Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1988
* The United States has not had diplomatic relations with
Albania since 1939. Therefore, it is difficult to comment
authoritatively on conditions in Albania.
Albania, which proclaims itself a People's Socialist Republic,
is a one-party state ruled by a Marxist-Leninist dictatorship,
Ramiz Alia, who officially replaced long-time dictator Enver
Hoxha as Albania's leader in 1985, exercises personal
leadership through the 140 , 000-member Communist party known as
the Albanian Party of Labor (APL) . Internationally, he has
pursued a policy of cautiously expanding diplomatic, cultural,
and commercial links abroad, especially with Balkan and
Western European states.
A large, effective security service, the Sigurimi, assists the
APL in maintaining repressive controls over the Albanian
people, who are permitted only very limited civil and
Albania has a centrally controlled command econom.y under which
the State owns the means of production, and the Government
directs all significant economic activity. Within a strategy
of economic self-reliance, the Government emphasizes a policy
of rapid industrialization and development. In recent years,
however, the rate of economic growth has declined. Many
agricultural production targets were not met in 1988.
Information on internal conditions within Albania is limited.
Nevertheless, it is known that a limited number of
restrictions on everyday life have been relaxed somewhat under
Alia. Although the Albanian population continues to be
isolated from foreign influences, the Government now tacitly
allows citizens to receive foreign broadcasts from Italy,
Greece, and Yugoslavia. The Government has liberalized visa
issuance for tourists from most Western countries and allowed
a limited number of its own citizens to visit neighboring
countries in tour groups. In other areas, significant human
rights violations, corroborated by private international
organizations and refugees, continue to occur. The Government
has repeatedly refused to cooperate with any international
organization which investigates human rights complaints.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Political killing
No evidence came to light of political killings by the
authorities during 1988.
There is no recent information available on whether
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The criminal code prohibits and provides punishment for the
use of physical or psychological force during investigations.
Nevertheless, former political prisoners have often reported
that they were beaten or otherwise ill-treated during
investigative proceedings to force them to make confessions.
Although some of the worst abuses of the past may have ended,
there continue to be allegations that Albanian investigators
resort to threats and beatings to obtain confessions or
collaboration. In the absence of independent means of
investigation, it is difficult to corroborate such reports.
In the past, private international humanitarian organizations
have reported harsh prison conditions in Albania, including a
severe hard-labor regime with inadequate food and clothing,
long-term solitary confinement, cramped cells without room to
lie down, and unheated, unfurnished cells lacking any sanitary
facilities. The Burrel prison and Spac and Ballsh labor
camps, in particular, have been noted for their harsh
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The Constitution provides that no one may be arrested without
court or prosecutorial approval or be sentenced to jail
without a court verdict or for an act which is not a crime.
The criminal code, however, is explicitly ideological and
officially characterized as a "weapon in the class struggle."
Its provisions defining political offenses are loosely
formulated, allowing the courts to interpret them broadly to
punish whomever the regime desires.
The criminal code lists 34 crimes, 12 of which are political
offenses, for which the death sentence may be imposed. Among
these are such nonviolent political offenses as: unauthorized
departure or "flight" from the State, agitation and propaganda
against the State, creation of a counterrevolutionary
organization or participation therein, concealment of a person
who commits a crime against the State, activity against the
revolutionary movement of the working class, and refusal to
carry out a duty or coercing others to refuse. Amnesty
International (AI) reports that it is not known whether any
death sentences were imposed or executions carried out.
The criminal code also provides that banishment (generally to
a state farm or enterprise) or internment may be imposed
administratively, without trial, for up to 5 years on persons
whom the authorities consider a threat to the Communist
system, and on the families of fugitives. In February a new
decree (No. 7071) was officially reported concerning
"internm.ent and exile as administrative measures." However,
the text of the decree was not published, and it is not known
how this decree differs from Decree No. 5912 of 1979.
