From: Alice Elizabeth Taylor
Failure to Protect Victims of Domestic Violence is a Breach of ECHR

Another Albanian woman has lost her life at the hands of the person who is supposed to love her.

Yesterday the news broke that 53-year-old Antoneta Hoxha was brutally murdered by her husband, in her home in the town of Memaliaj. Following a quarrel, her husband Skender Hoxha hit her over the head with a crowbar until she lost consciousness. He then allegedly left her to die on the floor of the bedroom, doing nothing to help or assist her.

Her lifeless body was discovered by concerned family members, and when the police were called and Skender was interrogated, he denied having anything to do with the gruesome event. After several hours of interrogation, he finally admitted to the cold blooded murder of his wife, a human being, and the mother of his four children.

Yesterday the mainstream media, true to form, reported that the “motive is not known” or that there is “still no reason why he killed his wife”. Today, reports said the reason that he killed her was because she betrayed him with a younger man.

The fact of the matter is that the reason he killed his wife is because he is a murderer, not because she did anything to deserve. There is no reason or motive, and there is no justification for him committing this heinous act.

Skender Hoxha hit his wife repeatedly around the head with a crowbar because he is a violent, murderous criminal- nothing more and nothing less. It doesn’t matter if he had never done it before, or has no history of violence- he did that day and for that reason, he becomes and remains those things forever.

This latest femicide is the 9th in just 5 months resulting in the shocking rate of one woman being murdered almost every two weeks.

In the last 8 years, over 100 women and girls have been massacred, a number that is increasing with each month that passes.

The United Nations found that at least 1 in 2 Albanian women will suffer domestic abuse in their lifetime, and the Albanian Women’s Empowerment Network found that 22% of those between 16-19 years old have already experienced it.

So what is being done to help them? In 2018, over 4000 protection orders were given to women by the police to protect them from intimate partner violence but they are of little use. Many of the women that end up slaughtered have had protection orders in place, or have previously reported violence and threats to the police.

The police, the courts, the media, the authorities and the government are consistently failing women. I know women who have tried to report matters to the police but been refused the right or told not to press charges. I know women that have attended the police station, covered in blood after an attack only to be sexually harassed by the male officer taking their statement. I also know men who have bought their way out of domestic violence charges or who have sent hired heavies to intimidate the woman into silence.

This presents an extremely serious issue. Not only are the blood of women who are murdered, raped, and abused on their hands, not only are they breaking Albanian law, but they are also breaching international human rights laws.

The European Court of Human Rights is very clear on the rights it affords to every single individual, as well as the duties and obligations of the state.

Refusing or failing to protect women from violence and situations that can endanger their life is breach of Article 2 of the ECHR.

It states that “Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law” and that no one shall be deprived of their life intentionally, except in the case of the death penalty. Also under this article are the substantive obligations of the state which include “the general obligation to protect the right to life” as well as the procedural obligation to carry out an effective investigation into alleged breaches.

This means that not only is the state required to protect anyone whose life is in danger, but if there is a possibility that they failed to do so, they are obliged to investigate how this was allowed to happen. In the cases of these women who were refused protection, or who were granted protection and then murdered anyway- were any investigations carried out into whether the state failed in their obligation? No, of course they weren’t.

According to precedents set by the Court, those that claim that they believe their life is at risk, even if such a risk has not materialised, should be taken seriously and afforded protection. Under these rules, the state has an enshrined duty to take preventative operational measures to protect and safeguard the lives of those within its jurisdiction, particularly in the case of criminal acts from another individual.

“The court has considered the State to have an obligation to take preventative operational measure to protect one or more individuals identifiable in advance as the potential target of a lethal act in contexts such as: Domestic violence.”

In other words, the family of any woman who was murdered despite having reported previous crimes to the police, or being under protection order, has the right to an inquiry into her death, and possible action in the ECHR.

The police in Albania are consistently failing their legal obligations to protect women and to prevent crimes from happening against them and this breach of the law needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

I would love for a lawyer to take on the cases of those who have lost loved ones to domestic violence, despite their calls for help. I would love to see the police defend their lack of actions locally and in front of the ECHR, and I would love to see an end to the preventable murder of women and girls in Albania.