This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.afp.al
By Eduard Zaloshnja
In my opinion and perhaps, in the opinion of the majority of Albanians, around 90% of politicians and senior officials of the Albanian state are corrupt. In other words, they belong in prison. But, in a democracy, people do not end up in prison based on opinions. The prosecution needs to gather evidence and based on evidence, which is tried by the court, it is proven beyond any reasonable doubt that the defendants are guilty.
In fact, according to opinion polls held prior to the start of the reform in justice, 90% of Albanians wanted a reformed justice system, which would put an end to the impunity of corrupt officials or those who have ties with crimes. And this result was constantly used as the main argument of western diplomats, who were also the main promoters of the judicial reform. According to them, Albanian democracy will not be ready to be part of the EU democracy if there’s no rule of law, which would put an end to the impunity of Albanian politicians and senior politicians.
Francis Fukyama has written two volumes, 500 pages each, about this (Political Order series). After analyzing different countries in the past 3000 years, the only conclusion that Fukyama reaches is that democracy can only flourish in countries where there is the rule of law (and not ruled through laws) and where state administration is built based on meritocracy. Otherwise, he writes, democracy is nothing else but a game between political parties whose goal is to come in power through elections and who exploit the concept of fatherland in favor of the leaders and militants that support them.
Fareed Zakaria has also written two books on this topic (Post-American World and Future of Freedom). He concludes that there can be liberal democracy only when the justice system is independent from the political power and when it serves for the purpose of check and balance against political and social excess. Otherwise, he writes, we will not have a liberal democracy.
Reflecting on the experience of the West there after the Dayton Agreement, Paddy Ashdown, former de facto governor of Bosnia wrote that the West spent a lot of money to develop political parties, civil society and free and fair elections in Bosnia. And it was successful in this. Political parties and NGOs were empowered and there were several free and fair elections, leading to power rotations in both central and local government. But corruption and organized crime grew from one year to another with the empowerment of political parties and NGOs and also with the rotation of power.
It would have been better, Ashdown writes, if we had spent a fraction of the money that we spent to prepare 10 prosecutors and 10 judges who were competent and honest, in order to fight corruption and organized crime. This way, we would have installed the foundations for a liberal democracy.
But, there haven’t only been books written on this topic. There has also been action. In countries such as Romania, Croatia, Bulgaria, Guatemala and Honduras, where the EU and/or USA have vital interests to build liberal democracies, the West has strongly contributed for the establishment of special investigation forces with the aim of sending behind bars high political figures, who are corrupt or have ties with organized crime. Based on this experience, USA and EU are insisting for this to take place in Albania.
Based on the experiences mentioned above, a new structure will be set up in Albania commonly known as SPAK or the Special Structure against Corruption and Organized Crime. This structure will be comprised of the Special Court (with 10 judges), the Special Prosecution (with 10 prosecutors) and the National Bureau of Investigation (with 80 investigators) assisting the Special Prosecution.
But, the trick is that SPAK’s judges and prosecutors will be selected by the Supreme Board of Judges and the Supreme Board of Prosecutors and among the members of these two important boards elected by Parliament through a draw (because no 94 votes could be secured), there are people who have either been initially disqualified beforehand by the International Monitoring Operation or they’ve participated in political processes during the communist regime.
These are signs that the majority is diverting from the path of western chancelleries in setting up the new structures of the justice system. Meanwhile, there are also other signs which show that the majority is considering the changes in the justice system as a chance to strike opposition figures and defend majority figures.
So, the key witness in Saimir Tahiri’s case was immediately extradited to Italy without asking the Prosecution of Serious Crimes, which was working in order for this witness that was arrested by it, to testify against Tahiri (his lawyer was insisting on his extradition…). On the other hand, the extradition of many people who have been declared wanted by other countries has been dragged and many of them roamed freely all over Albania
While the witness that would send Tahiri to prison was extradited out of Albania, a swift decision was taken to extradite the key witness who can take Sali Berisha and Shkelzen Berisha behind bars, Izet Haxhia, from Turkey to Albania. And it is not by chance that the Turkish state decided to extradite him (after 12 years from the first request made by the Albanian state), when our government granted a concession for the construction of the airport of Vlora to a Turkish consortium, known for its links with Erdogan’s son (Edi Rama was also invited in his wedding as guest of honor).
The latest arrests of several former officials of transport show that the “sword” of the new justice system aims at striking former opposition officials and not the majority’s officials. So far, we have only seen small time majority officials end up in prison.
As I said at the start of this article, 90% of Albanians want a reformed justice system, which will put an end to the impunity of corrupt officials or those who have ties with organized crime. This is what western chancelleries want too.
But, corrupt and incriminated people are not only found within the ranks of opposition…
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy