The Albanian Ombudsman Erinda Ballanca has argued that the government-proposed changes to the Criminal Code are illegal, as they are being passed in contradiction with the Constitution and parliamentary procedure. These changes impose sentences of up to 15 years in prison for quarantine violators during an epidemic.
“Changes have been brought in violation of the Constitution and parliamentary procedure. These actions are not legitimate, and do a dishonor to the members of the Legal Affairs Committee,” Ballanca stated.
In an Abc News interview, Ballanca also claimed that such changes in the Criminal Code make citizens feel unsafe and uncertain as to what actions they can and cannot legally take. This also comes as a result of the fact that many of the government’s orders regarding the lockdown have not been published in the Official Gazette.
Ballanca stressed that Albania is the only country that is attempting to amend its Criminal Code at a time like this. Though some other countries’ legislatures define violations during a pandemic as criminal offenses, these provisions have been decided on previously, in times of rest, and have had the chance to be discussed extensively.
Last week, the government proposed to Parliament to change the Criminal Code, to include prison sentences up to 15 years for violators of quarantine. The proposal was slammed by a group of 30 human rights organizations for being inhumane, disproportionate and in violation of individual rights and freedom. The Albanian president also warned that disproportionate sentences would be unconstitutional.
The Committee reduced some of the sentences originally proposed by the government, but several issues related to procedure and compliance with Constitution remain unanswered.
The proposed changes are undergoing an expedited procedure, which the Constitution (art.81 and 82) clearly prohibits for several laws, including the Criminal Code.
Same sentences are foreseen for quarantine violators, independently if they are infected or not during lockdown.
The sentence of up to fifteen years in prison for quarantine offenders is disproportionate in relation to the situation that has brought to a lockdown – namely the spread of a virus – and it can lead to abuses.