Many scholars believe the Albanian people are the direct descendants of a group of tribes known as the Illyrians, who arrived in the Balkans around 2000 BC. After falling to Roman authority in 165 BC, modern-day Albania remained under the control of various foreign powers until the dawning of the 20th century. Following the split of the Roman Empire in 395, the Byzantine Empire established its control over present-day Albania. It was during this time (11th century) that the Byzantine Emperor, Alexius I Comnenus made the first recorded reference to a distinct area of land known as Albania and its people. Ottoman supremacy in the Balkan region began in 1385 but was briefly interrupted in the 15th century, when an Albanian warrior known as Skenderbeg united his countrymen and fought-off Turkish rule from 1443-78. Upon the Ottomans' return, a large number of Albanians fled to Italy, Greece and Egypt and many of the Albanians who remained (about two-thirds of the Albanian population), converted to the Islamic faith. At the end of the 19th century, efforts by the Turks to suppress Albanian nationalism failed. Albanians had created The League of Prizen, attempting to unify Albanian territory and established the current-day Albanian alphabet. Following the conclusion of the First Balkan War, Albanians issued the Vlore Proclamation of November 28, 1912, declaring independence. Albania was internationally recognized as an independent state in 1913. Its territorial integrity was confirmed at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, after U.S. President Woodrow Wilson dismissed a plan by the European powers to divide Albania amongst its neighbors.
Following the Second World War, in which both Italy and Germany occupied Albania, communism became the prevailing political ideology within Albania and remained an influential part of its culture for the next 50 years. Led by Enver Hoxha, Albania adhered to a strict Stalinist philosophy, alienating many of its fellow communist states. Hoxha's death in 1985 and the fall of communism throughout south central Europe led to widespread changes within Albanian society. The Albanian Government began to seek closer ties with the West in order to improve economic conditions, and initial democratic reforms were introduced including multi-party elections in 1991. Pursuant to a 1991 interim basic law, Albanians ratified a constitution in 1998, establishing a democratic system of government based upon the rule of law and guaranteeing the protection of fundamental human rights. In 1992, after the sweeping electoral victory of the Democratic Party, Sali Berisha became the first democratically elected President of Albania. Berisha began a more deliberate program of economic and democratic reform, but progress on these issues was stalled in the mid-1990s following the collapse of several pyramid schemes. Anarchy in early 1997, as a result of the pyramid schemes, alarmed the world and prompted intensive international mediation. The general elections of June 1997 brought the Socialists and their allies to power. President Berisha resigned from his post, and Socialists elected Rexhep Meidani as the President of the Republic. Socialist Party Chairman Fatos Nano was elected Prime Minister, a post which he held until October 1998, when he resigned as a result of the tense situation created in the country after the assassination of a prominent leader of the Democratic Party, Azem Hajdari. Pandeli Majko was then elected Prime Minister, and he served in this post until November 1999, when he was replaced by Ilir Meta. Albania approved its constitution through a popular referendum which was held in November 1998, but which was boycotted by the opposition. The general local elections of October 2000 marked the loss of control of the Democrats over the local governments and a victory for the Socialists. Although Albania has made strides toward democratic reform and maintaining the rule of law, serious deficiencies in the electoral code remain to be addressed, as demonstrated in the June 2001 parliamentary elections. International observers judged the 2001 elections to be acceptable, but the Union for Victory Coalition, the second-largest vote recipient, disputed the results and boycotted parliament until January 31, 2002. The Socialists re-elected Ilir Meta as Prime Minister in August 2001, a post which he held till February 2002, when he resigned due to party infighting. Pandeli Majko was re-elected Prime Minister in February 2002.
Albania's transformation from a centrally planned economy to a market orientated system began in earnest in early 1992 after real GDP fell over 50% from its peak in 1989. The democratically elected government that assumed office in April 1992 launched an ambitious economic reform program meant to halt economic deterioration and put the country on the path toward a market economy. Key elements included price and exchange system liberalization, fiscal consolidation, monetary restraint, and a firm income policy. These were complemented by a comprehensive package of structural reforms including privatization, enterprise and financial sector reform, and creation of the legal framework for a market economy and private sector activity. Results of Albania's efforts were initially encouraging. Led by the agricultural sector, real GDP grew by an estimated 11% in 1993, 8% in 1994, and more than 8% in 1995. The Albanian currency, the lek, stabilized, and Albania became less dependent on food aid. The speed and vigor of private entrepreneurial response to Albania's opening and liberalizing was better than expected. Beginning in 1995 however, progress stalled, with negligible GDP growth in 1996 and a 9% contraction in 1997. Inflation approached 20% in 1996 and 50% in 1997. The lek initially lost up to half of its value during the 1997 crisis before rebounding in January 1998. Within recent years, the Albanian economy has shown signs of recovery. Since 1998, the GDP has increased each year approximately 7% to 8%. The Albanian Government and the International Monetary Fund predict a GDP growth of 7%-8% for 2001 with an inflation rate of approximately 2%. The growth in the economy has been driven by the expansion of the construction and service industries. The lack of housing under communism precipitated a major demand and a spurt in new housing construction. Increase in tourist activity in many of the seaside resorts has helped expand Albania's service industry. The agricultural market, which comprises close to 53% of the GDP, also grew due to diversification of production. The economy is further bolstered by remittances from Albanians abroad, which account for as much as 25% of the GDP. Most of these remittances come from workers in Greece and Italy.
Although the Albanian economy shows many signs of strength, several other issues remain to be addressed before Albania can fully realize macroeconomic stabilization. Albania will need to take greater advantage of its natural resources and its close proximity to west European markets in order to counter a growing trade deficit. Due to a decline in industrial production and a surge in electrical imports, Albania had a $814 million trade deficit in 2000. Furthermore, Albania must become a more efficient energy producer and build an adequate energy infrastructure in order to both keep pace with demand and encourage business growth. Constant electrical shortages and outages plagued the 2000-01 winter in Albania, forcing many to rely on only 5 to 6 hours of electricity per day. Electrical shortages reappeared during the 2001-02 winter, producing similar hardships.
