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To the list of issues (CAT/C/ALB/2), dated 15 December 2011

Prepared by the UN Committee against Torture to be considered in connection with the consideration of the second periodic report of
Albanian Rehabilitation Centre for Trauma and Torture (ARCT)

April, 2012


Introductory remarks 2

With regards to Articles 1 and 4: 2

With regards to Article 2: 2

With regards to Articles 5-9: 10

With regards to Article 10: 10

With regards to Article 11: 10

With regards to Article 14: 11

Other issues of concern: 12

Disabled persons 12

Children and juveniles 13

Legal aid schemes 13

Recommendations: 13

Annex 1 - Cases identified during regular and ad-hoc visits, letters and media monitoring 14

Annex 2 - Court Representation of a selection of cases as of 2011: 26

Annex 3 - Prevalence of torture and ill treatment in police, pre-trial and detention, Results from the National Survey Based on the ARCT& RCT Screening Instrument 36

Introductory remarks

Coming from one of the most difficult and atrocious dictatorial regime, Albania is representing a challenge for the political, social and cultural developments of the Balkans, and more widely of the Europe. Since early ‘90s, significant legal reforms have been made hereby establishing a legal framework in the area of human rights and setting up key institutions, such as the Ombudsman’s Office (People’s Advocate). However, serious problems from the communist era prevail and Albania is still a society governed by weak state institutions, lack of the Rule of Law and widespread corruption; receiving criticisms on the implementation of laws.

In the area of human rights, there are several significant structural and political barriers that continue to challenge the democratic principles of the Albanian state. Despite legal framework to guarantee the promotion and enforcement of human rights: existing legislation is often not enforced, especially in the field of prevention of torture gender equality and domestic violence, fight against discrimination, human trafficking and child protection, disability and social inclusion of vulnerable groups, and living conditions of the Roma minority. At the institutional level, the country still lacks a fully independent judiciary and an executive branch that carries out law enforcement in full accordance with international human rights standards.

With regards to Articles 1 and 4:

Question 1: In the light of the previous recommendation of the Committee (CAT/C/CR/34/ALB, para. 8 (a)), the Committee welcomes the amendments to article 86 of the Criminal Code regarding persons acting in an official capacity. Please indicate any illustrative cases when article 86 of the Criminal Code has been applied to persons acting in an official capacity.
Albania’s mechanisms to hold accountable those responsible for torture and ill-treatment or violations of prisoners’ rights are insufficient either to provide redress to victims of abuse or to deter perpetrators. The justice system does not effectively hold officials accountable for torture or ill-treatment, creating a climate of impunity. No case of torture has been reported since 2010 by the Albanian state authorities.
Regardless of initiatives coming from the civil society organizations, the victims go unidentified, discriminated and threatened by the perpetrators; ARCT has presented around 26 civil cases on compensation and succeeded in 11 of them. ARCT has also presented 5 criminal cases pursuant to Article 86, but none of them was accepted as a torture act; instead the responsible persons were found guilty of misuse of power and excessive use of force by police officials. (Vajushi, 2010 and Serjani 2010)

With regards to Article 2:

Question 2: Please provide information on the mandate and activities carried out to date by the People’s Advocate (Parliamentary Ombudsman), who has been designated as national preventive mechanism (NPM) under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and on the measures taken by the relevant authorities of the State party to implement NPM findings and recommendations made following visits to places of detention. Furthermore, please indicate measures taken to provide the People’s Advocate with the specific human, financial and logistical resources necessary to ensure its effectiveness and independence, in accordance with article 18, paragraph 3, of the Optional Protocol and guidelines Nos. 11 and 12 of the Sub-Committee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in relation to visits to States parties. Please also indicate challenges, if any, in access to specific places of detention. Please provide the Committee with information on any review undertaken to assess the effectiveness of the People’s Advocate.
In 2003 the Albanian Parliament ratified the implementation of the UN Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture (OPCAT), by the Law No.9094, dated03.07.2003.
In compliance with the OPCAT, in early 2008 the Parliament of Albania assigned to the Albanian People’s Advocate (PA) the function of the National Preventive Mechanism against Torture (NPM) on the basis of a special law. The OPCAT ratification and establishment of the Albanian NPM remains a success story which was initiated as cooperation between civil society and PA under the motto “Albania without torture”.
The preventive approach foreseen in the Optional Protocol is based on the regular and periodic monitoring of places of detention through visits to these facilities conducted by expert bodies in order to prevent abuses. In contrast, the PA only monitors the situation once they receive allegations of abuse.
The newly-established NPM was challenged by lack of multi-disciplinary professional expertise, lack of financial resources, and lack of monitoring methodologies, which were minimized through cooperation with professional organizations which offered medical, psychological and psychiatric expertise to joint monitoring visits. As result, a well-accepted NPM has become functional and continuously increased the scope of work and activities with different places of detention.
Since 2011, the People’s Advocate (PA) activities have been tremendously influenced by budgetary constraints, limited number of staff and resources; the institution has suffered from more than 2 years without being able to assign the Ombudsman, due to political stalemate.

