COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE BEGINS EXAMINATION OF REPORT OF ALBANIA
8 May 2012
The Committee against Torture this morning began its consideration of the second periodic report submitted by Albania on how it implements the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Introducing the report, Avenir Peka, Deputy Minister of Interior Affairs of Albania, said that Albania had established the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture and had undertaken legal amendments in 2010 that had allowed its larger use in penitentiary services. As a result, the volume and quality of monitoring activities had grown in the last year and the mechanism was now carrying out regular inspections of prisons and places of detention. The Council of Ministers had approved the strategy for combating violence against women and violence in the family, which was coupled with the improvement of the legislation and the establishment of relevant institutional capacities to deal with those phenomena. The 2010 amendments to the Criminal Code ensured its compliance with the relevant international conventions of trafficking in persons.
Claudio Grossman, the Committee Chairperson who served as Rapporteur for the report of Albania, asked several questions concerning the current project of criminalization of violence in the family, including corporal punishment of children, and about the timeframe established for the implementation of recommendations made by the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture, particularly in relation to the psychiatric care and training of the police.
Abdoulaye Gaye, the Committee Expert who also served as Rapporteur for the report of Albania, welcomed the progress made by this country to comply with international and European standards and instruments against torture and asked a number of questions concerning training of law enforcement, judicial and medical staff in the provisions of the Convention against Torture. The system to combat impunity in Albania must be strengthened together with the mandate of the ombudsmen to ensure that recommendations could actually be followed up and implemented.
Committee Experts asked in-depth questions about the impact of the numerous visits to places of detention by the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture and the priorities for the implementation of its recommendations. There were structural and procedural weaknesses in the judicial system in Albania and a whole series of factors prevented judges from functioning properly. Other questions of interest included corporal punishment and physical violence against children in the family and in alternative care, preventive detention and pre-trial detention, the high number of children not registered at birth, overcrowding in prisons and blood feuds.
The Albanian delegation consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Interior Affairs, the Permanent Mission of Albania to the United Nations Office at Geneva, the Office of the State Police, and the Ministry of Justice.
The next public meeting of the Committee will be at 3 p.m. this afternoon when it will meet with the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture and hear its annual report. The Committee will hear the replies of Albania at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 9 May 2012.
Report of Albania
The second periodic report of Albania can be read via the following link (CAT/C/ALB/2).
Presentation of the report of Albania
AVENIR PEKA, Deputy Minister of Interior Affairs of Albania, introducing the report, said that the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture had been set up in Albania.
The 2010 legal amendments allowed a larger use of this monitoring mechanism in penitentiary services. The monitoring activities of the national mechanism in 2010 had increased in both quality and standards. The mechanism was now closer to the field and carried out regular inspections of detention facilities. The mechanism had also reviewed over 300 claims received from individuals during those official visits. Inspections had been carried out in almost all detention and security premises of the State during different hours, including late at night. A number of disciplinary measures had been applied against policemen for breach of duty and use of violence in 2011. Several of the sanctions included dismissal from the police force. Pursuant to the legal framework against violence in the family, measures had been undertaken to protect victims, including the establishment of appropriate police structures to address family violence. A series of training activities had been held with the police staff as well and as a result of the guarantees provided by the police the number of incidents had been reduced. The Council of Ministers had approved the strategy for combating violence against women and violence in the family which saw the improvement of legislation and establishment of relevant institutional capacities.
Trafficking in persons was a criminal offence in Albania. The 2010 amendments to the Criminal Code ensured that it complied with the relevant international provisions on trafficking in persons. Two persons had been convicted last year for the crime of internal trafficking in persons, thus establishing a precedent and recognizing this phenomenon. Parliament had approved electronic monitoring for persons with limited liberty last December. The Ministry of Justice was now seeking to accelerate the implementation of this process and was looking into the possibility of relocating judges throughout the country to accelerate judicial proceedings in all the territory. Legislative amendments also included the introduction of probation services and new institutions had been established in three towns in Albania, with the view of decreasing the number of persons in detention facilities. Crimes of blood feud continued to be an issue of concern in the country, although the number of cases had decreased since 2003 and now presented two to three per cent of serious crimes in Albania.
Questions from Rapporteurs on Albania
CLAUDIO GROSSMAN, Committee Chairperson and Rapporteur on the Report of Albania, asked whether Albania considered the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to be self-executing. Amnesty International had reported two incidents of torture and arbitrary acts and Mr. Grossman asked what measures Albania was taking to prosecute and sentence such cases and what were the substantive elements of arbitrary acts according to the Criminal Code. Violence in the family in some instances could amount to torture as the definition of torture included any act grounded in discrimination, which domestic violence indeed was. There was an encouraging trend of women in urban areas increasingly reporting cases of domestic violence. Violence in the family was not a specific criminal offence, and had been prosecuted only when it resulted in death. Could the delegation elaborate on the current project of criminalizing violence in family? How many prosecutions had been effected for cases of trafficking in persons? Could the delegation provide further information on prosecution and sanctioning of those guilty for the shooting of three anti-government protestors recently?