One of the major legacies of nearly five centuries of Ottoman rule was the conversion of up to 70 percent of the Albanian population to Islam. Therefore, at independence the country emerged as a predominantly Muslim nation, the only Islamic state in Europe. No census taken by the communist regime after it assumed power in 1944 indicated the religious affiliations of the people. It has been estimated that of a total population of 1,180,500 at the end of World War II, about 826,000 were Muslims, 212,500 were Orthodox, and 142,000 were Roman Catholics. The Muslims were divided into two groups: about 600,000 adherents of the Sunni branch and more than 220,000 followers of a dervish order known as Bektashi which was an offshoot of the Shia branch. Bektashism was regarded as a tolerant Muslim sect that also incorporated elements of paganism and Christianity. Christianity was introduced during Roman rule. After the division of the Roman Empire in 395, Albania became politically a part of the Eastern, or Byzantine, Empire, but remained ecclesiastically dependent on Rome. When the final schism occurred in 1054 between the Roman and Eastern churches, the Christians in southern Albania came under the jurisdiction of the ecumenical patriarch in Constantinople and those in the north came under the purview of the papacy in Rome. This arrangement prevailed until the Ottoman invasions of the fourteenth century, when the Islamic faith was introduced. The apostasy of the people took many decades.
In the mountainous north, the propagation of Islam was strongly opposed by Roman Catholics. Gradually, however, backwardness, illiteracy, the absence of an educated clergy, and material inducements weakened resistance. Coerced conversions sometimes occurred, especially when foreign Roman Catholic powers, such as the Venetian Republic, were at war with the Ottoman Empire. By the close of the seventeenth century, the Catholics in the north were outnumbered by the Muslims.
After the Ottoman conquest, thousands of Orthodox Christians fled from southern Albania to Sicily and southern Italy, where their descendants, most of whom joined the Uniate Church still constitute a sizable community. Large-scale forced conversions of the Orthodox Christians who remained in Albania did not occur until the seventeenth century and the Russo-Turkish wars of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Pressure was put on this group because the Ottoman Turks considered its members sympathetic to Orthodox Russia. The situation of the Orthodox adherents improved temporarily after the Treaty of Kuchuk-Kainarji (1774), in which Russia was recognized as the protector of the Orthodox followers in the Ottoman Empire. The most effective method employed by the Ottoman Turks in their missionary efforts, especially in the central and southern parts of the country, was the creation of a titled Muslim class of pashas and beys who were endowed with both large estates and extensive political and administrative powers. Through their political and economic influence, these nobles controlled the peasants, large numbers of whom were converted to Islam either through coercion or the promise of economic benefits.
In the period from independence to the communist seizure of power, the Muslim noble class constituted Albania's ruling elite, but this group never interfered with religious freedom, which was sanctioned by the various pre-World War II constitutions. These constitutions had stipulated that the country have no official religion, that all religions be respected, and that their freedom of exercise be assured. These provisions reflected the true feelings of the people who, whether Muslim, Orthodox, or Roman Catholic, were generally tolerant in religious matters.
For generations, religious pragmatism was a distinctive trait of the Albanians. Even after accepting Islam, many people privately remained practicing Christians. As late as 1912, in a large number of villages in the Elbasan area, most men had two names, a Muslim one for public use and a Christian one for private use. Adherence to ancient pagan beliefs also continued well into the twentieth century, particularly in the northern mountain villages, many of which were devoid of churches and mosques. A Roman Catholic intellectual, Vaso Pashko (1825-92), made the trenchant remark, later co-opted by Enver Hoxha, that "the religion of the Albanians is Albanianism."
Prior to the reforms of the early 1990s, a politically and ideologically oriented penal code facilitated systematic violations of human rights and ensured the communist party control over all aspects of Albania's political, economic, and cultural life. Article 53 of the 1982 code, for example, broadly defined sabotage as "activity or inactivity to weaken or undermine the operations of the state and the Albanian Party of Labor, the socialist economy, and the organization and administration of the state and society"--a crime punishable by at least ten years' imprisonment or by death. The crime of "fascist, anti-democratic, religious, warmongering, and antisocialist agitation and propaganda," as defined by Article 55, carried a penalty of three to ten years' imprisonment or, in wartime, not less than ten years' imprisonment or death. Article 47 stipulated a penalty of not less than ten years or death for "flight from the state" or for "refusal to return to the fatherland." The penal code listed a total of thirty-four offenses punishable by death, of which twelve were political and eleven were military. Although individuals accused of criminal behavior theoretically had the right to present a defense, they could not avail themselves of the services of a professional attorney; the private practice of law in Albania had been banned in 1967.
In 1990, following serious and widespread public unrest, steps were taken to liberalize the penal code. The number of offenses punishable by death was reduced from thirty-four to eleven, women were exempted from the death penalty, the maximum prison sentence for "anti-socialist agitation and propaganda" was reduced from twenty-five to ten years, the maximum prison sentence for attempts to leave the country illegally also was reduced from twenty-five to ten years, the legal status of lawyers was restored, and the official ban on religious activity was abolished.
INCIDENCE OF CRIME
The crime rate in Albania is low compared to more industrialized countries. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Albania. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. Albania will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 2002 was 12.39 per 100,000 population for Albania, 1.10 for Japan, and 5.61 for USA. For rape, the rate in 2002 was 1.35 for Albania, compared with 1.78 for Japan and 31.77 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 2002 was 5.87 for Albania, 4.08 for Japan, and 148.50 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 2002 was 5.63 for Albania, 23.78 for Japan, and 318.55 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 2002 was 10.26 for Albania, 233.60 for Japan, and 740.80 for USA. The rate of larceny for 2002 was 17.69 for Albania, 1401.26 for Japan, and 2484.64 for USA. The rate for motor vehicle theft in 2002 was 5.96 for Albania, compared with 44.28 for Japan and 430.64 for USA. The rate for all index offenses combined was 149.67 for Albania, compared with 1709.88 for Japan and 4160.51 for USA. (Note that Japan data are for year 2000 and USA data are for 2001)
TRENDS IN CRIME
Between 1998 and 2002, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder decreased from 30.29 to 12.39 per 100,000 population, a decrease of 59%. The rate for rape decreased from 1.50 to 1.39, a decrease of 7.3%. The rate of robbery decreased from 16.43 to 5.87, a decrease of 64.3%. The rate for aggravated assault decreased from 5.66 to 5.63, a decrease of .5%. The rate for burglary increased from 9.48 to 10.26, an increase of 8.2%. The rate of larceny decreased from 24.82 to 17.69, a decrease of 28.7%. The rate of motor vehicle theft decreased from 13.96 to 5.96, a decrease of 57.3%. The rate of total index offenses decreased from 179.42 to 149.67, a decrease of 16.6%.
