|Sunday, 25 February 2024
ALBANIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE: FEBRUARY 1995
Albania continued to struggle in its efforts to establish a democratic society. A new draft constitution was defeated in a referendum in November with little hope that another version could be approved before year's end. Pending a new constitution, the Law on Major Constitutional Provisions supplemented by the Law on Fundamental Freedoms and Human Rights serves in its place. President Sali Berisha, elected by Parliament in 1992, continued his 5-year term presiding over a coalition government dominated by the Democratic Party. Parliament adopted a new civil procedures code and began consideration of draft penal and penal procedures codes. The Court of Cassation in June overturned the Minister of Justice's refusal to register the Democratic Party of the Right, thus providing for registration of a newly formed party of sharply differing views.
Local police detachments reporting to the Ministry of Interior (the Ministry of Public Order prior to December 1994) are responsible for internal security. Police effectiveness in combatting violent crime increased, but instances of police abuse continued. The National Intelligence Service (SHIK) has both domestic and external intelligence gathering and counterintelligence functions. There are rumors, but no evidence, that SHIK exceeded its mandate.
Albania is a poor country with a largely agricultural economy. Remittances from Albanians working abroad are the principal source of foreign exchange. The economy, in transition from a centrally planned to a market-oriented system, continued to improve as gross domestic product grew by over 8 percent. Privatization of small and medium enterprises continued at a slower pace than in 1993, but privatization of large enterprises continued to be hampered by a shortage of interested investors. Inflation dropped to an annual rate of around 18 percent, and unemployment remained at around 25 percent.
Significant human rights abuses remain. Police continue to beat detainees, sometimes causing deaths. Five police officers arrested for a fatal beating in 1993 were found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment (see Section 1.a.), but in several instances alleged abuses occurred without the perpetrators being punished. Ethnic tensions were exacerbated by the arrest of five members of the ethnic Greek political organization Omonia on charges of treason and illegal weapons possession and their sentencing to 6- to 8-year terms, which were subsequently reduced on appeal. Substantial procedural shortcomings marred their arrest, the search of their homes and offices, their detention, and their trial. The Government restricted freedom of the press by trying Albanian journalists for defaming public officials and for revealing alleged state secrets. The President later pardoned those journalists. Some restrictions remain on freedom of assembly and association. The ethnic Greek community continued to complain of discrimination, particularly in education and religious matters.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial KillingThere were no reports of political killings. In January Irfan Nano of Saranda died after police reportedly beat him while in custody. The Albanian Helsinki Committee (AHC) protested his death. Arrest warrants were issued for two police officers believed responsible, and the investigation was continuing at year's end. On November 23, Enrik Islami of Vlora died in police custody. Islami had reportedly been in prison for 17 months pending trial for murder. The Vlora prosecution opened an investigation into Islami's death, but no arrests have been made. Five police officers, accused of fatally beating David Leka while in custody in August 1993, were found guilty and sentenced to from 1 to 11 years in prison.
b. DisappearanceThere were no reported disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or PunishmentThe Penal Code prohibits the use of physical or psychological force during criminal proceedings and provides penalties for those found guilty of abuse. During September, the AHC investigated complaints of mistreatment while in custody of Jani Stefan Magllara in Saranda and Osman Curciali in Tirana. The Minister of Public Order claimed that, in both cases, the police sought to detain them in connection with specific crimes. When they forcibly resisted detention, police used force against them. Curciali filed a complaint of police brutality, and the prosecutor opened an investigation, which was continuing at the end of the year. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, and others protested the October 14 and 15 beatings of three members of the Gay Albania Society. The three were detained for allegedly engaging in homosexual acts, a practice which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison under the Penal Code. One of the three detainees was beaten severely enough to require hospitalization. The Interior Ministry stated that no complaints of mistreatment were filed in this case and therefore it initiated no investigation. On October 20, the AHC protested the mistreatment of six members of the Keci family, three of them women, in police custody in the town of Fushe-Kruja on October 17. One of the men was reportedly beaten severely enough to require hospitalization. The Interior Ministry reported that no complaints of mistreatment were received and it undertook no investigation.
Four of the five ethnic Greek members of Omonia stated that, during their detention before their trial for treason, authorities subjected them to physical and psychological pressure, including beatings, sleep deprivation, hate speech, and threats of torture. The Government rejected their claims (see Section 1.e.).
