In its annual report on human rights, the US State Department criticized Albania for its record on corruption, election fraud, impunity of officials, media freedom, police abuse, respect of rights of women, children, LGBT+ and workers.
The report stated that human rights issues included pervasive corruption in all branches of government.
US State Department quoted the OSCE report on the latest elections (2017), which were marred by widespread allegations of vote buying and politicization of election-related bodies and institutions continues.
Impunity remains a serious problem in Albania. Prosecution, and especially conviction, of officials who committed abuses was sporadic and inconsistent. Officials, politicians, judges, and persons with powerful business interests often were able to avoid prosecution.
Albanian authorities have undertaken an internationally monitored vetting of judges and prosecutors, and have dismissed a significant number of officials for unexplained wealth or ties to organized crime, the report stated.
It also called out the Albanian authorities on problems relating to independent media. Whilst noting that there were independent media platforms in the country, they observed that there were efforts by the government, business, and criminal groups to exert (political) pressure on media outlets. In addition, there were threats and violence against journalists. Business owners were accused of using media to promote their own personal and political interests.
The combination of political pressure, corruption, and lack of funding had also led to a situation where journalists regularly self-censored themselves and a lack of economic security meant that the independence of reporters contributed to biased reporting.
The report also commented on the behavior and professionalism of online media portals, stating that “professional ethics were a low priority” for a number of the 700 plus news portals. The report drew particular attention to the spread of false news stories designed to benefit specific political interests.
Police beat, abused and is specific cases tortured suspects in police stations, while corruption among police forces remained a problem. Police did not always enforce the law equitably and favoured people with political or criminal connections.
Below, Exit brings a more detailed summary of the US State Department report on human rights on Albania.
Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
– The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by public officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.
– While prosecutors made significant progress in pursuing low-level public corruption cases, including corrupt prosecutors and judges, prosecution of higher-level crimes remained rare due to investigators’ fear of retribution, a general lack of resources, and corruption within the judiciary itself.
– A former interior minister remained under investigation for ties to organized crime and abuse of office.
Impunity of officials
– Impunity remained a problem. Prosecution, and especially conviction, of officials who committed abuses was sporadic and inconsistent.
– Officials, politicians, judges, and persons with powerful business interests often were able to avoid prosecution.
Elections and Political Participation
– [In the 2017 general elections] contestants were able to campaign freely and fundamental freedoms were respected.
– Continued politicization of election-related bodies and institutions as well as widespread allegations of vote buying and pressure on voters detracted from public trust in the electoral process.
Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press
Press and Media Freedom:
– There were reports that the government, business, and criminal groups sought to influence the media in inappropriate ways.
– There were efforts to exert direct and indirect political and economic pressure on the media, including by threats and violence against journalists who tried to investigate crime and corruption.
– Most owners of private television stations used the content of their broadcasts to influence government action toward their other businesses.
– Political pressure, corruption, and lack of funding constrained independent print media, and journalists reportedly practiced self-censorship.
– Economic insecurity due to a lack of enforceable labor contracts reduced reporters’ independence and contributed to bias in reporting.
– Journalists often practiced self-censorship to avoid violence and harassment and as a response to pressure from publishers and editors seeking to advance their political and economic interests.
– NGOs maintained that professional ethics were a low priority for some of the estimated 700-plus news portals in the country, raising concerns over the spread of false news stories that benefited specific financial or political interests. The dramatic growth in online media outlets provided a diversity of views.
– The independence of the Audiovisual Media Authority, the regulator of the broadcast media market, remained questionable, but the role of the authority remained limited.
Violence and Harassment
– There were multiple reports of violence and intimidation against members of the media, and political and business interests subjected journalists to pressure.
– On August 30, an unknown assailant shot 10 times at the home of crime reporter Klodiana Lala’s parents.
– In September the chair of the Union of Albanian Journalists stated that 12 journalists had filed asylum requests in EU member states, citing threats due to their jobs.
