This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.albanianfreepress.a
By ALFRED PEZA
The vetting process which is currently taking place in the Albanian justice system has been surrounded by a lot of skepticism. This process is aimed at screening the 800 judges and prosecutors who belong to the old system, to evaluate if they are fit for the new reformed justice system or not.
And there was good reason for skepticism, given the experience of the past 27 years in the justice system, which, we must admit, it was the most rotten column of the Albanian state.
This situation was a direct result of the capture of the justice system by politics, crime and corruption, making this system the most hated one by many people. Several months after the start of this process, it looks like this week we saw the first spark, which seems to be a very promising one. There’s been a case, a decision which will surely turn into a cause and will prove that justice will finally be made in this country where injustices have always ruled.
What has happened?
Admir Thanza is a judge with a brilliant career in the judiciary system, having served as a member of the Supreme Council of Justice, member of the Constitutional Court and currently member of the Supreme Court.
But, quite unexpectedly, when he appeared in front of the Independent Qualifying Commission, he was told that there were several problems concerning his declaration of assets. However, this was nothing compared to the fact that the integrity of judge Admir Thanza received a brutal blow when he was briefed on the information collected by the International Monitoring Operation. This information revealed that Admir Thanza has been convicted in Italy in 1999. During the hearing, the member of the Albanian Supreme Court said that he had assumed responsibility for this crime to come to the aid of a relative of his and that he had not declared this, although he was legally obliged to do this.
This had occurred in June 19 years ago. At that time, Thanza was a judge in Albania and he had been given 40 days in jail and a fine of 100 thousand liras by the Court of Pisa for theft. Another detail of this case was that the judge was present when his sentence was pronounced in court. The judge said that he had assumed responsibility for this act in order to save his sister in law, who was the real perpetrator of the act. According to him, if Italian authorities had reprehended her, his nephew, who had been admitted in a critical condition in an Italian hospital, would be repatriated to Albania. This way, the nephew would no longer be treated there.
Mr. Thanza was also briefed about another fact which he had not declared in the vetting forms. Two years ago, the judge had been filmed accepting bribes in order to exert his influence on a particular case. The case against the judge was closed in July 2016. However, neither the “alibis” provided by him, nor the tears that he shed in court can help the difficult position that the good judge finds himself in. Although the decision will be taken in a few days, his fate seems to be predetermined now.
What does this case prove?
Admir Thanza is not the first or the last one of judges and prosecutors who has not been able to pass the vetting process. A small number of them withdrew. They were the only ones who could benefit from the “amnesty” of the reform, by submitting their resignation to the President of the Republic.
Many others, which seem to be growing in number, will be failing this process, mainly due to the fact that they have been unable to justify their assets generated during the time that they have exerted their function within the system. The fact that many judges and prosecutors are not passing the screening process was creating the impression that this process was nothing else but a process of securing all the invoices for the purchases and expenses that these officials have made.
Thanza case is the first credible and professional element which proved the contrary. The judge faced not only problems relating to his assets, but also problems relating to his integrity as a judge during his time in office.
Citizens and skeptics are now clear what is further expected of this process. Everyone is clear now that many of Thanza’s colleagues, who had not taken the justice reform seriously, are scared. For the first time ever, this week the reform in the justice system has made a big leap forward and satisfied many Albanians who had faith in this process, which has a significant importance for the future of the country.
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy