Ombudsman: Albanian Police Used Unreasonable Violence and Endangered Life During National Theatre Protests

From: Alice Taylor
Ombudsman: Albanian Police Used Unreasonable Violence and Endangered Life During National Theatre Protests

The People’s Advocate has published its report on the actions carried out by the State Police on the day of the demolition of the National Theater building on May 17, 2020.

The report’s findings show that police used unreasonable violence against protesters and citizens, both inside and outside the building.”The images show that the situation in the National Theatre when the intervention of the State Police started was calm. Those few activists who stood inside and outside the National Theatre look scared and confused and behave like calmly while surrounded by a large number of police forces”, the report reads after verifying the recorded videos.The report found that the lack of an identification number on the uniform of some police officers and the allusion of operational protection “pushes police officers to commit violent acts, in excess of their duty.”

The Ombudsman, to demonstrate the dangerous violence used by the police forces, refers to the videos of an unidentified person “being kicked in the chest by a masked police officer while lying on the ground, protecting his face with his hands around him.”

The violence used by the police has endangered the life of the citizen, the Ombudsman said.

The operation to demolish the National Theater was attended by 449 police officers without including the number of employees of the Mobile Operational Force, Municipal Police employees, IMT employees and those of the Municipality of Tirana.

“In the first hours, after the start of the operation, 33 people were escorted to DVP Tirana and Tirana police stations, respectively: 11  people to Police Station no.1; 4 persons in the Police Commissariat No.2; 5  persons at the Police Commissariat No.3; 10 persons at the Police Commissariat No. 4; 2  persons at the Police Commissariat No.6; 1 person in the Local Police Directorate of Tirana “, the report found.

It calls for action to be taken against police officers involved and has asked the Minister of the Interior Sander Lleshaj, the head of the State Police Ardi Veliu, and the General Prosecutor’s Office to act.

 

Lleshaj previously defended the actions of the police on several occasions.

 

In June he said:

“Violence is a force to be reckoned with…the police were forced and prevented from exercising their duty…The police remained at the first level as defined by the law in terms of physical coercion. During this clash, over 60 escorts [arrests] were made. The court of Tirana has considered the action of the police for 8 of these as legal, although you call it barbaric,” he said. Regarding the lack of police ID numbers, he said:

“You will never get the names of the police officers because you do not have the right to investigate. The only thing they can have is prosecution.”

And in terms of violence inflicted on several journalists, he said there were only two and neither were on duty.

Footage has been published of police with pistols and semi-automatic weapons storming the National Theatre at 4:30 am to remove the unwitting activists within. Additional video footage and photographs show students, journalists, and other peaceful protestors being hit, kicked, and being subjected to excessive force.

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