Albanian prison conditions do not meet internationally accepted standards. Of particular concern is the incarceration of minor suspects and convicts (under the age of 18) with older inmates and resulting allegations of sexual abuse of minors by older prisoners. There are no statutes which define the rights or obligations of prisoners or the rules governing prisoners' behavior. The AHC, which monitors prison conditions and reports on them to its parent organization, also noted that hygienic conditions in the prisons are extremely poor and prisoners often experience difficulties receiving visitors, mail, and newspapers. The AHC deemed none of these problems life-threatening.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or ExileAccording to the Penal Code, a prosecutor or police officer may order a suspect into "custody." Those in custody may leave their residences only with the approval of the prosecutor. All accused persons must be informed of the charges against them at the time of detention and have the right to legal counsel, which will be provided free of charge if they are unable to afford a private attorney.
Bail, in the form of money or property, may be required if it is believed the accused may not appear for the court hearing. If the prosecutor fears that the accused may leave Albania prior to trial or is a danger to society, he may order an arrest. Many suspects remain in jail until their trial date, which, due to the backlog of cases and shortage of attorneys, is often longer than 3 months.
Within 24 hours of arrest, the police must send a report to the prosecutor on the evidence linking the suspect to the crime. The prosecuting attorney has 48 hours within which to decide whether to go to trial or to order the person's release. Either the defendant or counsel has the right to appeal the arrest ordered by the prosecutor in the court of first instance. The hearing must be held within 7 days of the arrest in the presence of the prosecutor, the defendant, and the defense counsel. There is no appeal of the court's decision in this matter.
In practice, the above procedures are often not followed. Detainees in criminal cases are often denied contact with their families during the investigative phase, which, due to a heavy caseload and the lack of trained investigators, may last several months. The five ethnic Greeks arrested and tried for treason all complained of lack of access to their families for the first 3 months of the 4-month investigation. The serious procedural effects noticed in the Omonia case may well reflect a pattern of judicial weakness which also affects ethnic Albanians. The AHC also investigated complaints that some prisoners continued to be held virtually incommunicado even after they were convicted in court and that the courts often failed to respect the right of those arrested to appeal their arrest and receive a hearing within 7 days of the arrest.
The Albanian system of justice does not employ exile as a form of punishment or political control.
e. Denial of Fair Public TrialThe lack of a new penal code and constitution resulted in continued reliance on a patchwork of changes to Communist-era laws, in uneven application of the laws, and, together with procedural irregularities, sometimes in denial of fair trial. The judicial system comprises the courts of first instance (also known as district courts), the Court of Appeals, and the Court of Cassation. Each of these courts is divided into three jurisdictions: criminal, civil, and military. The Court of Cassation (also known as the High Court or Supreme Court) hears appeals from the Court of Appeals, while the Constitutional Court reviews those cases requiring interpretation of constitutional legislation.
Parliament has the authority to appoint or dismiss judges of the Constitutional Court (nine members) and the Court of Cassation (seven members). The Supreme Judicial Council, which is headed by the President of the Republic, appoints and dismisses all other judges. Judges have lifetime appointments and may be relieved of their duties only upon conviction for a serious crime.
Prosecutors also serve at the pleasure of the Supreme Judicial Council. Many judges and prosecutors who held ranking positions during the previous regime have been removed.
The Law on Major Constitutional Provisions provides that a trial must be held in public, unless it might divulge national security information, disrupt public order, or prejudice the "best interests of minors, private parties, and justice." If convicted, the accused has the right to appeal the decision within 5 days to the Court of Appeals and again to the Court of Cassation, which renders the final verdict. The law does not specify any time period within which the Court of Appeals or the Court of Cassation must hear appeals.
The arrest, investigation, and trial of the five ethnic Greek members of Omonia did not conform to internationally accepted standards. It is not clear that Ministry of Public Order officials had proper warrants authorizing the searches of the homes and offices of the Omonia members incident to their detention on April 18. None of the arrestees had access to legal counsel during their initial detention. Once arrested, only one of the arrestees had immediate access to a lawyer during the subsequent investigative phase. The Government claims to have written waivers of the right to counsel from the other arrestees. In fact, the four other arrestees were not represented by counsel during the major part of the investigation, and one was not represented until immediately before the trial.
