By Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
KLP and KLGj Installed, What’s Next for the Justice Reform?

This week saw the installation of the High Judicial Council (KLGj) and High Prosecutorial Council (KLP), two major steps in the ongoing justice reform. Although I have previously argued that the installation of both institutions without fully vetting its members completely undermines the aim of the justice reform by giving wide-ranging powers to individuals who may turn out to be unfit for office, let us now look ahead at the coming months, assuming that the KLP and KLGj will remain operational.

Appointments, Transfers, and Dismissals

First of all, the KLGj and KLP will be in charge of appointment, transfers, and dismissals in the judiciary system.

Until now, Temporary General Prosecutor Arta Marku has exercised these functions in violation of the law, and it will be the task of the KLP to make sure the many investigations into (former) government officials derailed by Marku, including those concerning Durrës mayor Vangjush Dako and former Minister of Interior Saimir Tahiri, are put back on track and receive adequate personnel.

Also in the court system, new appointments will need to assist in dealing with the considerable backlogs created by the paralysis of the justice system.

General Prosecutor

Now that the KLP has been installed, Temporary General Prosecutor Arta Marku has lost most of the powers she exercised since her dubious appointment by the Albanian government.

According to Constitution, Parliament elects the new General Prosecutor with a qualified 3/5 majority for a mandate of seven years from three candidates proposed by the KLP. If the Parliament fails  to elect a candidate, the candidate ranked highest by the KLP will be automatically chosen.

High Court

Through the vetting, the High Court has lost 5 of its 9 judges, while against 2, including High Court President Xhezair Zaganjori, the appeal is still pending. Meanwhile, the High Court has accrued a backlog of more than 24,000 cases, bringing justice in the country to a literal standstill.

The KLGj will now be able to start the promotion procedures to promote judges and ‘renowned jurists’ to fill up the High Court.

Special Prosecution Office (SPAK) and National Bureau of Investigation (BKH)

Many hopes about the decriminalization of politics and the fight against organized crime have been invested in the Special Prosecution Office and the National Investigation Bureau dependent on it, which will specifically investigate corruption, organized crimes, and crimes committed by government officials, including the President, Prime Minister, and Members of Parliament.

The SPAK consists of at least 10 prosecutors appointed by the KLP for a 9-year term, and is formally independent from the General Prosecution Office.  The BKH is a branch of the judicial police that falls under the jurisdiction of the SPAK. It is therefore a police force independent from the Ministry of Interior.

Court cases filed by the SPAK will be treated at the new Anti-Corruption and Organized Crime Courts.

It is expected that the investigations into Tahiri, Dako, and other politicians will be transferred to the jurisdiction of the SPAK.

School of Magistrates

The installation of the KLP and KLGj will solve the current deadlock regarding the School of Magistrates. The KLP and KLGj both determines the quota of students allowed to enter the school, and appoint its graduates to positions within the judiciary. In April, the School’s director Sokol Sadushi sounded the alarm over the fact that no students for the 2018–19 academic year could be admitted, and that graduates would remain without job.

A transitory amendment to the Status Law, that regulates the admissions process, proposed by the government failed to gain the necessary majority in Parliament, and the situation even baffled some non-plussed internationals. In November, several graduates filed a lawsuit against General Prosecutor Arta Marku, President Ilir Meta, and Prime Minister Edi Rama for their failure to be appointed to a full-time function in the judiciary.

Now that the KLP and KLGj have been installed, they should be able to reopen admissions and appoint the recent graduates.