From: Alice Elizabeth Taylor
Authorities Looking into Suicide of Mentally Ill Man Detained for Stealing €10

Artur Metani, the High Inspector of Justice has confirmed that they are looking into the suicide of Bilbil Hasani, a mentally ill man who committed suicide in custody after being detained for stealing €10.

Despite presenting medical documents that detailed his mental health issues spanning 20 years, in court, the Tirana Court and the Tirana Court of Appeals chose to keep him in custody. He was suspected of stealing a wallet with just 1200 ALL in, equivalent to €10. This detention in custody is unprecedented for such a minor crime.

Albanian human rights organisations reacted to the news by sending an open letter to the High Inspector of Justice, the Attorney General, Chairwoman of the High Judicial Council, Head of the Supreme Prosecutorial Council, and the Executive director of the Albanian Helsinki Committee.

In it, they requested an investigation into the case as well as the initiation of disciplinary proceedings against prosecutors, judges, and those involved in taking the decisions that resulted in his detention, and suicide.

They raised several instances of possible legal violations including European Court of Human Rights law, United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities law, 

The organisations noted that deprivation of liberty during investigation and trial should only be used in extreme circumstances. They referred to its use in this case as an example of “poor recognition” by the judges and prosecutors involved in the case. They also noted that there were possible violations of due process relating to the absence of defence counsel and the continuation of the hearing regardless. 

The letter was signed by 19 Albanian human rights organisations including Civil Rights Defenders, the Albanian Helsinki Committee, Respublika, Albanian Media Council, Helpful to Albanian Women, and PRO LGBT.

A spokesperson from Civil Rights Defenders told Exit that they received a response from High Inspector of Justice Artur Metani. In it, he stated that he had only been aware of the issue from the media and that they would look into the case.

In contrast to this harsh detention, in February members of an illegal gambling ring were arrested  in Albania on charges of illicit gambling. Significant amounts of money and weapons were also seized. Those arrested, including businessmen were sentenced to house arrest pending trial.

Hasani’s wife told the media that her husband was being bullied by other inmates. He was later found dead in his cell with the official reason for his death being suicide.

Albania has been repeatedly criticised for both the conditions in its prisons and the lack of care for criminals with mental health conditions. In the most recent US State Department report on Human Rights, it was noted that “poor physical conditions and a lack of medical care, particularly for mental health conditions, were serious problems.”

The report also stated that the Office of the Ombudsman and nongovernmental organizations reported that authorities held inmates with mental disabilities in regular prisons, where access to mental health care was inadequate.

Lastly, the State Department wrote that “As of August the Office of the Ombudsman inspected four mental health institutions during the year and found that patients were given inadequate psychiatric evaluations upon both admissions to and discharge from the institutions. Persons with mental and other disabilities were subject to societal discrimination and stigmatization.”