During the trial, defendants and their lawyers were required to testify before any other witnesses were called. Although this is permissible under Albanian law, it may have prejudiced the defendants' right to a presumption of innocence and avoidance of self-incrimination. The court admitted the written testimony of several witnesses who, despite the requests of defense lawyers, did not appear in court, thus denying the defendants the opportunity to confront them. The Government denied assertions made by several of the defendants at their trial that their statements during the investigation had been coerced by torture or the threat of torture. To discredit defense claims of coercion, the prosecution introduced videotapes of the defendants secretly made during the investigation. The judges, defendants, defense attorneys, prosecutors, and selected Albanian journalists were the only ones permitted to view them. Neither the Government nor the prosecution made any further attempt to investigate allegations of mistreatment. At the end of 1994, the AHC published a declaration critical of procedural irregularities in the trial. Despite charges of ethnic discrimination in the case of the ethnic Greek Omonia members, the legal system does not discriminate systematically against minorities or women. The serious procedural defects noticed in the Omonia case amy well reflect a pattern of judicial weakness which affects ethnic Albanians as well. The AHC also noted procedural irregularities in the trial of former Prime Minister Fatos Nano.
The AHC does not claim that the Government holds any political prisoners. Some members of the former Communist regime, convicted on charges of enriching themselves at public expense, corruption in the performance of their duties, or ordering border forces to kill Albanians attempting to flee the country, are serving prison sentences. The opposition Socialist Party claims that former Prime Minister Fatos Nano, convicted of corruption in handling humanitarian assistance from Italy, is a political prisoner. They base this claim on procedural irregularities which occurred during the investigation and trial.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or CorrespondenceThe Law on Major Constitutional Provisions states that Albania guarantees "the human rights and fundamental freedoms as accepted in international documents." The Law on Fundamental Freedoms and Human Rights addresses protections associated with privacy, family, home, and correspondence.
Although Article 16 provides for protection of the home from arbitrary entry or search, the Penal Code permits warrantless searches for weapons. Article 17 calls for privacy of correspondence except "for a judgment in the interest of criminal proceedings or by the approval of a competent government body, assigned by law, in cases where it (encroachment) is considered indispensable for reasons of national security."
The Government is considering plans to open and examine the files of the Sigurimi (the former secret police of the Communist regime), but no legislation has been passed, and the files remain under the control of the SHIK. Senior government officials have indicated that not all files are intact and some may have been tampered with in the final days of the Communist regime. The AHC is concerned that information from the files may have been used for political purposes and protested the lack of legislation on their disposition.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and PressThe 1993 Law on Fundamental Freedoms and Human Rights provides for freedom of speech and press, but laws on slander, insult, and protection of state secrets were used to prosecute persons for criticism of the Government. In practice, freedom of speech, including freedom to criticize the Government and government officials, was sometimes restricted.
A 1993 press law sets out large fines for publishing material that the Government considers secret or sensitive, permits confiscation of printed matter or property by judicial order, and allows for criminal punishment under certain circumstances yet to be defined by the Penal Code. The media and the AHC continue to denounce this law. While several Albanian journalists were arrested and tried under slander and libel laws, none was prosecuted under the 1993 press law. No law governs electronic media.
The Government took legal action against four journalists in 1994. Martin Leka and Aleksander Frangaj, reporter and editor respectively of the opposition newspaper Koha Jone, were arrested in January after Koha Jone published a classified order prohibiting military officers from carrying their sidearms while off-duty. Leka and Frangaj were prosecuted under the penal code article concerning protection of state secrets. The court sentenced Leka to 18 months in prison, while Frangaj was found not guilty; the prosecution appealed, and Frangaj was subsequently sentenced to 5 months in prison. In addition, two other journalists from opposition papers, Illyrian Zhupa from Populli Po and Shyqyri Meka from Aleanca, were arrested for libel. President Berisha pardoned all four on May 3. An appeals court later declared Frangaj and Leka not guilty.
Opposition parties, independent trade unions, and various societies and groups publish their own newspapers. Some 250 newspapers and magazines appear on a regular basis. Three newspapers in the Greek language are published in southern Albania.
Foreign journalists encountered difficulties in Albania in 1994. Several Greek and Cypriot journalists covering the trial of the five members of Omonia in August were expelled from Albania for "improper documentation," having entered Albania as tourists, not journalists. Plainclothes police subjected other Greek journalists to petty harassment, and Greek television journalists were not permitted to film the Omonia trial sessions, while Albanian television taped the entire trial.
Only state-run radio and television provide domestic programming, but many municipalities offer locally fed international programs via satellite.
