Rule of law in Kosovo and the Mandate of UNMIK


UNMIK Police Officer patroling, October 1999 - UNMIK Photo Archives

UNMIK was established in Kosovo to serve as an international civil and military presence following the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 in June 1999. With regard to rule of law issues, the Secretary-General’s report dated 12 July 1999 (S/1999/779) stated that the judicial system had “collapsed” and that there was “an urgent need to build genuine rule of law in Kosovo, including through the immediate re-establishment of an independent, impartial and multi-ethnic judiciary.”


Training of Police, October 1999 from UNMIK Archives 


Over the following years, UNMIK supported the achievement of a number of rule of law milestones. These included:

  • The establishment of the Department of Judicial Affairs (DOJ) in July 1999, which later became the Department of Justice in 2001. The core mandate of the DOJ was to build a multi-ethnic, independent, impartial and competent judiciary, while ensuring that inter-ethnic and organized crimes were prosecuted and adjudicated with support from international judges and prosecutors.  The DOJ served as the focal point for locating missing persons from all communities due to the conflict, supporting access to justice and providing assistance and advocacy services for victims of crimes.
  • The Prosecution Services and Court Administration Section of the DOJ played a lead role in the establishment of more than 60 courts and offices of the public prosecutor throughout Kosovo with approximately 1,500 judges, prosecutors and judicial support staff.  The DOJ also grew to encompass the Legal Policy Unit (later to become the Legal Policy Division), the Judicial Development Division, the Office of Missing Persons and Forensics, and the Office of the International Prosecutors/Criminal Division, which focused on investigations of war crimes and inter-ethnic crimes. In addition, the DOJ brought eight correctional facilities into operation and assisted in the establishment of the Ministry of Justice’s Department of Legal Affairs. 
  • The establishment of authority for international judges and prosecutors to handle cases of corruption, organized crime, criminal offenses motivated by race, religion, or national or ethnic background, terrorism, war crimes, trafficking in persons as well as other crimes that threaten the independence of the Kosovo judicial system and the firm establishment of the rule of law. This involvement of international judicial personnel promoted the impartial adjudication of these serious crimes.
  • The Ministry of Justice and the Kosovo Judicial Council were established in 2005.
  • A number of additional rule of law institutions were established in 2007, these included the Kosovo Special Prosecutor’s Office and the Legal Aid Commission.

SRSG Bernard Kouchner and PDSRSG Tom Koenigs affixing the first Kosovo Number plates Note: From UNMIK archives 

UNMIK was restructured in 2008 and its rule of law executive tasks were transferred to the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), pursuant to the Statement by the President of the Security Council on 26 November 2008 (S/PRST/2008/44). Today, UNMIK is comprised of international and civilian staff, including police and military monitors.