There are numerous reports that families of escapees from
Albania have been imprisoned or interned as a deterrent to
other potential illegal emigrants. AI has reported a number
of such cases in recent years, but another source claimed that
close relatives of recent escapees are no longer interned.
AI reports that political detainees lack adequate legal
safeguard during pretrial investigations. It also notes that
political prisoners awaiting trial are not guaranteed visits
from relatives during the investigation or access to a legal
adviser unless the court "deemed it necessary". By law,
investigations into crimes against the State must be completed
within 3 months, but extensions are easily obtained, and no
effective maximum period of investigation is enforced. Most
investigations into political offenses are completed within 4
months, but AI has charged that some investigations have
dragged on for more than a year.
Political detainees have been held in solitary confinement for
up to 6 months during pretrial investigations without access
to lawyers or relatives. The criminal code provides that
accused persons musty be informed when investigation of their
cases is concluded and allowed to examine all the evidence to
be brought against them. Usually, however, they are not
allowed to examine all the materials and are shown only a copy
of the indictment. While investigators are theoretically
bound by rules of procedure, and the accused may appeal to
higher authority against investigators who violate proper
procedures, these controls do not appear to be effective.
With regard to forced or compulsory labor, see Section 6.c.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The judicial system includes the Supreme Court and regional
and district courts. Like all organs of the Government, the
judicial system is under the total control of the APL. Courts
may not render an independent verdict in conflict with the
wishes or policies of the regime.
AI reports that persons accused of political crimes lack
adequate legal safeguards during their trials. Defendants at
political trials have usually been denied defense counsel and
have had to conduct their own defense. Major important trials
of state officials are closed when it suits the purposes of
the regime, but most political trials of ordinary citizens are
held in open court. Most such trials last no more than 1 day,
and there have been no known acquittals.
Reports of the number of persons in prison range from 4,000 to
40,000, including 300 members of the pre-World War II elite,
as well as pro-Soviet, pro-Chinese, and other political
prisoners. Many persons are serving sentences for expressing
dissatisfaction with conditions in Albania or for trying to
flee the country. Former political prisoners report about
1,200 political prisoners each were being held in the Ballsh
and Spac labor camps during the early 1980 "s. Some 300 more
were imprisoned at Burrel, and others were held in Tarovic,
Kosove, and Tirana prisons.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The Constitution proclaims the inviolability of the home and
the privacy of correspondence, but at the same time it
provides that these and other civil rights are subordinate to
the general interest and may not be exercised in opposition to
the Socialist order. Observers generally believe that the
authorities can, and do, violate the privacy of the home when
and as necessary to achieve their ends. The Government uses
its pervasive informer network to report on, among other
things, the private lives of its citizens.
Contact with the outside world is carefully monitored.
Albanian citizens are required to report to the police any
contact with foreigners, but many welcome casual contact with
foreign tourists. Refugees have reported difficulties they
had while in Albania in receiving telephone calls from
\ relatives living in the United States. Sometimes packages of
food, medicine, and clothing sent to them were returned by the
Albanian authorities. After 1986 it became significantlyeasier
to receive letters and packages from relatives abroad.
Though it is technically illegal to receive television or
radio broadcasts from neighboring Italy, Yugoslavia, and
Greece, the Government tacitly allows its citizens to do so.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Although the Constitution states that citizens enjoy these
freedoms, it provides that they may not be exercised in
opposition to the Socialist order. The Government has imposed
rigid restrictions on freedom of speech and press. Any
citizen who publicly criticizes the Government is subject to
swift and severe reprisals under an article of the Constitution
which forbids antistate agitation and propaganda. AI states
in its 1988 report that the majority of political prisoners
were imprisoned for attempting to exercise their rights to
freedom of expression and freedom of movement.
All news media are government controlled and never criticize
the state and Party leadership or their policies. Art and
literature are deemed to be weapons of revolutionary change
and are subject to rigid state control and censorship. The
authorities also manipulate scholarly inquiry and publications
for political purposes, particularly in such fields as
linguistics, literature, economics, history, geography,
folklore, and ethnology.
