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Kosovo's parliament passes a bill on leasing some of its prison space

24/5/2024 6:30
        Kosovo’s parliament on Thursday approved a bill on leasing some of the country's prison space to Denmark, following an agreement to help the Scandinavian country cope with its overcrowded prison system.
        
        Under the deal, signed in 2022, Danish authorities would send foreigners convicted in Denmark to serve time in Kosovo. Danish nationals would be excluded, as would those convicted of terrorism or war crimes, as well as mentally ill prisoners.
        
        Kosovo's lawmakers voted 86-7, with no abstentions, in favor of the bill, which gives Denmark the use of 300 cells at the prison in the town of Gjilan, south of the capital of Pristina, for 10 years.
        
        The bill still needs to be signed by Kosovo's president to become law. It can be implemented once it's published in the official gazette.
        
        It remained unclear when Denmark, which agreed to pay Kosovo 210 million euros ($227 million) for the use of the prison space, would start sending convicts to Kosovo.
        
        The agreement also stipulates that the convicts sent to Kosovo must serve their time here under the same conditions as in a prison in Denmark, and in accordance with Denmark’s international obligations.
        
        The deal also provides for the possibility of deporting foreigners directly to their home countries after the end of their sentence in Kosovo.
        
        Kosovo authorities have said they will spend the money from Denmark on improving the Balkan country's correctional institutions, according to the Justice Ministry, and also on renewable energy projects.
        
        Kosovo's lawmakers failed to pass an earlier draft of the bill during a session last week, after which the government offered a new draft. Part of the opposition was not in favor of the earlier draft, though no reasons were made public. It needed at least 80 votes in favor, or two thirds of the 120-seat parliament, to pass.
        
        Denmark's Justice Minister Peter Hummelgaard called Thursday's vote by Kosovo's parliament "really good news."
        
        He said in a statement that sending convicts to Kosovo "will help getting our hard-pressed prison system back into balance."
        
        "At the same time, it sends a clear signal to foreign criminals that their future is not in Denmark, and therefore they should not serve time here either," Hummelgaard added.
        
        A Danish warden will run the facility in Kosovo, with the help of local prison staff.
        
        Kosovo’s prison system has the capacity to house up to 2,800 prisoners. It was not immediately possible to find out the current number of unoccupied cells.
        



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