Few days ago, the High Judicial Council (HCJ) made public the new Judicial Map of Albania. This represents one of the most important documents for the justice system in Albania as it has a tremendous impact on the access that citizens will have to the justice system for at least the next 30-50 years. Among others, it directly affects the situation and development of the rights of children and young people in Albania and the approach that the new justice system should have towards one of the most vulnerable social groups in the country.
The Child Rights Centre Albania (CRCA / ECPAT Albania) has closely followed and participated in the consultations that the HJC has conducted regarding the distribution of the courts and prosecutor’s offices across Albania. At the same time, few months back, when the new map was publicised for the first time, together with a wide group of civil society organizations, we expressed our disagreement with the proposed document. Today we see that none of our concerns and recommendations were taken into consideration by the HJC.
In a functioning democracy, the justice system is set up and built to serve and protect the citizens. We are deeply concerned that both the HJC and its members have not taken into account any of the recommendations that have come from citizens. Moreover, these concerns have been made public for more than 6 months, which was more than enough time for the members of the HJC to respond to the requests and expectations of the citizens.
Albania comes from a long history of repression. For over 45 years the justice system was deprived of its independence while for the last 30 years the system was marred by extreme corruption and the control from the organized crime. The citizens of Albania crave for more justice – not less justice. This cannot be achieved by the newly approved map.
CRCA / ECPAT Albania, the leading child and youth rights organisation, today openly declares that it is against the new judicial map. In our view it denies and restricts access to justice for children and young people, while it undermines the new justice system. Some of our main arguments are:
The new judicial map has not been consulted with children and young people in Albania. It is neither friendly nor adapted to meet the needs of children and young people for access to justice.
The new map does not eliminate the errors identified within the justice system in Albania, at least during the last 30 years. It considers children and young people as objects of justice, but not as subjects with equal rights within the justice system;
The new court map leaves in oblivion and without an answer the protection of children victims of crime, exposing them to lack of access to the justice system, while continuing the violation of their rights for better protection and safety, guaranteed by the Constitution of Albania (special protection);
Finally, the new map leaves children and young people in Albania without child-friendly justice. Experts and child rights defenders for years have worked towards the establishment of Children and Youth Courts. The current system is not built with children and young people in mind, but neither is the newly proposed one, which will continue to violate their rights. The new map only further reinforces the establishment of an adult justice system that doesn’t have any consideration for the rights of children and youth.
Given this situation, CRCA / ECPAT Albania asks the High Judicial Council to reconsider its decision to approve the new court map. We will take all the necessary measures to ensure that this decision does not enter into force in the current state, as it seriously risks damaging the rights of children and young people in Albania.