Tirana, Albania, Apr 23 (Tirana Echo) – Albania suffers from a series abuse of its human rights including intimidation of journalists and pervasive corruption spread across government, says the latest US Report on Human Rights Practices for 2017.
The findings come as the United States and the European Union press Albanian authorities to get on with their crucial reform of the highly corrupt justice system , which is expected to pave the way for the small Balkan country’s eventual EU membership.
“Most significant human rights issues during 2017 included limitations on expression and the press, including self-censorship and intimidation of journalists driven by financial and political interests; and pervasive corruption in all branches of government.” – says the Report published by the US State Department last week.
The report highlights the fact that Albanian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces while impunity remained a problem in the corruption infested country.
The State Department says that prosecution, and especially conviction, of officials who committed abuses was sporadic and inconsistent.
“Officials, politicians, judges, and those with powerful business interests often were able to avoid prosecution. Authorities took technical measures, such as electronic payment of traffic fines and body cameras, to improve police accountability and punished some lower-level officials for abuses.” – reads the executive summary.
The report notes that while prosecutors made significant progress in pursuing low-level public corruption cases, including corrupt prosecutors and judges, prosecution of higher-level crimes remained elusive due to investigators’ fear of retribution, a general lack of resources, and corruption within the judiciary itself.
Regarding last year’s June 25 parliamentary elections, the report notes that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reported the elections respected fundamental freedoms but were negatively impacted by allegations of vote buying and pressure on voters.
The report points out that thousands of claims for private and religious property confiscated during the communist era remained unresolved with the government’s Agency for Property Treatment. The ombudsman reported that to date the government had not yet executed 26,000 court rulings nor reviewed 11,000 claims dealing with property rights. Claimants may appeal cases to the ECHR, and during the year hundreds of cases–many of them related to property–were pending ECHR review.
The US Department of State Human Rights Report is a major blow for the socialist ruling majority of prime minister Edi Rama, who has promised to fight corruption and put corrupt judges, prosecutors and high level politicians behind bars as soon as the vetting process of the justice reform is completed.
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