The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see www.state.gov for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date.  This site is not updated so external links may no longer function.  Contact us with any questions about finding information.

NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Department Seal

flag
bar

Title:  Albania Human Rights Practices, 1995
Author:  U.S. Department of State 
Date:  March 1996 
 
 
 
 
                                 ALBANIA 
 
 
Albania is a parliamentary republic ruled by a democratically elected 
government.  Pending a new constitution, the Law on Major Constitutional 
Provisions, which includes a Law on Fundamental Human Rights and 
Freedoms, serves in its place.  The Democratic Party won a comfortable 
majority in free and fair parliamentary elections in 1992.  President 
Sali Berisha, elected by Parliament in 1992, continued his 5-year term.  
The law provides for separation of powers and an independent judiciary.  
However, the judicial branch, lacking in resources and experience, was 
subject to strong executive and parliamentary pressure.  
 
Local police detachments reporting to the Ministry of the Interior are 
principally responsible for internal security.  Police effectiveness in 
combating violent crime increased but instances of police abuse 
continued.  The National Intelligence Service (SHIK) has both external 
and domestic intelligence gathering and counterintelligence functions.  
There are continuing allegations that SHIK exceeded its mandate, largely 
through harassment of opposition politicians and journalists.  There are 
credible reports that SHIK agents have taken part in the detention and 
investigation of some journalists and other arrestees, usually in 
conjunction with the criminal police.  Some members of the security 
services committed serious human rights abuses. 
 
Albania is a poor country with a largely agricultural economy.  Some 
mining and light industry (clothes, shoes) also exist.  Remittances from 
Albanians working abroad and, to a lesser extent, fuel smuggling in 
contravention of economic sanctions against Serbia-Montenegro, provided 
the principal source of foreign exchange.  Foreign aid was also an 
important source of national income.  The economy, in transition from a 
centrally planned to a market- oriented system, continued to improve as 
gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 6 percent.  Per capita GDP grew to 
$650.  The Government made a major effort to privatize medium and large 
enterprises through a mass privatization program using vouchers to 
involve the public as much as possible in the transfer of ownership.  
Inflation dropped to under 5 percent, and unemployment was officially 
estimated at 18.6 percent, although observers suspect it is considerably 
higher. 
 
The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, but 
serious problems remain.  Principal abuses include security force 
beatings of citizens, prolonged pretrial detention, poor prison 
conditions, occasional restrictions on freedom of speech and the press, 
limitations on freedom of assembly and association, and discrimination 
and violence against women.  The judiciary is subject to political 
pressure.  The September removal of the Chief Justice of the Cassation 
Court appeared to be unconstitutional and politically motivated.  Also 
in September the Government adopted a comprehensive lustration law that 
bars a broad range of Communist-era officials from public office until 
2002. 
 
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 
from: 
 
  a.  Political and Extrajudicial Killing 
 
There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings. 
 
The 1994 deaths in police custody of Enrik Islami and Irfan Nano were 
investigated by the authorities.  In the Islami case, charges have been 
brought against six prison guards.  A criminal case continues against 
the two police officers accused in Nano's death. 
 
  b.  Disappearance 
 
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. 
 
  c.  Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment 
 
The Penal Code prohibits the use of physical or psychological force 
during criminal proceedings and provides for penalties for those found 
guilty of abuse.  However, members of the security forces continued to 
beat detainees.  The Albanian Helsinki Committee (AHC) and Amnesty 
International (AI) have received reports of police mistreatment of 
citizens.  Some cases were reported by AI to be politically motivated 
and directed against Socialist Party activists.  AI reported that Afrim 
Sula, a leader of the Youth Forum of Eurosocialists of Albania, was 
detained and beaten by police on January 15 on his way home from an 
authorized meeting of the Socialist Party in Tirana.  Sula was 
reportedly beaten again on April 14, along with three other Socialist 
Party members, after meeting in a private cafe.   
 
Other incidents appeared to be random mistreatment of ordinary citizens 
and are described in numerous press accounts.  On two occasions foreign 
diplomats were chance witnesses to the mistreatment--by punching, 
slapping, and kicking--of persons by security forces.  The Interior 
Ministry reported that it investigated cases of police abuse where 
complaints were lodged.  However, it was unable to provide detailed or 
up-to-date information on several specific cases.  Therefore it is 
difficult to assess the seriousness with which police officials pursue 
cases of mistreatment.   
 
