Albania Government Won’t Budge on Justice

Tirana – Albania’s Justice Minister, Enkelejd Alibeaj has rejected calls by interest groups, US diplomats and Albania’s President to review a series of bills that aim to reform the justice system.

The Minister declared in a conference organised by the European Union delegation in Tirana that the government would not change the bills in its justice reform package.

“Criticism will pass with time, but we should be aware of the fact that a successful justice reform should have its own cost that should be borne by some institutions and individuals,” he added.

The Association of Prosecutors, judges, lawyers and public notaries has condemned a series of bills proposed by the Albanian government as part of reforming the justice system.
The interest groups lamented that the Ministry of Justice is not holding consultations with them while drafting new laws that limit the independence of the justice system.

“In the name of the interests’ groups that we represent, we express our public concern for the latest legislative initiatives undertaken by the government in the name of justice reform,” the association said in a joint statement.

“We have noticed that the majority of these bills are the by-product of a closed legislative process, and in many aspects international and local expertise have not been consulted,” the statement added.
The new law that regulates the office of the general prosecutor has been particularly controversial.
The law would strip prosecutors of the right to be protected from police arrest without a formal indictment and limit their independence by allowing the Ministry of Justice to probe investigations.
The bill has come under criticism from interest groups, the opposition and the United States, because it limits the independence of the general prosecutor, which is guaranteed under the Albanian constitution.  
Albania’s Prime Minister, Sali Berisha, has come under strong US and European Union criticism over alleged attempts to put pressure on the Prosecutor General, Ina Rama, who has been investigating corruption.

Rama has been launching probes into the March 15 blast at an Albanian army depot and into corruption in the construction of the new Albania-Kosovo highway, which have put her at odds with the centre-right government.
The Minister of Justice has been called by prosecutors to testify on the blast probe as a witness to the probe. The local media and the opposition have accused him of being the architect of a series of Council of Ministers decisions that opened the way for the demolition work at the site.
Alibeaj has rejected the accusation in a recent interview with Albanian service of the BBC, saying that he offered legal advise as part of his former job as head of the Anti-corruption department of the Council of Ministers.  

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