FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
THURSDAY - October 21, 2010
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY VISITS KOSOVO IN SUPPORT OF
EASTERN DISTRICT - KOSOVO INITIATIVE
U.S. AND KOSOVO AUTHORITIES FOCUS ON VICTIMS’ RIGHTS
ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEYS
CONTINUE TRAINING IN KOSOVO
RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA AND PRISTINA, KOSOVO - United States Attorney George E.B. Holding and senior members of his criminal division are in Kosovo this week as part of the Eastern District’s ongoing training and development program for judges, prosecutors, police officers and victim services advocates. Since October 18, 2010, Mr. Holding and others from his office have been participating in training and events raising public awareness of the needs and rights of victims of crime. The training and events follow two weeks of intensive training conducted in Raleigh and in Washington, D.C. during April of this year. Emphasis has been placed on the role of police officers, prosecutors and the Court and their joint obligation to ensure that victims of crime are not neglected by the criminal justice system and that appropriate resources are made available to victims of crime to assist them in rebuilding their lives after having been victimized. Moreover, participants are continuing to work closely with prosecutors and law enforcement officers in its development of criminal investigations and prosecutions.
Kosovo, a part of the former Yugoslavia and a territory long claimed by Serbia, formally declared its independence on February 17, 2008. That declaration was the culmination of efforts begun when the United States and NATO allies intervened in Kosovo’s violent conflict with Serbian troops in 1999. Since that time, with the aid of the United States, various European countries, and the United Nations, the people of Kosovo have been working to develop a legal system with integrity and reliability which focuses on the rule of law. The United States Department of Justice, through its Office of Oversees Prosecutorial Development and Training (OCPDT), has been playing a key role in the training of personnel in the Kosovian legal system. Indeed, since 2008, the Department has been represented in Kosovo by Assistant United States Attorney Kim Moore of the Eastern District of North Carolina. The planned training is being conducted at the request of and under the leadership of OCPDT.
Members of this office, along with federal investigators, will continue to conduct training in Kosovo periodically in the coming months in an effort to continue the development of task forces which address drug trafficking, human trafficking and public corruption and will continue its assessment of victim needs and services and work with government officials to address those issues. Moreover, the partnership between the Government of Kosovo and the United States Attorney’s Office will focus on the continued introduction of plea bargaining and other methods for efficiently resolving a large volume of criminal cases which are backlogged in Kosovo.
The Department of Justice’s effort will continue to be led by Robert J. Higdon, Jr., Chief of the Criminal Division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina and J. Frank Bradsher, Deputy Criminal Chief for Narcotics, United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Both have participated in the training undertaken by this office throughout the last two years in Kosovo.
During this week, Messrs. Holding, Higdon and Bradsher have been in meetings with the Deputy Chief of the United States Mission in Kosovo, the Minister of Justice of Kosovo, the Chief State Prosecutor of Kosovo and members of Kosovo’s Supreme Court. They have also continued one-on-one training and work with a large number of police officers and prosecutors throughout the criminal justice system. In addition, Mr. Holding delivered remarks at the first annual National Crime Victims’ Rights Ceremony, an event modeled on similar ceremonies annually held in Raleigh and in Washington and which many Kosovo officials attended last April. Mr. Holding’s remarks are attached hereto for reference.
Messrs. Holding, Higdon and Bradsher are accompanied by Special Agent Thomas Beers of the Internal Revenue Service who has played a key role in the ongoing work with Kosovo law enforcement and by Eastern District Victim Witness Coordinator Michelle Scott, who has led the team assessing Kosovo’s victim services system.
The team is also accompanied by former Cary Police Officer George Almond who has addressed ceremonies in Gjilane and Gjakova, Kosovo. On October 10, 2001, Officer Almond, while approaching a car he had stopped along Highway 1 in Cary, was shot in the face at close range by an individual with a 9 mm semi-automatic firearm. Officer Almond’s story is well known to the public in this area and is briefly summarized in Mr. Holding’s remarks. Mr. Almond spoke to Kosovo officials when they visited the United States. After hearing his remarks they asked that he be made a part of these first annual events so that other Kosovars could hear his story and draw support and inspiration from it.
Mr. Holding commented, “The Department of Justice and the Government of Kosovo have, over the last two years, presented this office with a unique opportunity and important responsibilities in the training of law enforcement authorities in Kosovo. The establishment of proper law enforcement procedures and techniques and the building of strong relationships between law enforcement in North Carolina and Kosovo will be a great benefit to both the United States and to Kosovo. The United States continues to work with the government of Kosovo to establish a strong and vibrant democracy in that country. The proper enforcement of criminal laws is essential to ensuring that Kosovo is governed by the rule of law. Morever, for the United States, we benefit from a stable ally, who is a cooperative partner in the war against organized international crime. It is an honor to be a part of this effort.”