From: Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
Metani’s Candidacy for High Justice Inspector Shows Politicization of Judiciary Appointments

In December 2019, the Justice Appointments Council (KED) sent Parliament a list with 5 candidates for the High Justice Inspectorate (ILD), with State Attorney Artur Metani ranked highest.

Recently, Reporter reported that the ranking of the candidates itself, performed by only 5 out of 9 KED members, may have been tainted by the fact that the husband of one of the KED members, Fatjona Memçaj, currently works under Metani. Memçaj also used to work with Metani at the Presidency. She is therefore, so it appears in a clear conflict of interest.

At the same time, if Memçaj had recused herself, the procedure to elect a High Justice Inspector would have stalled, because the number of KED members would have dropped to 4. So it seems that once again expediency has trumped proper procedure – and thus the rule of law.

But besides this problem with Metani’s ranking, already the very fact of his nomination was controversial – even within the KED. For Metani used to be a counsellor to the President between 2002 and 2012, serving under Rexhep Mejdani, Alfred Moisiu, and Bamir Topi.

According to Constitution art. 147/d(3):

[The High Justice Inspector] should not have held political posts in the public administration or leadership positions in a political party in the last past 10 years before running as a candidate.

 The question is now whether councilor to the President is a “political post” or not. The KED decided it is not, and allowed the candidacy of Metani for the ILD.

However, within the process of the justice reform, there is a clear precedent in which it was decided that being councilor to the President is a political function. This was namely decided by the National Ombudsman, back then Igli Totozani, in 2017.

In 2017, the National Ombudsman was involved, together with the International Monitoring Operation (ONM), in determining the qualifying candidates for the vetting institutions. Just like the High Justice Inspector, members of the vetting institutions were not allowed to have held “political posts.” As a result, Totozani disqualified Shaqir Hasani, a former councilor to President Bujar Nishani.

This disqualification led to a strong altercation during the May 29, 2017 session of the Parliamentary Ad-Hoc Committee, charged with selecting the final candidates. During the hearing, Socialist Party MP Ulsi Manja tells Hasani the following:

You have been informed about reasons and causes of your disqualification. […] In any case, the main cause has to do with exercising the function of counsellor of the President.

During the same hearing, Socialist MP Vasilika Hysi refers to the Civil Service Law, again confirming that Hasani was member of the President’s cabinet and there to be considered a political appointee.

We therefore have two major “legalists” of the Socialist Party confirming that counsellor to the President is political post and therefore leads to disqualification. If this holds for Shaqir Hasani, so it should hold for Artur Metani. And if the Albanian institutions, including the KED and Parliament, had suddenly “forgotten” about this history, it certainly should have been the task of EURALIUS to tell him so, lest double standards proliferate and the justice refers becomes politicized.

Because the underlying reasons that Hasani was banned and Metani passed are clear. Hasani “belonged” to the opposition, while Metani – nota bene State Attorney – “belongs” to the government. Even if this “intuition” of mine is mistaken, it certainly looks this way.

The justice reform was started precisely to prevent the judiciary’s politicization, and Metani’s qualification once again shows that politics trumps the law whenever it really matters.