Albania MPs Back Vetting Judges and Prosecutors

Albania’s parliament has adopted a law on introducing vetting for judges and prosecutors, despite opposition claims that it will result in a ‘witch hunt’.

With 88 votes for and one abstention out of 140, Albania’s parliament on Tuesday passed a Law on Reassessment of Judges and Prosecutors, known as the “vetting” law.

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Albanian Parliament while discussing ‘vetting’ law

“Albanians have got confirmation that the will of majority is firm to stop the lack of justice in this country,” Edi Rama, the Prime Minister, said after the vote, criticising opposition MPs who did not back the law.

The law will introduce background checks on Albanian judges and prosecutors related to their professional preparation, moral integrity and level of independence from organised crime, corruption and political power.

It is part of a wider judicial reform demanded by the EU and designed to cleanse the justice system of corruption and political influence.

Parliament is due to adopt six more laws to pave the way for the implementation of constitutional changes adopted unanimously on July 22.

However, the opposition led by Democratic Party boycotted the plenary session as the draft law was about to be voted on, complaining that their 28 amendments had not been taken into consideration.

The former Prime Minister, Democrat MP Sali Berisha, accused the ruling majority of planning to use the new law for a “witch hunt”.

“This vote diminishes the reform that we passed [earlier] by consensus … You are ridiculous,” Berisha said in a heated debate with Rama.

The opposition further claimed that the formula of electing members for the Independent Commission of Qualification – tasked with vetting justice officials – is biased.

The commission will be in charge of the checking process, along with the College of Appeal and the International Monitoring Operation.

However, Rama insisted that the opposition parties had been given a chance to reach a consensus over the law and added that parliament will continue to adopt further laws designed to make the reform work.

The US embassy in Tirana welcomed the vote in parliament.
“We look forward to the full and timely approval of the remaining implementing laws for this critical reform, which enjoys the support of the overwhelming majority of Albanians,” the embassy said.

The judicial reform package, compiled with the expertise of EU and US justice missions in the country and suggestions from Venice Commission, aims to end the widespread corruption noted in a series of European Commission progress reports and in polls of the perceptions of Albanian citizens and diminish the influence of politics in justice institutions.

Balkan Insight

31 August, 2016