2011 Human Rights Report – Albania (May 24, 2012)
Freedom of Press: The independent media were active and largely unrestrained, although there were cases of direct and indirect political pressure on the media, including threats against journalists. At times political pressure and lack of funding constrained the independent print media, and journalists reported that they practiced self-censorship. Political parties, trade unions, and other groups published newspapers or magazines independent of government influence.
The government controlled the editorial line of the public Albanian Radio and Television, which operated a national television channel and a national radio station and, by law, received 50 percent of its budget from the government. While private stations generally operated free of direct government influence, most owners believed that the content of their broadcasts could influence government action toward their other businesses. Business owners also freely used media outlets to gain favor and promote their interests with both major parties.
Violence and Harassment: There were incidents of violence against members of the broadcast media during the year, and journalists were subject to pressure from political and business actors.
On January 21, police personnel beat journalist Ened Janina, political editor of the daily newspaper Shekulli, while he was covering a political demonstration in Tirana. According to Janina, a prosecutor initiated an investigation and received Janina’s testimony shortly after the protest, but he was never summoned again to testify. The same day, reporter Fatos Mahmutaj was grazed by a bullet that killed a man standing on the media riser. Mahmutaj claimed on several television shows that the bullet wounding him and killing another man came from Republican Guard soldiers. Mahmutaj reportedly received several death threats after his public statements and left the country days after the protest. In the spring, Mahmutaj was granted political asylum in Belgium.
Reporter Artan Hoxha aired footage of the January 21 protest that allegedly showed how one of the protestors died. Hoxha stated that four days after the broadcast, unknown men handed his 10-year-old son at home an envelope that contained three bullets.
Police officers did not enforce the law equally, and an individual’s political or criminal connections often influenced enforcement of laws. Low salaries contributed to continued corruption and unprofessional behavior, which remained impediments to the development of an effective police force.
During the year the Ombudsman’s Office processed complaints against police officers mainly on arrest and detention problems. The Ombudsman’s Office received and made inquiries into 2,029 complaints during the year.
Arrest Procedures and Treatment While in Detention
The constitution requires that a judge or prosecutor issue a warrant for a suspect’s arrest based on sufficient evidence. There were no reports of secret arrests. The prosecutor may release the suspect or petition the court within 48 hours to hold the individual further. A court must decide within 48 hours whether to place a suspect in detention, require bail, prohibit travel, or require the defendant to report regularly to the police. In practice prosecutors requested and courts routinely ordered detention in many criminal cases. However, courts routinely denied prosecutors’ requests for detention of well-connected, high-profile defendants. The constitution requires that authorities inform detained persons immediately of the charges against them and of their rights. Police sometimes failed to do so. Under the law, police must immediately inform the prosecutor of an arrest. There is not an effective system for handling the monetary aspect of bail. Instead, courts often order suspects to report to police or prosecutors on a weekly basis. Courts must provide indigent defendants with free legal counsel. This right was respected in practice and defendants were generally informed of this right.
Many suspects are ordered to remain under house arrest, often at their own request, because they receive credit for serving this time if they are convicted. House arrest is not effectively monitored, and suspects can freely move outside without being detected by authorities.
Arbitrary Arrest: Arbitrary detentions or false arrests occurred infrequently.
Pretrial Detention: At the end of November, there were 1,901 persons in pretrial detention centers and 2, 878 convicted persons in prisons. Thus, pretrial detainees constituted 39.7 percent of the total prisoner population. The law requires completion of most pretrial investigations within three months; however, a prosecutor may extend this period to two years or longer. The law provides that the maximum pretrial detention should not exceed three years; there were no reports that authorities violated this limit during the year. However, lengthy pretrial detentions often occurred due to delayed investigations, defense mistakes, or the intentional failure of defense counsel to appear. Under the law, a judge cannot hold an attorney in contempt of court to prevent such delaying actions by attorneys.
Limited material resources, lack of space, poor court calendar management, insufficient staff, and failure of attorneys and witnesses to appear prevented the court system from adjudicating cases in a timely fashion.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, political pressure, intimidation, widespread corruption, and limited resources sometimes prevented the judiciary from functioning independently and efficiently. In addition, court hearings are often closed to the public. Court security officers routinely refuse entry to hearings and routinely call the presiding judge in each case to ask if the person seeking admission may attend the hearing. Some agencies routinely disregard court orders. The politicization of appointments to the High and Constitutional Courts threatened to undermine the independence and integrity of these courts.
On September 9, a remotely detonated bomb killed district court Judge Skerdilajd Konomi in Vlore. The investigation into his death was ongoing at year’s end.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
Individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations; however, courts were susceptible to corruption, inefficiency, intimidation, and political tampering. Many court hearings were held in judges’ offices, which contributed to a lack of professionalism and opportunities for corruption. These factors undermined the judiciary’s authority, contributed to controversial court decisions, and led to an inconsistent application of civil law.
A large number of conflicting claims for private and religious property confiscated during the communist era remained unresolved. A 2010 European Parliament study found a lack of human resources, constant turnover within the Office for the Restitution of Property (ORP), failure to implement existing legislation, and allegations of corruption hampered efforts to restore property to rightful owners.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
Section 4. Official Corruption and Government TransparencyShare <
The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.