Since November 1991, Parliament has exercised direct control over television, delegating some oversight duties to an Executive Committee of Radio and Television, which it appoints. The Executive Committee, comprised of 11 members from outside Parliament, meets occasionally to review programming and the content of news broadcasts. Opposition critics of the Government continued to allege that television serves the interest of the ruling Democratic Party. State television's portrayal of the events outside the courthouse during the Omonia trial, including police use of force against Greek journalists and lawyers, was misleading since it created the false impression that the police were violently provoked. Opposition parties claimed that some controversial interviews and programs, including rebroadcast segments of the Voice of America, were not aired, reportedly at the request of political and governmental leaders. Local radio in southern Albania broadcasts some Greek-language programming, with its content translated directly from Albanian-language reporting. The AHC continued to express concern over the lack of legislation covering electronic media ownership and broadcasting.
The Government did not infringe academic freedom.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and AssociationWhile the Government generally respected the rights of freedom of peaceful assembly and association, in some instances local officials denied these rights, particularly to members of the ethnic Greek minority. Police sometimes used excessive force in breaking up protests.
In order to hold a public rally, an organization must apply for a permit from local authorities and provide copies of all speeches to be delivered and slogans to be used in the course of the meeting. The authorities generally grant requests for meetings, although police sometimes require a change of date or venue. There were no reports of arrests of persons attending authorized meetings in 1994, but several ex-members of the security services were detained and fined for an unauthorized demonstration outside the Court of Cassation.
The Albanian Autocephalous Orthodox Church requested permission to hold a religious procession near the center of Tirana on the feast of Good Friday during Orthodox Easter. The Ministry of Public Order initially denied the request, claiming that it could not ensure security for such a procession and that the procession's proposed route would disrupt a major traffic artery. Following protests by the Orthodox Church and the Government of Greece, the Ministry approved a later procession for Easter Sunday. A request by ethnic Greeks in the southern Albanian town of Gjirokaster to assemble to celebrate the Greek national day holiday on March 25 was refused by local public order officials. The Ministry later replaced the chief of police for Gjirokaster, reportedly in part for his refusal to permit the meeting.
In two incidents, police reportedly used force to control or detain demonstrators. In August police forcibly removed several members of the Association of Former Political Prisoners and Formerly Persecuted Persons from the premises of commercial establishments in Durres where they were conducting a hunger strike, causing several injuries. The AHC protested the use of excessive force to remove the hunger strikers but did not contest the court order that declared the hunger strike illegal. On August 15, police broke up a demonstration by a group of about 100 Greek lawyers, journalists, and ethnic Greek citizens of Albania outside the courthouse in which five ethnic Greeks were being tried on treason charges and detained 20 lawyers and journalists. During this action, independent human rights observers witnessed police severely beating at least one person who was offering no resistance.
Any organization, including a political party, must apply to the Ministry of Justice for official certification; it must declare an aim or purpose that is not anticonstitutional or contrary to law; and it must describe its organizational structure and account for all public and private funds it receives. The Ministry of Justice denied certification to the Democratic Party of the Right and the Social Justice Party in 1994, claiming that their positions on the complete return of property to former landowners was anticonstitutional. In both cases, the Constitutional Court reversed the Justice Ministry's decision and permitted certification of those parties.
c. Freedom of ReligionFreedom of religion has been established both in theory and practice.
The majority of Albanians are secular in orientation, after 40 years of rigidly enforced atheism. The largest religious group are Muslims, who follow a moderate form of Sunni Islam. The Roman Catholic and Albanian Autocephalous Orthodox Churches are the other large denominations. The Albanian Orthodox split from the Greek Orthodox earlier in the century. Priests from Greece augment the indigenous clergy of the Albanian Orthodox Church to serve Greek-speaking congregations, primarily in southern Albania. A seminary training priests for the Albanian Orthodox Church graduated 30 new priests in 1994. Foreign clergy, including Muslim clerics and Christian missionaries, freely carry out religious activities.
A Secretariat of Religions within the Ministry of Culture oversees the activities of the religious communities. Some questions concerning property confiscated by the Communist regime from religious organizations have yet to be resolved. Most religious buildings and many religious objects have been restored to the religious communities which formerly owned them. In some instances, however, the full restitution of real property would displace thousands of residents from their present-day homes located on lands formerly belonging to religious organizations. Pending legislation on religious property, the Government treats all religious communities the same as other former owners of large properties, who, according to the 1991 law on property, are not guaranteed full restitution of lands. In addition, a number of religious objects and icons have not been returned to religious communities, especially the Albanian Orthodox Church, and remain in state hands. The Government indicated its willingness to return these objects once the religious communities can assure their security as cultural objects of value to the entire nation. The Albanian Orthodox Church claimed that it already had the means to protect these objects better than the Government and continued to demand their return.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and RepatriationThere are no longer any restrictions on freedom of movement within the country. Albanian-born citizens of all foreign countries are eligible to apply for dual citizenship.