 
Prison conditions do not meet internationally accepted minimum 
standards.  Of particular concern are the incarceration of juvenile 
suspects and convicts under the age of 18 with older inmates and the 
resulting allegations of sexual abuse of minors by older prisoners.  
Those sentenced for minor crimes are often imprisoned together with 
violent offenders.  There are no statutes which define the rights or 
obligations of prisoners, nor are there rules governing prisoners' 
behavior.  The AHC, which monitors prison conditions and reports on them 
to its parent organization, also noted that hygienic conditions in the 
prisons are extremely poor, and prisoners often experience difficulties 
receiving visitors, mail, and newspapers.  The AHC deemed health and 
sanitary conditions potentially life threatening at certain prisons, 
including a pretrial detention center, and asked that they be shut down 
if conditions were not improved. 
 
  d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 
 
New penal and penal procedures codes entered into force in 1995.  The 
new Penal Procedures Code mandates improved rights for detained and 
arrested persons.  According to the new code, a police officer or 
prosecutor may order a suspect into custody.  Detained persons must be 
immediately informed of the charges against them and their rights, and, 
if detained by the police, a prosecutor must be notified immediately.  
Within 48 hours from the time of arrest or detention a court must 
decide, in the presence of the prosecutor, the suspect, and the 
suspect's lawyer, the security measures to be taken.  Legal counsel must 
be provided free of charge if the defendant is unable to afford a 
private attorney. 
 
Bail, in the form of money or property, may be required if it is 
believed the accused may not appear for the court hearing.  House arrest 
may also be used.  If the court fears that the accused may leave Albania 
prior to trial or is a danger to society, it may order pretrial 
confinement. 
 
The new Penal Procedures Code requires that pretrial investigations be 
completed within 3 months.  However, the prosecutor may extend the 
investigatory period by 3-month intervals in especially difficult cases.  
The accused and the injured party have the right to appeal these 
extensions to the district court. 
 
Detainees in criminal cases are often denied contact with their families 
during the investigative phase.  AHC protested the case of Ms. Teuta 
Ceken, the mother of two children, arrested for embezzlement and held in 
pretrial detention for 14 months.  In this case, the General Prosecutor 
reportedly approved repeated extensions of the 3-month investigative 
phase.  According to the Minister of Justice, Ceken was finally 
transferred to house arrest in March while a protracted  
 
investigation, involving several other defendants, continued.  Another 
individual was detained for 19 months before charges were filed in 
August. 
 
The Government does not employ exile as a form of punishment or 
political control. 
 
  e.  Denial of a Fair Public Trial 
 
The Law on Major Constitutional Provisions provides for an independent 
judiciary, but the judiciary is hampered by political pressures, 
insufficient resources, inexperience, patronage, and corruption.  
Albania introduced new civil, penal, penal procedures, and labor codes 
during the year. 
 
The judicial system comprises the courts of first instance (also known 
as district courts), the Court of Appeals, and the Court of Cassation.  
Each of these courts is divided into three jurisdictions:  criminal, 
civil, and military.  The Court of Cassation (also known as the high 
court or Supreme Court) hears appeals from the Court of Appeals, while 
the Constitutional Court reviews those cases requiring interpretation of 
constitutional legislation or acts. 
 
Parliament has the authority to appoint and dismiss judges of the 
Constitutional Court (9 members) and the Cassation Court (currently 10 
members).  These judges may be dismissed only for mental incompetence or 
conviction for a serious crime.  Constitutional Court justices serve 12-
year terms, while Cassation Court judges are elected for a renewable 
term of 7 years.  The Supreme Judicial Council, which is headed by the 
President of the Republic, appoints and dismisses all other judges.  
According to its internal statute, the Supreme Judicial Council has 
broad powers to fire, demote, transfer, and otherwise discipline 
district and appeals court judges for incompetence, commission of a 
serious crime, or questionable morality.  This assumption of broad 
authority by the Supreme Judicial Council subjects the courts to direct 
control by the executive branch.  Judges were not always notified in 
advance of disciplinary proceedings against them and often not given the 
opportunity to present facts in their defense.   
 
