The Albanian Ombudsman has concluded that all law-enforcement agencies involved in the deportation of Turkish citizen Harun Celik have violated the law and international conventions.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has also launched an investigation into the 2020 arrest and extradition from Albania of Turkish citizen Harun Çelik and the arrest of Selami Şimşek, who could face extradition imminently.
The Ombudsman’s report to the General Police Director Ardi Veliu notes that Celik had a number of his human rights infringed upon.
The government deported Celik without a deportation request from a court or prosecution office.
The government is legally mandated to notify the border police of the deportation 24 hours in advance, but it failed to do so. Celik was deported immediately after being retrieved from prison.
The government claims Celik did not seek asylum. However, video recordings show that he was yelling “Asylum!” as the police were escorting him to the airport to be deported. The Albanian law on asylum and the UN convention on refugee status recognizes this as a request for asylum, putting the Albanian government in violation of both.
The European Human Rights Convention, as well as Albanian legislation, guarantee asylum for persons suspected to face the threat of persecution in their countries. Celik’s was one such case. The Albanian government has, thus, violated Albanian law and international conventions ratified by Albania by deporting someone whose life is threatened in his own country.
ECHR and the Albanian law on foreigners stipulate that any decision to deport someone must afford them the possibility to appeal at a court, with the exception of cases wherein the person constitutes a “threat to national security.” In the latter case, the decision for someone’s deportation must be signed by the Minister of the Interior. Celik’s deportation was not signed by the Minister and the Albanian government deported him without granting him the possibility to appeal his deportation.
The government’s order to deport Celik is based on an article that stipulates that someone can be deported if they have entered Albania illegally and there is proof they will pass through Albania to illegally cross the border into another country. Seeing as Celik did not enter Albania illegally, the order to deport him stands in contradiction with the law.
The Albanian law also stipulates that the would-be deportee must be allowed to leave the country by themselves, within a certain deadline. This right was denied to Celik who was deported immediately after coming out of prison.
Celik was deported in an unusual display of “near perfect coordination,” on January 1, 2020, a national holiday.
It remains unclear how the expenses of his airplane ticket were covered.
An Albanian court should have returned Celik his passport. However, on the day he was released from prison and promptly deported, a national holiday, the government sent him to the Turkish embassy to be issued temporary identification documentation, and he was deported without his valid passport. The court returned his passport 13 days after his deportation.
Celik’s quick deportation has no grounds in any Albanian law.
The Albanian government also denied the Ombudsman the right to copies of some documentation as well as of the video-recording showing Celik within the police station.