From: Alice Elizabeth Taylor
PACE Urges Albania to Protect Human Rights Regardless of Religious Practices

The Parliamentary Assembly for the Council of Europe expressed concern that religious jurisprudence is being implemented in a number of member states, in direct contraction with human rights laws. In addition to this, Albania was named as a state that had aligned itself with the Cairo Convention, a cause for concern among the assembly.

Despite Albania being relatively secular and liberal in terms of religion, it seems that the Council of Europe believes there is an underlying issue. In a statement made to the media, the Assembly expressed their concern regarding the fact that “Sharia law, including provisions that are in clear contradiction with the European Convention on Human Rights were applied either officially or unofficially in several Member States”.

Particular concern was raised around the existence of informal Islamic Courts that act in a judicial capacity without any proper procedural safeguards in place.

PACE fully supports the principle of separating State and religion, something that Albania prides itself on, yet the Assembly also pointed out that the country had aligned itself with the Cario Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (CDHRI).

The CDHRI was adopted in Cairo on the 5th of August 1990 and provides an overview on the Islamic perspective on human rights, yet affirms Islamic Sharia as its sole source. It is widely considered to be the Islamic response to the ECHR and whilst is supports many of the same rights, it explicitly restricts them to the limits of Sharia. This means that rights are greatly restricted in many areas, for example not affording women the same rights of men as well as limiting freedom of expression.

Parliamentarians stated:

“Three members States, Albania, Azerbaijan, and Turkey have endorsed, explicitly or implicitly, the Cairo Declaration” yet have failed to upheld their obligations to the ECHR. Today’s resolution which was adopted by the Assembly was based on a report by Antonio Gutierrez who called on member States to protect human rights, regardless of religious or cultural practices or traditions, “on the principle that where human rights are concerned, there is no room for religious or cultural exceptions.”

PACE has asked Albania, Azerbaijan, and Turkey to distance themselves from the Cairo Declaration as well was to “make use of all available means to ensure that the latter has no effect on their domestic legal orders”. It has given them until 2020 to report back on action that has been taken and progress that has been made.