From: Alice Taylor
Human Rights Activist to Face Albanian Prime Minister in Defamation Court Case

Award-winning, internationally recognized human rights activist Sevim Arbana has won the right to face Prime Minister Edi Rama in court after he sued her for 1 million ALL (EUR 8320) for defamation.

Rama filed the complaint against her for comments she made in 2019 on Adi Krasta’s ‘A Show’ on News24. The show was later cancelled due to alleged interference by Rama, and Arbana faced court.

Arbana commented during transmission on 29 January 2019 that she knew of an incident which occurred at the ex-  Sheraton Hotel in June 2013 during which Rama allegedly pinched a woman, making her cry. Arbana claims the incident was widely known and what she said was nothing that hadn’t been said before.

Arbana’s lawyer, Dorian Matlija the head of the Res Publica Centre argued that the case was not filed by Rama himself. Rather it was filed by Enkelejda Mca, the State attorney general, on his behalf and in any way the lawyer finds reasonable according to her perception.

According to Matlija, it is not the place of a lawyer or third-party to determine how an individual was damaged due to the alleged defamation. Rather, the individual must clarify the damage they have suffered.

He said: “For these kinds of damages, it can be very subjective in terms of its character and consequences. It’s only the person who suffered the alleged damage who can confirm whether or not it was caused by the words of journalists, activists, or politicians.”

In order to clarify this matter, Rama must appear in court to confirm he is in agreement with what his lawyer has expressed.

The court agreed with Matlija’s argument and invited Rama to appear in court during the next session.

Sevim Arbana is the Director of ‘Useful to Albanian Women’ a charity that provides support and assistance to women and girls who have suffered domestic violence and abuse. One of the first activists after the fall of Communism, she is also one of the founders of the peace movement ‘Women Bridge for Peace and Understanding’ in the Balkans. She sits on the boards of a number of women’s rights and human rights NGO’s and campaigns for an end to violence, discrimination and abuse.

In 2005 she was part of the 1000 PeaceWomen nominated collectively for a Nobel Peace Prize, received an award for her contribution to human rights in France, and in 2019 was nominated a Global Woman Award in the category of “Leadership”.

Over the last 30 years, she has trained and helped find jobs for some 7000  Albanian street children through a number of centres located throughout the country.

Arbana has said that if she loses the case, she does not have the money to pay the fine.

Rama has been widely criticized for using lawsuits as a way to silence critics. As of February 2020, the Socialist Party and Edi Rama had filed some 35 defamation suits against opposition politicians, journalists, and activists.

As per international best standards, politicians should display a greater degree of tolerance. The ECHR also noted that the limits of acceptable criticism are wider for a politician than a private individual. As such, they should refrain from filing lawsuits that could be considered intimidating and threatening.