In September the European Parliament ratified a Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Union (EU) and Albania, a significant step in the process of Albania's accession to the EU. In November the Albanian parliament approved ratification of Protocol 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights, thereby abolishing the death penalty in all circumstances. Public debates about corruption and incompetence within the ranks of judges and prosecutors were frequent but highly politicized; public confidence in the judiciary remained low. Certain legislative reforms were delayed because of political disputes related to forthcoming local elections, which led to the boycott of some parliamentary sessions by opposition deputies.
Violence against women
Domestic violence was not specifically prohibited in the Criminal Code, although it was generally recognized that such violence, particularly against women and children, was widespread. In its report, issued in November, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) noted that "domestic violence is under-reported, under-investigated, under-prosecuted and under-sentenced", and that "the overwhelming majority of perpetrators are granted impunity". There were signs, however, that official and general public awareness of this issue had increased. In July the Director General of the State Police directed the police to implement recommendations made by AI in its report on domestic violence issued in March. He ordered police to respond promptly to all reports of domestic violence, to document complaints made by victims and order their examination by forensic doctors, and to liaise with local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) offering legal assistance and shelter to victims of domestic violence.
In December parliament adopted a law "On measures against violence in family relations" drafted by a group of domestic NGOs. This law aimed both to prevent such violence and to introduce procedures to give victims of domestic violence effective protection. The law was not due to come into force until mid-2007.
• Between mid-July and the beginning of August, the wife and daughter of NT reported him three times to Berat police because of his alleged violence towards them and to three younger children. However, apart from briefly detaining NT, the police apparently took no effective action. On 12 October, he was again detained by police after his alleged further violence, but escaped from the police station the same day.
Despite increased, and to some extent successful, measures to counter trafficking, Albania continued to be a source country for the trafficking of women, often minors, for sexual exploitation. Children, many of them Roma, continued to be trafficked to be exploited as beggars, for cheap labour, crime or for adoption. According to official statistics, in the first six months of the year, 119 criminal proceedings were registered with the Serious Crimes Prosecutor's Office relating to charges of trafficking women for prostitution, and five to charges of trafficking children.
In February Albania and Greece signed an agreement, subsequently ratified by parliament, dealing with the protection, repatriation and rehabilitation of trafficked children. In July regional anti-trafficking committees were established in Albania to identify and overcome problems in implementing the national anti-trafficking strategy.
• In January, a man was arrested in Saranda on a charge of trafficking two 12-year-old boys to Greece as drug couriers. The children had reportedly been arrested by Greek police two months earlier while crossing the border with a bag of cannabis.
• In April, three men were jointly convicted by the Serious Crimes Court of trafficking six babies to Greece between 1997 and 2003. They received sentences of up to 21 years' imprisonment.
There were also reports of trials and convictions of defendants on charges of having trafficked women abroad for sexual exploitation. Those convicted received sentences of up to 15 years' imprisonment. However, witness protection was weak and prosecutors complained that prosecutions often failed because at trial the victims of trafficking tended to withdraw their testimony under pressure from traffickers or their own families.
Detainees frequently alleged that they had been ill-treated by police during arrest or during questioning following arrest. In some cases minors who had been questioned by police without a parent, lawyer or psychologist present complained of physical and psychological ill-treatment. At initial remand hearings prosecutors and judges rarely initiated investigations when a defendant complained of ill-treatment or bore clear marks of injury.
In July the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) published its reports on visits to Albania in 2003 and 2005. The CPT reported that during both visits most of the detainees interviewed alleged that they had been beaten by police, often during questioning. In some cases the alleged beatings amounted to torture. In a number of cases a medical examination of the complainant found injuries consistent with these allegations. A report by the OSCE published in November, Analysis of the Criminal Justice System in Albania, reached similar conclusions.
• In March, Dorian Leci was allegedly hit on the head with a pistol butt, kicked and beaten by police officers during his arrest in Tirana. He filed a criminal complaint against a police officer, alleging the use of force, abuse of office and torture. The prosecutor decided not to open an investigation into this complaint and reportedly did not inform Dorian Leci of this decision, as required by law.
• In June, Amarildo Përfundi, aged 17, committed suicide at home a few days after Korça police officers questioned him for six hours. The Ombudsperson later concluded that police officers had psychologically and physically ill-treated Amarildo Përfundi and had questioned him without a parent, psychologist or a lawyer being present - in violation of the law. Korça police denied that police officers had ill-treated the boy. A criminal investigation was started against a police officer but had not been completed by the end of the year.
The Ministry of the Interior was reported as stating that during 2006 more than 40 police officers accused of ill-treating people, taking bribes or other misconduct in relation to the treatment of suspects at police stations had been punished administratively and referred to prosecutors' offices for investigation. However, few were brought to trial, and it appeared that none had been prosecuted under Article 86 of the Criminal Code dealing with "torture and any other degrading or inhuman treatment". Trial proceedings before Tirana District Court against two police officers on lesser charges of "arbitrary acts" - generally punished by non-custodial sentences - had not been concluded by the end of 2006.
Conditions of detention
Despite an EU-supported programme of prison reform and some improvements to detention conditions, these were still generally very poor and characterized by overcrowding, poor hygiene and sanitation, and inadequate diet and health care. Contrary to Albanian law and international standards, minors were still sometimes held together with adult detainees, and remand and convicted prisoners shared cells. Mentally ill prisoners were often held in prisons instead of being sent for medical treatment in specialized institutions in accordance with court decisions.
Detainees held in remand cells in police stations suffered particularly harsh conditions, and there were frequent complaints. Conditions were particularly poor, largely due to overcrowding, in Durrës, Elbasan and Korça police stations.
AI country reports/visits
• Albania: Violence against women in the family - "It's not her shame" (AI Index: EUR 11/002/2006)
AI delegates visited Albania in March.