A total of seven Albanian women have been murdered by their husbands or family members since the beginning of 2020.
This week, there were two femicides in less than 24 hours, occurring in Mirdita and Durres- the latter in broad daylight in a public place.
Esmeralda Filopati and her brother were murdered by her ex-husband, even though she had a court protection order against him after he spent 10 months in prison for assaulting her. On 2 February in Durres, Manjola Cuku was murdered by her husband who also had a court protection order against him.
During 2018, 16 women were murdered and more than 4000 court protection orders were issued for women, against male family members or intimate partners. While I have not been able to find any conclusive figures for the total number of women murdered in 2019, we know that in the first five months of the year there were 9 femicides– a rate of one every two weeks.
The statistics are clear and have been replicated in a number of studies and surveys- one in two Albanian women will suffer domestic violence at least once in her life. That is at the very least, half of the female population. 22% of them will experience violence from intimate partners before they are 19 years old.
What has been disturbing in many of these cases is that the perpetrators were known to police, had been violent before, or had court protection orders against them.
In August 2017, judge Fildes Hafixi was shot by her husband despite him having a court order to stay away and not approach her. In 2016, Liljana Ruko was killed by her husband in Fier despite having a court order against him. Also in 2016, Ilda Dervishi was shot by her husband despite having two court orders against him, ordering him to stay at least 500m away from her at all times.
Some 120 women have been murdered in the last 9 years and many of these could have been prevented if the victims had been given the protection they asked for. Instead, their cries were not heard, their reports not taken seriously, and those that were supposed to protect them, failed to do so. Now they are dead and the number of those like them continues to grow at an alarming rate.
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 a 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.
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 preventive operational measures to protect and safeguard the lives of those within its jurisdiction, particularly in the case of criminal acts from another individual.
In other words, the family of any woman who was murdered despite having reported previous crimes to the police, or being under a protection order, has the right to an inquiry into her death, and possible action in the ECHR.