During the last week, various civil society organizations have been following the protests of young people in Tirana and in the main cities of Albania after the tragic murder by a police patrol of an innocent citizen, Klodjan Rasha. The violent episodes that accompanied such protests and the institutional’s response and equally troubling of the national police. Based on the progress of these protests so far, we would like to share with the public the position that:
1. Albania needs civic actions whenever human rights are violated, whenever the authorities take action against them and whenever our constitutional and legal freedoms are questioned or put at test. The protest in a democracy is an irreplaceable instrument and we must express our gratitude to every conscientious citizen who uses this instrument in order to protect democracy, the rule of law and human rights. Although the Minister of Interior has resigned, the protests have not stopped and the acts of violence against public infrastructure, mainly from very young people continue. Peaceful and democratic protests have at times been accompanied by acts that go beyond the right to protest, as a result of the chaotic situations or other influences. But at their core, the protests have adhered to the well-known democratic practices, in the absence of a clear organizer and coordination between them. In addition to the spread of these protests in several major cities, there is a disproportionate reaction of law enforcement agencies, expressed in the use in all cases (at least in Tirana) of tear gas, high number of arrests after each protest, and a very large number of accompanied and detainees beyond the capacity of these institutions, significantly endangering the spread of Covid-19 among them; the exercise of physical and psychological violence against accompanied protesters, the non-notification of parents /taking of statements by them without the presence of the parents and / or the lawyer, the obstruction of the mass media to fulfill its duty to information and transparency.
Apart from the generally and arrogant reaction of the law enforcement agencies as a sign of nervousness towards the protesters, there are also cases of negligence in the performance of their duties from these bodies (such as the attack on the headquarters of a political party in Shkodra) or cases of unnecessary provocations (such as the case of the tear gas attack and mass arrests in closing the protest on Sunday night 13.12.2020) in Tirana. These cases prove the lack of professional ability of the security forces to prevent and manage such situations, as well as for politicisation or political use of the protest, but also for its violent means without analysing and addressing the real systemic, and internal causes that have prompted young people to take to the streets to protest.
2. The issue of the protesters' requests, in addition to the demanded resignation of the Minister of Interior, also include the request for the resignation of the General Director of the State Police and in some cases the resignation of Prime Minister.
3. So far, despite the government's accusations against the opposition for inciting and financing these protests and the latter's rejection of these accusations as an attempt to politicise the protest that obviously are directed against the government and relate to the general socio-economic situation that the country is going through, no clear group has taken responsibility in organising them. The direction and coordination at the time of the protests was done through social networks and media information. It is worth noting that national televisions, starting with public radio and television, have remained indifferent and have not covered in real time any of the protests so far.
4. The refusal of the Government on the serious issues raised by the protesters is a matter of concern, especially the part that, being young, are not voters of a certain political force, but are representatives of a generation that seeks an Albania that is better governed, that creates opportunities for education and employment in the country, without the need to immigrate to the world… Also, a serious, even international concern is the brutality of the police against journalists who in many cases have been prevented from practicing of their duty or have even been forcibly stopped by the law enforcement officers.
5. As civil society organizations, we strongly appeal to the responsible institutions: the Government, the Albanian Parliament, the public and national mass media as well as the public order and justice institutions for rigorous observance of the law, prudence and self-restraint in the exercise of violence against protesters, healthy public debate about concerns related to the democracy and the rule of law in our country articulated by protesters; for the strict observance of the legal framework in force for human rights starting with the right to life and including international conventions especially those for the protection of children and freedom of the mass media; for decision-making transparency based on the Constitution of the country and the laws in force and not under political pressure to arbitrarily calm the situation created by the protests; for transparency and professional communication with the public in response to the naturally growing interest of citizens in the fate of young people as the future of the country.
6. Unreservedly we support the legitimate right to peaceful protest of every citizen of Albania. We believe that the issues raised during a week of youth protests in Tirana and in other main cities across the country should become a subject of public political debate, and elections of 25 April 2021.
List of organizations supporting this Public Statement:
- Civil Rights Defenders
- Political Study Institute
- Albanian Media Council
- AlbanianHelsinki Committee
- Roma Youth Movement
- Minority Right’s activist
- Centre "Women in Public Service" / WPS Albania
- Child Rights Centre in Albania
- Res Publica Centre
- Albanian Centre for Economic Research
- TREJA CENTRE
- LGBT Alliance
- Voice Integration Centre
- Network of Young Professionals
- Useful to Albanian Women