The application of oversight mechanisms to the police is still weak although there is some progress in the parliamentary transparency, assess the Institute for Democracy and Mediation in the POINTPULSE report.
By Mateja Agatonović (BCSP)
Committee on National Security (CNS) is the principal parliamentary body in charge of control and oversight of the activity of the State Police. The CNS is responsible for evaluating, scrutinizing and analyzing the policing in Albania.
Oversight of the police is ensured through parliamentary instruments such as hearings and questions to the Minister of Interior, hearings with the Police Director and the establishment of inquiry committees. The committee has the right to summon Ministers at any time and request necessary explanations.
Despite the role of the CNS in exercising its oversight tasks, its authority appears to be undermined by political influences and affiliations. In the past year, the opposition objections and requests were not reflected, having been overwhelmed by the votes of the majority. Due to high political polarization and limited human resources, parliamentary role in the police oversight remains underdeveloped.
The Rules of Procedure provide the opportunity for the opposition to establish an inquiry committee. At the request of an opposition group, three inquiry committees were established for the purpose of monitoring police integrity for the period 2014-2016.
The inquiry committee on the staff turnover in the State Police, established in February 2014, failed to produce any results or any policy recommendations on improving the transparency and accountability of decisions in the police. This was mainly due to the fact that the CNS is currently understaffed.
The other inquiry committee was established to address the case of the electronic device “IMSI Catcher” at the State Police, alleged to have been used for illegal wiretapping of Albanian political opposition, government officials and embassies and diplomats of key partner nations in Tirana. CNS conducted hearings with the State Police Director and the Minister of Interior on the allegations concerning the electronic device “IMSI Catcher” at the State Police, alleged to have been used to illegally intercept communications.
After this affair, Albania’s general prosecutor launched a full investigation, which resulted in the suspension of the state police director Haki Cako from duty on the grounds of suspected of abuse of power and illegal wiretapping. Upon the decision of the Court of Appeals in July 2016, the Director of State Police resumed office.
In terms of the evaluation of police oversight, in 2015 CNS held only two hearing sessions with the Minister of Interior on the engagement of State Police structures, one concerning the Lazarat events where a person was shot dead and two others were wounded, and another on the measures used to fight terrorism.
The Parliament has renewed its website and has largely updated information on its activity. Since 2013 the Parliament has published three annual activity reports. No parliamentary reports from the earlier period are publicly available. However, the annual parliamentary reports could be further enriched with specific information on administrative and human resources of the MPs, the Assembly, and its organs.
The increased transparency of the Parliament’s work was highlighted in the 2016 European Commission Report for Albania. According to the report, additional transparency is needed at the committee level.
Parliamentary committees continued their consultations with relevant stakeholders, but improvements are required concerning early notification and follow-up. Compared to the Balkan region, the report on Parliamentary Openness Index 2016 ranks the Parliament of Albania fourth, after those of Montenegro, Serbia, and Croatia. The categories evaluated for this Index include transparency of parliamentary information, promoting a culture of parliamentary openness, and access to parliamentary information.
In theory, the current parliamentary regulations allow for a certain degree of police oversight. Although there has been some progress in the parliamentary openness to the public, the application of control mechanisms with regard to police, vague legal provisions, and the complex institutional setting also allow wide margins of discretion by the executive, thus hampering effective parliamentary control and oversight.
Related publication: “Assessment of Police Integrity in Albania”.