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Albania: Arbitrary detention / Ill-treatment: Activists and supporters of opposition parties

, Index number: EUR 11/012/1996

In the run-up to national elections on 26 May 1996, there have been numerous reports that members of opposition parties, in particular the Socialist Party -formerly the Albanian communist party- have been arbitrarily detained and ill-treated by police. AI fears that this pattern of harassment may worsen in the final approach to the elections.

EXTERNAL AI Index: EUR 11/12/96
EXTRA 74/96 Arbitrary Detention / Ill-treatment 21 May 1996
ALBANIAActivists and supporters of opposition parties
In the run-up to national elections on 26 May 1996, there have been numerous
reports that members of opposition parties, in particular the Socialist Party
(SP) - formerly the Albanian communist party - have been arbitrarily detained
and ill-treated by police. These incidents have taken place within the context
of a series of measures by the government of the ruling Democratic Party aimed
at hindering the activity of opposition parties during the election campaign.
Amnesty International fears that this pattern of harassment may worsen in the
final approach to the elections.
Opposition activists have been arrested and detained, usually for several hours,
but sometimes longer, after pasting up posters or photographs of Fatos Nano,
the imprisoned SP leader, or writing slogans on walls. Others have been detained
prior to and during election rallies. In some cases they have been beaten and
injured by police officers.The following are just some of the incidents that
have been reported in the press.
On 21 April 1996, Bilal Semanaj, an SP supporter, was detained at an SP rally
in Tirana. This was allegedly the ninth time he had been detained since July
1993 when he took part in a protest demonstration against the imprisonment
of Fatos Nano.
On 29 April, SP activists Sotir Meçe, Agim Sulmina, Kristaq Hanxhara and Mehemet
Bozi were detained in Elbasan for several hours after police tore down SP posters
they had posted up.
On 4 or 5 May, Bashkim Kamberi, a leading activist of another opposition party,
the National Unity Party, was arrested at night at his home and held for several
hours.
On 6 May, at least seven SP activists were arrested in Kurbin where an SP rally
was being held. They were detained for up to 13 hours and several were severely
beaten by police, among them Gjokë Lulashi, Petraq Kumaraku and Marash Marashi.
Marash Marashi claimed that police had beaten him about the head, legs and
shoulders, with rubber truncheons and when they released him had told him:
"Don't let us see you any more at SP meetings."
On 9 May Iliaz Labi, Alfred Dhuli and Aliosha Qamaj, local leaders of the Albanian
Eurosocialist Forum were detained in Durrës. Aliosha Qamaj was reportedly
ill-treated by police and has filed a complaint, supported by a medical
certificate, against two police officers.
On 16 May five members of a third opposition party, the Democratic Alliance
Party, were detained in Tirana after a rally. The party alleged that on this
occasion a police chief had punched and hit one of them, Ridvan Peshkepia,
after he asked why police were searching their cars and not allowing them to
leave. Police have denied these allegations.
On 20 May, Saimir Xhuglini, Lame Lamaj and Lulzim Masha, three leading members
of the Albanian Eurosocialist Forum, were severely beaten by police in Tirana
while they waited for the start of a rally. Some 20 youths who wanted to attend
the same rally were reportedly detained by police.
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BACKGROUND INFORMATION
The ruling Democratic Party came to power in Albania in March 1992 and has
introduced major legislative and other reforms. While it has justifiably
condemned the brutal repression of the previous communist rule in Albania,
it has nonetheless itself been intolerant of opposition and criticism. Fatos
Nano, SP leader, was arrested in 1993 and in 1994 sentenced to 12 years'
imprisonment on charges of embezzlement and falsification of official
documents. Amnesty International believes that these charges were not
substantiated by the evidence and were politically motivated. The organization
has called for his release (News Service 140/95, AI Index: EUR 11/10/95. The
leader of the National Unity Party, Idajet Beqiri, has been detained since
the end of January 1996 on charges of "genocide" and "crimes against humanity".
Amnesty International is concerned that he is not being granted a fair trial
in accordance with international standards and believes he may be a prisoner
of conscience.
Amnesty International has also expressed concern about the prosecution and
sometimes imprisonment of a number of opposition and independent journalists
in recent years. In June 1995 Amnesty International issued a report on Albania,
Failure to End Police Ill-treatment and Deaths in Custody (AI Index: EUR
11/04/95), which documented numerous cases in which police had ill-treated
detainees, often SP members or others who had criticized or opposed government
policies.
A local human rights organization, the Albanian Helsinki Committee has
reportedly urged police to keep out of politics and put greater effort into
preserving public order. In a published statement it said, "In many towns
and villages legal activities..., especially of the opposition, have been
hampered."
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/airmail
letters in Italian, English, French or your own language:
- expressing concern about reports of the arbitrary arrest and, sometimes,
ill-treatment of opposition activists and supporters in the run-up to national
elections;
- referring to some or all of the cases described above, noting that these
are just illustrations of what appears to be a pattern of harassment of the
opposition;
- pointing out that such incidents violate provisions of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantee freedom of expression
and association and bans arbitrary detention and torture or other cruel, inhuman
or degrading treatment;
- urging that police officers and all law-enforcement officials be required
to respect Albania's international human rights commitments and that those
who fail to do so be duly disciplined or brought to justice.
APPEALS TO:
President of Albania
Dr Sali Berisha
President i Republikës
se Shqiperisë
Tirana, Albania
Faxes: +355 42 33761 or +355 42 28 8420
Telegrams: President Berisha, Tirana, Albania
Salutation: Dear President
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Minister of Public Order
Mr Agron Musaraj
Minister i Rendit Publik
Tirana, Albania
Telegrams: Minister i Rendit Publik, Tirana, Albania
Faxes: +355 42 33607
Salutation: Dear Minister
COPIES TO:
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Dr Alfred Serreqi
Minister i Punëve të Jashtme
Tiranë, Albania
Faxes: +355 42 32971
The Albanian Helsinki Committee
Komiteti Shqiptar i Helsinkit
Qendra Nderkombetare e kultures, Dhoma no.35
Bulevardi "Deshmoret e kombit"
Tirana, Albania.
and to diplomatic representatives of Albania accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 18 June 1996.

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