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Blood Debt: Feudal Familial Law in the Balkans

A centuries-old system of "blood feuds"—or murderous rivalries between families—still holds powerful sway in some parts of the Balkans.

In some parts of the Balkans, families still live by a centuries-old law called "the Canon," which recognizes the right to vengeance if a man from one family kills another, the family of the victim must respond in kind. This "debt" is usually executed by the eldest male member of the family. It is his duty to avenge his loved ones if he refuses, he declared a coward and renounced by his family. VICE Serbia recently traveled from East Montenegro where some families have experienced four cycles of vengeance to the north of Albania, where some children never leave their homes in fear of being killed. Along the way they spoke with families of murder victims who, disappointed by the corruption of the official justice system, have taken judgment and punishment into their own hands.