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Albania in Search of Honest Judges

After years of prodding by its Western partners, Tirana agreed to vet legal professionals. The results are worrying.

25 July 2018

Albania’s justice system is showing signs of stress, with two former high officials facing corruption charges and most of the high court found unfit to hold office.

 

Prosecutors in Tirana this week announced the "preventive sequestration” of an apartment and property worth more than $900,000 belonging to former Prosecutor General Adriatik Llalla, The Associated Press reports. While in office Llalla, who resigned in December under a cloud of suspicion and was barred from entering the United States earlier this year, had publicly clashed with U.S. Ambassador Donald Lu (pictured) over the pace of judicial reforms urged by Washington and the European Union.

 

Former Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri is also under investigation for corruption but has the backing of Prime Minister Edi Rama, who has accused the centrist opposition of mounting a politically motivated campaign against him.

 

As if this situation weren’t bad enough for the country’s reputation, dozens of serving judges and prosecutors could be sanctioned or forced from office over questions about their wealth declarations – a key plank of the reforms Tirana needs to enact to kickstart its EU accession process.

 

The general inspector for the judicial vetting oversight body, Shkelqim Ganaj, recently said many judges and prosecutors appear to be having problems proving their assets were gained in an above-board fashion.

 

Appeals Court judges are in the worst situation, Ganaj said, as quoted by the Tirana Times: “It turns out around 50 percent of them have problems with hiding their assets, either through fake statements or conflicts of interest.”

 

Ganaj said by next year the Appeals Court could be in the same plight as the Constitutional Court, only two of whose judges have passed the vetting so far.

 

A few days later, the separate Independent Qualification Commission (KPK) said Judge Gani Dizdari was unfit for duty because he could not show legal sources for his declared wealth of 256,000 euros ($299,000) and noted his “connection with criminals,” Balkan Insight reports.

 

Three Constitutional Court judges have resigned and four have been dismissed, according to the Albanians news site Exit.al.

 

On 15 July, another judicial panel dismissed Tirana’s prosecutor, Adriatik Cama, on similar grounds, the Tirana Times says.

 

 

  • The international board monitoring the judicial vetting process, known as ONM, opposes the KPK’s effort to reinstate Constitutional Court Chairman Baskhim Dedja. According to Exit.al, the KPK last month reconfirmed Dedja despite finding irregularities in his wealth declaration.

 

  • The ONM is staffed by eight experts from Europe and the United States. Half of them have prior experience as judges or prosecutors at the EU legal mission in Kosovo, EULEX.

 

  • Ambassador Lu, joined by his British and German counterparts, expressed some scepticism when the Interior Ministry recently unveiled the results of what Balkan Insight calls its flagship law-enforcement operation. The envoys said major organized crime figures remain at large.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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