How Kosovo institutions failed to implement the law in the cases of high police officers suspected for criminal affairs?

By: Leonora Aliu (Kosovo 2.0) / Photo by Emil Bruckner on Unsplash
@kosovo2point0

The watch showed lunchtime at December 30th, 2017, when Agron Mustafa, the director of Kosovo’s Post Telekom was walking in Enver Zymberi street in Prishtina, a street named after a police officer was shot dead in the north of Mitrovica during a police raid in 2011.

Mustafa didn’t know this street is going to be a place he is going to be attacked and beaten, not by a gang of street thugs, but by the very state uniform on whose honor the street was named.

Mustafa was beaten by two police officers which were on the duty but not dressed in uniforms at that they in the center of Prishtina.

One of those who attacked him was Nazim Sahiti, the director of economic crimes department and anticorruption in the Kosovo Police, and the other officer Avni Berisha, known by the nickname “Tarkani” and man with a bad reputation.

On December 31st Mustafa had published on Facebook a video obtained from nearby shops where he was beaten, which showed the entire assault against him.

“I have been attacked by high Kosovo police officers, I see police officers in uniform nearby, who don’t react at all and have no regad for positive right in Kosovo, and apart from having been a victim in this case, by officer ‘Tarkan’ assisted by his non-official ‘boss’, Nazim Sahiti…” wrote PTK’s director in his reaction.

Mustafa had reported the case in main Police Station in the Center of Prishtina.

The same day, Kosovo Police Inspectorate (KPI), an agency under the authority of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and with the legal competence to investigate and inspect Kosovo Police officers, had issued a media statement.

KPI stated that they had initiated investigation towards the two officers.

Nevertheless, KPI did not undertake all the competencies it has towards the officers equally.

Officer Avni Berisha was suspended pending an investigation by the State Prosecutor who pressed charges for small body injury towards PTK’s director, Agron Mustafa.

However, the director of economic crimes and anticorruption in the Police, Nazim Sahiti was not suspended.

The absence of KPI’s actions towards Sahiti had raised suspicions and accusations towards the Inspectorate, accusing it of acting with double standards when it comes to high Police officers, such as is the case of Sahiti.

The Kosovo Center for Security Studies (QKSS) is one of the few that monitor the work of security institutions of Kosovo, including the Police and mechanisms for controlling it, such as the KPI.

For Plator Avdiu, the researcher and author of the report on monitoring and assessing the integrity of Kosovo security institutions by this center, the case of the attack against Agron Mustafa is an indicator that KPI is not a credible agency towards high Kosovo Police officers, suspected of criminal affairs.

The best evidence, according to him, is the fact that, during the initial investigation phase against Nazim Sahiti, a recommendation was given to suspend him from the duty of the director of economic crimes and anti-corruption department in the Police, but the acting chief executive of KPI, Miradije Kelmendi did not allow that measure.

“In this way, KPI did not deal with him at all. This case shows that the Police Inspectorate, regardless of being separate from the Police, does have strong influence in KPI, as the case of pardoning one of the highest officers in the leadership of the Police implicated in this case shows”, said Avdiu.

The KPI was established in December of 2010, and a large part of the staff was transferred from the Kosovo Police to this agency.

This raised a lot of eyebrows on KPI’s objectivity in many cases of Police officers under investigation.

“ ‘Sahiti case’ is just another proof that KPI leadership continues to maintain close ties with police officers”, says Avdiu.

He said that KPI, marred by one scandal after another, has proven that it is not an independent mechanism for investigating high police officers.

“Claims that Nazim Sahiti has been pardoned and recommendations for his suspension were refused shows that KPI does not treat all cases equally”, he said.

Captured From the Head

The beating of PTK’s director, which had drawn a lot of media attention, is not the first of scandals to do with high Kosovo Police officers and the only agency which has the full authority to investigate and inspect them – the Police Inspectorate.

Thus in June 2017 investigations were initiated against Emin Beqiri, former director of economic crimes in the Kosovo Police, a position then acquired by Nazim Sahiti.

