TIRANA / GENEVA (12 December 2016) – A United Nations expert group today called on the Albanian Government to adopt “a comprehensive State policy which fully recognizes past crimes, including enforced disappearances, and adequately deals with all aspects related to truth, justice, reparation, memory and guarantees of non-repetition.”
“Albania is yet to come to terms with the painful legacy of the gross human rights violations committed under communism,” said a delegation of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances at the end of an eight-day official visit to the country*.
While commending the Albanian Government for a number of positive steps, human rights experts Houria Es-Slami, who currently heads the Working Group, and Henrikas Mickevicius, underscored that enforced disappearance cannot be considered as an issue of the past: “It is a continuous crime until the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared person is clarified.”
“There is still the need to bring truth to the families of all those who went missing under the communist dictatorship, and who keep searching for their loved ones, including by thoroughly investigating all suspected burial sites,” they said.
The experts also drew attention to the issue of judicial accountability: “While new cases of enforced disappearances are currently not been reported, and legislative steps have been taken to prevent the occurrence of enforced disappearances in the future, most of the crimes and gross violations of human rights committed in Albania under communism remain to be investigated and punished.”
“We were informed that during the first few years after the fall of communism, some cases of human rights violations were initiated and reached the courts, but no case of enforced disappearances committed during those years has ever reached the Albanian courts,” they said.
The experts welcomed the recent Law establishing an Authority for the opening of the Sigurimi files, and expressed their hope that this will facilitate attaining truth and justice for victims and their families. “We call on all relevant stakeholders, both governmental and non-governmental, to fully support the work of this new Authority, in order to maximize its results,” they noted.
“The continued reluctance to look into the past will most certainly hinder Albania’s capacity to move forward into the very promising future it is striving to build for itself,” they said, calling on the State to encourage and facilitate a national public debate on the legacy of the communist past and how to collectively overcome its painful consequences. “Current positive initiatives aimed at good governance, institution building, and the rule of law, cannot and will not reach their full potential if restrained by the bulk of the country’s painful past.”
“It is not too late for healing and reconciliation in Albania,” they said. “The Working Group reiterates its willingness to support the Albanian government, and its citizens, in the efforts aimed at achieving such healing, as well as the full implementation of the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.”
From 5 to 12 December 2016, the Working Group delegation met with a number of State officials, judicial authorities as well as with relatives of disappeared people and representatives of civil society organisations.
A final report on the visit will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2017.
(*) Check the full end-of-mission statement:
In English: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21016&LangID=E
In Albanian: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Disappearances/PreliminaryObservationsAlbania12Dec2016_Albanian.docx
The Working Group is comprised of five independent experts from all regions of the world. The Chair-Rapporteur is Ms. Houria Es-Slami (Morocco) and the Vice-Chair is Mr. Bernard Duhaime (Canada); other members are Mr. Tae-Ung Baik (Republic of Korea), Mr. Ariel Dulitzky (Argentina) and Mr. Henrikas Mickevicius (Lithuania). Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Disappearances/Pages/DisappearancesIndex.aspx
The Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.
UN Human Rights, country page – Albania: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/ALIndex.aspx
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