As the date of the annulled elections approaches, Prime Minister Edi Rama has employed increasingly undemocratic methods to quell dissent.
Since the first opposition protests started in February of this year, hundreds of civilians have been arrested on spurious charges including disturbing the public peace and inciting violence. Whilst there is no doubt that some of those arrested are guilty of crimes, the fact remains that many protestors have been apprehended with little to no evidence whatsoever.
To date, the government has also arrested or detained at least 34 former Democratic Party MPs or senior party officials during the last weeks for participating in anti-government protests.
The government also demanded the prosecution to open investigation for “inciting violence” into Mayor of Lezha Fran Frrokaj and Mayor of Mallakastra Agron Kapllani. They both stated that following the cancellation of June 30 elections by the President, they would not allow the election administration in their precincts.
In addition, more than 300 opposition supporters have reportedly been arrested, detained or charged for the same reasons. No charges have been or were filed against them.
There have also been significant concerns around the way in which citizens have been apprehended. Take for example the arrest of Florenc Hoxha.
Exit.al has seen CCTV footage from his home that show around 30 police officers, some armed with semi-automatic weapons, entering his property without a warrant. They apprehended him in front of his children, and searched the property, again without a warrant or a member of the family being present.
In addition to this, police can be seen on two occasions kicking and hitting Hoxha, despite him not resisting arrest. It is also worth noting that the entering of his property occurred after the 8pm cut-off time as specified under Albanian law.
Another protestor told Exit.al that police turned up at his elderly parents house looking for him (again, without a warrant) at 10pm at night (two hours later than the law allows) and verbally abused them before trying to enter the property without permission.
It does not matter whether either of these people are guilty (they both claim innocence and point out that no evidence has been produced to support their arrest, to date)- the fact remains that there are laws around detention and arrest and the police are not adhering to them,
Rama has also repeatedly threatened to make amendments to the penal code, barring anyone who “touches” elections from leaving the country for 10 years.
This is in direct contravention of a number of international human rights laws, including Article 2 of Protocol 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Under this law, the right to leave a country, including one’s own, is necessary to the enjoyment of a number of other human rights and as such, is protected. The ECHR has a substantial amount of jurisprudence that supports this right as well as it being specified under Article 13.2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
A state only has the right to revoke a citizen’s right to leave under the extremely narrow parameters where they pose a significant threat to national security, public order, public health, or the rights and freedoms of others. None of these are qualifying criteria for the legitimisation of Rama’s proposed ban.
It is also interesting to note that no legal action has, is, or looks to be being taken against any of those found conspiring to rig elections on the Electiongate wiretaps. The words of these individuals can most definitely be construed as “touching” an election, particularly in cases of voter intimidation, yet no action has been taken in interviewing, investigating, or apprehending any of them.
This is despite the fact that the prosecution has been in possession of the taps for around three years.
Furthermore, “Temporary” General Prosecutor Arta Marku who occupies a role that doesn’t exist in Albanian law, has issued an order for “immediate and intensified investigations” into anyone that might interfere with the June 30th elections.
Her additional rejection of the President’s decree for the annulment of the elections is in violation of the Constitution. As the decree was published in the Official Gazette, making it mandatory for all law enforcement agencies, including the prosecutors office of which Marku is a member, she is also in violation of the duties of her role. This also suggests that she is aligned with Rama rather than the law and Constitution she is bound to impartially protct.
Whilst all of this goes on, Rama continues to use derogatory language to journalists, the President, Opposition leaders, and citizens- something that is not usual or tolerated from a Head of State in any democratic country.
The resulting situation is one where protestors and critical voices are living in fear of becoming political prisoners. The Prime Minister and the Prosecutor’s office are threatening and attempting to implement laws that are unconstitutional as well as in breach of international human rights laws. Furthermore, the law and the constitution is being violated by Rama, the Socialist Party, and Arta Marku as they continue to dismiss Presidential decrees.
This is a situation which should not be acceptable in any country with a minimum of democratic principles and is sending Albania down a path to authoritarian one-party rule.
The intimidation of citizens by the government, certain members of the judiciary, and the Prime Minister goes against multiple international standards and laws. In addition to this, the evidence of serious irregularities and illegalities during the 2017 general elections, the lack of investigation into them, and attempts to hold unconstitutional and illegal elections on Sunday should ring a number of international alarm bells.
Yet, the EU delegation, the EC, the OSCE and diplomatic missions in Tirana remain silent.