17 May 2020

The Ombudsman’S Office Is Concerned About The Recent Developments

The Ombudsman’s Office is concerned about the recent developments

Since the early hours of this morning the Institution of the Ombudsman’s Office has been following with deep concern the developments started in the early hours of this morning at the National Theatre and the protests in the following hours.

Two days ago, our institution had already started reviewing the request of the Alliance for the Theatre regarding the aspects of the decision-making of the Council of Ministers and then that of the Tirana Municipal Council as far as they can violate the human rights.

Today, our institution has followed the situation on the ground.

Today on May 17, 2020 we were informed by the media that around 04:30 am, numerous forces of the Tirana’s Construction Inspectorate supported by the Municipal Police and the State Police have intervened in the building of the National Theatre. State Police forces entered the building and forcibly detained some of the citizens who were there to the police station. We were also informed by the media that the State Police employees had accompanied a considerable number of citizens, who were gathered after the demolition of the National Theatre building had begun. 

Following these information on the actions of the State Police employees, in the exercise of our mandate as defenders of the rights of detained and detained persons and under police supervision, the Ombudsman’s Office organized the work by visiting all Police Commissariats of Tirana, the Local Police Directorate of Tirana, visits which were carried out from 9:30am to 14:00pm.

In the police stations there was an inspection of the registers and during the visit we met the present attendees and obtained detailed explanations.

The detained persons did not claim to have been committed acts of violence toward them inside of the Police Stations buildings, but there were complaints regarding the physical and psychological violence exercised during their capture and on the way to the Police Commissariats and some persons had signs of violence.

It turned out that some journalists were also detained while on duty which is completely unjustified. The Ombudsman’s Office will very carefully investigate and verify any claim of force majeure or violent acts against citizens and detained persons and will come up with relevant conclusions for each case and requests from both the General Director of Police but also from the Prosecution of Tirana that these cases be treated in accordance with the recommendations given by the CPT (European Committee for the Prevention of Torture) in the report made on Albania and published in September 2019. 

Also, from our verifications it resulted that some citizens were sent for specialized treatment in the hospital institutions as a consequence of the injuries taken. There were no complaints of delays in providing medical assistance within a reasonable time.

We were informed by the detainees at the police station that the demolition of the National Theatre building had started while citizens of the Alliance for the Protection of the National Theatre were inside the building, which had seriously endangered their lives.

With reference to this matter a full investigation is carried out to verify the concrete conditions in which it was operated.

From the observation of the relevant documentation at the police station, as well as conversations with police officers, revealed ambiguities regarding the moment of detaining a part of the citizens to the police station. Concretely, during the communication with the detained citizens as well as from the information of the State Police employees, we were informed that initially some of them were sent to the Local Police Directorate of Tirana and after entering the detained environment, when they were taken the generalities and personal belongings, and then allocated to other commissariats. The Ombudsman’s Office identified that the persons were not communicated to the rights card and even not posted in visible and easily verifiable places for the detainees to their procedural rights and moreover to some of them these rights were denied. The detained persons were administratively prosecuted for violating the rules imposed due to the state of the natural disaster and they were released after the taken actions.

With reference to the subject mentioned above, as well as the discrepancy of the schedule in the service reports drafted during the detention of these citizens and the inspection of their entrance at police stations, today the Ombudsman’s Office has officially requested the General Director of State Police, to make the additional documents available.  

During the visits to the Commissariats, the working groups of our institution found that not only the working conditions inside of the commissariats but also the equipment of the employees with protective items were not in accordance with the Instructions of the Ministry of Health.

None of the detainees were equipped with masks and gloves and had no items available to ensure personal hygiene. In the Commissariat no. 1 of Tirana, the hygienic-sanitary conditions inside the building were quite poor and the condition of the detainees and security rooms did not guarantee any minimal hygienic conditions, either in normal situation, neither in the situation with increased measures due to the condition of infectious disease. We found the detained persons in the corridors of this police station in an attempt to provide some kind of social distancing, but certainly insufficient.

Police officers were partially equipped with masks and without gloves at all. In the commissariat no.4 the hygienic-sanitary conditions were much better and the internal environments were clean, but there were no other measures such as disinfectants or gloves and only a very small number of employees were equipped with masks.

Due to the high number of the detained citizens it was impossible to guarantee the 2 meters distance away from each other of them in the closed areas. Therefore, it results that the detention of these persons in general both at the time of arrest and the detention to the police station even in the station did not guarantee their health safety under conditions of pandemic and exposed them to the risk of infection from the deadly disease.

The Ombudsman’s Office, meanwhile, raises concern that energy-intensive measures to restrict the movement and gathering of citizens in the face of global pandemics have been openly ignored by the institutions of the Construction Inspectorate and the State Police.

While all economic and administrative activity in the country is closed and limited as a protective measure against Coronavirus, it remains incomprehensible to our institution the criterion that has been followed to specifically exclude these two institutions from this restriction and allowing them to perform operations that imply the participation of a large number of employees in the same place as mass gatherings are strictly prohibited.

The Ombudsman’s Office, simultaneously, seizes the opportunity to repeatedly call for respect for the principle of proportionality in the interventions of the police and other law enforcement agencies, which in no case and in no way should use the pretext of Covid-19 restrictions (which, moreover, are not respected by themselves), as a reason for the suppression of civil law for peaceful assembly.