From: Exit News
Albanian Judges Ask Venice Commission Not to Modify Opinion Under Government Pressure

Albanian judges have urged the Venice Commission to retain all the findings and recommendations included in its draft Opinion on the appointment of Albanian Constitutional Court members, but touching heavily, also, on issues concerning the vetting of judges and prosecutors.

Two judges associations, the Albanian Judges’ Union (AJU) and the National Association of Judges of Albania (NAJA), addressed a letter to the Venice Commission, last week, welcoming the findings of draft opinion, which was confidentially circulated by the Venice Commission to stakeholders, but finding its way to the media. 

Although not explicitly stated, they seem concerned that the content of a Venice Commission’s final opinion may change under pressure from the Albanian government or the European Commission.

In the draft document, the Venice Commission directly criticized a number of procedures followed throughout the vetting process. Specifically, the Commission highlighted the unreasonable deadlines and the selective implementation of vetting procedures, which  might have created space for political manipulation of the vetting process.

The draft opinion recommended that “reasonable cases, [where] too rigid and unrealistic time limits for providing documentation [were applied] should be re-opened.”

The Albanian government and the European Commission, the architects of the Justice Reform, have so far stonewalled any criticism and dismissed any suggestion of changes or improvements, despite many setbacks and serious problems brought about by the reform, including leaving the country without High Court and Constitutional Court, for more than two years ton date.

Aware of their position, Albanian judges suspect Albanian government and the European Commission will pressure the Venice Commission to tone down its criticism and alter the findings and recommendations in the final version of its Opinion.

Such a concern does not seem unfounded.

Magistrates, who claim to have been unjustly dismissed by the vetting process and have taken their cases to the Strasbourg Court, told Exit News that the Albanian government and the EC are exerting direct pressure on the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to sway the ruling in the government’s favor.

In fact, Exit News has seen the separate replies by Commision and Albanian government to the Strasbourg Curt inquiries on the vetting process and can confirm that both institutions remain steadfast in the face of the undeniable failures of the Justice Reform.

The Venice Commission’s final opinion is scheduled to be approved and published in the coming weeks.