Corruption in the executive branch was widespread and pervasive. The education system remained corrupt, and officials sometimes required bribes from students for them to matriculate or pass examinations. Doctors and other medical personnel frequently demanded payment to provide what should have been free government services. As in other sectors, high-profile defendants usually were found not guilty, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. While numerous low and mid-level officials were prosecuted and often convicted for corruption, prosecuting higher level officials remained problematic.
The government prosecuted corrupt officials and managed complaints regarding corrupt police through the ombudsman and the Internal Control Service of the Albanian State Police. However, broad immunity provisions for judges, members of parliament, and other high-level officials prohibit not only prosecution but any use of investigative measures, hindering the government’s ability to prosecute high-level corruption.
The government’s task force against organized crime coordinated anticorruption activities. The prime minister headed the task force, which included several ministers and heads of independent state-owned agencies, such as the public electricity company, and representatives of the police and intelligence organizations.
Corruption in the judiciary is pervasive. Many judges issue rulings that do not appear to have any basis in law or fact, leading some to believe that the only plausible explanation is corruption or political pressure. Broad immunity enjoyed by judges prohibits prosecutors from investigating corruption allegations until they make a public request to the High Council of Justice to lift the accused judge’s immunity, and receive its approval. Few judges have been prosecuted for corruption because most criminal investigations must remain secret, at least initially, in order to be successful.
Albanien: US Professor Nikolla Pano, über die korrupte und inkompetente Justiz
Rückblick 1995 und 1996, über das Verbrecher Kartell des Salih Berisha
Komplette Idioten, werden als Richter, Staatsanwälte, Minister, Polizei Chefs, Direktoren, oder gar als Admiral eingesetzt in 1996: Rear Admiral Edmond Zhupani, ohne jede Militär und Marine Ausbildung!
Einzige Qualifikation. Berg Ziegen Hüter, aus Tropoje den letzten Neanderthalern in Euroopa, die in der Bildung und Kultur, weit hinter jedem Steinzeit Menschen zurückgeblieben sind.
Fun Facts About Our New Allies
The Progressive Review (Washington), 22 June 1999
“Albania … offered NATO and the U.S. an important military outpost in the turbulent southern Balkans (in the 1990-96 period Albania opened its ports and airstrips for U.S. military use and housed CIA spy planes for flights over Bosnia)…. The U.S. played a major role in the DP’s 1992 electoral victory, and it then provided the new government with military, economic, and political support. In the 1991-96 period Washington directly provided Albania $236 million in economic aid, making the U.S. the second largest bilateral economic donor (following Italy)…..Following Berisha’s visit to the U.S. in March 1991, Washington began supplying direct assistance to the DP, including donations of computers and cars for the 1992 electoral campaign. William Ryerson, the first U.S. ambassador, stood next to Berisha on the podium at election rallies. The U.S. failed to criticize, and at times encouraged, the new president as he purged critics of his policies within the judicial system, police, and the DP—often through illegal means. By 1993 DP loyalists and family members held most of the prominent positions in Albania’s ministries, institutes, universities, and state media. Citing the threat of communism’s return, Berisha successfully instilled fear in the population and discredited his rivals. The U.S. embassy in Albania contributed to the polarization of Albanian politics by refusing to meet most of the opposition parties (former communists as well as others) for the first two years of DP rule. This one-sided view of democratization helped Berisha dismantle most political alternatives, some of which were moderate and truly democratic.
The political climate in Albania has become heated over the last few months
When five PD deputies demanded in January that the chief justice’s immunity be lifted so he could be arrested for abusing his power, the news hit the country like a bolt of lightning. Brozi, a PD member, had been nominated by Berisha as chief justice in an effort to stamp out corruption in the judiciary. Rumor had it that Brozi felt betrayed and abandoned by the president. Some PD deputies reportedly wanted him out because he insisted on prosecuting those guilty of corruption, regardless of party affiliation. The five deputies accused Brozi of illegally approving an early release from
jail of a Greek citizen convicted on drug charges. The accusation, however, was clearly politically motivated. Brozi publicly denied any wrongdoing, saying, ‘The record of my struggle against corruption in Albania precludes the possibility of me being corrupt.”10
In fact, Brozi has won high praise for his fight to keep Albania’s courts independent and free from the dictates of politics. He claims - and many believe him - that some corrupt, high-ranking Democrats who fear judicial independence are bent on destroying him. The clash between Brozi and Minister of Internal Affairs Agron Musaraj - whom Brozi has accused of ”directing a mafia network and employing despotic methods against arrested people” - is also interesting in this context.11
On 1 February, the Albanian parliament voted 53 to 49 not to lift Brozi’s immunity. The decision was seen as a smashing victory for the chief justice and another political setback for the PD.12 Brozi said after the vote, “The era when votes were dictated has been replaced by an era when everyone can vote according to his own conviction and conscience.” Brozi also thanked journalists for their support.13
The Brozi case clearly displays the internal battles and divisions within the PD, likely caused by widespread corruption at the highest seats of power, that sooner or later arc bound to wreak political havoc. The incident, however, could positively affect President Berisha’s political fortunes if he can muster enough strength and support from the party to disable the politically and economically corrupt, as he did with the cabinet reshuffle in December.