Police violence or arbitrary actions are one of the most often breaches of rights in Albania, according to the Ombudsman’s reports.

By Mateja Agatonović (BCSP) / Photo: Wikipedia

The People’s Advocate (PsA) is the Albanian Ombudsman with a mandate to defend the rights of people from unlawful or improper actions and failures of public administration. In that context, the PsA oversee the work of security sector, including the Albanian State Police. Five persons at the Ombudsman office are responsible for this job.

In 2016 the PsA started an initiative based on the case revealed in the media about the violence committed by one police officer of the Lezha Police Station on a detainee. Policeman ordered the conduction an independent administrative investigation, during which was found that the police officer had exercised unnecessary physical violence against a citizen. Next year, a number of officers from Lezha and Kurbin Police stations have been expelled from the State Police for abuse of duty, while some of them were also suspected of involvement in cannabis cultivation.

This is the main reason why the PsA in the annual reports emphasize the issue of excessive use of force and violence by police officers. Moreover, the number of citizen’s complaints submitted to the PsA concerning the State Police rose by around 11%, which is a first increase in years. There were 163 submitted complaints at the PsA against the State Police body during 2016.

From the review of administered complaints it has turned out that some of them were grounded and precisely for the exercise of physical violence, for inhuman treatment, for arrests or illegal accompaniment, for failing to give copies of dwelling control records, blocking items or accompanying documentation, as well as not taking criminal reports from citizens. In conclusion, police violence or arbitrary actions are one of the most often breaches of rights in Albania.

Source: Annual reports of the People’s Advocate 2012-2016

Following these complaints, the PsA has issued several recommendations to the State Police Director. Most important are: there is a need to carry out a thorough analysis of the causes of these phenomena; improve the curricula of the Basic Police School and the Security Academy to focus more on the respect of human rights; organize more trainings on ethics and clarification of the right of police officers to use force in compliance with the legal requirements and with respect to the proportionality principle, as well as trainings on national and international legislation.

Also, the Ombudsman can recommend to the Prosecutor’s Office to initiate an investigation if he finds that a criminal offense has been committed, or re-start a dismissed or suspended the investigation.

The PsA during 2016 has addressed police cases to the Prosecution Offices to initiate prosecutions – for three State Police employees, four Prison Police employees and one Inspectorate Territorial Defense employee. These cases were mostly involving physical violence of the police officers or other means of inhuman treatment.

However, police violence is not a new problem. It was present towards political protestors in the earlier years, like when during 2011 riots four opposition protesters were killed and six were wounded, with hundreds of them brutally arrested, but has subdued over the past few reporting periods.

Breaches of individual rights from the police remain constant throughout the yearly Ombudsman’s reports, but they also point out that cases of police violence are extremely hard to prove, mainly because in most cases violence occurs in closed places, inside the police premises, in offices, with no present witnesses. Even when there are witnesses, it is still difficult for people to go against police employees.

Related publication: “The Assessment of Police Integrity in Albania

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