The Special Prosecution had initiated investigations against Beqiri and another person named Rahim Hashimi on suspicions that they had received 100 thousand Euros from leaders of a non-governmental organization in order to shut down investigations regarding a case of economic crimes.

Beqiri had called the accusations as a trap.

“This is an internal agenda within the prosecution and the police in order to attack me”, said he to kallxo.com web portal.

Nevertheless, even the investigation initiated against him by KPI had triggered a debate due to delays in opening a criminal case against him, despite the fact that media had already published a video recording in which Beqiri can be seen meeting with the so-called broker of the NGO.

Without scandal’s has not remain also the only mechanism that is charged to investigate corrupted Police Officers in Kosovo. Less than nine months after Beqiri’s and Sahit’s Case, the Chief of the Police Inspector Office of Kosovo was suspended from his post.

Another Case

In February 2018, KPI’s chief executive, Hilmi Mehmeti was suspended through a decision by the Minister of Internal Affairs, Flamur Sefaj, in order to open the way for the State Prosecution to investigate him for suspicions that he had exerted undue influence in selecting young inspectors, and trying to employ family members and close relatives in the vacancy openings.

Immediately following this, the vacancy announcement for new inspectors was canceled by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

For Plator Avdiu from QKSS, the very act of appointing Mehmeti in the position of chief executive had violated KPI’s independence beyond measure.

Mehmeti, a former high ranked police officer, has been seen as someone who can not properly lead KPI because of his close ties to police officers.

“This raised red flags that his appointment in the leadership of KPI consisted of conflict of interest with this previous position in the Police”, said Avdiu.  

This, according to him, leads further to the assessment that, even the investigation of the integrity of the police, a process now spoken of for many years but never implemented, could not potentially be done independently as long as the head of KPI continues to hold his previous position in the Police.

Immediately following his suspension, Miradije Kelmendi was appointed acting director of KPI, formerly a member of the Evaluation Commission for new inspectors.

The scandal directly involving the Chief Executive of KPI in the position opening of this institution, and his exertion of influence in employing family members, was apparently an alarm for the justice institutions in investigating this case, according to civil society.

Nevertheless, the suspension of the Chief Executive by the Minister of Home Affairs, and the appointment of KPI’s high officer, Miradije Kelmendi as acting director of KPI hasn’t seen as reform of the institution.

According to civil society monitors, this is because, even Kelmendi is suspected to have exerted pressure and undue influence towards the evaluation commission for this vacancy call, similarly to the now suspended director, Mehmeti.

“The Minister of Home Affairs should have appointed an officer temporarily in this position, someone with integrity and a clean record”said Plator Avdiu from QKKS.

Miradije Kelmendi did not want to speak to a reporter and she just stated that “accusations regarding scandals in KPI are fabricated.” However, she refused to answer the questions sent to her by e-mail.

A List Full Of Scandals

The annual report of the KPI shows that only in 2016, this agency sent five hundred and six complaints to the Investigation Department for preliminary investigation.

During the preliminary investigation, 31.1% of them resulted with elements of criminal acts and received a case number for further investigation, while two hundred and thirty-two or 41.7% of the cases resulted with elements of disciplinary violation by police officers.

These data show that there has not been any significant improvement when compared to 2015 when a thousand two hundred and fifteen complaints were received.

Out of them, 556 were sent for further investigation, out of which 173 resulted with criminal elements.

In July of 2017, KPI had undertaken a detainment raid against 59 traffic police officers, accused of bribery. Out of them, 24 were fired from their position.

Nevertheless, even at that time, there were criticisms regarding the use of double standards when it comes to investigating police officers, especially regarding high profile officers.

One of the most famous cases, which never saw resolution, is the case of the theft that occurred in the main evidence room of the Kosovo Police, which happened in 2007.

A report by “Preportr” of organization “Çohu” in Kosovo, had written in 2012 that Kosovo authorities had prior knowledge that material evidence in the evidence room were under threat.

