Vetting of Albanian prosecutors and judges postponed

Vetting of Albanian prosecutors and judges postponed

IBNA’s Special Report/A thorough review of the professional conduct and wealth of justice system officials is being postponed once again. The opposition has boycotted institutions. The Speaker of Parliament postpones the creation of the Vetting Committee. Inputs from the head of the opposition’s parliamentary group, Edi Paloka and the socialist group, Gramoz Ruci

By Edison Kurani

In Albania, parliament, chaired by the co-chairman of the left wing governing coalition, Ilir Meta, decided to postpone the vetting process while the opposition has boycotted proceedings.

An artificial opposition?

Within the left wing majority, there were suggestions for PJIU, the party defending the rights of the Cham community, which is an ally in the coalition led by Edi Rama, to replace the opposition.

The prominent expert on legal affairs, former Justice minister, Spartak Ngjela made a constitutional interpretation yesterday, according to which, PJIU may fill the vacancies, as it has been registered as part of the opposition coalition in the 2013 elections.

The leader of the democrat parliamentary group, Edi Paloka rules out this possibility, by considering the replacement of DP lawmakers with PJIU lawmakers as “insanity”.

“I am not surprised that this government attempts such thing, but it will fail”, Paloka said. And that was the case. In the plenary session that was held last night, with 81 votes in favor and 2 votes against, Parliament has postponed for another seven days the evaluation process started by the Ombudsman regarding the Vetting Committee. Parliament decided to reopen this process and reexamine those candidates who have been disqualified.

There are no sufficient candidates

Currently, there are only 21 candidates who have been successfully qualified, while the number of candidates that must qualify is 28.

A part of the candidates have not submitted the necessary documents, therefore they haven’t been qualified.

The head of the socialist parliamentary group, Gramoz Ruci says that it is unacceptable to have less candidates than vacancies, therefore he demanded for the Ombudsman to be given sufficient time to deliberate existing candidacies and other candidacies.

“There have been complaints by people who have been unable to apply. They will be given another chance. The Ad-Hoc committee must have not 21 candidates for 28 vacancies, but 100 or more candidates”, Mr. Ruci said.

912 people have applied for positions in Vetting institutions and the Ombudsman has qualified 29 of them.

But the candidates qualified by the Ombudsman were also filtered by IMO, the international structure in charge of monitoring the vetting process. This structure examined the files for 29 candidates and recommended only 21 names to move on to parliamentary proceedings.

At the same time, international experts also examined those candidates who were exempted for lack of documents, selecting 79 of them as potential candidates.

Under these conditions, last night, parliament decided to pass IMO’s list to the Ombudsman once again in order to ask exempted candidates to submit the missing documents.

Parliament decided to reopen the process to offer a second chance to other people who want to be part of it.

The reopening postpones the process by at least five weeks, because parliament can only be convened in the middle of April to set up the ad hoc committee.

Some see last night’s decision of the majority as an effort to gain more time, as this vetting committee cannot be set up without the opposition, which has launched a protest in the past three weeks.

Majority and opposition have an equal number of representatives, 3 each, but the decisions for the selection of candidates need at least four votes in favor.

The Committee cannot be set up without the opposition

The ad hoc committee which approves the members of the Vetting institutions will have six members, three from the majority and three from the opposition.

This committee will verify candidates assessed by the Ombudsman and recommended by the International Monitoring Operation.

Luan Rama of SMI and Shpetim Idrizi of PJIU, are the two names which are known so far. The committee needs 71 votes in parliament, but the opposition’s absence remains a problem.

The opposition has conditioned its participation with the resignation of Rama’s government and the creation of a broad based technocrat government which will take the country to the 18 June general elections.

The opposition requests changes in the legal package

While the left in power is trying to push the process of the reevaluation of judges and prosecutors forward, the right wing in opposition says that the seven laws which are part of the judicial reform must be amended, as they were approved without its consensus. DP says that these seven laws were deformed by the SP and that they do not guarantee a true vetting process, but only enable the government to capture the justice system.

The leader of the Democratic Party, Lulzim Basha says that “PM Edi Rama fears the real vetting and real justice. This is why he ruled out the opposition from the 7 laws, by breaking the promise given in front of the international partners”.

What has happened with the judicial laws?

After parliament in Albania passed the necessary constitutional changes which gave way to the judicial reform in July last year, another seven bills that this reform needed were also voted.

These laws were drafted by Albanian and foreign experts, with the direct assistance of the USA and EU.

The most important bills of this package, the bill on Special Anti-Corruption Prosecution and National Bureau of Investigation passed with the consensus of both SP and DP, but the opposition voted against them, because it claimed that socialists had deformed them. The vetting bill was also contested by the opposition. Constitutional Court requested for the bill to be interpreted by the Venice Commission and in the end, the bill was considered constitutional. However, the DP still considers the bill in question as anti-constitutional.

Boycott criticized by the international community

The opposition has boycotted parliament and started a protest. The scenario seen from 2005 until 2013, when the left wing chaired by Edi Rama boycotted parliament and was criticized by the EU and USA, is being repeated again and criticism is coming from all sides. The EU Enlargement Commissioner, Johannes Hahn says that political debate must be held in parliament and not outside of it.

He says that boycott has negative consequences in the process of the reevaluation of Albanian judges and prosecutors.

“Cooperation between government and opposition is necessary to become part of the EU”, Mr. Hahn says.

Meanwhile, MEP Knut Fleckenstein, Albania’s rapporteur in the European Parliament, says that “parliamentary boycott is not the right path, because it prevents the implementation of the judicial reform”. /