Tirana, 2 March 2021 – In a report launched at an online event today, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) presents research, analysis and recommendations to improve Albania’s efforts to account for missing persons.
Albania, Missing Persons from the Communist Era – A Needs Assessment is based on research and analysis of legislation pertaining to, and institutions involved in, the issue of persons missing from the communist era in Albania, conducted by ICMP experts from 2018 to 2020 with the financial support of the European Union (EU).
“The report’s recommendations seek to ensure missing persons cases are investigated effectively, and the rights of families of the missing to truth, justice and reparations are upheld,” Matthew Holliday, the Head of ICMP’s Western Balkans Program, said during the online launch event, which was attended by representatives of Albanian authorities and the international community.
“The Albanian authorities have a legal obligation to account for persons missing from the communist era – state responsibility and state action are essential. ICMP’s work around the world demonstrates that missing persons can be accurately identified in line with the rule of law, even decades after the disappearances.”
Frederique Hanotier, Human Rights Officer at the EU Delegation to Albania, said the report’s recommendations were expected to bring progress.
“The EU is strongly committed to supporting transitional justice in Albania, and in particular the Authority on Access to Information of the Former State Security Service, through ICMP,” she said. “Raising public awareness about reconciliation and addressing the issue of persons missing from the Communist era is of utmost importance. The EU support to this critical matter promotes the fundamental values of the EU, which are enshrined in its framework of democracy, the rule of law of and the human rights.”
Bilal Kola, Director of the Institute for the Integration of Formerly Politically Persecuted, commended the EU and ICMP for continuous support for the issue of missing persons in Albania.
“It is important to improve coordination of the state institutions in the missing persons process as well as their funding. We need to take action and coordinate this process on the national level,” he said.
The report recommends that Albanian authorities:
- adopt of legislation that includes provisions to protect the rights of the families of missing persons, irrespective of whether the missing was politically persecuted;
- ensure that the Authority for Access to Information on Former State Security Files is granted the financial and human resources it needs to investigate and identify all missing persons from the communist era;
- establish a single, harmonized and comprehensive database of missing persons to allow the state to provide accurate and reliable information regarding cases of missing persons;
- ensure that there are enough prosecutors to provide an ex officio response to investigations of clandestine gravesites and crime sites from the communist era;
- allocate sufficient resources to the Institute of Legal Medicine for the examination and identification of missing persons cases in line with international forensic standards and for the appropriate storage of human remains until their burial.
It is estimated that around 6,000 persons went missing under the communist regime in Albania in the period between 1944 and 1991. According to official data, 5,501 persons convicted for political reasons were executed during this period. Their bodies were never returned to their families. Official data also indicates that an additional 987 political prisoners died from various causes in prisons and detention centers in Albania. The whereabouts of their mortal remains is unknown to surviving relatives.
ICMP is a treaty-based intergovernmental organization with Headquarters in The Hague, the Netherlands. Its mandate is to secure the cooperation of governments and others in locating missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, irregular migration and other causes and to assist them in doing so. It is the only international organization tasked exclusively to work on the issue of missing persons.