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Albania can do more to eliminate blood feuds and domestic violence, says UN expert on extrajudicial killings

TIRANA (23 February 2010) - The existence of a mentality which encourages blood feuds is a continuing concern in Albania, warned the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Philip Alston, on Tuesday at the end of a 9-day mission to the country, where he focused on blood feud killings and domestic violence*.
“Blood feuds killings – revenge killings by a victim’s family against the killer’s family – continue to have corrosive affects on society, especially the practice of self-isolation by families who fear revenge killings, and a still widespread belief in the justness of collective punishment of innocent family members,” said Alston.
“However, the number of blood feud has decreased significantly over the past 5 years. Civil society organisations and some media reports have clearly inflated the extent of blood feud killings,” the UN expert said. “While the true numbers are closer to those provided by the Government, official figures – especially relating to isolated children and families – are probably too low.”Alston urged the Government to conduct a survey and analysis of the blood feud phenomenon in Albania, and take greater steps to facilitate reconciliation between families. He emphasised the importance of education on human rights to address the root causes of blood feuds.
“Violence against women in Albania is pervasive,” said the Special Rapporteur, noting that at least 15 women were killed last year in domestic violence disputes, and a third of Albanian women report violence in the home.
“While the Government has adopted important initiatives to reduce the widespread violence against women in Albania, it must allocate funds for its programmes,” he said. “Much remains to be done to address the deep-seated patriarchal attitudes leading to violence.” Alston called upon the media to be more professional and responsible in its coverage of these issues.
During his mission, the independent expert mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, also looked into accountability issues related to the Gërdec explosion, killings after the Kosovo war, and communist-era abuses.
For some years there have been allegations that a few hundred people were tortured or killed in Albania in Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) camps. There are on-going investigations by the Council of Europe, the Serbian war crimes prosecutor, and the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX).
“None of the international efforts to investigate KLA abuses in Albania has received meaningful cooperation from the Government of Albania,” stated the expert. “The Government should do everything it can to facilitate an independent and objective investigation by the international entities investigating abuses.”The Special Rapporteur expressed concern that “Albania still has not comprehensively dealt with human rights abuses, including torture, disappearances and killings, committed during the Communist regime.” He recommended that the Government consider establishing a national commission to conduct independent and full investigations into Communist-era abuses, and that investigators have access to all secret-service files.
Finally, the UN expert expressed concern at the high levels of corruption in the criminal justice system. He noted that a key safeguard would be for the Government to legislate for judicial appointment criteria that would ensure an independent and qualified judiciary.
Alston commended the Albanian Government for its exemplary cooperation with his mission and noted the immense progress made in recent years.