Until April 1991, all security and police forces were responsible to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which also exercised authority over the judicial system and the implementation and enforcement of the country's laws. In January 1991, the minister of internal affairs, Simon Stefani, held both high communist party and government posts as a member of the Politburo and as one of three deputy prime ministers. Each security or police organization--the Sigurimi, the Frontier Guards, and the People's Police--constituted a separate directorate within the ministry; each had a larger proportion of personnel who were party members than the armed forces because of the need for political reliability. In the Sigurimi, for example, nearly all serving personnel were believed to be party members. In the Frontier Guards and People's Police, all officers and many other personnel were party members. The Sigurimi were the security police forces. Organized to protect the party and government system, these forces were responsible for suppressing deviation from communist ideology and for investigating serious crimes on a national scale. Frontier Guards, as their name implied, maintained the security of state borders. The People's Police were the local or municipal police.
In April 1991, shortly after the country's first free elections, the communist-dominated People's Assembly abolished the Ministry of Internal Affairs. It was replaced by a new Ministry of Public Order with authority over the People's Police. In addition, the chairman of a new National Security Committee within the Council of Ministers was given control over the Sigurimi. Both organizations, however, were headed by the same officials who had directed them within the old Ministry of Internal Affairs. In July 1991, the communist-dominated legislature abolished the Sigurimi and established a new National Information Service (NIS) in its place. It was unclear to Western observers to what extent the new organization would be different from its muchhated predecessor because at least some of its personnel probably had served in the Sigurimi. Only former Sigurimi leaders were excluded from the new NIS. Opponents of the Sigurimi argued that former officers should not be rehired but replaced with new, untainted government employees. The officers, however, argued that the new organization needed experienced investigators who had not violated existing laws or abused their power as Sigurimi officers. The NIS's stated mission was to enforce the constitution and laws of Albania and the civil rights of its citizens. It was forbidden to conduct unauthorized investigations, and it was required to respect the rights of citizens in every case except instances in which the constitution itself had been violated. Political activities within the NIS were banned.
In 1991 the rate of reported homicides doubled and robberies tripled over the similar period in 1990. Instances of illegal possession and use of firearms were reported. The increase in violent crime was viewed so seriously that some citizens believed that social anarchy was overwhelming the state's ability to handle it. The end of the party's monopoly on political power and the curbing of the coercive power of the state's law enforcement mechanism gave many common criminals courage to act. The minister of public order cited a general breakdown in law enforcement and public safety in Albania in 1991. He reported that many crimes were being committed by unemployed individuals, common criminals inadvertently released from prison under political amnesties, and citizens taking revenge on officials of the former communist regime. He blamed many problems of the police on their former cooperation with the Sigurimi in its role of protecting the party and state against the citizens. According to the minister, the police would be depoliticized, and patriotic, legal, and professional training would replace their former political indoctrination. When the People's Assembly established the Ministry of Public Order, it placed the Frontier Guards and the Directorate of Prison Administration, both of which had been in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, in the Ministry of People's Defense and the Ministry Justice, respectively. Shortly thereafter, in an effort to stem the flow of Albanian refugees and growing problems with drug trafficking through Albanian territory, Italy signed a cooperation agreement with Albania under which it would help train and equip the demoralized police and Frontier Guards. Albania sought similar assistance from Finland and Romania and applied to join the International Police Organization (Interpol). The head of the Directorate of Prison Administration pledged to improve physical conditions in Albania's prisons, to terminate routine detention of minors with adults, and to introduce corrective, educational, and recreational programs.
The Directorate of Law and Order, the Directorate of Criminal Police, and the Directorate of Forces for the Restoration of Order--the latter presumably being special riot control units-- remained under the control of the Ministry of Public Order. In defense of his decision not to reorganize, the minister of public order cited difficulties in attempting to restructure the police force when crime was increasing rapidly. He also noted that planned cutbacks would reduce police personnel by 30 percent. Many Albanians, however, blamed years of communist dictatorship and poverty for allowing economic conditions to deteriorate to the point where the system collapsed in a crime wave and local disorder. Some citizens believed that they needed the right to carry arms as protection against increasing violent crime and social anarchy. The Directorate of State Security, or Sigurimi, which was abolished in July 1991 and replaced by the NIS, celebrated March 20, 1943, as its founding day. Hoxha typically credited the Sigurimi as having been instrumental in his faction's gaining power in Albania over other partisan groups. The People's Defense Division, formed in 1945 from Hoxha's most reliable resistance fighters, was the precursor to the Sigurimi's 5,000 uniformed internal security force. In 1989 the division was organized into five regiments of mechanized infantry that could be ordered to quell domestic disturbances posing a threat to the party leadership. The Sigurimi had an estimated 10,000 officers, approximately 2,500 of whom were assigned to the People's Army. It was organized with both a national headquarters and district headquarters in each of Albania's twenty-six districts. The mission of the Sigurimi and presumably its successor was to prevent revolution and to suppress opposition to the regime. Although groups of Albanian émigrés sought Western support for their efforts to overthrow the communists in the late 1940s and early 1950s, they quickly ceased to be a credible threat to the communist regime because of the effectiveness of the Sigurimi. The activities of the Sigurimi were directed more toward political and ideological opposition than crimes against persons or property, unless the latter were sufficiently serious and widespread to threaten the regime. Its activities permeated Albanian society to the extent that every third citizen had either served time in labor camps or been interrogated by Sigurimi officers. Sigurimi personnel were generally career volunteers, recommended by loyal party members and subjected to careful political and psychological screening before they were selected to join the service. They had an elite status and enjoyed many privileges designed to maintain their reliability and dedication to the party. The Sigurimi was organized into sections covering political control, censorship, public records, prison camps, internal security troops, physical security, counterespionage, and foreign intelligence. The political control section's primary function was monitoring the ideological correctness of party members and other citizens. It was responsible for purging the party, government, military, and its own apparatus of individuals closely associated with Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, or China after Albania broke from successive alliances with each of those counties. One estimate indicated that at least 170 communist party Politburo or Central Committee members were executed as a result of the Sigurimi's investigations. The political control section was also involved in an extensive program of monitoring private telephone conversations. The censorship section operated within the press, radio, newspapers, and other communications media as well as within cultural societies, schools, and other organizations. The public records section administered government documents and statistics, primarily social and economic statistics that were handled as state secrets. The prison camps section was charged with the political reeducation of inmates and the evaluation of the degree to which they posed a danger to society. Local police supplied guards for fourteen prison camps throughout the country. The physical security section provided guards for important party and government officials and installations. The counterespionage section was responsible for neutralizing foreign intelligence operations in Albania as well as domestic movements and parties opposed to the party. Finally, the foreign intelligence section maintained personnel abroad and at home to obtain intelligence about foreign capabilities and intentions that affected Albania's national security. Its officers occupied cover positions in Albania's foreign diplomatic missions, trade offices, and cultural centers.