A report issued in 2007 gives us the picture of a thief in the room used for storing evidence on heavy crimes. Up until now, no one has been held accountable, while EULEX has suspended investigations regarding this case.

“In police buildings, where the most sensitive evidence was stored, one could see students of police professors of private universities coming in and going out as if it was a pub. This was the alarm raised by the Kosovo Police Inspectorate (KPI) as far back as 2007, more thant two years before the famous theft took place in the evidence room in the central command station of the Kosovo Police”, writes Preportr.

KPI’s report regarding this case says that no non-authorized person is allowed in this room, while students of “Fama” and “AAB” colleges were coming in the forensics laboratory without protocol since some police officers were also lecturers at the same time in those colleges. The law on the police prohibits officers to have any other job, but they do this unhindered by anyone.

To the inspectors, this consists of a breach of security.

“The Police Inspectorate recommends that the Police Commissioner should pay heed to formal disciplinary procedures regarding those police officers who knowingly were involved in this security breach” says KPI’s report for 2007.

The division charged with investigating this case, on the other hand, was the Division for Special Investigation in KPI, the only authority vested with the power to carry out investigations of high Kosovo Police officers, including those in the managerial level.

Nevertheless, in 2016, this division was entirely shut down, through an administrative instruction by the recently appointed director of KPI back then, Hilmi Mehmeti. The director of this division, Valbona Tafilaj on the other hand, was suspended together with a colleague of hers, chief of investigations in this division, with the reasoning that they had exceeded their legal competences in an investigative case towards a police officer caught in a motel with a trafficking victim.

The shutdown of the division for special investigation, according to civil society representatives, apart from having happened with no transparency, was also followed by serious doubts. This is due to the fact that the department shut down was done exactly at the time when tens of police officers were arrested by KPI, under suspicion of corruption and bribery.

“It is senseless that this department is shut down, having in mind its mission in empowering the integrity of the Kosovo Police”, said Avdiu.

Unfinished Vetting

Another process that had begun in 2014, aimed at vetting high Kosovo Police officers according to the Law on Classification of Information and Security Verification, never saw its completion.

As work began on vetting high Police officers that year, mainly department directors and managerial level, there was a war waging between the Police and members of the Commision on vetting in AKI. During the process, the Kosovo Police had arrested the chief of the vetting Commission in AKI, Isuf Lumi, under suspicion of falsifying his high school diploma.

And this had incited the reaction of the Parliamentary Commission on Security and Internal Affairs who had invited to report before the commission the chief of AKI at that time, now advisor for security issues to the President of Kosovo, Bashkim Smakaj, as well as the former director of AKI, then chief at this agency, Agron Selimaj.

The member of the Parliamentary Commission for Security back then, former MP Burim Ramadani from AAK, who now holds the position of vice-minister for the Ministry of Kosovo’s Security Force, had stated that the vetting process of high Police officers by AKI had opened a war front between them, because some high KP officers had failed AKI’s vetting process.

 “It is very obvious that there is a war being waged between Kosovo Police and AKI. I believe that such a war is definitely rooted in the vetting process and some high police officers who received a negative vetting”, he had said to media after the meeting.

Nevertheless, the vetting process, which was suspended as a result of public scandals, hasn’t moved an inch since then.

Now, the new members of the Parliamentary Commission on Security have come forth with a proposal that the Vetting Commission of high state officials, should be devised as a separate mechanism from AKI, as part of the new Law on classification of information and security vetting, which has still not been put for voting in the Parliament.

One thing is for sure though, in case-independent mechanisms devised to monitor, investigate and undertake legal action towards Police officers suspected of criminal affairs do not win their independence from persons connected with the Police, it is difficult to tell whether someone can touch the “bosses” of the Kosovo Police, some of which do not see any problem in going out and beating other officers, in the middle of the street in Kosovo’s capital city.


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TAGS: AnalysisCorruptionInternal ControlKosovo