National Ombudsman Declares Support for Constitutional Judge Altina Xhoxhaj

In a move that may undermine the independence of the National Ombudsman, which has had a key function in the procedure to establish several of the new judicial institutions, National Ombudsman Erinda Ballanca made a public statement in support of her “personal friend” constitutional judge Altina Xhoxhaj.

Xhoxhaj, who is also a candidate for the Council of Judicial Nominations and a candidate for Albania’s judge at the European Court of Human Rights, has been under scrutiny by the Independent Qualification Commission (KPK) for her declared assets. Yesterday, during her the public hearing before the KPK, it turned out that several of Xhoxhaj’s assets cannot be justified by her legal income.

National Ombudsman Ballanca, who was elected as part of the McAllister+ deal struck between Prime Minister Edi Rama and opposition leader Lulzim Basha ahead of the 2017 elections, declared after the hearing:

I personally have been one of the people that have spent a good part of their lives being a lawyer on a daily basis and personally, despite the issue of the KPK, I have known Altina Xhoxhaj as one of the most correct judges that have ever existed.

Asked by journalists whether she sat in the hall during the hearing to support her friend, she replied:

I am here as the Ombudsman. I said that beyond the fact that I personally… I wasn’t here as her friend to help her, but personally i have known as very correct and I have come to hear her defend herself. The Commission doesn’t decide based on what I say.