In early 1992, information on the organization, responsibilities, and functions of the NIS was not available in Western publications. Some Western observers believed, however, that many of the officers and leaders of the NIS had served in the Sigurimi and that the basic structures of the two organizations were similar.
In 1989 the Frontier Guards included about 7,000 troops organized into battalion-sized formations. Although organized strictly along military lines, the Frontier Guards were subordinate to the Ministry of Internal Affairs until its abolition in April 1991 when they were subordinated to the Ministry of People's Defense. The mission of the Frontier Guards was to protect state borders and to prevent criminals, smugglers, or other infiltrators from crossing them. In the process, they were also charged with stopping Albanians from leaving the country illegally. They were effective in enforcing its closed borders, although some Albanians still managed to escape. During the period of Albania's greatest isolation from its neighbors, the lack of open border crossing points simplified border control. For example, in 1985 Albania opened its first border crossing point with Greece, fourteen years after it had reestablished diplomatic relations with Athens. In 1990, however the Frontier Guards were increasingly less able to prevent illegal crossings by well-armed citizens, who frequently sought refuge in Greece and Yugoslavia. Personnel for the Frontier Guards generally came from the annual conscription process for military service, but the organization also had career personnel. The Frontier Guards training school was established in 1953 in Tiranë, and its students, as well as conscripted Frontier Guards, were carefully screened to ensure their political reliability.
In 1989, the People's Police had five branches: the Police for Economic Objectives, Communications Police, Fire Police, Detention Police, and General Police. The Police for Economic Objectives served as a guard force for state buildings, factories, construction projects, and similar enterprises. The Communications Police guarded Albania's lines of communication including bridges, railroads, and the telephone and telegraph network. Firefighting was also considered a police function and was carried out by the Fire Police. The Detention Police served as prison and labor camp guards. Finally, the General Police corresponded to the local or municipal police in other countries and attended to traffic regulation and criminal investigations. Although the functions of the General Police overlapped with those of the security police to some extent, the General Police operated at the local rather than the national level. However, the headquarters of the General Police in larger towns had internal security sections that coordinated their activities with those of the security police. They maintained records on political dissidents, Albanians outside their home districts, and foreign visitors and resident aliens. They also monitored the identification cards that Albanian citizens were required to carry. These cards, which contained family and employment information and were required for travel between cities and villages, constituted an effective control over the movement of the population.
Service in the People's Police was usually a three-year obligation, and individuals who had previously served in the armed services were preferred. After 1989, however, detailed information on the operations, staffing, and training of the People's Police was generally not known outside of Albania. All able-bodied men were required by a 1948 law to spend two months assisting the local police. They served with the People's Police in their localities, wearing police uniforms that were distinguished by a red armband. The Auxiliary Police provided additional manpower for the regular police and also gave a large segment of the population familiarity with, and presumably a more sympathetic understanding of, police activities and problems.
In early 1992, the police and internal security forces were losing the tight control they once held over the population. They, and the regime they supported, were beginning to yield to the impact of the popular, revolutionary forces had that toppled the other communist regimes in Eastern Europe in late 1989 and 1990. Although poorer, more isolated, and more repressed than the peoples of the other East European communist countries, Albanians were beginning to assert their civil and human rights. Up-to-date English-language sources on Albania's armed forces and its internal security apparatus are scarce because until 1991 Albania was the most isolated and secretive state in Eastern Europe and in-depth research on these subjects was inhibited. Albania's print and broadcast media provided little information on the country's defense capabilities or policies and even less on its internal security forces. The History of Albania, from its Origins to the Present Day, by Stefanaq Pollo and Arben Puto, and The Encyclopedia of Military History, by R. Ernest Dupuy and Trevor Dupuy, present historical perspectives on Albania's national security evolution. Klaus Lange's "Albanian Security Policies: Concepts, Meaning, and Realisation," is the best, and perhaps only, scholarly article exclusively dedicated to Albania's national security. F. Stephen Larrabee and Daniel Nelson address Albania's historical and strategic relationships with its neighbors in the Balkans, and Yugoslavia in particular. Elez Biberaj's Albania: A Socialist Maverick provides a valuable description of the political fortunes of party officials in the national security apparatus and the impact of the party's changing foreign policies on national security. The Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) translations of broadcasts from the official Albanian news agency as well as translations of Yugoslav and Greek broadcasts have been good sources on internal security developments, especially since 1990. FBIS translations of Yugoslav publications on the military and domestic unrest in Albania are worthwhile and probably generally accurate despite Yugoslavia's interest in portraying Albania in an unfavorable light. Louis Zanga, who writes on Albania in Report on Eastern Europe for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, occasionally discusses internal security matters. The Military Balance, published annually by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, also provides information on the changing organizational structure, size, and equipment of the armed forces over time.
During the period of uninterrupted communist rule from 1944 to 1991, the pervasiveness of repression made it difficult for information on internal developments in Albania to reach the outside world. It was the most closed and isolated society in Europe. The few Western observers who visited the country after World War II were not in a position to see or to judge its internal conditions independently, but statements by rare foreign visitors concerning the police-state atmosphere in the country indicated that public order was rigidly maintained. It was impossible for visitors to move around the country without escorts, and conversation or interaction with ordinary citizens was inhibited. Local police and internal security forces were in evidence everywhere. Albanian sources published little concerning the internal security situation, and reliable information was lacking beyond infrequent officially approved statements and data that generally covered political crimes deemed threatening to the party or state. However, this situation began to change drastically in 1991, in part because of the efforts of the Albanian Democratic Party, which advocated restructuring the security organs and purging officials who had repressed the population under Hoxha and Alia. In early 1992, officials responsible for preventing or investigating crime were disorganized as a result of political changes in the country and were unsure how to operate effectively. Organizational change in the police and security forces, initiated by the communist dominated coalition government, also inhibited their effectiveness at least for a time.
As of year 2001, local police units that report to the Ministry of Public Order are responsible principally for internal security. The Ministry also has a small force of police officers organized into special forces units to combat organized crime. The military has a special 120-man "commando" unit, which operates in an antiterrorist role under the Minister of Defense. During times of domestic crisis, the law allows the Minister of Public Order to request authority over this unit. The National Intelligence Service (SHIK) is responsible for both internal and external intelligence gathering and counterintelligence. One of the most serious problems involving public order and internal security is the fact that police officers largely are untrained, ill paid, and often unreliable. The international community continued to provide training, advice, and equipment to improve the quality of the police forces; however, unprofessional behavior and corruption remained a major impediment to the development of an effective, civilian police force. The police committed human rights abuses.
