On 21 February, the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) supported the organization of a workshop on the implementation of the Law on Data Protection for 57 judges, prosecutors, Kosovo Police officers, and other representatives of rule-of-law institutions.
The workshop “Justice Vis-à-Vis Personal Data Protection”, which was organized together with the Kosovo Information and Privacy Agency (IPA) and the Academy of Justice, focused on the obligations stemming from the implementation of the Law on Protection of Personal Data, as well on the challenges faced by rule-of-law institutions in the implementation of the law.
Opening the workshop, the Commissioner of the Information and Privacy Agency, Krenare Sogojeva-Dërmaku, recalled the responsibility that these institutions’ representatives carry while performing their work: "As judges, prosecutors, police officers, you all play a critical role in respecting the Law for the Protection of Personal Data. This includes the right to privacy and the protection of personal data as a right to privacy. It is essential that you, who work in the justice system, are aware that these principles must be always applied", Sogojeva-Dërmaku said, adding that: "All institutions that collect or control personal data must establish appropriate security measures for the protection of these data. This workshop aims at enabling an interaction among you to analyze concrete cases against best practices".
In his opening remarks, EULEX’s Head of Mission, Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, stressed the importance of the concept of protection of personal data for the proper functioning of the rule-of-law system and pointed out that Kosovo can count on a solid legal framework for safeguarding personal data, the Law on Protection of Personal Data, which is broadly in line with the EU General Regulation on Data Protection.
Addressing the participants, Wigemark said: “Based on the Kosovo law, all of you, as representatives of Kosovo’s rule-of-law institutions, have a clear responsibility to ensure that personal data are collected and processed in a fair, transparent, and accountable manner while delivering justice.” In addition, the Head of EULEX praised the role of IPA in overseeing the implementation of the law.
The Senior Training Officer for Continuous Training Program of the Academy of Justice, Kadrije Bicaj, welcomed the participants encouraging them to openly discuss the challenges they might face.
Gzim Shala, Programs’ Manager and Senior Legal Researcher at the Kosovo Law Institute, presented the constitutional and legal standards on the protection of personal data, elaborating in detail on the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights in this subject area. Shala also focused on the need to balance the right to data protection with other rights, such as the right to access public documents.
“Despite the importance of protecting personal data, it should be noted that this protection is not limitless but must be balanced with other rights. The jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights has already established clear rules for the protection of personal data and the balancing of this protection with other rights," Shala said.
Blerta Iberdemaj, Legal Officer and Monitor at BIRN, presented the issue of data protection and respect of privacy from a public information perspective, highlighting media’s responsibility in pursing freedom of expression while, at the same time, respecting the other rights of citizens.
Iberdemaj presented very concrete cases that recently happened in Kosovo and that clearly showed a failure in protecting the right to data protection from Kosovo institutions, or an evident violation of citizens’ privacy from the media, when, for example, the identity of suspects is published contrary to the law.
“Disregarding the right to data protection or the right to privacy can cause a great damage to the affected citizens,” Iberdemaj said, calling on everyone to have a stronger sense of responsibility and awareness in such a sensitive area.
The last part of the workshop was dedicated to interactive group work, where the Executive Director of FOL Movement, Mexhide Demolli, shared with participants hypothetical scenarios showcasing cases that may eventually end up in courts and encouraging an interactive and lively discussion.
Since the issue of data protection is closely intertwined with the right to access public documents - another issue of crucial importance for a democratic society- EULEX is planning to organize a separate workshop on the Law on Access to Public Documents on 15 March, thus enabling participants to familiarize themselves with both laws.