Information from abroad is carefully restricted. Persons
having unauthorized contact with foreigners may be reprimanded
or jailed. Such restrictions have been relaxed lately.
Western visitors report that Albanian citizens are
increasingly bold in talking to Western visitors and
tourists. Tirana's decision to join the push for Balkan
cooperation by hosting three multilateral meetings in the next
2 years should increase the exposure of the Albanian citizenry
to external influences.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The security police deal severely with group activities that
do not have government sanction or that appear to be in
opposition to the leadership. There are no independent
associations or organizations.
For a discussion of freedom of association as it applies to
labor unions, see Section 6. a.
c. Freedom of Religion
All religious activity in Albania is expressly prohibited by
the Constitution and by government policy. Historically,
about 70 percent of all Albanians were Muslim, nearly 20
percent were Orthodox, and a little more than 10 percent were
Roman Catholic. A recent refugee report estimated that
between 2,000 and 2,500 Jews live in Albania.
In 1967 the Government proclaimed Albania the first atheist
state in the world, abrogated all laws dealing with churchstate
relations, and began actively to eradicate all vestiges
of religion. More than 2,100 mosques, churches, monasteries,
and other institutions were closed, their fixed assets were
seized without compensation by the authorities, and many
religious leaders were persecuted, imprisoned, or even
executed for continuing their religious functions. All
religious literature was banned, as were any personal
manifestations of religious belief or practice. While a few
outstanding historic churches and their religous art are being
restored as museums, most churches and mosques have been
converted to other uses.
The regime continues to suppress religious activity by
threatening harsh penalties for believers who practice their
faith and by obliging citizens to inform on believers.
Nevertheless, there have been some signs that the regime,
eager to improve its relations with Western European countries
as well as with its Balkan neighbors, is quietly toning down
its antireligious campaign and even permitting private
expressions of religion. There has been, however, no official
statement that religious practice is once again allowed.
In its 1988 report, AI reported that it had no new information
on the fates of Roman Catholic priests Pjeter Mashkalla and
Ndoc Luli. Both priests were reportedly imprisoned for
conducting religious services. Father Mashkella reportedly
died in prison in 1987. Despite years of antireligious
pressure, some Albanians have continued to practice their
faith in their own homes, particularly in villages and in more
remote mountainous areas. Tourists have also reported seeing
Muslim.s praying along roadsides with apparent impunity.
In November 1983, the Vatican publicly condemned religious
persecution in Albania and claimed that a number of priests,
members of holy orders, and seminarians had died in prison.
It also reported that two priests had been executed for
baptizing children. The official press denies, however, that
believers have been persecuted and maintains that religious
belief is opposed only by argument.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The Constitution does not guarantee freedom of movement.
Movement within the country and travel abroad are controlled
very strictly, and transgressors against the laws have been
severely punished in the past. The criminal code states that
flight from the State or refusal to return to the fatherland
by a person sent abroad on service or allowed to leave the
State is considered treason and punishable by imprisonment for
not less than 10 years or by death. AI stated in its 1988
report that it had learned of three prisoners imprisoned (for
16, 12, and 25 years, respectively) for trying to leave
Albania illegally. Until recently, Albanians were allowed to
leave the country legally only on official business or, very
rarely, for family reasons. In 1987 organized groups of
Albanian tourists visited Yugoslavia, and Albania is reported
to be negotiating similar programs with Italy and other
Western European countries. Albania has publicly stated that
it wishes to increase the number of its university students on
exchange programs in Western countries. Neither Albanian law
nor practice allows the right to emigrate.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
No such right exists in theory or in practice. The system of
government is a Communist dictatorship, headed by Ramiz Alia
in his capacity as First Secretary of the APL and Chairman of
the Presidium of the People's Assembly. The Constitution
establishes the APL as the sole political entity and Marxism-
Leninism as the only political ideology. The APL is governed
internally by the principle of "democratic centralism," under
which decisionmaking power is concentrated in the hands of a
The Constitution provides that the People's Assembly (a
unicameral parliament) is the supreme organ of national
government in Albania; similar bodies, called people's
councils, exist at the local level. Candidates for these
assemblies are first designated by a mass organization known
as the Democratic Front, which is controlled by the APL, and
then "elected" without opposition by universal suffrage.
