath of the war in Kosovo, and one of the worst tragedies that has affected a large number of Albanian women.

Honorable Ministers Çitaku and Agani,

Honorable representatives of the British Embassy in the Republic of Kosovo,

Dear participants,

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The use of sexual violence in conflict as a weapon of war to achieve political ends remains one of the most sensitive issues in the aftermath of the war in Kosovo, and one of the worst tragedies that has affected a large number of Albanian women.

This issue in Kosovo’s society continues to remain a closed subject, shunned despite the consequences that it left behind because the key objective of this violence was to sow hatred and to continue the war long after it ended in the battlefield.

Sexula violence has become part of almost every armed conflict around the globe as one of the most horrific means aimed at defeating and repressing people and regions.

Given the magnitude and the intensity of this kind of violence, the British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who has recently launched this initiative to confront this heinous act, has rightly pointed out that rape as a weapon of war is this generation’s challenge because “if survivors are not given justice, development will stall and the seeds of future conflict will be sown.”

We, the survivors of the wars in the Balkans, know this best, because we have lived through wars that had political and territorial aims and which made use of sexual violence as a heavy and merciless tool to secure domination, severely impacting the morale and the psychology of the woman and the whole society. The main aim of this kind of violence was to divide and destroy the family and the realization of the plan for ethnic cleansing through fear and terror.

This violence has taken its toll in Kosovo during the war in the late 1990s, leaving behind deep and open wounds in a society that continues to face its consequences. Kosovo’s women, throughout the war have been an inseparable part of the tragedy and the joint efforts to secure a better future. As such she was the biggest victim of the war by bearing the burden of the family and the burden of securing its existence.

The victims of rape during the war become not only a victim of the perpetrators but also of the society surrounding them as they are often shunned, offended, outcasts of their community.

It is believed that about 20,000 Albanian women in Kosovo were victims of sexual violence in conflict, a crime that has until today gone unpunished, with those that have ordered and perpetrated these crimes getting away with impunity.

The lack of seriousness in addressing this horrific war phenomena and the lack of punishment of those who carried out this strategy with the aim of reaching political ends continues to victimize women that were targeted by this violence.

The lack of debate about the use of this weapon of war in Kosovo due to the fear of victims to come forward and speak out in their communities has resulted in the denial of her right to be an equal and inseparable part of the society.

The victims of sexual violence in conflict become social outcasts, humiliated, ignored, left out of their community and their families.

This trend and this treatment of victims of sexual violence must change as should the trend of impunity of those that perpetrated rape during the war and used it as a tool to achieve political gains.

Our society is continuously working to heal the wounds of the last war and it needs to find the courage and strength to help the victims of the conflict, especially women that were raped so that they are integrated back into the society where they belong.

As a society, despite the moral support that we must show toward the victims of rape, we should create an environment where they will feel safe and be allowed to make a choice where they want to speak about their experience or not.

As institutions we must find the legal ways and strengthen our existing mechanisms to help them out. As the President of Kosovo and the host of the international women’s summit in Kosovo last month, as part of the Prishtina Principles we have demanded that the victims of rape are recognized as victims of war, that the magnitude of their experience is publically acknowledged and that they are compensated for their injuries.

But above all today we should demand justice, justice that would heal the wounds of the rape victims in Kosovo that continue to live suppressed for over a decade.. 

Justice for rape victims should be quick and complete for justice must become the main tool and the guarantee that sexual violence, this horrific phenomenon of war shall never be repeated again and that its perpetrators will be punished.

Thank you.