Some 15 years after the conflict in Kosovo ended, parliament has decided to offer legal rights to wartime rape victims by amending existing legislation.
Changes to an existing law that grants benefits to war victims and veterans were approved by 69 lawmakers on Thursday.
Human rights campaigners in Pristina welcomed the decision, saying it was “high time” to legally acknowledge rape victims of the conflict.
“This is good news. Now, institutions and the civil society need to cooperate with those victims and raise awareness that they need stronger support from society,” Nora Ahmetaj, from the Center for Research, Documentation and Publication told BIRN.
However, it remains unclear what benefits will be given to rape victims of the 1998-1999 Kosovo conflict. No details were given on their future treatment.
Bexhet Shala, executive director of the Council for the Defence of Human Rights and Freedoms, said that, “besides social and psychological support, the government must now ensure the necessary financial support to those victims.
“We believe rape victims from the war should at least get 400 euros per month in order to live with respect and dignity,” he explained.
A law granting benefits to those who fought or suffered as a result of the late 1990s war came into force in 2012, but some have complained that it is not implemented properly.
According to the law, relatives of those killed, invalids, civilian victims and their relatives get benefits of 40 to 534 euro, but rape victims and veterans were excluded.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International said the passage of the law “is also a step towards ensuring justice.
“Very few investigations have been opened into allegations of war crimes of sexual violence in Kosovo. Amnesty International also urges the authorities to ensure that all of those suspected of criminal responsibility should be investigated and, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, prosecuted”, a press release on Tuesday said.
There is still no accurate estimate of the number of women and girls who were raped or suffered other forms of sexual violence during the Kosovo war.