From: Exit Staff
Citizens Call on Constitutional Court to Uphold Justice in National Theatre Case

A group of citizens and activists have sent a letter to the Constitutional Court to voice support for the two cases filed by President Ilir Meta about the National Theatre.

“We are the Theatre” read the letter to the media outside of the Court this morning. It comes one day before the Court is set to review the complaints.

The letter is as follows:

“June 3, 2021: the day when the Constitutional Court can and must show that justice and the rule of law in Albania will be restored. On June 3, we Albanian citizens, who for 3 years and four months now have followed the developments, resisted injustice, and stood for the cause of the National Theater, will be waiting for justice. 

Launched by a large group of stage and screen artists on February 8, 2018, and then expanded and consolidated with the participation of citizens, intellectuals, professionals from various fields of life, the resistance for the protection of the National Theater of Albania has evolved and transformed itself in a great civic resistance – a resistance which goes beyond the borders of the groups lobbying on its behalf and which crosses the borders of Albania and Europe.

Hundreds of documents have been written and presented on behalf of this issue – documents covering a wide range of political, organizational, professional, artistic, and legal details. Hundreds of emails have been sent to local and foreign institutions and media. Hundreds of articles have been written everywhere in the world to sensitize the public about what happened in Tirana.  And the public has been sensitized!

We have received support from the media, artists, civil society, and political figures, and this has motivated us to continue our efforts as citizens.

Our objections to the special law started from the moment it first appeared in public. We have addressed its illegality in public writings, in public speeches in the Theater Square, and the media. Regarding the special law, we contacted the European Commission, which consequently sent 15 questions to the Albanian government, which received poor and completely insufficient answers.

The special law was an extremely dangerous example of misuse and alienation of public property today and a warning of worse to come in the future.  This rang a loud alarm bell for what awaits our country and all of us along with it if we do not react and resist. When the need arose, we also physically confronted the power to defend what constitutionally belongs to all of us, our property, the National Theater.

We entered the National Theater on July 24, 2019 –  an act that the government described as an act of occupation, and which we citizens understand as an act of liberation. We wrote a manifesto that day inside the theater, which became the basis for an international petition launched in Vienna.  The petition spread across Europe and was also signed by a Nobel laureate in literature. And we received the most important institutional support, when the President of the Republic, while we were in the theater, submitted to the Constitutional Court the lawsuit against the special law.

When the government sentenced it to death, we gave life to the National Theater, with theatrical performances, exhibitions, evening gatherings, literary readings, and meetings of professionals. We physically protected the theater for 10 months, and we were in the theater even at the time of the pandemic danger and traffic ban.

We were in the theater when thousands of citizens from Tirana as well as from other cities and countries, including Kosovo and Macedonia, rushed to the National Theater to bring their aid to the survivors and victims of the earthquake of November 26, 2019.  In the most unprecedented volunteer action in Albania, these ordinary people became part of a citizen’s movement: from the citizen to the citizens for the citizens, believing that civic organization was better able to manage such a humanitarian crisis than an entire government.

We were in the theater when Europa Nostra, as an organization created and supported by the institutions of the European Union, accepted our application and designated the National Theater in its 2020 list of the most endangered locations in Europe.

We were in the theater when the government on May 8, 2020, decided that, based on a Council of Ministers’ decision that also violates the constitution, the national property of the National Theater was to be transferred to the municipality of Tirana.

We were in the theater when the municipality sent its police to do the first test of force on us and the theater.

We were in the theater when the President of the Republic gave the second-largest institutional support when he brought the second lawsuit to the Constitutional Court, while the Municipal Council, in an undocumented meeting, decided to demolish the National Theater.

We were in the theater when diplomats, institutions, and organization around the world called on the government to stop the execution and demolition – called on the government that, with the special law and the Council of Ministers’ decision on the transfer of property, had completely violated the constitution and the rule of law in Albania.

And we were in the theater when, despite everything, the power and its minions, embodied in the violent spectacle of 1000 and more policemen, municipal employees, and the excavator’s claw, proceeded with the execution.  

We were in the theater and its square when the constitution and the rule of law were murdered in the early hours of the morning of May 17, 2020. We documented this murder, we gave it voice and image, we denounced it in Albania and internationally, to politicians, media, and civil society organizations.

Shocked, depressed, and without psychologically processing the trauma caused to us that dawn, we continued with our denunciations and efforts, which with the physical collapse of the theater and the closure of the theater square took another form, but continued without stopping.

In May-June 2020, we worked to stop the granting of loans to the municipality of Tirana by foreign financial institutions to build the theater according to the project of Bjarke Ingels; so far, no loan has been approved. despite the public deceptions of the mayor who pretends the contrary. We submitted to the People’s Advocate the request for review of the Council of Ministers’ decision and its consequences before the demolition of the Theater took place, which resulted in the drafting of a recommendation by this institution. In August, we managed to bring the demolition of the National Theater to the Wall of Shame of ARCH International, a prestigious US-based international organization dedicated entirely to the protection of cultural heritage around the world.

And still, we are waiting for justice to be done.  Justice for us means: proclaim as unconstitutional the special law and the Council of Ministers’ decision; punish the guilty for the demolition of the theater; and reconstruct the National Theater where it was, as it was.  We celebrated the completion of the Constitutional Court with the necessary quorum of members as a great achievement in this time of severe lack of justice in Albania. In this regard, our call for the members of the trial panel of the Constitutional Court is that, on June 3, 2021, they will judge based on the constitution of the country and professional ethics, not influenced by the pressures of the ruling caste and the dark world behind it.

Given the imminent danger of the alienation of the public property and the irreversible destruction of cultural heritage, the Constitutional Court has a somber responsibility: to return hope to citizens, to restore the rule of law, and to protect our heritage as Albanians and our right to live in our country.  Much depends on this decision of the Constitutional Court — on your decision, honorable Members of the Trial Panel of this Court —  which protects the foundations and pillars of the state from destruction.

Unable to be present at the court hearing where the two lawsuits of the institution of the President of the Republic regarding the National Theater will be reviewed, we give full support to them.

Wishing a favorable June 3rd for the Constitutional Court, the Albanian justice, and above all for us as citizens in defense of the theater, we remain determined in our resistance.