Albania’s Ombudsman Criticizes Excessive and Indiscriminate Use of Tear Gas by Police

Albania’s Ombudsman criticized the police for the violence exercised against citizens and journalists in the April 13 protest organized by the opposition. The Ombudsman said the police infringed media freedom and fired tear gas extensively and indiscriminately on citizens, although the protest was generally peaceful and manageable.

The Ombudsman said the tear gas has become the favorite police tool employed with the aim to infringe on citizens’ right to protest:

“The protocol or a manual for the use of tear gas or other irritants that regulate the specific cases for their use, the quantity, frequency, density and type continues to be kept away from the public and [thus it is impossible] to investigate into.

As a result, the public opinion and those participating in protests assess that the use of tear gas not only continues to be disproportionate in relation to the danger posed by the crowd of protesters but it has now turned into the favorite instrument to obstruct the constitutional right of citizens for peaceful assembly.”

The Ombudsman said that “the mass use of tear gas” by police hindered journalists from reporting and that journalists were targeted by water cannons.

“The Ombudsman considers the treatment of media and journalists as a threat to public security as one of the most worrying signals of a situation in which press freedom is questioned.”

16 people were arrested and two others were taken in police custody, including a teenager with mental health issues. Police did not allow one of the arrested to communicate with his family, according to the Ombudsman.

One of the injured protesters told the Ombudsman that police had kept him in handcuffs in the hospital bed. Police decided to officially arrest him several hours later at 2am. The Ombudsman said that putting handcuffs on people in hospital constitutes inhuman and degrading treatment under the European Convention on Human Rights.