From: Erblin Vukaj
The Forgotten Trials: How the Crimes of the Albanian Dictatorship Went Unpunished

The death of Albania’s dictator Enver Hoxha’s wife has reminded the Albanian public of the crimes of the communist regime that have gone unpunished.

Though many on social media reacted to Nexhmije Hoxha’s death, few remembered the trials of the 1990s and the fact that the leaders of the dictatorship were never punished for the executions without trial, the disappearances, the murders at the borders, the tortures, and the massive internment.

Nexhmije Hoxha’s Single-Accuse Trial

Nexhmije Hoxha was arrested on December 4 1991, nine months following Albania’s first pluralist elections.

Two years and a half later, she and Kino Buxheli, former head of the Directory of State Services, the former Communist Party’s finance department, were sentenced to a combined 15 years in prison – 11 for Hoxha and 4 for Buxheli. They were convicted of abusing their duty, embezzlement, and misappropriation of state funds during 1985-1990.

These accusations were raised after a financial audit of the Directory of State Services conducted by a stabilization government (June 1991 – December 1991), a coalition of the Socialist Party, the Socialdemocratic Party, the Democratic Party, the Democratic Alliance, and the Republican Party.

The Directory of State Services, created in 1956, provided high Party officials with a privileged living. The 1991 audit found $15 million in misappropriated funds. 

Nexhmije Hoxha, a permanent member of the Party’s Central Committee, was first imprisoned in Tepelena, and then Tirana.

Press at the time predicted she would be released after the turn of the millennium, however she was released on January 10, 1997, at 76 years old.

She never faced a judge again.

Hoxha gave several interviews until her time of death. She recounted many events, but never apologized. She never expressed regret in any of the  four books she wrote after 1998, including one published in January, 2020.

Trials during 1993-1994

Like Nexhmije Hoxha, dozens of other high communist functionaries, including Enver Hoxha’s successor, Ramiz Alia, were convicted of abuse of power, embezzlement, and misappropriation of funds. 

20 people were sentenced to a combined 130 years in prison, and a ALL 3 million (€25,000) fine.

The majority of the sentences were decreased at the Appeals level. All those convicted were released within a few years.

The press of the time criticized and mocked the laughably light sentences former communist leaders ended up serving. 

During that time, the newspaper of the Association of the Politically Persecuted would weekly publish the names of thousands of people who had been executed or had died in prison, and whose remains had not been found by their families.

The last trials of the Communist leadership

Following a number of legal changes, more trials began with nearly the same figures as before as defendants.

This time, the accusations were genocide, crimes against humanity, violation of religious rights, massive persecution and internments, and murder.

In 1996, 15 people were convicted, three of whom had left the country and were convicted in absentia.

A year later, the Appeals Court dismissed the convictions, whereas in 1999 the High Court ruled them innocent.

The same took place in 20 other cases, including that of Hoxha’s successor Ramiz Alia, that of chairman of the Presidium of the Assembly (a post equivalent to that of a president) Haxhi Lleshi, and former deputy Prime Minister Manush Myftiu.

Lleshi and Myftiu, respectively 83 and 77 years old, were released due to their age and health concerns. Both died shortly after the 1997-1998 trials.

In every case, genocide charges were dismissed by the Courts. After 1997, they were all released and there has not yet been any similar trials for former high officials of the dictatorship or functionaries of the former State Security agency.

None pled guilty and none ever apologized.