IBNA Interview/Manjani: Changes in penal policies reduce overpopulation of prisons

IBNA Interview/Manjani: Changes in penal policies reduce overpopulation of prisons

Talking to Independent Balkan News Agency, minister of Justice, Ylli Manjani comments on the recent developments in the process of the reformation in the justice system. Why does he think that the essence and what must be done to change the situation in the justice system in a positive way has not been grasped yet? The decision to write a  whole new Albanian Criminal Code and many other arguments that relate to the functioning of justice in the country

Tirana, 28 December 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Edison Kurani

The justice system is the topic of the day in Albania and it seems that it will continue to  be that way next year too. Talking to Independent Balkan News Agency, minister of Justice, Ylli Manjani comments on the recent developments in the process of the reformation in the justice system. Why does he think that the essence and what must be done to change the situation in the justice system in a positive way has not been grasped yet?

Reform in the justice system, the essence has not been grasped yet

Reform in the justice system has been the highlight of the declarations launched by the heads of state, opposition and international community, especially in the past three years. It seems that it will continue to be an important topic next year too. Minister Manjani says that we’re still far from the reform and that lots of time is being spent with constitutional changes. Manjani considers the reform in the justice system as a distant process, criticizing the political class of not having grasped its essence yet.

“I’m worried about the fact that we have not yet entered the essence of the reform in the justice system. We are not yet building a proper justice system which is functional. This is the essence of the reform in the justice system.”

Mr. Manjani also gives examples: “We have 360 judges in the Albanian justice system and we have a large amount of cases yet to be solved. Ireland has 150 judges and a population of 4,5 million people and their courts are effective.”

Prosecution must be responsible for the entire investigation

The minister is also worried about the fact that no attention is being given yet to the criminal investigation. According to him, the reform in the justice system must offer citizens faith in the system. “I’m convinced that in the past 25 years in Albania, the main problem in the criminal justice relates to the criminal investigation, which must be solved not by making declarations, but by assuming responsibility. All the problems stem from the investigations, which are not entirely in the prosecutor’s hand, because there’s also the police investigation and when there are several instances involved, then the case is difficult to be built and afterwards, rulings are suspicious and they leave room for disappointment.”

The minister suggests that the prosecution must assume responsibility for the entire investigation. “The strengthening of the prosecution is very important, as an institution responsible for the investigation process. I am and remain in favor of the fact that the investigation conducted by judiciary police decided in 1994, has been problematic. This is why our judiciary police have been reduced to several units of the state, unable to be well coordinated. We’ve also had cases where evidence goes missing and the prosecutor receives a case without evidence. Then this case with missing evidence or without evidence at all, goes to the judge. All of this has brought a corrupt system and an absurd system of mistrust. This is why I am in favor of a deep reform in the criminal investigation”.

There must be a whole new Criminal Code

Minister of Justice, Ylli Manjani warns that the Criminal Code will be entirely changed as a new Criminal Code will be put in place. He admitted this for the first time publicly when IBNA asked him on the continuous changes which have been made to the Criminal Code. According to minister Manjani, the frequent changes have caused cacophony and this is a motive for the Criminal Code to be remade and to put an end to “amendments”.

“As a minister, I intend to intervene, in order for the Criminal Code to be rewritten and in order not to make amendments on what worries us for the moment alone. Today we have a 25 year experience and this has created the necessary practice, but we also have the necessary assistance to write this Code in a clear way, based on the standard that we are required. In all the governments that I’ve been part of, I have fought this handicap. The government’s job is to help the citizens to have access in the judiciary system. Every year there has been a change in the Criminal Code and this is a lack of stability which goes beyond the term of one government. Therefore, the drafting of a new Criminal Code is the most important one for me at the moment”.

Stressing that all of these changes have shown a lack of stability, Manjani considers the current state of the Code as a handicap.

“Today, an individual who is caught in possession of a fire arm without permit is given a tougher sentence than a person accused of terrorism and this is not fair. This is why time has come to work for a new Criminal Code. We cannot continue by amending the Criminal Code on an annual basis. We now need a new document, a clear document not only for lawyers, but also for Albanian citizens. Therefore, there must be a new Criminal Code. In order for this code to make sense, the offender who deserves to be convicted, must be convicted”.

Overpopulation in prisons, new integrating policies are needed

Currently, Albania has over 6000 inmates and detainees, while the capacity of the institutions where they serve their sentence is 30% smaller.

Albanian authorities are looking into the possibility of changing criminal policies, in order to reduce overpopulation in Albanian prisons. Minister Manjani says that his minister is looking for policies that encourage the reduction of overpopulation in prisons and detention centers. “We support a criminal policy which serves the law. Along with the General Prosecutor, I intend to draft a strict criminal policy which serves to the law and not to the interests of the moment. This would bring a solution to the overpopulation of prisons”.

Manjani says that the young people must be given a chance to integrate. “In prison, every youngster is legitimized as a criminal. We will work in order to put an end to this phenomenon and offer a solution for every youngster. We must give them an opportunity to be integrated into society as educated people and not stigmatized people”.

Albania has been constantly criticized by the European Commission on the overpopulation of prisons and the difficult conditions in these institutions. To reduce the number of inmates, Manjani launched an amnesty law, which reduced overpopulation. The amnesty benefited all of those who had only 2 years of sentence to serve and this included 720 inmates and all of those who were undergoing probation service at the moment of amnesty, excluding people convicted of serious crimes. “Overpopulation in prisons is a concern and I believe that we solve this issue with this amnesty”, Manjani answers to IBNA’s questions.

The minister of Justice suggests that “imprisonment is not the best solution” and suggests: “Albanian courts and prosecution must apply as many alternative sentences as possible, the probation service which is a new service functioning very well”.

The cost of keeping an inmate in prison is huge. Manjani offers figures: “The cost for an inmate is currently 800 euros a month”.

Technical government? A destructive idea

In the past 25 years, Albania has had two technical governments, one in 1991 and one in 1997. Recently, the opposition has demanded the creation of a technical government in order for the country to head to early elections. Mr. Manjani, who is also vice chairman of the Socialist Movement for Integration, comments on this demand by considering it as a bad idea. He says that all technical governments have destroyed the country.

“The idea of a technical government is like a thunder in open sky. This is DP’s strategy, but I don’t believe in early elections. The idea of a technical government must not be fathomed, because whenever such governments have been in office, there have been serious consequences for the country. In the past 25 years, every time the country has been led by a technical government, it has been destroyed, burned and slaughtered. We must not forget this, because it’s part of the history of this country. Of course the opposition has its own right to ask for it, but it’s impossible to create a technical government.” /ibna/