Corruption and political interference burden Albania’s judicial system

Corruption and political interfence are undermining the effectiveness of Albania’s judicial system, the Comissioner for Human rights warned today.

“The high level of corruption in the judiciary seriously impedes the proper functioning of the judiciary and undermines public trust in justice and the rule of law in Albania,” said Nils Muižnieks.

“The authorities have to step up their efforts to ensure that all cases of corruption in the judiciary are effectively investigated and prosecuted.”

Muižnieks has published a report on the country following his visit last September.

He welcomes the national reform strategy and action plan to strengthen Albania’s judiciary but states that “more resolute action is needed, including more transparency and merit-based procedures in appointing and evaluating judges.”

The commissioner recommends depoliticising the functioning of the judiciary, starting by strengthening the independence of the High Council of Justice, which ensures the integrity of Albania’s judiciary.

“The members of this council should be elected by a qualified majority in parliament and should exert a more decisive influence on the appointment, promotion and disciplinary proceedings of judges, including those of the Supreme Court.

“Any improper political interference in the functioning of the judiciary should be avoided. This includes removing the involvement of the Minister of Justice in the disciplinary proceedings against judges.”

The commissioner also encourages the authorities to adopt “necessary legislative measures” which would provide for a qualified majority in the parliament’s vote and consent concerning the appointment of the General Prosecutor by the President of the Republic.

Muižnieks signals that the “very slow pace” at which Albania implements judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, notably those relating to the non-enforcement of domestic court and administrative decisions, is an additional factor which considerably weakens the rule of law in the country.

“All judgments delivered by the Court must be promptly, fully and effectively implemented. In particular, the authorities have to address the persistent problem of excessive length of judicial proceedings, and create an effective domestic remedy in this regard.”

The long-standing problem of ill-treatment and of impunity for serious human rights violations committed by law enforcement officers, including those relating to the violent events of 21 January 2011 in Tirana, continue to be an issue of serious concern.

“I am very concerned at the increase of recorded incidents of ill-treatment, including torture,” said Muižnieks. “It is urgent to investigate all these cases along with the reported unlawful acts by law enforcement officers committed during and after the events of 21 January 2011 and to bring those responsible to justice.

“For the process to be credible and conducive to a restored public confidence in the state and its institutions, it is important to impose adequate, dissuasive penalties on any law enforcement official involved in serious human rights violations.”

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