Albanian Ombudsman Criticises Police for Violence against Protestors

The Albanian Ombudsman has found a number of concerning issues regarding violence used against protestors of the National Theatre demolition, as well as conditions in the police stations where they were held.

In particular, the Ombudsman noted that police were not following COVID-19 measures imposed by the Ministry, nor were they providing gloves, masks, or the opportunity for social distancing for detainees.

“The equipment of the employees with protective items were not in accordance with the instructions of the Ministry of Health…None of the detainees was equipped with masks and gloves or had items available to ensure personal hygiene.”

It continues; “In Commissariat No.1, they hygienic-sanitary conditions inside the building were quite poor and the condition of the detainees and security rooms did not guarantee minimal hygienic conditions, neither in a normal situation or in the situation with increased measures due to infectious diseases.”

Police had masks, but no gloves and there were no measures such as disinfectant available in the police stations.

They found that a number of detainees were taken for medical treatment in the hospital, as a consequence of injuries inflicted upon them. There were complaints of physical and psychological violence against citizens from the police, as well as physical evidence of violence on their persons.

Also noted was the detention of journalists which the Ombudsman called “completely unjustified.” They requested that the Prosecution and General Director of the Police deal with all cases in line with the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture report.

Detainees were not read, made aware of, or given their procedural rights. In fact, some were denied, according to the statement.

The Ombudsman said they had also been informed that demolition on the Theatre started while citizens were still inside “which seriously endangered their lives”. They said a full report will be conducted to verify the conditions under which the demolition was taken.

The Ombudsman’s Office raised concerns that energy-intensive measures to restrict the movement and gathering of citizens in the face of the global pandemic have been openly ignored by the institutions of the Construction Inspectorate and the State Police.

While all economic and administrative activity in the country was closed and limited as a protective measure against Coronavirus, it remains incomprehensible to the Ombudsman that the police arrested some of the protestors for breaking pandemic measures, yet failed to implement them within their institutions.