Domestic violence against women increased during lockdown. The Prime Minister threatened to use extraordinary powers to close media for “spreading panic” over COVID-19. Roma and LGBTI people continued to face discrimination.
Between 31 March and 23 June, Albania derogated from certain European Convention on Human Rights obligations in the name of containing COVID-19. Excessive measures were used to enforce the lockdown.
Violence against women and girls
Gender-based violence worsened during the lockdown. A women’s rights NGO reported a threefold annual increase in calls to the national Counseling Line for Women and Girls during the March-May period.
The sexual abuse of a 15-year-old girl by her school’s guard and three other men sparked public outrage in June. Hundreds protested gender-based violence in the capital, Tirana.
Freedom of expression
In March, the Prime Minister threatened media organizations with closure for “spreading panic” over COVID-19.
The authorities retracted a controversial anti-defamation law that threatened online media freedom.
In August, the authorities seized Ora News TV following an investigation into the owner’s assets. The media group remained operational.
Refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants
UN Rapporteurs expressed concern and the Ombudsman found serious human rights violations in Harun Çelik’s expulsion to Turkey on 1 January. Harun Çelik, a Turkish teacher linked to the so-called Gülen movement, had applied for asylum in Albania.
In April, Roma activists protested discrimination in the government’s allocation of financial emergency assistance that did not cover those working in the informal sector.
Parliament adopted amendments to the law on discrimination, significantly expanding the scope of groups covered by legal protection.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people
LGBTI people remained subject to widespread discrimination, including being denied the right to same-sex partnerships.
The Order of Psychologists prohibited its members from performing conversion therapy. The Ministry of Health banned medical intervention on newborn intersex children.
Excessive use of force
Activists protesting the demolition of the National Theatre in Tirana on 17 May faced disproportionate use of police force. Two journalists covering the protest were verbally assaulted and hit by police officers; one was temporarily detained.
Street clashes erupted in several cities following the shooting of a 25-year-old man by a police officer enforcing a COVID-linked curfew on 8 December. Two journalists covering the protests were detained and assaulted. The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights called on authorities to reverse blanket bans on freedom of assembly.