The Kosovo Supreme Court has confirmed the suspension of Peja/Pec Basic Court Judge Florije Zatriqi after it was reported that she sentenced a man charged with raping a 15-year-old to only eight months and eight days in prison.
A report by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) on the Peja/Pec Court’s verdict caused the Judicial Council to suspend the judge in early November.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court confirmed the Judicial Council’s decision to suspend Zatriqi, asserting that “an investigation had been launched against her for a disciplinary violation by a competent authority and the alleged disciplinary violation is quite serious, and in the end this measure of suspension enables the development of an impartial and effective investigation of the disciplinary responsibility of the complainant-judge Florije Zatriqi”.
The case in question was heard in July 2021. The Basic Court in Peja/Pec found the defendant, P.K., guilty of abusing the teenager in 2012. P.K pleaded guilty, and was jailed for eight months and eight days; Kosovo’s criminal code allows for sentences of five to 20 years in prison for such offences.
Working with another minor, P.K. kidnapped the victim by threatening her with a knife as she was leaving hospital. She was then taken to an abandoned house, where P.K. and two other minors sexually abused her until her escape the following morning.
At the time of sentencing, P.K. had served exactly eight months and eight days in pre-trial detention, meaning he was not required to serve any additional prison time.
Judge Zatriqi said she had considered ten mitigating circumstances when deciding on the sentence, including that the defendant pleaded guilty, had expressed regret, had no prior convictions, and was only 21 years old at the time of the attack. The court did not find any aggravating circumstances in the case, drawing criticism from activists in late October.
Added to the controversy is the fact that the P.K. case was decided by a single judge, Zatriqi, and not a trial panel as provided for under the new Juvenile Justice Code. According to the Juvenile Justice Code, cases where offenders face more than 10 years in prison must be decided by a panel of three judges rather than a single trial judge.
According to a 2020 crime and safety report, Kosovo courts routinely apply lighter sentences than the legal minimum in rape cases, and the appellate court often further lowers these sentences.