– In April the Union of Albanian Journalists expressed concern that during the first four months of the year, judges and politicians had initiated 14 lawsuits against journalists.
– The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content.
– According to March data from Internet World Stats, approximately 66 percent of the population used the internet
– The Authority for Electronic and Postal Communications decreed on October 15 that 44 media web portals had 72 hours to obtain a tax identification number and publish it on their web pages or the government would shut them down. The list included several investigative news sites, including BIRN. At year’s end, the government had not shut down noncompliant portals.
Respect for the Integrity of the Person
– There were reports that police and prison guards sometimes beat and abused suspects and prisoners, usually in police stations.
– In Durres, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) received reports of recent physical mistreatment of several persons by police, notably of severe beatings combined with blows with a truncheon or baseball bat to the soles of the feet, which the report stated “could easily be considered to amount to torture”.
– While the government had mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption, police corruption remained a problem.
– Police did not always enforce the law equitably. Personal associations, political or criminal connections, poor infrastructure, lack of equipment, and inadequate supervision often influenced law enforcement.
– Prosecutors requested, and courts ordered, detention in many criminal cases, although courts sometimes denied prosecutors’ requests for detention of well-connected, high-profile defendants.
– On March 31, Kukes police arrested 23 protesters (and issued warrants for 30 others) for burning toll booths on the Durres-Kukes National Highway. Police brought the detainees to court more than 48 hours after they arrested them. The Office of the Ombudsman criticized police for recording the time they processed the protestors, rather than the time of arrest. The Office of the Ombudsman recommended that the general prosecutor pursue administrative measures against the prosecutors handling the case.
Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence
– In spite of legal protections for victims, abuses and allegations of political cover-up still occurred. For example, Xhisiela Maloku alleged that Rexhep Rraja, her boyfriend and son of Socialist Party Assembly member Rrahman Rraja, had burned and kicked her in a hotel on July 19.
– Domestic violence against women remained a serious problem. For example, in August 2017, Judge Fildez Kasemi was fatally shot by her ex-husband in Shkoder, even as she was seeking a protection order for abuse.
– The government did not enforce the law effectively, and officials did not prosecute spousal rape. The concept of spousal rape was not well understood, and authorities often did not consider it a crime.
– A 2017 UN Development Program (UNDP) and state statistical agency (INSTAT) report estimated that more than 53 percent of women and girls had been victims of domestic violence during the previous year and stated that more than 60 percent had been victims of violence at some point in their lives. Police often did not have the training or capacity to deal effectively with domestic violence cases.
– The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men, but the government did not enforce the law effectively.
– Education: Parents must purchase supplies, books, uniforms, and space heaters for some classrooms; these were prohibitively expensive for many families, particularly Roma and other minorities. Many families also cited these costs as a reason for not sending girls to school.
– Child Abuse: Observers believed that child abuse was increasing, especially in schools. According to a national survey taken in 2013 […] 57.7 percent of children surveyed said they had experienced violence at some point in their lives from at least one family member. According to a 2017 report by World Vision, 70 percent of children in the country reported experiencing some type of violence.
– On September 23, the Council of Europe commissioner on human rights reported her concern about the high levels of physical and psychological violence against children, including in educational settings and at home.
– The country lacked adequate facilities for pretrial detention of children. According to the NGO Terre des Hommes, as of July, 17 children were in pretrial detention and nine were incarcerated.
– Displaced Children: There were many displaced and street children, particularly in the Romani community.
– Child work: The number of children engaged in street-related activities (such as begging or selling items) increased during the summer, particular around the tourist areas.
Persons with Disabilities
– Employers, schools, health-care providers, and providers of other state services at times engaged in discrimination. The law mandates that new public buildings be accessible to persons with disabilities, but the government only sporadically enforced the law.
Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation
– The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, including in employment. Enforcement of the law was generally weak.
– The law provided limited protection to domestic and migrant workers. Labor unions were generally weak and politicized. Workers who engage in illegal strikes may be compelled to pay for any damages due to the strike action.