Prison reform in Kosovo
: A study of the dilemmas of state-building

  • Arben Lubach

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This research contributes to the contemporary debate about Statebuilding and penal reform by looking at one of probably the most contested processes in recent European history, namely Statebuilding in Kosovo. This study comprises two parts; the first looks at the Statebuilding process in Kosovo according to European best practices, whereas the second part looks at prison reform and its adherence to internationally recognised standards. This is the first in depth academic research, employing a primarily qualitative approach, to be carried out in Kosovo since its existence, initially as a United Nations protectorate (1999-2008), and later as an independent state (2008-2018). On one side, it adds to the growing literature on Statebuilding, and on the other side it represents a milestone in academic research about prisons and prison reform in Kosovo. The research triangulates reports from the international community (United Nations, European Union, Council of Europe etc.), Civil Society, as well as literature on Statebuilding, and legislation (national and international) with data obtained through personal interviews with relevant stake holders1, related to both Statebuilding and prison reform.

    This thesis has three main findings: Firstly, Statebuilding in Kosovo remains an unfinished business reflecting failings on the part of both the international community and the Kosovo political elite. Key issues identified contributing to this unfinished business include lack of patience by the international community, poor international cadre/expertise, exclusion of local population in the Statebuilding process, compromised Kosovar political elite, and problems with the European best practices themselves.

    Secondly, the research revealed that the biggest threats towards human rights of prisoners in Kosovo are non-existent rehabilitation programmes, disregard for prison staff training, and absence of the Dynamic Security concept throughout the Kosovo prison system. Further, the research revealed that prisoners in Kosovo suffer from indirect human rights violations reflecting the influence of certain high profile prisoners whose primary tool is (abuse of) hospitalization, even though, more generally, provision of healthcare in Kosovo prisons is considered better than in several European countries.
    Finally, the study found that the main challenges in prison reform in Kosovo are twofold: on one (Kosovar) hand corruption, nepotism and cronyism, undue political interference, and high profile prisoners; and on the other (European) side alleged corruption, EU officials, lack of internal (EU) coordination, and lack of realistic objectives.

    Overall, the research confirms the findings of previous authors that Statebuilding is a complicated and delicate process requiring extreme attention, as well as the findings of those who argue that prison reform, like Statebuilding, entails comprehensive planning, dedication of all stakeholders, and above all respect for human rights. The general conclusions of this study include recommendations which could be taken into consideration by the Kosovo Ministry of Justice as immediate actions to facilitate prison reform in Kosovo.

    1 Prisoners, nonetheless, were excluded from this research due to the requirements from the Ethics Committee of the University of Brighton (explained in detail in Chapters 1 and 3), hence their opinion, which although crucial when looking at prison reform, unfortunately, is absent.
    Date of AwardMay 2019
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Brighton
    SupervisorPeter Squires (Supervisor), John Lea (Supervisor) & Denise Martin (Supervisor)

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