Since opening its office in Kosovo in 1999, the East-West Management Institute (EWMI) has been at the forefront of Kosovo’s development by supporting Kosovo’s civil society, government and media through mentoring, training, grant-making and networking programs. In September 2012, EWMI completed work on the Kosovo Constitutional Justice Initiative. Launched in June 2008, under a grant from the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the project played an essential role in the development of the new Constitutional Court of Kosovo. At the beginning of the project, the Court existed only in the text of the Constitution; at its conclusion, the Court stood as the most respected and influential judicial institution in the country. With its authority to review legislation and individual complaints of rights violations, the Court is the ultimate check on legislative and executive power in Kosovo and the final arbiter of the meaning of constitutional human rights provisions. The Court’s landmark rulings to date include a decision that resulted in the removal of a sitting President from office, a decision clarifying key aspects of parliamentary immunity, and a decision protecting the rights of minorities in the selection of municipal symbols.
EWMI’s key contributions to the Court were many. At the request of the Court, EWMI coordinated a working group of local and international experts that produced a draft Law on the Constitutional Court that was adopted by the National Assembly within six months of the launch of the project. EWMI established an interim secretariat of the Court before the judges were appointed and the permanent staff hired, allowing claims to be filed from the moment the new law went into effect. In the crucial early days after the judges took office, EWMI’s sound and practical counsel to the Court’s leadership was essential in helping the Court get on its feet. In a particularly crucial instance, the timely legal advocacy of EWMI’s project leader on the Court’s behalf helped deflect an attempt by the National Assembly to undermine the new Court’s financial autonomy, laying down a lasting marker that has protected the Court’s independence.
Building the capacity of a brand new judicial institution was no easy task, particularly in this instance where the majority of judges lacked any prior judicial experience and the Court was called upon very soon after it began operations to rule in several politically charged cases. EWMI pursued a careful team-building approach, helping the Court develop a strategic plan and rules of procedure in a highly participatory fashion, key steps in the Court’s development and maturity. The fact that the Court has now successfully implemented more than 90% of its strategic plan is a testament to the quality of the process.
EWMI also developed a state-of-the-art Case Data Management System for the Court that is unmatched in Kosovo and is improving efficiency at the Court. The first indexed Case Bulletin of the Court’s decisions that EWMI spearheaded has made the Court’s jurisprudence much more accessible and is now being supported through other funding sources. The lawyer training and public outreach efforts EWMI carried out with the Court have also broadened public understanding of the Court’s role. In the final months of the project, EWMI helped the parliamentary committee charged with nominating judges to the Court develop objective and transparent criteria for evaluating judicial candidates, helping ensure that the first transition within the Court’s membership was conducted in a merit-based fashion.