There were no confirmed cases of political killings by the Government or its agents; however, the main opposition party, the DP, claimed that several of its members were harassed, beaten, and in one case, killed by government agents while in custody. In March police arrested Gjon Gjonaj, a resident of Lezhe and a DP supporter, and detained him for verification purposes in the Rreshen police station predetention center; Gjonaj later was found dead in his prison cell. The police insisted that Gjonaj had committed suicide with a knife he possessed, which the police had not detected. A group of government medical and legal experts confirmed that Gjonaj's death was by suicide; however, his family members and the DP dismissed this explanation. The Albanian Helsinki Committee (AHC) and the Albanian Human Rights Group (AHRG) both called attention to the case and requested that law enforcement officials institute more effective procedures to prevent future incidents of this kind. There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
The Constitution forbids arbitrary arrest and detention; however, the police arbitrarily arrested and detained persons.
The 1995 Penal Procedures Code sets out the rights of detained and arrested persons. By law, a police officer or prosecutor may order a suspect into custody. Detained persons must be informed immediately of the charges against them and of their rights. A prosecutor must be notified immediately after the police detain a suspect. Within 48 hours of the arrest or detention, a court must decide in the presence of the prosecutor, the suspect, and the suspect's lawyer the type of detention to be imposed. Legal counsel must be provided free of charge if the defendant cannot afford a private attorney; however, this right to legal counsel is not widely known and police often fail to inform suspects of it. Access to legal information remained difficult for citizens, including legal professionals and, at times, judges.
There were numerous cases in which persons were illegally detained and were unable to contact their private attorneys. The AHC sought to bring to the attention of the authorities a number of cases in Gjirokaster, in which defense attorneys had failed several times to make contact with their clients. In some cases, the detainees had been interrogated without their defense attorneys being present.
Bail in the form of money or property may be required if the judge believes that the accused otherwise may not appear for trial. Alternatively a suspect may be placed under house arrest. The court may order pretrial confinement in cases where there is reason to believe that the accused may flee the country or pose a danger to society. The Penal Procedures Code requires completion of pretrial investigations within 3 months. The prosecutor may extend this period by 3-month intervals in especially difficult cases. The accused and the injured party have the right to appeal these extensions to the district court. Lengthy pretrial detention as a result of delayed investigations remained a serious problem. In January the AHC conducted a fact-finding mission that monitored the conditions of prisoners in a Tirana prison and learned that three individuals, Sali Lushaj, Dem Dollapi, and Vlash Ndoi, had been detained past the legal limits. Lushaj and Dollapi claimed to be detained on political grounds; they were charged with participation in an armed uprising to overthrow the constitutional order, and their trial was ongoing at year's end. The men remained in detention at year's end.
NGO's claimed that prostitutes and trafficked women have been kept in detention for more than 48 hours without charges being brought against them. In February a fact-finding mission of the AHC, the AHRG and the International Helsinki Federation discovered that five trafficked Moldovan women were detained in prison cells in Tirana on charges of illegal crossing of borders and prostitution. They were kept in pretrial detention for over 6 months, and three did not have a defense attorney either in their initial hearing or during their detention. One detainee's trial was postponed more than 15 times for illegitimate reasons.
A fact-finding mission by the AHRG to the Vaqarr prison observed that many detained minors were not informed of their rights or the reasons for their arrest, that their relatives were notified only after a delay, that no prosecutor had been present during their interrogation, that public defenders did not visit them sufficiently to investigate their cases, and that they were abused physically by the authorities. Juveniles kept at Pretrial Detention Center 313 in Tirana made similar complaints. A wider study conducted by the Peace for Justice Center inspecting Vaqarr prison, Pretrial Detention Center 313, and seven district police stations reached the same conclusions.
In June police arrested, detained, and beat an 11-year-old orphan in Saranda. He was detained on theft charges (later proved to be false) for 20 hours, although the Penal Code prohibits detention of children under 14 years of age. No lawyer or adult guardian was present during his detention.
There were no confirmed cases of detainees being held strictly for political reasons. The trial of Ekrem Spahia, the Chairman of the Legality Party, and the trials of 12 of his supporters for participation in the events of September 1998 which followed the killing of the DP parliamentarian Azem Hajdari by unknown persons were ongoing at year's end.
The Constitution prohibits forced exile, and the Government does not use it.
The highest judicial organ was the Supreme Court, whose members were elected to a four-year term by the People's Assembly in a secret ballot. The Supreme Court consisted of a chairman, deputy chairmen, and assistant judges and made its decisions collegially. Officers of courts at the lower levels--district and regional courts--were elected in a similar manner by people's councils. Trials were generally open to the public and were often held in places of employment or in villages in order to make them accessible. After abolishing the Ministry of Justice in the 1960s, the Albanian leadership placed supervision of the country's legal and judicial system in the hands of the prosecutor general. Then in 1983, the Ministry of Justice's Office of Investigations, charged with investigating criminal cases, was placed under the direct supervision of the Presidium of the People's Assembly, ostensibly to make the legal system more responsive to the needs of the people. Whatever organizational changes occurred, the courts themselves had little independence in practice because of party interference in both the investigative process and court proceedings. In 1990 the Ministry of Justice was reestablished, with a mandate for supervising the courts and coming up with a program of judicial reform. As of early 1992, the creation of such a program was still underway.
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, because of political pressure, intimidation, endemic corruption and bribery, and limited resources, the judiciary was unable to function independently and efficiently.
The judicial system is composed of district courts of the first instance, military courts, six courts of appeal, and the Supreme Court. There also is a separate and independent Constitutional Court. The Supreme Court hears appeals from the Courts of Appeal, while the Constitutional Court reviews those cases requiring constitutional interpretation. Constitutional Court justices serve maximum 9-year terms, with three justices rotating every 3 years. Justices of the Supreme Court serve for 7 years.
The President heads the High Council of Justice, which has authority to appoint, discipline, and dismiss judges of the courts of first instance and of the courts of appeal. Judges who are dismissed have the right to appeal to the Supreme Court. In addition to the President, the Council consists of the Minister of Justice, the head of the Supreme Court, six judges (chosen by sitting judges), two prosecutors (selected by the prosecutors), and four independent lawyers named by the Parliament.
