The fake “Force of Law” meets the new “Force of Law.” That would be one way to describe the recent verdict of the Special Appeals Court to maintain the suspension from office of Artan Shkëmbi, the number two of the police operation “Force of Law” (Forca e Ligjit), as well as his indictment for corruption and leaking investigation details to criminal organizations by the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecution.
This verdict can also put to rest the superlative claims about the so-called “police vetting,” an attempt to consolidate power over the police by the Rama government. Shkëmbi had passed this “vetting” in February.
As Exit has reported since 2017, the police operation “Force of Law” was since the beginning an attempt by the Rama government to establish SPAK-like structures under the control of the Ministry of Interior instead of the judiciary.
The aim was both to make it seem as progress was made with the justice reform, while maintaining strict executive control over the General Prosecution, severely damaging the separation between executive and judiciary powers. The operation was also a publicity stunt aimed to overshadow the wide-spread cannabis production ravaging local economies and funding criminal groups that are now firmly rooted in Europe’s criminal ecosystem.
After a series of failed initiatives to install an FBI-style investigation bureau inside the Ministry of Interior, the “Force of Law” was launched in late 2017 as a scheme to catch former US Ambassador Donald Lu’s proverbial “big fish.” Former EU Ambassador Romana Vlahutin quipped on Twitter: “The operation Power of Law, a truly decisive step towards a state that is much stronger than any sort of crime,” while Ambassador Lu promised the secondment of two FBI agents to support the initiative. Shkëmbi’s dismissal shows clearly that the corruption and organized crime that the “Force of Law” was supposed to fight was alive and well within the the highest ranks of the State Police.
Shkëmbi’s dismissal also dispels the charade of the so-called “police vetting,” an initiative announced by former Minister of Interior Fatmir Xhafaj (whose brother was an internationally wanted drug trafficker) in 2017 to clean up the ranks of the State Police. The enter process of the vetting would be coordinated and controlled by the Minister of Interior himself, allowing him to cleanse the State Police from any elements undesirable to the government.
The police vetting eventually started in late 2019, after Parliament overruled the veto of President Ilir Meta, who stated that the “real purpose of the government is to control this process [the vetting of police] through an evaluation body […] which is a structure actually directly dependent on the political functioning of the Minister of Interior, i.e. the government.”
The police vetting was supported by the European Commission, which praised the initiative in its 2018 Country Report, claiming it had passed Parliament “wide cross-party consensus,” even though it was unilaterally pushed through Parliament by the Rama government despite the President’s veto.
The recent verdict of the Special Appeals Court is important not because it marks an important step in the fight against corruption. We should only start celebrating the “success” of the Justice Reform when the far majority of current and past high government officials is behind bars, their properties confiscated, and their parties exposed for what they are: criminal organizations.
The recent verdict is important because it shows the reality behind the charade that the Rama government has put up since the beginning of the Justice Reform with the help of the internationals. While slowing down and obstructing the implementation of the Justice Reform at every turn, the government attempted to set up a parallel “façade” of seemingly operational “temporary replacements” of the Justice Reform institutions, such as an investigation bureau and the vetting, simulating a sense of progress while keeping executive control.
The EU and US wholeheartedly supported this show. It is now time for them to publicly denounce the “Force of Law” and “police vetting” for what they are: a consolidation of criminal activity under the protection of the state.