This situation and continuous political pressure has diminished the role and scope of work of the institution through budget cuts, and reduction of staff. This situation has become a concern where the PA recommendations were considered as “repetitive” and not taken into consideration properly by few state institutions.

The appointment of the new ombudsman happened in December 2011; main challenges for the institution remain the structural changes and improvements of the monitoring methodologies with regards to OPCAT implementation and concerns are related to the power of PA recommendations.
As of today, the PA remains an institution overwhelmed with complaints and characterized by reactive approach in addressing human rights issues, yet without a preventive approach, as required by OPCAT. Concern also remains about Office’s effective independence from the parliament, executive and state institutions. While PA conducts many visits to places of detention, no consistent and comprehensive system of visits to places of detention has been developed, such as full inspection visits (announced - to large facilities), follow-up visits and ad hoc visits (unannounced). While there are no general criteria on the length and regularity of full visits, given the capacity detention facilities that exist in Albania, full inspection visits should last a minimum of two days and be conducted at least twice a year.
In view of the high risk of ill-treatment by the police and high turnover of police detainees, more frequent and unannounced visits should be undertaken to detention rooms at border posts.
The number of PA staff in examining complaints from places of detention and engaged in monitoring places of detention is limited in view of the wide ranging issues that need to be addressed in places of detention.
Question 4: Please also report on the instances of regular and unannounced visits to police stations by the People’s Advocate and other independent bodies during the reporting period.
The PA visits to police stations have been performed by the commissioner for human rights (one of three mandated commissioners at PA). Their mandate included unannounced visits to police commissariats, with regards to material conditions and violations of human rights, yet without a methodology in performing regular visits.
The human rights monitors in Albania are identified by their mandates as “watchdog” organizations, reactive to cases and complaints; and, those who dedicate work in prevention and documentation (mostly representing professional organizations).
Watchdog Organizations such as Albanian Helsinki Committee (AHC) and the Children’s Human Rights Centre of Albania (CRCA) have played an important role in the process of awareness raising on specific cases of police maltreatment. AHC has been implementing an initiative with regards to internal complaint mechanism and has performed joint monitoring visits with PA. CRCA is monitoring police commissariats with the scope of identifying violation of children and juveniles rights. ARCT in this scheme represents the organization which is “offering” the health component for the monitoring visits/inspections both at regular and unannounced visits. Starting in 2008, the ARCT has performed more than 250 monitoring visits in all 21 penitentiary institutions in the country; and since 2012, it has started monitoring the 42 police commissariats in Albania, initiating MoUs with police structures in monitoring, training and capacity building.
ARCT has developed its own standard operating procedures in performing the monitoring visits. The SOP included best practices for access to places of detention, planning and implementation of the visits, procedures for interviews with staff and detainees, qualitative and quantitative documentation of the findings, the report writing, report submission and follow-up of recommendations, methodology of approaching the prison, authorizations, etc.
Through such monitoring, recommendations were raised with regards to provision of food and improvements of material conditions. Today, the Albanian State Police is facing critical problems with providing basic rights for persons accompanied (within 10 hours) and held custody cells (such as food, space, proper ventilation and outdoor activities. No specialized treatments are provided with minors and women (issue becomes a concern when there are pregnant women and juveniles under 14).
Yet, there is a need for legally guaranteeing the CSOs free access to detention police cells, with regards to monitoring, documentation and prevention.
Question 6: With reference to the previous recommendations of the Committee, please provide updated information, including statistics (disaggregated by age, gender and origin), on the number of complaints, investigations, prosecutions and convictions, including criminal and disciplinary sentences, related to acts of torture and ill-treatment under articles 86 and 87 of the Criminal Code allegedly committed by law enforcement personnel during the reporting period. Please clarify which provisions of the Albanian Criminal Code were violated in each case. It would also be useful to receive information about recent examples of cases where the accused was found guilty of acts of torture, including the sentences handed down and the penalties given.
There is no public data about the number of criminal proceedings initiated, or criminal and disciplinary sanctions imposed following complaints of ill-treatment.
Recent years have seen a massive increase in the number of all types of prisoner complaints to all internal and external complaints bodies.


