Building a country, one lesson at a time
Posted March 25, 2014
Updated March 26, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Jetulla Aliu is on an international journey to build his country’s criminal justice infrastructure, a quest that recently led him to Raleigh.
“Nice place, nice place to study,” he said. “For my job, it’s good.”
Aliu, Kosovo’s chief police inspector, is part of a partnership with the U.S. government to teach the developing country how to fight crime and develop new criminal procedures. He and his Kosovar peers are working with Bobby Higdon, an assistant U.S. attorney in Raleigh, to develop their prosecution and investigative skills along with building respect for the rule of law in their home country.
Kosovo, once part of the former Yugoslavia, declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 after over a decade of war. The country continues to transition from a communist government to a democracy with help from people like Higdon, who has been part of the U.S. Department of Justice partnership with Kosovo for the past five years.
Wake Forest University, where Higdon received his law degree, is also training prosecutors as part of the effort.
The war has left Kosovo without many resources, which is why the United States and European allies are helping with their infrastructure, Higdon said.
“You never meet someone in Kosovo who can't tell you first-hand how the war affected them or family members,” he said. “They speak very clearly, and very recently in their minds of the loss of family members, people who were basically executed. But they are really resilient people, the most kind, wonderful people you will ever meet.”
Higdon has visited Kosovo multiple times to teach lawyers and police officers about law, conducting investigations, developing statutes and rules and procedures. The southeastern European country has also received new and second-hand equipment from the United States through the partnership.
While in North Carolina, the Kosovo group also received training from the Wilmington Police Department.
“There is no question that they have serious crime problems,” Higdon said. “They have public corruption problems. They have human trafficking problems, drug trafficking problems. But as we often tell them, they have the same problems we have. So that is what has made this partnership valuable for both of us is that we're dealing with the same issues. I often tell them we just have a 200-year head start on the systems we've developed.”
Valbona Osmani, a Kosovo police inspector also part of the contingent to Raleigh, believes their justice system is improving and citizens are starting to trust the police thanks to the partnership.
“(Kosovo) is a place of transition after the war,” she said. “They needed everything and to take the best things of the other countries that they have democracy for a long time, like the United States. But we are still working to change for a better way.”
Higdon described the effort as the greatest thing he’s been able to do as a prosecutor.
“It's really been so professionally rewarding to be a part of something that's new,” he said. “To go there while they're building a new democracy. Their country is a democratic country, only 6 years old. And so it's amazing to be a very small part of what they're doing.”