By Donald Lu
In Albanian justice system, some people need to be fired for corruption and some people need to be put in jail. In a survey of judges financed by USAID, 25 percent of judges said the system was corrupt and another 58 percent said that the system had a public perception of corruption.
In a system where even judges agree that there is corruption, this necessarily means that judges, prosecutors and lawyers must all share responsibility for giving and receiving bribes.
But, I also believe there are some experienced, qualified and honest professionals who should be allowed to work in a judicial system free of corruption.
In addition to being accountable on corruption, your judicial system must also independent to resist political pressure. In this same survey, 7 percent of judges said that the Albanian judicial system is not free from political interference and 50 percent said it was only partly free. Judges and prosecutors should make decisions based on the law and evidence, not the influence of political or private interests.
Finally, the judicial system needs to prosecute more serious crimes.
Today many known organized crime figures and corrupt senior officials walk the streets of Tirana with no fear of prosecution. The European Committee on Efficiency of Judiciaries ranked Albania the lowest of all of the 25 countries surveyed in terms of serious crime prosecution. In a NATO country with aspirations of EU membership, political and criminal elites cannot operate with impunity.
This is all a very ambitious list of reforms. If achieved this could be the most important reform since the fall of communism.
To accomplish this, the best Albanian and international experts must participate.
The opposition has political interests in ensuring that the judicial system remains independent of political influence.
It also has top legal experts. There can be judicial reform that upholds international standards without the opposition, but it will be better and more sustainable in Albania with its active participation.
We believe in the value of this reform. We pledge our support for this process. And corrupt judges and prosecutors should know that change is coming.
*From the speech of the US ambassador to Albania during the “Reform in Justice: Today’s Challenge, a Guarantee for the Future” conference
** The opinion of the author doesn’t necessarily represent IBNA’s editorial line