The President of the Republic nominates the President and Vice President of the Supreme Court, and the Parliament elects all of the Supreme Court's justices. The President selects four of the nine members of the Constitutional Court; five are elected by the Parliament. Parliament has the authority to approve and dismiss the judges of the Constitutional Court and the members of the Supreme Court. According to the law, dismissal only may be ordered after conviction for a serious crime or for mental incompetence. There were no new developments in the 1999 appeal of the former Chief Judge of the Supreme Court, who was dismissed from his position 3 years before the expiration of his mandate for technical reasons.
Under the 1998 Constitution, the President appoints the Prosecutor General with the consent of the Parliament. The President appoints and dismisses other prosecutors on the recommendation of the Prosecutor General.
Parliament approves the courts' budgets and allocates funds. The Judicial Budget Office, a separate, independent body, administers court budgets, but each court may decide how to spend the money allocated to it. A board chaired by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court runs the Judicial Budget Office; all other board members are judges. The Ministry of Justice provides and approves administrative personnel. The Ministry of Justice also supervises the Bailiffs' Office, the body that ensures that civil judgments are enforced. A school for magistrates was established in 1999.
During the year 2001, the High Council of Justice punished nine judges, including for the first time, four Appellate Court judges; they were punished for infractions such as giving light sentences for serious crimes, shortening sentences in exchange for guilty pleas, releasing prisoners on their own recognizance to await trial, changing sentences from imprisonment to house arrest, delaying cases, and other ethics violations. Out of the four Appellate Court judges, three were dismissed and one received disciplinary measures. Two other judges were fired and three were given warnings.
For the first time, parliament members attempted to impeach three members of the High Council of Justice over their conduct in a high-profile case of trafficking in persons, which allowed a suspect to get out on bail and flee the country; however, the impeachment failed, in part due to lack of adequate evidence. In August a district judge in Pogradac, in contradiction of the country's rules of procedure, struck down a suspected car smuggler's pretrial detention, allowing the suspect to go free and presumably flee the country; the High Council of Justice dismissed the judge, but he was not prosecuted.
The Constitution provides that all citizens enjoy the right to a fair, speedy, and public trial, except in cases where the necessities of public order, national security, or the interests of minors or other private parties mandate restrictions. However, due to limited material resources, in many instances the court system is unable to process cases in a timely fashion. Many court buildings were destroyed in the civil unrest in 1997, and although all have reopened, important records and legal materials were lost permanently. Long case backlogs are typical, and resulted in suspects being detained for longer than legal limits. Defendants, witnesses, and others who do not speak Albanian are entitled to the services of a translator. Defendants are entitled to a lawyer, and the Government respects this right in practice. Under the law, the Government provides lawyers for indigent defendants. If convicted the accused has the right to appeal the decision within 5 days to the Court of Appeals.
Public opinion holds the judiciary, in particular, responsible for the Government's failure to stop criminal activity. Tension continued between the police and the judiciary, despite some improvement in relations between police and prosecutors, especially outside Tirana. Each side cites the failures of the other as the reason criminals avoid imprisonment. The courts accuse the police of failing to provide the solid investigation and evidence necessary to prosecute successfully, and the police allege that corruption and bribery taint the courts. The Judicial Police are responsible, under the direction of prosecutors, for developing investigations initially conducted by the police.
In year 2001, there were no reports of political prisoners.
The communist regime maintained an extensive system of prisons and labor camps, including six institutions for political prisoners, nine for nonpolitical prisoners, and fourteen where political prisoners served their sentences together with regular criminals. Inmates provided the state's vital mining industry with an inexpensive source of labor. In 1985 there were an estimated 32,000 prisoners in the country. Conditions in the prisons and labor camps were abysmal. Maltreatment as well as physical and mental torture of political prisoners and other prisoners of conscience were common. Sporadic strikes and rebellions in the labor camps, to which the Sigurimi often responded with military force, resulted in the death of more than 1,000 prisoners as well as the execution of many survivors after they were suppressed.
Many political prisoners were purged party officials and their relatives. Reflecting Hoxha's paranoia, some of them were resentenced without trial for allegedly participating in political conspiracies while in prison. Former inmates reported that they managed to survive their incarceration only through the assistance of relatives who brought them food and money.
Under Alia, several amnesties resulted in the release of nearly 20 percent of the large prison and labor-camp population, although most of those released were prisoners over the age of sixty who had already served long terms. In 1991, for example, the APL attempted to improve its popularity by pushing a sweeping amnesty law for political prisoners through the communistdominated People's Assembly, and all such prisoners were freed by the middle of the year. The amnesty law provided for the rehabilitation of those incarcerated for political crimes, but not persons convicted of terrorist acts that resulted in deaths or other serious consequences. Specifically, it applied to persons sentenced for agitation and propaganda against the state; participation in illegal political organizations, meetings, or demonstrations; failure to report crimes against the state; slandering or insulting the state; and absence without leave or desertion from military service. It provided for material compensation, including lost wages or pensions, for time spent in prison; for preferential access to housing, education, and employment; and gave compensatory damages to the families of political prisoners who were executed or who died in detention without trial. Finally, it established a commission that included members of the new, independent Association of Former Political Prisoners to investigate atrocities carried out by the state.
The Constitution stipulates that "no one can be subject to torture, or cruel and brutal treatment;" however, the police often beat suspects in the process of arresting them. The Penal Code makes the use of torture a crime punishable by up to 10 years' imprisonment; however, the three main human rights groups--the AHC, the AHRG, and the Albanian Center for Human Rights (ACHR)--in addition to other nongovernmental organizations (NGO's), continued to report that police forces nationwide used torture, and inhumane or excessive treatment. According to the AHC, major police stations were the sites of the worse abuses of detainees, and all stations were overcrowded. Police physically abused minors in detention. In January police arrested and assaulted the local head of the DP branch in Tropoja, Azgan Haklaj, in connection with his role in a November 2000 attack on a police station and other public buildings by DP supporters, which resulted in the death of one individual. OSCE officials, the People's Advocate, the AHC, and the AHRG, among others, confirmed that Haklaj had been assaulted by the police; the police did not conduct an investigation or take any action against the responsible officers.
As of year 2001, prison conditions remained poor and overcrowding remained a serious problem. Lack of space in prisons led to the detention of convicted criminals in pretrial detention centers rather than prisons, causing significant security problems for the police forces. For example, the AHC cited a case at the Lushnje police station when a detainee, who was to be transferred to prison, escaped; the AHC claims that the case is not an isolated incident and that by maintaining this practice, the Government violated the law on Executing Penal Decisions. One of the AHC's fact-finding missions found that 299 inmates were being held in police pretrial detention sites rather than serving their terms in prisons. In police detention centers, woman often were held with men; however, women are not held with men in prisons.
