In search of people who went missing during the communist dictatorship in Albania

In search of people who went missing during the communist dictatorship in Albania

IBNA Special Report

Tirana, April 8, 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Edison Kurani

For nearly 25 years, thousands of former political prisoners and former dissidents, await their financial compensation that the state guaranteed to them through a law, but de facto, the state is either not paying this compensation to them or paying it in small amounts.

But, among thousands of Albanians who suffered from the communist dictatorship, there are also hundreds of others who are suffering not only as a result of the lack of financial compensation. They have lost their loved ones, parents, brothers and sisters, their children and close cousins.

These are people who have been executed without a trial by the communist government. Hundreds of others have gone missing in mysterious circumstances and it’s believed that they have been executed by Albanian secret police.

These people say that they are more worried about having a grave to mourn their relatives than a handful of money. The previous government launched several incentives to find the remains of missing people. A good part of people who have been affected by these misfortunes say that very little has been done in reality. They complain that the searches that they have conducted have been afforded by their own expenses. In several cases, there has been financial support by the catholic church and other organizations.

Nikolin K., is one of the Albanians who still suffer the consequences of dictatorship. He lost his uncle, priest Shtjefen K., because in the ‘70s, religion was forbidden by law. At that time, it was said that he was executed, but his remains were never found. Until 1990 when the communist regime was overthrown, nobody dared to look for him.

But in the past 25 years nobody stops you from looking for the much desired grave, says with a tone of sarcasm a man in the area of Dajt, where people often come to look for the remains of their relatives killed from dictatorship.

For years in a row, Nikolin too has looked for the remains of his relative. In  fact, he has found some remains in Dajti mount, there where many claim that there are remains of people, as for the communist regime, it was a suitable location for execution and burying of victims.

Nikolin has sent the found remains to France, with the hope to learn through the DNA if they belong to his uncle.

Coroner Dr. Admir Sinamati, former vice director of the Coroner’s Office in Tirana, has claimed that among the remains found in the village of Qerret in Dajti Mount, there were also remains belonging to a woman. According to him, these people had been executed elsewhere and they were later moved to the mountain peak. The expert says that the remains belonged to people killed from 1970 to 1975.

The new government says that besides the compensation of former political dissidents and the opening of the files of former secret services, it is also engaged in finding people who went missing during the communist regime. The government considers this a moral obligation, especially to the families of the victims that do not have a grave today.

For this reason, the department of missing people will be established these days at the Institute of the Integration of Political Dissidents. Vice minister of Social Welfare and Youth, Gentjana Sula, says that this department has been projected as the reception point for all requests and information over the process of the finding of people who went missing during dictatorship period.

Mrs. Sula says that the process of the finding of people who went missing during the dictatorship period, is very important. According to her, the treatment of this topic affects the essence of missing justice and the state. Sula says that society owes to all of those people who up until today, have not rested in their last abode.

“The opening of the office for Missing Persons at the Institute for the Integration of former Political Dissidents is a very important step of this government, not only an administrative step, but also a moral one to help and facilitate the pain caused by the many years that their relatives have been missing. The opening of the office aims at launching a new chapter in the treatment of this sensitive issue, which up until today has been handled in a sporadic way and in the absence of a coordinated institutional approach”, says Mrs. Sula.

It seems that everything will start from scratch, although 25 years have gone by and in spite of previous efforts. The new office is said to aim at creating an initial database on missing persons, with basic information such as name, last name, gender, place and date of birth, the place and the date or (if not possible) the supposed year of disappearance or circumstances of the disappearance.

This office will also collect information, follow up and monitor the process of search and exhumation of missing persons, in collaboration and coordination with other responsible institutions.

“The office will also collect different testimonies by former political dissidents, who are alive and the family members of those who have been executed with or without a trial. This is a great help for the identification of mass graves”, Mrs. Sula says.

The experience of Bosnia and Kosovo

The success of this incentive will very much depend on the cooperation and experience that will be brought by representatives of the International Commission on Missing persons. The representative of this commission, Mr. Mathew Holliday brings the experience of this international institution in Bosnia and Kosovo, in search of missing people.

“The question is: Can it be done? Can they be found? There are around 6 thousand people who have not been found since the communist period. We mentioned the experience of the countries of former Yugoslavia: at the end of the conflict, in Bosnia there were around 32 missing people. Today, after our assistance and work done by authorities in Bosnia, more than 70% of the bodies have been found and identified, namely around 23 thousand people. This shows that missing persons can be found and be identified”, says Mr. Holliday.

But what gives so much hope? Mr. Holliday says: “We have a highly sophisticated system for the identification through DNA. We offer technical assistance in autopsy and anthropology”.

***

Currently, the approximate number of people who went missing from November 29, 1944 until 1991 amounts to 6 thousand. It has also been concluded that the number of massive graves that have not been identified and have been almost never discovered are located in around 30 places of execution./ibna/

Below you will find a panorama of figures illustrated with images, that show terrible statistics of the crimes of communism in Albania

IBNA1 IBNA2 IBNA3 IBNA4 IBNA5 IBNA6