Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review
2 December 2009 (afternoon)
For use of information media; not an official record
The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Albania this afternoon, during which forty-seven Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.
Presenting the national report of Albania was GENC POLLO, Minister for Reforms and Relations to the Parliament, who said Albania's example was perhaps the clearest case indicating that the shift from a closed totalitarian into an open democratic society was associated with a major and positive release of energies by each individual in the political, economic and social area; therefore it was difficult to draw parallels with the experience of other countries. The Government was committed to the idea that the observance and improvement of human rights and fundamental freedoms constituted the only way for countries that had pinned their hopes on a better future. The adoption of the Constitution in 1998 marked a significant juridical-institutional development for human rights in Albania.
The right to life, freedom of expression, freedom of press, to information, freedom of consciousness and religion, personal freedom, to privacy and other rights represented today in Albania the underlying safeguards of a legal and institutional system which upheld human rights. The possibility for individuals to be organised and to establish political parties constituted one of the basic freedoms which distinguished a genuine democratic from a dictatorial society. However, the right was not limitless; these restrictions made political rights and freedoms even more effective, bringing them into line with the standards of democratic states.
Apart from in the courts, at all levels, a special place in upholding human rights was played by the Constitutional court. In over ten years of activity, the Ombudsman institution was confirmed as a fundamental element of the human rights infrastructure. The transition from a dictatorial to a democratic society had been relatively long in Albania. Corruption, as a typical phenomenon for all post-communist societies, had also affected the country for years, and the Government was convinced that it could be successfully combated only through vigorous legal and organisational measures, and the preparation of a plain and clear strategy on combating corruption had already yielded its own fruits.
During the three-hour interactive discussion, delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included the existence of several human rights institutions, which demonstrated the Government's commitment to the cause of human rights; the Government's stance on domestic violence and the measures adopted which had proved effective; that more than two hundred criminal groups had been dismantled, guilty, inter alia, of smuggling of persons; the legislative reform which would help reinforce the enabling environment for the enjoyment of all fundamental human rights; Albania's adherence to a wide range of international Covenants and Conventions and its laudable cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; and efforts made to enhance the efficiency of the civil service, which was a primary condition for improving standards and practices including in the field of human rights.
Issues and questions raised by the Working Group, comprised of the 47 members of the Council, and Observers participating in the interactive discussion related to, among other things, that Albania should share its knowledge acquired on dealing with problems such as trafficking in humans; issues related to land ownership; what measures had been taken according to the recommendations of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Committee in order to ensure equality between men and women and remove traditional inequalities; what measures had been adopted by the Government to put an end to the practice of torture and what effect had these had; whether Albania was considering becoming party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and what had been the main steps in protecting and ensuring the rights of the child, and the rights of minorities.
A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These
included: that Albania take concerted steps to ensure the independence of the judiciary and adopt the necessary reforms to ensure the effectiveness of the judicial system, including through stratagems to reduce corruption; that the Government accelerate its efforts to adopt anti-discrimination and children laws; the establishment of a National Human Rights Institution in line with the Paris Principles; the need for effective measures to ensure the emancipation of women in particular in rural areas; the need to adopt better targeted measures to address domestic violence; that there be comprehensive reform of the penitentiary system; that greater efforts be made to implement the Action Plan to improve the living conditions of minorities, especially the Roma; to consider issuing a standing invitation to the United Nations human rights special procedures; and to continue and strengthen policies to combat all forms of discrimination and establish a legal framework to combat domestic violence.
Other recommendations included: to strengthen its policy for the protection of the rights of the child, including the worst forms of child labour; to consider fostering policies and combating child trafficking and define the crimes of the sale of children and child pornography; what were the measures taken to prevent and punish all acts of torture and/or cruel and degrading treatment, and what were the steps taken by the Government to ensure that impunity did not prevail in this regard; that the national Council for Disability Matters intensify special measures to improve access to services by disabled persons especially in rural areas; the need for more social-awareness campaigns on such matters as gender and sexual violence with special elements on gender identity; and to continue the efforts to ensure full respect for freedom of expression and of the press in accordance with Albania's international obligations.
Responding to questions and issues raised, Mr. Pollo said that with regards to domestic violence, a law on gender equality was adopted in 2008, with immediate impact increasing the number of women Members of parliament by sixteen per cent. The adoption of the law against domestic violence in 2006 was also a welcome initiative by civil society which gained Parliamentary support, and there were a number of reports of cases which had been considered before the Courts. Corruption was a curse on human rights, as it impeded the weak and the poor, and the Government had demonstrated an iron will to eradicate this phenomenon with a clear and fully-fledged strategy with an Action Plan and the evaluation of that Action Plan. The delegation said that Albania had recognised trafficking as a phenomenon, and had amended the Criminal Code to be in conformity with international instruments to which it was a party. The phenomenon of exploitation of children for begging or forced labour was also punished. Any exercise of violence by police officers was punished by law, and the new law upheld the duty of the police to uphold authority, respect women's rights and freedoms, and prohibited the use of force and weapons by the police. The amount of overpopulation in prisons had been significantly reduced thanks to the application of the Probation Service Law. The Government had adopted a strategy to deal with the situation of the Rom in 2003, and its implementation had been monitored consistently. Albania accepted a number of the recommendations, Mr. Pollo said, and was open to visits by Special Rapporteurs and other special procedures to see the situation of human rights in the country.
Member States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were Belgium, Egypt, France, Brazil, Russian Federation, Chile, United States of America, Italy, Mexico, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Netherlands, Norway, Uruguay, China, Ukraine, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, United Kingdom, Slovakia, Kyrgyzstan, Senegal, Argentina, and Jordan.
Observer States participating in the discussion were Algeria, Canada, Turkey, Denmark, Bahrain, Czech Republic, Libya, Austria, Spain, Serbia, Sweden, Germany, Israel, Montenegro, Poland, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Morocco, Greece, Syria, Romania, Afghanistan, Latvia, Azerbaijan, and Malaysia.
The twenty-seven-person delegation of Albania consisted of representatives from the Permanent Mission of Albania to the United Nations Office at Geneva, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Council of Ministers, the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, the Ministry of the Interior, the National Accommodation Centre, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Education and Science, and the Ministry of Health.
The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Albania are United States of America, Mauritius, Russian Federation.
In accordance with its institution-building package, the three documents on which State reviews should be based are information prepared by the State concerned, which could be presented either orally or in writing; information contained in the reports of treaty bodies and Special Procedures, to be compiled in a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and information provided by other relevant stakeholders to the UPR including non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, human rights defenders, academic institutions and research institutes, regional organizations, as well as civil society representatives, also to be summarized by OHCHR in a separate document. The reports on Albania can be found here.
The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Albania on Friday 4 December.
During the meeting, the Working Group was also scheduled to adopt ad referendum the report of Cyprus. This was however postponed.
When the UPR Working Group continues its work tomorrow morning at 9 a.m., it will review the fulfilment of human rights obligations by the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Additional information on the Universal Periodic Review mechanism can be located at the UPR webpage - http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx.
To access the webcast for the UPR session please visit http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/index.asp