Prosecutors are also appointed by the Parliament on the recommendation 
of the President of the Republic and serve at the pleasure of the 
Supreme Judicial Council.  Many judges and prosecutors who held ranking 
positions during the previous regime have been removed, and their 
replacements often lacked legal training and experience.  A former 
member of the Council stated that judicial nominations were often 
motivated by purely political considerations with no regard to 
professional qualifications.  AHC expressed concern that, of 40 persons 
nominated for judgeships by the Supreme Judicial Council in 1995, 16 
were still in the process of obtaining their legal degrees by 
correspondence.  Status as former political prisoners or descendants of 
politically persecuted families sometimes constituted an additional 
consideration in nominating judges.  The majority of nominees had very 
little legal experience after obtaining their law degrees.  As state 
employees, judges are poorly paid, and it is widely believed that 
corruption is prevalent in the courts. 
 
The judicial branch came under significant pressure in 1995 from 
executive and parliamentary attempts to limit its authority.  Under the 
Law on Major Constitutional Provisions, the Justice Ministry has 
responsibility for the budget and administration of the court system and 
sought to use this control to achieve its policy goals.  In September 
the Justice Ministry fired three administrative employees of the Court 
of Cassation, reportedly for their roles in the previous Communist 
regime, and sent a contingent of police to surround the court and 
prevent the fired employees from entering.   
 
Later that month, Parliament removed the Chief Justice of the Cassation 
Court, Zef Brozi, upon the President's request, even though he had not 
been convicted of a serious crime.  In a February vote, also requested 
by the President, Parliament failed to remove Brozi.  In the September 
vote, some members of Parliament who were recorded as having voted for 
Brozi's removal stated that they were not in the building at the time of 
the vote, raising the question of whether there was in fact a quorum 
when the vote was taken on the removal measure.  Many Albanian and 
international observers charge that Brozi's actions did not provide 
legal grounds for removal and that the vote against Brozi was motivated 
by political reasons, including Brozi's attempt to reopen the Fatos Nano 
case.  In a December report, the European Commission for Democracy 
Through Law of the Council of Europe, referring to the judiciary in 
general, stated that "it has been unable to satisfy itself that judges 
in Albania feel themselves free to arrive at their decisions without 
fear of negative consequences for their professional life." 
 
The Law on Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms provides for the right 
to a fair and speedy trial.  It also mandates public trials, except in 
cases where the interests of public order or morality, national 
security, the private life of the parties,  or justice require 
restrictions.  If convicted, the accused has the right to appeal the 
decision within 5 days to the Court of Appeals and again to the Court of 
Cassation, which renders the final verdict.  The law does not specify 
any time period within which the Court of Appeals or the Court of 
Cassation must hear appeals. 
 
The shortcomings of the judicial system are illustrated by the case of 
Fatos Nano, a former prime minister, current chairman of the Socialist 
Party, and a potential contender for the  
 
presidency.  Nano's case was handled by inexperienced, poorly trained, 
and underfunded investigators, prosecutors, and judges in a highly 
charged political atmosphere. 
 
Nano was arrested on July 30, 1993, and charged with abuse of power and 
falsification of official documents in connection with emergency 
humanitarian aid delivered by Italy in 1991.  The case was based 
partially on the allegation that the Italian company which delivered the 
aid had shortchanged the Italian Government and its intended 
beneficiaries by charging more than was justified.  It was not alleged 
that Nano benefited financially in this malfeasance.  Nano was sentenced 
on April 3 to 12 years' imprisonment for embezzlement of state funds for 
a third party and for falsification of documents.  On May 26, 1994, the 
Appeals Court confirmed this decision and on July 28 the Cassation Court 
upheld the decisions of the previous courts.  Meanwhile, amnesties have 
reduced Nano's sentence to less than 5 years.  
 
In a review of Nano's arrest and trial in late 1994, the Inter-
Parliamentary Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union reported its 
serious doubts over the soundness of the judgment against Nano, citing 
both procedural and evidentiary shortcomings.  The report called on the 
Government to review the case.  The Council of Europe noted its concerns 
about the case during its July admission of Albania. 
 
Both AI and AHC have called for Nano's release.  Although the numerous 
procedural and evidentiary deficiencies in the case are not sufficient 
to dismiss all the evidence against him, many observers believe that 
Nano was incarcerated because he was President Berisha's principal 
political opponent. 
 
  f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, and 
Correspondence 
 
The Law on Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms provides for the 
inviolability of dwellings and the individual person, as well as the 
privacy of correspondence.  There have been credible, widespread 
allegations by individuals and opposition parties of government-
sanctioned tampering with correspondence and wiretapping.   
 
