For decades Albania was eastern Europe's most closed and repressive state. During his 40-year reign, former communist leader Enver Hoxha banned religion, forbade travel and outlawed private property. Any resistance to his rule was met with brutal retribution, including internal exile, long-term imprisonment or execution. In light of this past, Albania has made substantial progress toward respect for civil and political rights. Still, five years has not been enough to wipe away the legacy of the Hoxha era. The complete absence under communism of independent courts, a free media and human rights mechanisms poses a serious challenge to Albanian democracy today. More seriously, the one-party mentality is still deeply ingrained in many of the country's new leaders: critics of the ruling Democratic Party are often regarded as critics of “democracy.” As a result, Albanian citizens are still plagued by serious human rights violations, such as restrictions on freedom of expression and association, manipulation of the legal system and violence by the police.