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Human Rights Developments
Four years after Albania's first free elections, the country has yet to establish a democracy with full respect for human rights. The Stalinist nature of Albania's past and its legacy of one-party rule were reflected in the government's ongoing attempt to silence its critics. Political trials, media campaigns and police violence were all used against members of the political opposition, as well as against others who expressed views different from the state.

Of particular concern was the state's continued intrusions on the independence of the judiciary. Throughout the year, a number of judges were transferred or released for judicial decisions that were at odds with the policies of the president or government. The most prominent case involved Zef Brozi, chief justice of the Supreme Court, who was discharged from his duties by parliament in mid-September for allegedly having issued illegal orders to lower courts. Once a supporter of President Sali Berisha and his Democratic Party, Brozi had publicly expressed concern about the judiciary's independence. Brozi was also about to review the controversial case of Fatos Nano, leader of the Socialist Party, who was sentenced to prison in July 1993 on corruption charges despite protests from numerous human rights organizations and the Council of Europe.

Despite positive developments in recent years_such as a new Bill of Rights_some of Albania's new legislation has a decidedly undemocratic character. In September 1995, the Albanian parliament passed a law that bars from public office any person who held power in a pre-1991 government or was a collaborator with the former secret police. The law does not provide for any due process guarantees or establish criteria to determine who should be banned from public office, and it is so vaguely worded that it can be applied selectively to eliminate political rivals of the government. Upon coming into force, the law was used to ban a number of prominent opposition politicians from participating in the parliamentary elections scheduled for early 1996.

Freedom of the press remained a serious concern in 1995. The state-run broadcast media, which is heavily slanted in favor of the government, remained the main provider of news for the majority of the population. No legislation was adopted to allow for private radio or television. Two local attempts to open private radio stations were prevented by the government.

Many private newspapers exist in Albania, but their effectiveness is limited by high taxes, inefficient distribution and occasional legal action against journalists. The most publicized case of 1995 occurred in June when Ilir Hoxha, the eldest son of the former communist dictator Enver Hoxha, was sentenced to one year of imprisonment for calling the government a "pack of vandals" in an interview.

Another ongoing human rights concern was the high level of police abuse reported throughout the year. Police often used excessive violence against members of the political opposition, primarily the Socialist Party or the Democratic Alliance. But other non-violent political protestors were also victims, including former political prisoners, striking workers and homosexuals. In addition, there is overwhelming evidence of police mistreatment of detainees during the time of arrest or during pre-trial detention.

The treatment of the Greek minority improved slightly in 1995. A new law on minority education was passed in late 1994, and in February 1995, the Supreme Court decided to release from prison four Greek activists. But ethnic Greeks continued to complain about the lack of Greek-language schooling and under representation in the state administration, armed forces and police.

The Right to Monitor
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki received no reports during 1994 of human rights groups that were hindered in their monitoring efforts. However, the local Albanian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights was sometimes attacked in the state-run media after criticizing a human rights abuse by the government.

The Role of the International Community

European Policy
In June Albania became a full member of the Council of Europe. Albanian representatives promised to adopt a new constitution, further reform the judiciary, and improve press freedom within three years. Council of Europe advisors work closely on Albania's new legislation and reform of the judiciary.

A declaration by the Presidency of the European Union in February welcomed the release of the four Greek Omonia activists. One month later, the European Commission released the first 15 million ecus of a total 35 million ecu grant designated for Albania. The rest will be released when Albania has made satisfactory progress in its macroeconomic situation and in the process of democratization and respect for human rights.

U.S. Policy
The United States continued to be a vocal supporter of the Albanian government, as illustrated by an official visit by President Berisha to the United States in September 1995. During the trip, President Berisha offered further use of Albanian ports and airfields for NATO forces. An agreement on military cooperation with the U.S. was signed one month later in Washington.

During Berisha's visit, the U.S. government commented on the importance of an independent judiciary, but did not make direct reference to the removal of Chief Justice Zef Brozi, which took place during the visit. Two State Department communiques denouncing Brozi's removal were leaked to the Albanian press later in September. A White House spokesman did relay President Clinton's concerns about the rights of the Greek minority. The State Department's Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1994 provided accurate information on some human rights violations, but failed to describe fully some of the more serious abuses, such as the case of Fatos Nano.

The Work of Human Rights Watch/Helsinki
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki focused on bringing public and government attention to the violations of civil and political rights in Albania. In February, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki published a newsletter, Albania: The Greek Minority, which called on the Albanian government to respect minority rights. A comprehensive report documenting in detail the major abuses committed by the Albanian government since 1992 was under preparation.

In August, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki sent a letter to President Berisha protesting the arrest of Ilir Hoxha and the detention of another journalist, Filip Çakuli. In September, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki sent a letter to President Clinton asking him to raise human rights concerns with President Berisha during their meeting in Washington. Another protest letter was sent to President Berisha in October to criticize the law banning former collaborators from holding public office.

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