The Government has considered plans to open the files of the Sigurimi 
(the former secret police of the Communist regime), and Parliament 
passed a law permitting the files to be made available to a governmental 
commission charged with investigating future candidates for elective and 
appointive office under the lustration law.  Senior government officials 
have indicated that not all the files are intact, and some may have been 
tampered with in the final days of the Communist regime and during the 
chain of custody since then.  The AHC is concerned that information from 
the files may have been used for political purposes and protested the 
lack of legislation on their disposition. 
 
Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: 
 
  a.  Freedom of Speech and Press 
 
The Law on Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms provides for freedom of 
speech and the press.  In practice, however, the Government sometimes 
restricted freedom of speech, including the freedom to criticize the 
Government and its officials.  Laws against slander, insult, incitement 
to national hatred, and distribution of anticonstitutional literature 
were used to prosecute persons, including journalists, for criticizing 
officials. 
 
A 1993 press law sets out large fines for publishing material that the 
Government considers secret or sensitive, permits confiscation of 
printed matter or property by judicial order, and allows for criminal 
punishment under certain circumstances.  The media and AHC continue to 
denounce the press law as being too imprecise and too harsh for a 
country with poorly developed legal institutions. 
 
In an interview, Ilir Hoxha, son of the former dictator, referred to 
demonstrators who toppled his father's statue in Tirana as "organized 
bands of vandals."  He further characterized as "thieves and cowards" 
those who dug up the grave of his father in the heroes' cemetery.  He 
refers by name to the "blind tools" who condemned his mother, Enver 
Hoxha's wife Nexhmije, including current democratic leaders.  He added 
that "...the day will come when they will be asked to account for their 
conduct because we demand this....  This is not for revenge, but to put 
justice in its place."  For these statements, he was sentenced to 7 
months' imprisonment.  
 
Opposition parties, independent trade unions, and various societies and 
groups publish their own newspapers.  Some 250 newspapers and magazines 
appear on a regular basis.  Three newspapers in the Greek language are 
published in southern Albania.  Taxes on publications, in addition to 
increases in printing costs, make it difficult for independent media to 
be economically viable without subsidies from patrons, such as political 
parties, social organizations, or private businesses.  Some journalists 
believe that the Government is using taxes as a deliberate means to 
cripple the independent and opposition press.   
 
Government officials invoked libel laws and the Press Law against 
several editors and journalists.  Human Rights Watch/Helsinki and the 
Committee for the Protection of Journalists protested the cases of 
Blendi Fevjiu, editor of the Democratic Alliance Party's daily 
"Aleanca," and Gjergj Zefi, a Democratic Alliance Party official and 
editor of "Lajmeteri," who were both convicted of libel for articles 
that they wrote about official corruption.  Zefi has been prohibited 
from publishing articles or holding public office for one year.  Fevziu 
was given a $2,000 fine, but was pardoned December 8 by President 
Berisha.  Two other journalists were detained by police, questioned, and 
released in connection with stories they were covering.  AHC protested 
SHIK's detention in June of Filip Cakuli, editor of the satirical weekly 
"Hosteni," and journalist Naim Naka, who were held for 12 hours until 
they agreed to change the cover of an upcoming issue.  On November 1, a 
bomb exploded on the doorstep of "Koha Jone" publisher Nikolle Lesi.  No 
one was hurt, and the perpetrators have not been found. 
 
Only state-run radio and television provide domestic programming, but 
many municipalities offer international programs received via satellite.  
Home satellite dishes abound and most Albanians, even in impoverished 
areas, have access to international broadcasts.  
 
Since November 1991, Parliament has exercised direct control over 
television, delegating some oversight duties to an Executive Committee 
of Radio and Television, which it appoints.  The Executive Committee, 
comprised of 11 members from outside Parliament, meets occasionally to 
review programming and the content of news broadcasts.  Opposition 
critics of the Government alleged that television serves the interest of 
the ruling Democratic Party.  Television's progovernment bias, 
particularly acute during the November 1994 constitutional referendum 
campaign, eased somewhat in 1995 with the inclusion of more coverage of 
opposition activities and views.  Debates between government and 
opposition figures were more frequently aired.  The director of state 
radio and television was replaced by an individual considered by many 
observers to be more impartial than his predecessor.  Local radio in 
southern Albania broadcasts some Greek-language programming, with its 
content translated directly from Albanian-language reporting.  The AHC 
continued to express concern over the lack of legislation covering 
electronic media ownership and broadcasting. 
 