Prison Administration

PA/NPM Complaints


Media monitoring
















Sources: Annual Reports by the General Prisons Directorate, information provided by the People’s Advocate (NPM); information from ARCT and media monitoring;
Different reasons have been cited for the high increase in the number of prisoner complaints: there is a persisting concern in a timely and effective review of prisoner complaints, as complaints are frequently sent from one organization to another, and complaints bodies are often uninformed about the decisions and measures taken by other bodies. There is lack of regular analyses of complaints within the complaints bodies, and lack of regular co-operation between various complaints bodies that would address the root causes of prisoner complaints. Many complaints arise from lack of uniform interpretation of legal provisions by prisons, absence of information on relevant national legislation and international human rights standards. While there has also been recognition among prison leadership that the majority of complaints can be resolved within the prison, it is not infrequent when prisoners lack trust in the internal prison complaints system.
Prisoners can also complain to Prison Administration, People’s Advocate and NPM, prosecutors’ office, courts, including Constitutional Court, local authorities, NGOs, international organisations, etc. This often results in identical complaints being forwarded to several institutions (as the case of objections against the amendments to the Internal Prisons Regulation early in 2010).
The lack of transparency and responsiveness to prisoner complaints also shows that the mechanism to address grievances is equally broken. Indeed, officials have repeatedly dismissed allegations by individuals or human rights organizations regarding violations of prisoner rights without starting a serious and transparent investigation.
A prisoner complaints reform would be urgently required to overcome the prisoner complaints crises that would address changes in the procedure of reviewing prisoner complaints, regular analysis of prisoner complaints within individual complaints bodies, and facilitate intensive co-operation between complaints bodies to address the root causes of such complaints. Prisoner complaints procedures and venues in other prison systems would merit further research. The same applies to review individual complaints about police misconduct.
Statistics on complaints concerning police violence against individuals, as acknowledged by the police authorities, began to be separated only in 2003 in response to the CPT recommendations. The State Police reports about the number of submissions and complaints about the conduct of police officers from the State Police, and the number of disciplinary investigations. While the overviews do not include separate statistics on the number of submissions and complaints on police violence, they include the number of disciplinary investigations on police violence.
Public awareness needs to be raised on the creation of a fully-fledged independent investigation body.
No information is provided on the procedural length of a case, dynamics and transparency is missing when information is required by CSOs and journalists.
Question 7: Please report on the measures taken to adopt clear legal provisions establishing that orders from a superior may not be invoked as a justification of torture
No specific administrative measures are reported;
Question 11: What further steps have been taken to reduce long pretrial detention periods of up to three years and address overcrowding in places of detention?
Pre-trial detention has been identified as a core concern by CPT. The number of the pre-trial detainees remains high.1 Excessive use of pre-trial detention constitutes a serious problem in the target countries. A common pattern is that court decisions to impose pre-trial detention tend to lack individual reasoning and to disregard the presumption of innocence. Although gaps in the legislative framework contribute to the excessive use of pre-trial detention, the key problem is often an inadequate implementation of the existing legal standards.2
The duration of pre-trial detention is another common problem. Moreover, although alternative measures to pre-trial detention have been recommended by civil society and European and International bodies, judges have failed to consider the use of such alternatives. Further, despite some progress, state authorities in the target countries fail to ensure proper treatment of pre-trial detainees. By way of example, the risk of torture during pre-trial detention is high.
Furthermore, penitentiary centres continue operating permanently above capacity and overall conditions remain below standards, especially in some of the older prisons, pre-trial detention centers and police stations. Also, the excessive use and length of pre-trial detention is worrying, especially in the case of juvenile offenders under 14, 14-18 and in cases of adults over 65 years of age.
Within the international and domestic legal framework and basic rights for disabled persons in detention, there are specific issues to be addressed: a) getting equal access to facilities, programs and services: according to ARCT data3, inmates and arrestees have difficulties in using prison showers and toilets and to be protected from injury or the risk of injury (even in the newly established detention facilities); deaf and hearing-impaired prisoners lack sign language interpretation for disciplinary hearings; b) challenging inadequate medical care and prison officials' failure to provide inmates and arrestees with medical supplies or devices such as wheelchairs, in violation with the Art. 3 of ECHR4; c) challenging the detention procedures and confinement in isolation of disabled prisoners; segregation (of HIV-positive prisoners); d) fighting stigma of multiple disadvantage in terms of inmates’ ethnicity, age, gender or sexual orientation5.
