USAID’s Justice System Strengthening Program (JSSP) focused on advancing the rule of law in Kosovo and ensuring it takes root. Building on prior reform efforts, the program helped develop a judicial system that adheres to high standards of efficiency, accountability, and professionalism. It also played a leading role in integrating judicial structures in northern Kosovo that were inactive since the 2008 declaration of independence, thereby ensuring one justice system for all Kosovo citizens.
JSSP had three major objectives:
Objective 1: Strengthen the efficiency and effectiveness of the administration of justice and the delivery of quality services by the Kosovo Judicial Council and courts
Objective 2: Enhance the accountability and professionalism of justice system institutions and actors
Objective 3: Support the functioning and integration of judicial structures in the north of Kosovo.
JSSP provided significant technical assistance to the Kosovo Judicial Council (KJC) and courts to build capacity and ensure a modern, efficient, transparent, and accountable judicial system. With JSSP support, the KJC developed policy frameworks and backlog reduction mechanisms, introduced operational efficiencies including a screening methodology that improves disposition times in civil matters, streamlined judicial performance evaluation and appointment systems, and enhanced the overall judicial transparency and publication of redacted decisions.
JSSP mentored and monitored KJC efforts to implement an automated case management system for the courts (CMIS), including developing budget templates to forecast costs associated with implementation and maintenance, designing statistical reports and an internal performance dashboard to manage court performance based on CEPEJ indicators, designing automatic case assignment via CMIS, and linking KJC website features to CMIS.
The performance dashboard was made publicly available on the official KJC website, which was also redesigned with JSSP support. The dashboard showcases some of the most important judicial performance data in a user-friendly infographic format, including clearance rates and trends (received vs. resolved cases), backlog cases (older than 2 years), and individual judges’ productivity.
Another significant achievement in the area of transparency includes the development of a case lookup tool which is integrated into the website of the KJC, and all courts. The tool enables quick and easy access to case information for citizens - all parties in court proceedings, including both the current status and previous actions on their case. It is interconnected with the case management system and draws upon the most recent data entered on a case.
As the pandemic hit in 2020 and affected everyday lives and work of all institutions and organizations, JSSP helped Kosovo courts adjust to the new normal and provide continuous access to justice for Kosovo citizens. With Project support, online hearings were introduced in the summer of 2020, and as JSSP provided adequate equipment, the technological aspects involved in organizing remote hearings continued smoothly and for a larger number of judges.
JSSP worked with the KJC to develop an Ethics Advisory Board that serves as an independent board advising judges on issues related to ethics and implementation of the Code of Judicial Conduct. DPI helped both the judicial and the prosecutorial council to streamline the disciplinary process and enhance the implementation of the new law on disciplinary liability.
Building on the experience and insights gained during the implementation of USAID Advancing Kosovo Together project, DPI was aware of the importance of enabling full adherence to the use of minority languages in the Kosovo courts and courtrooms. JSSP has thus improved the integration of judicial structures in the north of Kosovo by streamlining and improving the work of court translation/interpretation services, as well as enabling access to continuous judicial education for judges and staff from this region.
“The activity was able to help pave the way for integration of the judiciary in the north, a milestone at least ten years in the making. … This would not have happened without the Contractor's efforts on the ground to support the KJC to achieve this major milestone in the Brussels Agreement.” CPAR – Kosovo JSSP
Under JSSP, DPI helped match demand-side activities to supply-side interventions by engaging civil society to both monitor and contribute collaboratively to justice reforms. JSSP established a CSO-led mechanism for monitoring the publication of redacted judicial decisions, as well as supported a comprehensive court user satisfaction survey, presenting perceptions on efficiency, transparency and access to justice among citizens and lawyers. Court user surveys were also made available online through the websites of all Kosovo courts - yet another milestone in JSSP's intensive #digitaljustice support to the Kosovo judiciary.