The Anti Corruption Package, passed last week will give the government the power to intercept any citizens phone calls or communications without authorisation from a prosecutor.
Article 131 of the existing law states that interceptions are only authorised when criminal activity cannot be detected in other ways, or when the prosecutor has given their consent. But the new version proposed by the Albanian government has been reformulated and these preconditions are missing. Under the new version of the law, wiretaps can be ordered and carried out on the instruction of the Police.
Wiretaps were previously limited to three months, extendable once for a further three months. The new law, however, extends this to six months and the taps can be preserved as evidence indefinitely. It also extends the type of surveillance to audiotaping, videotaping, and location tapping.
Other changes include enhancing the powers of Minister of the Interior Sander Lleshaj, a former army general and a “remnant of communism”. Lleshaj will now be responsible for managing seized and confiscated assets worth millions of euros. According to the law, 60% of these funds go to the State Police and 5% will go towards police officer bonuses.
The Anti Corruption Package has caused controversy due to the fact it puts unprecedented ex-judicial power in the hands of Prime Minister Edi Rama. It creates specialist police and intelligence service that operates outside of the judicial system and de facto answer to Rama. This police force has the power to detain, restrict movement, seize assets, surveil, and tap without any requirement for a court order, and in these cases, a prosecutor’s authorisation.
The potential for abuse and use for political gain has concerned human rights activists, journalists and members of civil society. Rama responded by calling them “anti-government”, “parasites”, “lazy” and “hypocrites”.