Impunity persisted for past killings and enforced disappearances. Measures protecting women from domestic violence were inadequately implemented. Women and children were trafficked for forced prostitution and labour. Albania’s path to EU membership was hindered by slow progress in combating corruption and organized crime.
A political crisis preceded elections in June. The opposition Democratic Party, which organized street protests in February, boycotted the election process until May, when an EU and US-supported agreement promised them representation in government and state agencies. The ruling Socialist Party was returned with an increased majority. International observers reported incidents of voter intimidation and alleged vote-buying.
Under a new mechanism established in January, by August 183 people, including author Ismail Kadare, applied to access secret police files held on them during the Communist period. In September, the International Commission on Missing Persons agreed to assist with the identification of bodies recovered from mass graves from the same period.
Measures to ensure judicial independence were partially implemented. In June, two judicial associations appealed to the Constitutional Court against a vetting law, which sought to ensure judges’ and prosecutors’ independence from organized crime.
In a case brought before the European Court of Human Rights, in April the government agreed to reopen proceedings in the case of four protesters killed during January 2011 demonstrations. A total payment of just over EUR100,000 as a form of compensation was divided between relatives of two of the victims.
No measures were taken to locate the body of Remzi Hoxha, a Macedonian Albanian who was forcibly disappeared by National Intelligence Service officials in 1995. No progress was reported towards the exhumation of the remains of around 6,000 people who had disappeared between 1945 and 1991.
Freedom of expression − journalists
Physical attacks against investigative journalists were perpetrated by organized criminals, or owners of private companies. In March, journalist Elvi Fundo was beaten in the capital, Tirana, by assailants believed to be associated with organized crime. In June, TV channel owner Erven Hyseni was shot dead in Vlora, along with a government official.
In July, journalists claimed that defamation proceedings brought against two media outlets by High Court Judge Gjin Gjoni and his wife, businesswoman Elona Caushi, aimed to intimidate investigative journalists and encourage self-censorship.
Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people
In February two NGOs filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights, requesting an amendment to the Family Code which prohibits cohabitation rights for same-sex couples. An August survey found widespread discrimination in employment in both the public and private sectors.
In May, a UK court found that hundreds of lesbian and gay people, trafficking victims and domestic violence survivors may have been wrongly deported to Albania since 2011 because UK courts had relied on incorrect guidance. Some 4,421 Albanian asylum-seekers voluntarily returned from EU countries; 2,500 rejected asylum-seekers were deported from Germany.
Unaccompanied minors and families with children were sometimes detained in the Irregular Foreigners Centre at Karreç, a closed centre for irregular migrants due for deportation.
Economic, social and cultural rights
In September, 20 children’s NGOs protested against the abolition of the Labour and Social Welfare Ministry, which threatened to put social services at risk.
The Ministry of Urban Development reconstructed 300 Roma and Egyptian houses, and improved sanitation. However, most Roma lacked clean water and many were at risk of forced evictions.
Violence against women and girls
Reports of domestic violence increased; 420 immediate protection orders had been issued by 1 June. In August, Judge Fildeze Hafizi was shot and killed in her car by her former husband. She had been granted a protection order in 2015 after he had beaten her. He was convicted and imprisoned in April 2016, but released in early 2017 under a general amnesty.