A large number of Albanian prisoners also are held in prisons in Greece and Italy due to overcrowding. According to Greek Ministry of Justice sources, more than 3,500 Albanians are in pretrial detention centers and 1,890 are serving prison sentences in Greece, 200 of whom are juveniles. The education of these young Albanian prisoners remained a problem. There were no classes offered to these juveniles in Greek prisons. It is estimated that 2,000 prisoners were serving sentences in Italian prisons.
The country has no juvenile justice system and children's cases frequently were presented to judges who had not received any education in juvenile justice. More than 40 children are serving sentences in Vaqarr prison, the only prison for juveniles in the country, and more than 100 are in pretrial detention centers. According to the AHC, there were 91 juveniles, aged 14 to 18, including 13 girls, in pretrial detention centers. Several NGO's noted that in various police districts nationwide, minors often were kept in the same cells as adults and that sanitary conditions were generally poor.
The government made attempts to address prison problems such as poor facilities and overcrowding within prisons. The Government, with international assistance, financed many improvements, including the continued construction of a new prison in Peqin, financed by the Italian Government, which is expected to house 250 to 300 inmates. Three other prisons in the towns of Rrogozhina and Tepelena are scheduled to be built. The new prison in Rrogozhine is scheduled to be built with financial support from the Government and to house approximately 700 inmates.
The Government cooperated well with the International Committee of the Red Cross and with other NGO's and there were no reports of refusals to permit access for prison inspections by either domestic or international independent human rights monitors.
In year 2001, violence against women and spousal abuse remained serious problems. In the country's traditionally male-dominated society, cultural acceptance and lax police response resulted in most abuse going unreported. Rape is punishable by law, as is spousal rape; however, in practice, spousal rape is not reported or prosecuted. The concepts of spousal rape and sexual harassment are not well established, and, consequently, such acts often are not considered crimes by the authorities or the public. In 1999 the Advice Center for Women and Girls, an NGO, conducted a poll which showed that 64 percent of women surveyed had experienced some form of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Later statistics were not available. The State Committee on Women and Children is the primary government agency that addresses the status of women; however, it is underfunded and lacks political influence.
An NGO maintains a shelter in Tirana for abused women, but the facility has the capacity to house only a few victims at a time. The same NGO also operates a hot line that provides advice and counseling to women and girls.
Many men, especially those from the northeastern part of the country, still follow the traditional code known as the "kanun," in which women are considered to be, and are treated as, chattel. Under the kanun, a woman's duty is to serve her husband, and to be subordinate to him in all matters. The kanun has contributed significantly to attitudes in the region espousing the subordination of women.
The law prohibits prostitution, but it was a problem. Trafficking in women for the purpose of sexual exploitation remained a serious problem.
Women are not excluded, by law or in practice, from any occupation; however, they are not well represented at the highest levels of their fields. The Labor Code mandates equal pay for equal work; however, while women continued to gradually gain economic power this provision was not fully implemented. Women enjoy equal access to higher education, but they are not accorded full and equal opportunity in their careers, and it is common for well-educated women to be underemployed or to work outside their field of training. An increasing number of women continued to open shops and small businesses. Many women migrated along with men to Greece and Italy to seek employment.
Various groups such as the Women's Center, the Family Planning Association, Useful to Albanian Women, the Independent Women's Forum, Women in Development, the Millennium Coalition, the Women's Advocacy Center, the Association of Women's Lawyers, Refleksione, and the three main human rights groups work to promote women's rights. Some of these groups have been successful in promoting public awareness regarding domestic violence and implementing programs to empower women; however, their ability to lobby the Government and other prominent individuals to institute actual change in government policies and practices remained negligible.
The Government's commitment to children's rights and welfare is codified in domestic law. The law provides for the right to at least 8 years of free education and also authorizes private schools. School attendance is mandatory through the eighth grade (or until age 18, whichever comes first). However, in practice many children leave school earlier than allowed by law in order to work with their families, especially in rural areas. According to a Save the Children 2000 report, in some rural areas approximately 90 percent of adolescent girls drop out of secondary school. The lack of proper documents--many of which have been lost due to internal migration--prevented many students from attending school. The State Committee on Women and Children is responsible for children's issues; however, it is underfunded and lacks political influence.
According to 2000 statistics issued by the Ministry of Public Order and the Commission for Reconciliation of Blood Feuds, more than 2,000 children remained endangered by blood feuds involving their families.
Child abuse, including sexual abuse, rarely is reported, but authorities and NGO's believe that it exists. According to the Ministry of Public Order, more than 300 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in 2000. According to the Center for the Protection of Children's Rights (CRCA), more than 2,000 children between the ages of 13 and 18 are involved in prostitution rings. According to the same organization, a large number of Albanian children (as many as 4,000) work as child prostitutes in Greece, and trafficking in children was a serious problem. Criminals may kidnap children from families or orphanages to be sold to prostitution or pedophilia rings abroad. Child labor continued to be a problem.
Various organizations work on children's issues including the Children's Human Right's Center in Albania, the Albanian Children's Alliance, which is made up of 150 organizations across the country, and Useful to Albanian Women. The international organizations active in this area include UNICEF, Save the Children, Caritas, and Catholic Relief Services.
TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS
New legislation passed in January 2001, criminalized trafficking in persons and provides penalties for traffickers; however, trafficking in persons, particularly women and children, remained serious problems. Albania is a country of origin and a transit country for trafficking. Police corruption and involvement in trafficking was a problem.
Although the number of Albanians subjected to trafficking to other countries has decreased, Albania remained a significant country of origin. Most trafficked women and young girls are transported to Italy, Greece, and to a lesser extent, other European countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands. Due to the poor economic situation, many women and young girls from all over the country--particularly Berat, Fier, Lushnje, Shkoder, and Vlora--were lured by men and women working in organized criminal groups who promised them jobs in Italy and Greece. Some men, primarily in the north of the country, also marry women and girls under false pretenses and take them abroad as prostitutes. Other forms of recruitment include promises of marriage, and to a lesser extent, the selling of victims to traffickers by family members, or kidnaping, including from orphanages. Most of these victims were taken to the southern port city of Vlora for transport by speedboat to Italy, although the port of Durres increasingly was a transport point.
