The Republic of Kosovo has adopted a new Criminal Code, which entered into force on 15 April this year. The punishment for those trafficking in children increased with the adoption of this Code.
The previous Criminal Code (2012, now repealed), within the framework of Article 171, provided punishment provisions on human trafficking crimes. However, this article had inconsistencies in terms of providing fair punishment measures; the threshold penalty in cases of trafficking children was three years, compared with five for adult trafficking, meaning trafficking in children was seen as a lesser offence.
The need to address this discrepancy was highlighted by the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) based on their 2015 report, ‘On the compliance of Kosovo with the standards of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings’. This report called on authorities in Kosovo to amend article 171 of the Criminal Code in regards to provisions of punishment measures for the offense of trafficking in persons, in particular, the minimum threshold for punishment in cases of trafficking in children to ensure that it is compatible with the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.
Now, under the new Criminal Code 2019, the penalty for cases of trafficking in human beings is dealt with under Article 165, which states:
1. Whoever engages in trafficking in persons shall be punished by a fine and imprisonment of five (5) to twelve (12) years.
2. When the offence provided for in paragraph 1. of this Article is committed within a three hundred and fifty (350) meter radius of a school or other locality which is used by children or when the offence is committed against a person under the age of eighteen (18) years, the perpetrator shall be punished by a fine and imprisonment of five (5) to fifteen (15) years.
Increasing the minimum punishment threshold for cases of trafficking in children in Kosovo is considered a positive step in punishing perpetrators and improving domestic legislation to be in line with European standards.