Justice system in Albania shall urgently review judges' cases on custody of children!

Justice system in Albania shall urgently review judges' cases on custody of children!

The Albanian National Child Rights "Act for Children!" expresses its concerns over court orders that often endanger children when guardianship is given to irresponsible parents!

Tirana, June 26, 2018 - The Albanian National Child Rights Network through this public statement would like to express its concern on the latest case of domestic violence against children. The life of a 17-year-old adolescent in Berat was put in serious danger, which according to media reports, was held for 3 days isolated and bound by his father, who according to the residents was known to have mental health problems.

Three days ago in Berat, the police announced that they managed to stop the parent's violence against his 17-year-old son, who exercised physical and psychological violence on the adolescent. According to media reports the father had serious mental health problems, and after isolating and tying the boy inside their house, he also tried to hit police officers. Only the immediate intervention of the police forces resolved the situation and the adolescent was safely escorted outside his apartment. The adolescent’s father, who was divorced, had the custody of the 17-year-old boy. The circumstances surrounding the decision to grant the father the custody by Berat Judicial District Court are not yet fully known.

"Act for Children" network, through this public statement, asks the President of the Republic, Mr. Ilir Meta, in his capacity as the Chair of the High Council of Justice in Albania to address in the council this case urgently, and many other cases where custody of children and adolescents is given to violent parents, parents who exert to domestic violence, spouses that court orders prohibits them from meeting their spouses, or as in the latter case where the custody of the child has passed to a parent with mental health problems that could have seriously placed the child's right to life to danger.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) urges every State Party to take all possible measures to protect the right to life! The current case shows that the court in its decision has violated not only the Albanian constitution, but also the CRC. Given this very worrying situation, the Network asks and recommends to the President of the Republic the following:

  • The High Council of Justice (HCJ) shall launch an immediate and comprehensive trial review of the judge who issued the custody decision for the 17-year-old adolescent and the reasons that led to this decision;
  • HCJ shall investigate all the proceedings that were followed and the experts evaluation reports by the Berat Judicial District Court;

The HCJ should also answer the following questions:

  • Did the District Court of Berat know the state of mind of the father at the time they gave the custody decision?
  • Did the experts prepare objective and truthful reports, especially the psychologist, who in principle should have followed the case? How was the mental health condition of the parent at that time?
  • Did he appear in front of the court and did the court request a psychiatric assessment of the child's father?
  • Has there been any violation during the preparation of expert reports, especially the father’s psycho-social evaluation report?
  • If yes, has the Order of Psychologist been notified and were they asked to take measures towards the psychologist or revise his license;

In parallel with this, we cannot remain without expressing our huge concern on the lack of proper functioning of the child protection system at all its levels. In this regard we seek to have knowledge on the following issues:

  • Has the adolescent been put under protection and is he being provided with all the services required by law?
  • Has the Social Services of the Municipality of Berat filed an application with the Court for the removal of the parental responsibility and custody of the abusive father?
  • Have the Berat Child Protection Unit and the National Agency for Child Protection drafted and approved the Individual Plan for the adolescent protection?
  • Was the Child Protection Unit in the Municipality of Berat or Social Services ever notified or receive reports on father violent tendencies and the state of his mental health, before, during or after the court hearings? If yes, what happened to them?

Finally, we would like to congratulate the work and the actions of the National Police Authority in Albania, in their decided to intervene immediately to resolve the situation and take under their protection the adolescent.

Protecting children from violence is a legal duty for every public institutions in Albania. The justice system and courts across Albania cannot act in violation of the rights of the child. Their job is to protect children, their lives and their well-being!

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