AHC protested government infringement of academic freedom in the case of 
eight educators fired from the economics faculty of the state-controlled 
University of Tirana.  The educators were fired under an amendment to 
the Labor Code which permits the release of employees accused of 
obstructing democratic and economic reforms.  AHC argued that all of the 
educators were professionally capable and had received training abroad 
in Western institutions.  AHC characterized their collective firing as 
colored by political, not professional, motivations. 
 
  b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 
 
 
The Law on Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms provides for the right 
of peaceful assembly.  However, the Government places some limitations 
on the right of assembly and association.  In order to hold a public 
rally, an organization must apply for a permit from local authorities 
and provide copies of all speeches to be delivered and slogans to be 
used.  The authorities generally grant requests for meetings, although 
police sometimes require a change of date or venue.  The Socialist Party 
and other opposition parties have complained that local authorities 
frequently discriminate against them by delaying or denying permission 
for meetings in public places.  Some opposition parties have claimed 
that meetings of their representatives with constituents in private 
dwellings were prevented by police who insisted on being notified of all 
such gatherings in advance, regardless of venue.   
 
The Law on Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms states that "no one may 
be denied the right to collective organization for any lawful purpose."  
Any organization, including a political party, must apply to the 
Ministry of Justice for official certification.  It must declare an aim 
or purpose that is not anticonstitutional or contrary to law, and it 
must describe its organizational structure and account for all public 
and private funds it receives.  The Ministry of Justice denied such 
certification to the Party of the Democratic Ideal, using the argument 
that the party's program "is no different from the programs of other 
parties....it is not likely that the problems in these areas (economic 
and political) will be solved with other alternatives outside of those 
of the parties already registered in any fundamental way."  The Party of 
the Democratic Ideal availed itself of the right to appeal this decision 
to the Court of Cassation, where the case is pending. 
 
  c.  Freedom of Religion 
 
The Law on Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms states that "the 
freedom of thought, conscience, and religion may not be violated.  
Everyone may freely change their religion or beliefs and may manifest 
them alone or in community with others, and in public or in private 
life, in worship, teaching, practice, and observance."  The Government 
respects these provisions in practice. 
 
The majority of Albanians are secular in orientation after nearly 25 
years of rigidly enforced atheism.  The largest traditional religious 
group are Muslims, who follow a moderate form of Sunni Islam.  The Roman 
Catholic and Albanian Autocephalous Orthodox churches are the other 
large denominations.  The Albanian Orthodox church split from the Greek 
Orthodox church earlier in the century, and there is a strong 
identification with the national church as distinct from the Greek 
church.  Priests from Greece augment the indigenous clergy of the 
Albanian Orthodox church to serve Greek-speaking congregations primarily 
in southern Albania.  A seminary training priests for the Albanian 
orthodox church graduated 28 persons in 1995, 21 of whom were 
immediately ordained to the priesthood.  Foreign clergy, including 
Muslim clerics and Christian missionaries, freely carry out religious 
activities.  Until year's end, the Government required that Greek 
citizens have a visa to enter Albania.  The Orthodox church complained 
that the Government did not grant visas to a sufficient number of Greek 
priests to come and minister to the needs of the Orthodox community. 
 
A religious affairs section in the Council of Ministers oversees the 
activities of the religious communities.  Some questions concerning 
property confiscated by the Communist regime from religious 
organizations have yet to be resolved.  In December President Berisha 
announced that buildings belonging to the Orthodox Monastery of 
Ardenitsa would be returned to the Orthodox Church, and negotiations 
began to effect this transfer.  President Berisha has pledged the return 
of property belonging to religious communities and has asked Parliament 
to pass a law specifically addressing religious property.  Meanwhile, 
the Government treats all religious communities the same as other former 
owners of large properties, who, according to the 1991 Law on Property, 
are not guaranteed full restitution of lands. 
 