Most trafficked Albanians increasingly fall into the 14 to 17-year-old age group; according to the AHRG, 25 percent of Albanian trafficking victims were minors. The CRCA reported in 2000 that statistics offered by the Italian census showed that there were more than 900 children (girls aged 14-18) who worked as prostitutes in Italy. A daily paper referred to one specific case in September in which the Director of the Orphanage in Korca was accused of selling young girls for prostitution to foreign citizens and was detained temporarily. The press published several cases involving minors who were victims of trafficking throughout the year. Children, including boys, also were trafficked for begging. Such children often were bought from families and even kidnaped. There are rumors that some children are sold to pedophilia rings abroad, although such reports have decreased from 1997.
The country also was a major transit country for trafficked women and girls, due to weak border controls, corruption, and proximity to Italy. Foreign women and girls in transit mostly originate from Moldova and Romania and to a lesser extent, Ukraine, Russia, Yugoslavia (Kosovo), Bulgaria, and other countries. These victims usually entered Albania through Montenegro, then passed through the northern Albanian city of Shkoder before heading for the southern port city of Vlora. From Vlora, they were transported by speedboat to Italy. Others were taken farther south to Greece. Traffickers typically confiscated victims' documents, physically and sexually abused them, and often forced them to work as prostitutes before they left Albania. Both Albanian and foreign women trafficked by Albanian organized crime networks are abused, tortured, and raped. Traffickers also may threaten their family members.
The police were often directly or indirectly involved in trafficking. The Ministry of Public Order has established an Anti-Trafficking Unit, an Organized Crime Section, and an Office of Internal Control which pays particular attention to police involvement in human trafficking; however, these structures were largely ineffectual for most of the year due to lack of staffing and corruption. By year's end, the Ministry of Public Order had increased staffing to antitrafficking units at its headquarters and installed regional chiefs in 10 of the country's 12 prefectures. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Public Order failed to follow up on high-profile trafficking and corruption investigations, and the Office of Internal Control did not prosecute any police officers for corruption. Local police often tip off traffickers when raids are scheduled. In the fall, nine police officers were dismissed, including five for trafficking. In one case, a police officer allegedly raped a 15-year-old girl that he intended to traffic; he was arrested but no further information on the case was available at year's end.
Organized crime is making increased use of Albania as a transit point for drugs being smuggled to Western Europe, due to the strategic location of the country and the continued weakness of its police and judicial systems. Authorities also believe that the domestic production of cannabis is increasing, even though the scale of the problem remains comparatively small. Likewise, drug abuse is a problem that continues to grow, but which is still small compared to the situation in Western Europe. The Government's efforts to deal with these problems have long been complicated by the poor level of professional training of the police and other officials, by a general lack of resources and by widespread corruption. Albania is not a party to any of the UN Narcotics Conventions, including the 1988 UN Drug Convention.
Despite many obstacles, the Albanian government is continuing efforts to interdict drug smugglers, reduce cannabis production and provide some form of social safety net for drug abusers.
The military and police are working closely with Italian police, navy, and coastal patrol organizations to stop the activities of the small boats that make the smuggling runs to Italy. The Albanian Government permits Italian personnel to be based in Albania, and to operate in Albanian territorial waters. These efforts are aimed at the full range of contraband that is passing through Albania--drugs, illegal immigrants, arms and other goods.
The response to the new but growing drug abuse problem has been very slow, and virtually no special treatment programs for drug abusers exist. Some very small programs at particular hospitals have received coverage in the press, along with government announcements on plans to expand rehabilitation efforts; however, the reality remains grim for Albanian addicts and abusers. There is a small anti-drug media campaign aimed at young people.
The current Albanian Government of Prime Minister Pandeli Majko has been in office only since October, and has not yet launched any new initiatives aimed specifically at the problems of drug trafficking or abuse. The new government does, however, appear to be making serious efforts on a broad front to rebuild and reform the structures of law and order, which would make further anti-drug efforts possible.
Albania is not a party to the 1988 UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, or any of the other UN Narcotics Conventions. Nevertheless, Albania has made efforts to achieve or maintain compliance with the goals and objectives of the 1988 UN Drug Convention.
Press reports periodically note the destruction of small fields of cannabis plants by the police, but while still comparatively small, the press reports that cannabis cultivation is an increasingly serious problem.
Albania is not known as a location for the production of significant quantities of illegal chemical substances.
The police consistently arrest of individuals caught distributing drugs. In general, however, there is a high level of lawlessness in the country and some regions are essentially not under government control. Given these circumstances, efforts to combat drug distribution are limited and difficult.
As already noted, Albania is a significant transit point for the smuggling of illicit drugs to western Europe. The Albanian press reports that international organized crime is involved in many of these smuggling operations, and is in control of the sales and financial arrangements. The Albanian Government is making genuine efforts to combat the smuggling operations, and is doing so in cooperation with international law enforcement agencies. The best example of this is the arrangement the Government has made with Italian authorities to interdict smugglers at sea.
Asset seizure was legalized as an anti-smuggling weapon in 1998 when legislation was passed that allows for the seizure and sale of boats used for smuggling. The measure was controversial because many Albanians are deeply suspicious of any law that allows the government to take property without compensation--a legacy of long years of communist rule.
The U.S. has an extradition treaty with Albania that entered into force on November 13, 1935. For 1998, there are no known cases of other countries requesting that a drug suspect be extradited, or of Albania requesting another country to extradite a drug suspect.
Albanian authorities cooperated fully with U.S. authorities in 1998 on law enforcement and transit issues. Few of these cases involved drug issues, but the pattern of cooperation was clear and positive.
Albania is not known as a producer of significant quantities of precursor chemicals.
Drug abuse is a comparatively new problem in Albania, and the Government and Albanian society have been slow to take actions to combat it. National medical resources are too limited to allow for extensive special programs for drug abusers. Some small-scale government- funded clinics offer special treatment options for heroin addicts, but most abusers receive, at most only basic medical assistance. State-operated radio and television run occasional anti-drug messages.
The Government has welcomed USG and Western European programs to help train the police, and has cooperated fully in the implementation of the programs. The U.S. Department of Justice is proceeding with training programs for mid-level police supervisors and for new special police units. The USG is also funding assistance to Albanian Customs and other border control agencies through a grant to the European Union. Albania has also been active in multilateral border control efforts through the Southeast Europe Cooperative Initiative (SECI). These efforts pull Albania into closer cooperation with its neighbors, notably the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Italy.
Internet research assisted by Courtney van Elden