The Committee also requested additional clarifications concerning the functioning of the institution of ombudsmen and the circumstances and conditions under which she or he could conduct monitoring visits to places of detention. What was the timeframe established for the implementation of the recommendations made by the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture, particularly in relation to the psychiatric care and training of the police? The United Nations Children’s Fund had reported that violence against children in the family remained an issue of concern and that corporal punishment in child rearing and alternative care settings had not been expressly prohibited. What were concrete measures Albania had in a mind to address this issue, including legislation and strategies to educate parents in non-violent forms of discipline? What were the legal provisions in the Albanian legislation to protect foreign nationals from torture and cruel and degrading treatment and what were the procedures to challenge and protect them according to Article 3 of the Convention concerning the right to non-refoulement? Concerning reports of 500 Roma children of Albanian citizenship in Greece whose whereabouts were unknown, the Committee asked what measures had been adopted to ensure the proper clarification of this issue.
ABDOULAYE GAYE, Committee Expert and Rapporteur on the Report of Albania, welcomed the progress made by Albania to comply with international and European standards and instruments. The problem, as usual, was in the implementation of those instruments. Non-governmental organizations should be commended for their contribution to the positive achievements in Albania in terms of the training of the judiciary and police. Were there any general training programmes for law enforcement staff to ensure they were fully abreast with the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment? A particular interest should be given to medical staff to detect the signs of torture through the use of the Istanbul Protocol. Were there any specific training programmes for the treatment of women and minorities and how was the impact of training on the ground assessed? Mr. Gaye asked the delegation to clarify the conditions of pre-trial detention which was quite lengthy. What was the system to protect people whose views had been sought during inspection visits by the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture? Was overcrowding in prisons a consequence of very slow judicial proceedings?
Bearing in mind previous recommendations of the Committee against Torture, Mr. Gaye asked the delegation to provide numbers concerning cases of torture in Albania and the results of prosecutions and sanctioning of those acts. The system to combat impunity in Albania must be strengthened together with the mandate of the ombudsmen to ensure that recommendations could actually be followed up and implemented. What legal provisions were present in Albania to ensure that fair compensation was provided to victims of torture and what compensations had been offered to victims? The positive law of Albania did not provide domestic provisions regarding the inadmissibility of evidence obtained under torture. Was this rule invoked in practice? Relating to violence against women and children and domestic violence in general, the Committee welcomed the provisions put in place to tackle this problem and was very interested in obtaining further information about the practical implementation of those provisions.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert was impressed by the number of non-governmental organizations that had been consulted on the preparation of this report and asked whether they would also be involved in the implementation of recommendations of this Committee. He further asked the delegation to indicate the impact of the numerous visits to places of detention by the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture and to clarify the priorities for the implementation of its recommendations. In the absence of a specific agreement on extradition, did Albania consider the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment as a basis for extradition?
The rule of law was not something established overnight but was a process, said another Expert, adding that there were structural and procedural weaknesses in the judicial system in Albania. For example, children were not judged separately and there were cases in which children were subjected to both the Criminal and Military Code. Related to the anomaly in how the judicial system worked, there was a whole series of factors that prevented judges from functioning properly, and this applied also to cases of torture. There were sanctions for torture but the fact that it was a widespread scourge indicated certain structural and procedural weaknesses. Albania must act to solve many of those phenomena as the judicial system was providing protection to individuals and Albania must look into how it functioned.
Particularly harsh regimes were imposed on people in preventive detention, for example solitary confinement. Could the delegation clarify the two systems of detention in the country and could it elaborate on the use of electronic monitoring for people with limited liberty? Concerning Albanian children born abroad, what were the procedures for the birth registration of these children? Was the transition from the past regime to democracy concluded and what was the state of compensation for victims of torture under the previous regime?
The 2010 report of the United Nations Children’s Fund stated that more than 50 per cent of children between the age of 2 and 14 had experienced physical punishment at home. Children in alternative care had also been exposed to corporal punishment. The high number of children not registered at birth might depend on where they had been born – home or hospital - and this made them more vulnerable to violations and trafficking. The lack of a separate juvenile court was an important issue, which coupled with long time spent in pre-detention centres was a question of concern. Was sexual violence in prisons monitored and could the delegation share information it had on this issue, including the protective measures? Blood feuds seemed to be gendered and most of the victims were males.
For use of the information media; not an official record