In addition, a number of religious icons, objects, and archives have not 
been returned to religious communities, especially the Albanian Orthodox 
Church, and remain in state hands.  The Government indicated its 
willingness to return these objects once the religious communities can 
ensure their security as cultural objects of value to the entire nation.  
The Albanian Orthodox Church claimed that it that it already has the 
means to protect the objects better than the Government and continued to 
demand their return.  The Government has stated that it has returned 
copies of all seized religious archives to the religious groups and 
permitted unrestricted access to the originals pending their final 
disposition. 
 
A small but growing Protestant evangelical community desires official 
government recognition and representation in the religious affairs 
section in the Council of Ministers.  A Protestant umbrella 
organization, the Albanian Evangelical Alliance, has complained that 
Protestant groups have encountered administrative obstacles to building 
churches and obtaining access to national media which it believes are 
the result of religious prejudice. 
 
  d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation 
 
There are no restrictions on freedom of movement within the country.  
Albanian-born citizens of all foreign countries are eligible to apply 
for dual citizenship.  Since the downfall of the Communist regime, 
hundreds of thousands of economic migrants have left Albania.  Albanians 
who fled the country during the Communist dictatorship have been 
welcomed back, and their citizenship has been restored. 
 
There was no significant influx of refugees and the Government has no 
formal refugee policy.  There was, however, a significant transit of 
refugees, especially from the Middle East and Asia, headed for Europe.  
None were forcibly expelled who had a valid claim to refugee status.   
 
Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government 
 
The Law on Major Constitutional Provisions states that citizens have the 
right to change their government "by free, general, equal, direct, and 
secret ballot."  International observers judged the national elections 
in March 1992 to have been free and fair.  The next elections are not 
required before mid-1996.  In September Parliament passed a broad 
lustration law that bars former politburo or central committee members, 
government ministers, and district party secretaries who served before 
March 1991 from holding elective or appointive office until 2002.  The 
law also excludes from political life members of the Sigurimi and 
persons who denounced others at "political" trials during the Communist 
era.  AHC criticized the law, arguing that it circumvents due process 
and infringes on the right to elect and to be elected by disqualifying 
an entire class of people from political life.   
 
An implementing law passed by Parliament in November mandated the 
creation of a commission, chaired by a deputy selected from the 
Parliament and consisting of representatives of various government 
ministries, responsible for vetting all those seeking elective and high 
appointive positions and excluding those who closely collaborated with 
the Communist regime.  This commission is to have access to the archives 
of the Sigurimi.  Some opposition politicians criticized this law for 
calling for a narrow, government appointed, rather than a broad, 
Parliamentary appointed, commission.  They also criticized an article in 
the law, whereby government ministers may ask for exceptions to some 
articles of the law for "special cases," as favoring ruling party 
politicians. 
 
Although there are no legal impediments to their participation, women 
are underrepresented in politics and government.  To date few women have 
competed for elective office, and only eight women serve in Parliament, 
reflecting the traditional male-dominated society.  In the Government, 1 
minister and 1 deputy minister are women, and 3 women serve on the 10-
person Court of Cassation.   
 
The 1992 Law on Political Parties bars the formation of parties on an 
ethnic or religious basis.  The Unity for Human Rights party, founded by 
ethnic Greeks, won a majority of elected positions in parts of three 
southern Albanian districts (Saranda, Gjirokaster, and Delvina).  There 
are six ethnic Greek members of Parliament, two of whom represent the 
Unity for Human Rights party.  The governors of three southern 
districts, as well as the mayor of one large southern town, are ethnic 
Greeks. 
 
Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
The Government generally permitted various human rights and related 
organizations to function freely.  Some groups complained of government 
failure to respond to written requests for information or data that 
would normally be considered of a public nature.  AHC, the major human 
rights watchdog organization, took a more active role in defending human 
rights in certain areas.  In 1995 it addressed the issues of prison 
conditions, the disposition of Sigurimi files, the Greek minority, 
police abuses, and judicial independence.  The AHC's work was impeded by 
a lack of basic equipment, including computers, copiers, and vehicles.  
AHC officials reported no serious governmental obstacles to their work, 
but complained of occasional personal attacks in the ruling Democratic 
Party newspaper, Rilindja Demokratike.  A second human rights 
organization, the Albanian Human Rights Documentation Center, was 
established in 1995 and was active in several areas, including the 
preparation of human rights educational materials that were being used 
by elementary and secondary schools starting with the 1995 school year.  
An independent Albanian group, the Society for Democratic Culture, 
continued its efforts on civic education and women's issues. 
 