There are several women in party and government leadership
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
The Government denies violating human rights and refuses to
cooperate with any investigation of allegations to the
contrary, including confidential investigations by the United
Nations Human Rights Commission.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Language, or Social Status
Greeks are the largest ethnic minority, but smaller numbers of
Serbs, Macedonians, Vlachs, Gypsies, and Jews also live in
Albania. The Constitution grants national minorities
"guaranteed protection and development of their culture and
popular traditions, the use of their mother tongue, and its
teaching in the schools, and equal development in all fields
of social life." While there are differences of opinion over
the extent to which minorities can exercise their cultural,
educational, and linguistic rights, they are clearly
restricted. While Greeks and Macedonians can be educated in
their mother tongue through the primary level, there is no
broadcasting in these languages. A Greek-language newspaper,
Laiko Vima, is published in the southern town of Argyrokastro
Cross-border ties between Greeks increased after the November
1987 visit to Albania of the Greek Foreign Minister, with
relatives and friends of the Greek minority being permitted to
send remittances to Albania.
Several reports indicate persecution, harassment, and
discrimination against minorities solely because of their
ethnic status. There have even been reports of mass removals
of segments of the Greek population out of traditionally Greek
lands in the south to areas more distant from the
Albanian-Greek border. Furthermore, insofar as the ban on
religious practice has removed the Greek Orthodox church from
Greek communities in Albania, an important part of that ethnic
group's community life and links to Greece has been
eliminated. The leadership of both the APL and the Government
are overwhelmingly ethnic Albanians of Moslem background. The
Chairman of the People's Assembly, a Greek woman, is one
notable exception, however.
The Constitution states that women shall enjoy "equal rights
with men in work, pay, holidays, social security, education,
in all social-political activity, as well as in the family."
Information on the extent to which these rights are exercised
is not available, but there ere indications that the regime
has advanced the status of women. Women are said to
participate equally in the obligatory labor and military
service programs. Women accoutit for 47 percent of the total
labor force and 53 percent of the agricultural labor force.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right cf Association
Workers do not have the right to associate freely and to
strike. Nearly all Albanians belong to trade unions tliat are
part of the United Trade Unions of Albania (UTUA), an arm of
the APL . These unions have no significant independent voice
in the field of labor relations, but they play a key role in
indoctrinating and propagandizing the workers, in maintaining
labor discipline, and in organizing the periods of so-called
voluntary manual labor in which all Albanians are expected to
take part. There is a seat reserved for the UTUA as an
affiliate of the World Federation of Trade Unions, but the
Albanians have not participated in this Soviet labor front
since the mid-1960's. Albania withdrew from the International
Labor Organization in 1967.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
Workers do not have the right to organize freely and to
bargain collectively. There are no special economic incentive
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Little information on forced labor is available. It is
believed that one form of punishment is internal banishment to
a labor camp. The prisoners do not have a choice of work but
are remunerated for their labor.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
According to the Labor Code of 1980, amended in 1981, the
minimum age for employment of children is 15. Those under 16
years of age may not work more than 6 hours per day.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
According to the Labor Code, the workweek is 48 hours.
Pregnant women, children under 16 years of age, and persons
with a doctor's certificate may not work between 10 p.m. and 6
a.m. Women, young persons under 18 years of age, and those
with a doctor's certificate are prohibited from working
underground. Workers in arduous and dangerous jobs are
provided appropriate protective clothing and special food
rations. The Labor Code contains regulations pertaining to
occupational health and safety, but there is no available
information on the effectiveness of enforcement. Minimum wage
information is not available