Since the downfall of the Communist regime, hundreds of thousands of economic migrants have left Albania. Albanians who fled the country during the Communist dictatorship have been welcomed back, and their citizenship has been restored.
There was no significant influx of refugees in 1994. A small number of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, Serbia, fled to Albania to avoid the draft.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their GovernmentThe Law on Major Constitutional Provisions states that citizens have the right to change their government "by free, general, equal, direct, and secret ballot." International observers judged the national elections in March 1992 to have been free and fair. The next elections are not required before 1996. Independent observers of local elections in June in several towns noted some irregularities in the composition of election committees and the registration of voters. They also cited several examples of improper behavior at polling places by ruling and opposition party members but did not call the election results into question.
The 1992 Law on Political Parties bars the formation of parties on an ethnic or religious basis. The Unity for Human Rights Party, founded by ethnic Greeks, won a majority of elected positions in parts of three southern Albanian districts (Saranda, Gjirokaster, and Delvina). There are six ethnic Greek members of Parliament, two of whom represent the Unity for Human Rights Party.
There are no legal impediments to the participation of women in politics or government, although to date few women have competed for elective office, and only eight women serve in Parliament, reflecting the traditional male-dominated society. In the Government, 2 Deputy Ministers and 7 of the 140 members of Parliament are women.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human RightsThe Albanian Helsinki Committee (AHC), the major human rights watchdog organization, took an active role in defending human rights in certain areas, particularly the rehabilitation of former political prisoners, support for freedom of the press, and protests against police abuses. It was criticized, however, by the International Helsinki Federation and individual Helsinki representatives from other countries for a lack of aggressiveness and perceived close association with the ruling Democratic Party. In October the AHC replaced key officers in scheduled elections. In response to a specific criticism, it began investigating the human rights situation of the ethnic Greek minority in Albania. In 1994, it also addressed the issues of former Sigurimi (secret police) files, judicial protection for citizens, and prison conditions. The AHC's work was impeded by a lack of basic equipment, including computers, copiers, and especially, usable vehicles. An independent Albanian group, Society for Democratic Culture, monitored local elections and the constitutional referendum and continued its efforts in civic education and women's issues.
Delegations from the International Helsinki Commission, the Council of Europe, and the Office of the High Commissioner for National Minorities of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) made several visits to Albania in 1994, during which they conferred with political officials and representatives of the ethnic Greek minority and visited prisons, hospitals, and other state facilities. The High Commissioner was permitted unmonitored access to five ethnic Greek members of Omonia in prison prior to their trial on treason and weapons charges. Observers from several human rights organizations were permitted to monitor that trial in August and September. The Government did not penalize or repress human rights observers or their contacts for their work in Albania.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
WomenThe Law on Major Constitutional Provisions does not address women's rights. Women are not restricted, either by law or practice, from any occupations but do not typically rise to the top of their fields. While no data are available on whether women receive equal pay for equal work, public sector wage scales are based on rank and duties, not sex. Women's groups did not complain of wage discrimination in the large public sector. According to government statistics, 21 percent of judges and 22 percent of medical personnel in Albania are women. Although women have equal access to higher education, they are not accorded full, equal opportunity and treatment with men in their careers, due to the persistence of traditional male-dominated values.
Domestic violence undoubtedly exists, but no statistics are kept. Women's organizations believe that domestic violence against women is common, particularly in poor, rural families and in poorly educated urban families. Police are seldom called to intervene in cases of family abuse, and women almost never bring charges against spouses. The major political parties have women's organizations. Two independent women's rights organizations operate freely and are dedicated to educating Albanian women about their rights, providing counseling services, and monitoring draft legislation.
ChildrenThe Government's commitment to children's rights and welfare is based on domestic law and international agreements. Governmental and nongovernmental organizations have not identified child abuse as a problem.
National/Racial/Ethnic MinoritiesWhile no recent official statistics exist regarding the size of various ethnic communities in Albania, ethnic Greeks are the most organized and receive the most attention and assistance from abroad. The size of the ethnic Greek minority is in dispute; some estimate that there around 80,000 ethnic Greeks residing in Albania, out of a total population of about 3.4 million. Vlach (Romanian-speaking) leaders claim their community numbers close to 300,000, although this is unlikely. Small ethnic Macedonian villages exist in the northeast part of the country. The number of Roma in Albania is estimated at around 100,000.
The CSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities visited Albania four times in 1994, traveling to the areas of greatest ethnic Greek minority concentration three times. In response to his 1993 recommendation, the Government in January created a special Office for Minority Affairs in the Office of the Prime Minister. The Special Advisor for Minority Affairs coordinated legislation affecting minorities, including a new directive on education published in August.
Greek-language education remained the single most important concern of the ethnic Greek minority. In the summer of 1994, the Government published a new directive that mother-tongue education be integrated in bilingual schools in areas where a significant percentage of the population belongs to a minority. It also calls for supplementary instruction in the mother tongue in other areas where a smaller number of minority students are found. Parents may request establishment of new classes taught in the mother tongue, but the Ministry of Education must give its approval.
Forty-six primary schools and the same number of 8-year schools in the districts of Gjirokaster, Delvina, and Saranda provide bilingual education to approximately 4,500 ethnic Greek students. In addition, bilingual education is provided to approximately 500 students in ethnic Macedonian villages. A Greek-language high school operates in Gjirokaster, and the Eqerem Cabej University of Gjirokaster has had a department of Greek studies since 1993, with a total of 30 available places in 1994. The curriculum in Greek-language classes is the Albanian state program translated into Greek, taught by ethnic Greek instructors, and using Albanian textbooks translated into Greek and published in Greece.
Roma were subject to particularly harsh official persecution during the Communist dictatorship. Their leaders state that the situation of the community greatly improved with the advent of democratic government. They had no complaints of either official or societal discrimination. The community publishes a monthly newspaper in both the Albanian and Roma languages. No specific violence is known to have been directed against them in 1994.
People with DisabilitiesWidespread poverty and the poor quality of medical care account for a high number of disabled persons. Disabled persons are eligible for various forms of public assistance, but budgetary constraints limit the amount of assistance. The public care section of the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, established in 1993, has set up a network of social service administrators throughout the country with a goal to improve the quality of services to disabled persons and promote social integration rather than institutionalization. There is no law mandating accessibility to public buildings.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of AssociationWorkers obtained the right to create independent trade unions in 1991. The Independent Confederation of Trade Unions of Albania (BSPSH) acts as the umbrella organization for a number of smaller unions. A separate, rival federation continued to operate in close cooperation with the Socialist Party. There are also some independent unions not affiliated with either federation. The private sector employs more than 650,000 Albanians, mostly in agriculture, small shops, enterprises, and restaurants, but very few have formed unions to represent themselves.
According to the Law on Major Constitutional Provisions, all workers, with the exception of uniformed military, police, and some court employees, have the right to strike. The law forbids strikes that are openly declared to be political, or so judged by the courts. Several local strikes took place in 1994. All were deemed legal, and none resulted in violence or police action.
Labor federations are free to maintain ties with international organizations.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain CollectivelyCitizens in all fields of employment, except uniformed members of the armed forces, police officers, and some court employees, have the right to organize and bargain collectively. In practice, unions negotiate directly with the Government, since little privatization has occurred outside of the retail and agricultural sectors.
Wages for all state employees are defined by the wage pyramid, legislated in 1992, which comprises 22 wage levels organized by trade.
There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory LaborThe Law on Major Constitutional Provisions prohibits forced labor, and there were no cases of forced labor reported.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of ChildrenThe Law on Major Constitutional Provisions sets the minimum age for employment at 14 years, and persons between the ages of 14 and 16 may work only 5 hours per day. Working conditions for those over 16 are not currently legislated but are covered in the draft labor code. The Ministry of Labor, Social Welfare, and Formerly Persecuted Persons enforces the minimum age requirement through the courts. In rural areas, children continue to be called on to assist families with farm work.
e. Acceptable Conditions of WorkThe minimum wage for all workers over age 16 is approximately $27 (2,400 lek) per month, which is not sufficient to sustain a family with one or more children. Most workers must find second part-time jobs to supplement their incomes. Current law guarantees social assistance (income support) and unemployment compensation. The average monthly wage for Albanian workers in the public sector is about $50 (4,500 lek). No data are available for private sector wages, but the average wage is thought to be higher in the private sector than in the public sector.
The workweek in state-owned enterprises is 40 hours. Other workers are limited by law to a 40- to 48-hour workweek, and the Council of Ministers must approve exceptions. The Ministry of Labor enforces this law.
The Government sets occupational health and safety standards but has no funds to make improvements in state-owned industries. In those enterprises which are functioning, health and safety conditions are generally very poor.