Delegations from the International Helsinki Federation, National 
Helsinki Commissions, the Council of Europe, and the Office of the High 
Commissioner for National Minorities of the Organization for Security 
and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) made several visits, during which they 
conferred with political officials and representatives of the ethnic 
Greek minority. 
 
Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status 
 
The Law on Major Constitutional Provisions prohibits discrimination 
based on sex, race, ethnicity, language, or religion, but women and some 
minority groups complained of discrimination in practice.  
 
 
  Women 
 
The situation of women improved somewhat thanks to the efforts of 
several women's groups to educate women about their rights.  Spousal 
abuse continued to be common, but several abused women filed and won 
court cases in 1995.  Police are seldom called to intervene, and women 
rarely bring charges against their spouses.  The major political parties 
have women's organizations.  Several independent women's rights 
organizations operate freely and are dedicated to educating women about 
their rights, providing counseling services, and monitoring draft 
legislation. 
 
Women are not restricted, either by law or practice, from any 
occupations but do not typically rise to the top of their fields.  The 
Labor Code mandates equal pay for equal work.  While no data are 
available on whether women receive equal pay for equal work, public 
sector wage scales are based on rank and duties, not gender.  Women's 
groups did not complain of wage discrimination in the large public 
sector nor in the growing private sector.  According to government 
statistics, 21 percent of judges and 22 percent of medical personnel are 
women.  Although women enjoy equal access to higher education, they are 
not accorded full, equal opportunity and treatment with men in their 
careers, due to the persistence of traditional, male-dominated values. 
 
  Children 
 
The Government's commitment to children's rights and welfare is based on 
domestic law and international agreements.  Attendance at school is 
mandatory through the eighth grade, and the Government has adopted 
measures to discourage truancy.  Governmental and nongovernmental 
organizations have not identified child abuse as a problem.  However, 
there were numerous reports of children being sent to Italy and 
elsewhere to work as beggars and prostitutes.  This traffic is 
reportedly conducted by organized criminal elements.  The Government has 
coordinated with other governments in the region to address this 
problem. 
 
  People with Disabilities 
 
Widespread poverty and the poor quality of medical care account for a 
large number of disabled persons.  Disabled persons are eligible for 
various forms of public assistance, but budgetary constraints limit the 
amount received.  The public care section of the Ministry of Labor and 
Social Welfare, established in 1993, has set up a network of social 
service administrators throughout the country whose goal is to improve 
the quality of services to disabled persons and promote social 
integration rather than institutionalization.  There is no law mandating 
accessibility to public buildings for people with disabilities. 
 
 
  National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities 
 
While no recent official statistics exist regarding the size of the 
various ethnic communities, ethnic Greeks are the most organized and 
receive the most attention and assistance from abroad.  The ethnic Greek 
population is concentrated in the south and numbers perhaps 80,000, 
although some estimates go much higher.  Vlach (Romanian-speaking) and 
Romani communities are also present.  Small ethnic Macedonian and 
Serbian villages exist in the northern and eastern parts of the country. 
 
The OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities visited Albania once 
in 1995.  A Special Advisor for Minority Affairs in the Office of the 
Prime Minister coordinated legislation affecting minorities, including a 
new preuniversity education law passed in June which permits 
establishment of private schools using minority languages. 
 
Greek-language education remained the single most important concern of 
the ethnic Greek minority.  Mother-tongue education has been integrated 
in bilingual schools in areas where a significant percentage of the 
population belongs to a minority.  The Government has offered 
supplementary classes for learning the Greek language anywhere in the 
country, provided that the requisite number of students exists.  The 
Government has made buses available to take children from towns where 
there are reportedly not sufficient ethnic Greek students to nearby 
villages where Greek-language schools function. 
 
Bilingual education is provided to approximately 3,400 ethnic Greek 
students at 46 primary schools and a similar number of 8-year schools in 
the districts of Gjirokaster, Delvina, and Saranda.  According to 
government information, 400 qualified ethnic Greek teachers are employed 
at these schools, some of which have classes of fewer than 5 students.  
Starting in 1995, Greek-language classes were also made available in 
several high schools in the minority area.  In addition, bilingual 
education is provided to approximately 600 students in ethnic Macedonian 
villages.  A Greek-language high school operates in Gjirokaster, and the 
Eqerem Cabej University of Gjirokaster has a department of Greek studies 
with 40 students.  The curriculum in Greek-language classes is the 
Albanian state program translated into Greek and taught by ethnic Greek 
instructors. 
 