Finally, persons who have been detained for long periods and persons whose rights have not been respected during pre-trial detention often find it difficult, if not impossible, to ensure access to justice and redress afterwards.
Overuse of incarceration and lack of coordination between courts, prosecution and prison authorities have jeopardized the right to life, creating many cases of unlawful detention. ARCT during 2011 has successfully closed 2 court cases where the Court has changed the Decision recognizing the time spent in the pre-trial detention and reducing the punishment.
With regards to access to justice, delays in court proceedings, corruption, and lack of proper knowledge in the international Law by judges were evidenced by ARCT during provision of free legal aid services to vulnerable persons in detention.
Question 12: What measures have been undertaken with a view to abolishing the 10-hour administrative detention period for interrogation prior to the 48-hour period within which a suspect must be brought before a judge?
The year 2007 when the transfer of the pre-trial detention to the Ministry of Justice did not solve the issue of the arrested and accompanied persons from the police. It did make it hopeless: today we are facing a State Police, without budgetary means to deal with these two contingencies of persons: a) the persons who are subjected to the 10-hour administrative detention period are often kept without being registered, with no access to information and without any possibility to inform relatives; the urgency goes where the accompanied persons are juvenile offenders under aged, women (during monitoring ARCT has encountered pregnant mentally women in one Police Commissariat), mentally ill persons, etc.
The Albanian State Police is suffering the non-derogation or change of the Article 4 of the Law on the State Police; and the non-sense in the Article 15 of the Law on the treatment of the detainees.
Question 13: Please update the Committee on progress in implementing the fundamental legal safeguards for persons detained by the police, guaranteeing their rights to inform a relative, to have access to a lawyer and a doctor of their own choice and to be provided with information about their rights.
Basic safeguards against ill-treatment during pre-trial detention are still not applied in a consistent and effective manner: detainees do not get timely access to a lawyer and are often not brought before a judge within the constitutional time periods6.
According to ARCT monitoring visits, information about the rights of persons detained by the police is missing in most of police commissariats in Albania; many police commissariats remain in very bad conditions, such as Kukesi, Saranda, Vlora, Kavaja. ARCT has experienced a case where police officers have used personal mobile phones to inform relatives of a detainee (Vlora Police Commissariat).
Access to legal counsel is ensured by law, yet violations of the right to legal counsel are systematically documented and reported: (please see Annex 3)
Question 15: In the light of the recommendation by the Human Rights Committee (CCPR/CO/82/ALB, para. 12), as well as the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (A/HRC/17/28/Add.3, para. 70), please inform the Committee of additional measures to extinguish a belief in the practice of vindicating honour and blood outside the regular legal system, which remains entrenched in certain parts of the society, and to investigate such crimes and prosecute and punish all the perpetrators.
Blood feud as “made in Albania”: As pointed out by the UN Special Rapporteur on extra judicial killing (February 2010) “Even though in low level, the country is facing blood feuds and extra-judicial killings isolating entire families (including small children born and grown up in closed homes) choosing self-isolation for fear of reprisals”.
Although there is a lack of fully reliable data on the numbers involved, sources indicate that this phenomenon continues to exist and remains an issue of concern.
Question 18: Please clarify the steps taken to identify at the earliest possible stage asylum-seekers who may have been subjected to torture or ill-treatment, and ensure medical and psychological assistance and care to those individuals, as well as free legal aid to facilitate the application procedure.
Starting in 2006, Albania has accepted 9 former Guantanamo prisoners: ZakirjanHasam, Uzbek; Allah Muhammed Saleem Egypt; Ahmed Adil, Uighur; Abu Bakkr Qassim, Uighur; Akhdar Qasem Basit, Uighur; Haji Mohammed Ayoub, Uighur; Allah Muhammed Saleem (Sheikh Allah) Egyptian. Two other men have left Albania: Fethi Boucetta to Algeria and Adil Hakimjan to Sweden. 3 men arrived in February 2010 in Albania Abdyl Rauf Omar Mohammed Abul Al Qusin. Saleh Bin Hadi Asasi (Sayf Bin Abdullah) the Sherif Fatih Ali al Mishad who also are in a very bad health situation. All these persons have earned the status of “non-longer combatants enemies”. They were granted a refugee status in Albania.
What ARCT considers a real concern is related with their political asylum and the fact that current refugee status they have does not fulfill any possibilities of integration and resettlement for these persons: they are not allowed to return to their cointries of origins, they were not granted the Albanian citizenship; few of them have created families without being able to register their newborns.
Being provided with some minimum income by the Albanian Government, poor vocational and language instructions, the former Guantanamo prisoners need assistance and a detailed resettlement plan which could be of great importance.
Since 2011, the ARCT is assisting these persons through an UNVFVT- DA Project in an annual basis.

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