Greek minority leaders have called for the reopening of first grade 
classes in the towns of Gjirokaster, Saranda, and Delvina where classes 
had started in 1991 only to be closed by government order in 1993.  
Minority leaders argue that sufficient numbers of ethnic Greek students 
live in those towns to justify opening classes; the Government 
disagrees.  There is no independent confirmation of the facts.  In 
September Albania and Greece agreed to discuss these issues in a 
bilateral commission.  This had not yet occurred at year's end. 
 
 
Roma were subject to particularly harsh official persecution during the 
Communist dictatorship.  Their leaders state that the situation of the 
community greatly improved with the advent of democratic government.  
They had no complaints of either official or societal discrimination.  
The community publishes a monthly newspaper in both the Albanian and 
Romani languages.  There were no reports of violence specifically 
directed against Roma, although they are often treated with disdain by 
ethnic Albanians. 
 
Section 6  Worker Rights 
 
  a.  The Right of Association 
 
Workers obtained the right to create independent trade unions in 1991.  
The Independent Confederation of Trade Unions of Albania (BSPSH) acts as 
the umbrella organization for a number of smaller unions.  A separate, 
rival federation continued to operate in close cooperation with the 
Socialist Party.  There are also some independent unions not affiliated 
with either federation.  The private sector employs more than 650,000 
workers, mostly in agriculture, small shops, enterprises, and 
restaurants, but very few have formed unions to represent themselves. 
 
According to the Law on Major Constitutional Provisions and other 
legislation, all workers, with the exception of uniformed military, 
police, and some court authorities, have the right to strike.  The law 
forbids strikes that are openly declared to be political, or so judged 
by the courts.  Several local strikes took place in 1995.  Some involved 
employees of state-owned enterprises that were in the process of being 
privatized.  All were deemed legal, and none resulted in violence or 
police action. 
 
Labor federations are free to maintain ties with international 
organizations. 
 
  b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively 
 
Citizens in all fields of employment, except uniformed members of the 
armed forces, police officers, and some court employees, have the right 
to organize and bargain collectively.  In practice, unions negotiate 
directly with the Government, since only limited privatization has 
occurred outside of the retail and agricultural sectors. 
 
Wages for all state employees are defined by the wage pyramid, 
legislated in 1992, which comprises 22 wage levels organized by trade. 
 
There are no export processing zones. 
 
  c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 
 
The Law on Major Constitutional Provisions and the Labor Code prohibit 
forced labor, and there were no cases reported. 
 
  d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children 
 
The Labor Code sets the minimum age of employment at 14 years and limits 
the amount and type of labor that can be performed by persons between 
ages 14 and 18.  Working conditions for those over age 16 are covered in 
the Labor Code.  The Ministry of Labor enforces the minimum age 
requirement through the courts.  In rural areas, children continue to be 
called on to assist families in farm work. 
 
  e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work 
 
The minimum wage for all workers over age 16 is approximately $35 (3,300 
lek) per month, which is not sufficient to sustain a family with one or 
more children.  Most workers must find second or part-time jobs to 
supplement their incomes or rely on remittances from family members 
residing abroad.  Current law guarantees social assistance (income 
support) and unemployment compensation.  The average monthly wage for 
workers in the public sector is about $60 (5,817 lek).  No data are 
available for private sector wages but the average wage is thought to be 
higher in the private sector than in the public sector. 
 
Workers are limited by law to a 48-hour workweek; the Council of 
Ministers must approve exceptions.  The Ministry of Labor enforces this 
law. 
 
The Government sets occupational health and safety standards but has no 
funds to make improvements in state-owned industries, most of which the 
Government is in the process of privatizing.  In those industries which 
are functioning, health and safety conditions are generally very poor.  
The new Labor Code, adopted in 1995, spells out the obligations of 
employers and their employees with regard to workplace safety.  However, 
the law does not provide specific protection to workers who choose to 
leave the workplace for fear of hazardous conditions. 
 
(###)

[end of document]

flag
bar

Department Seal

Return to 1995 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.