More than 20 years after the fall of the communist regime in Albania, the exact number of persons who went missing between 1945 and 1991 remains unclear, though the figure is believed to be in the region of 6,000. The Albanian authorities have adopted more than 24 legislative acts since 1991 addressing the issue of victims of the former regime, but uncertainty remains about the fate of missing persons and the location of gravesites, and little has been done to give concrete assistance to the families of the missing. The lack of information is particularly difficult for families. It is also preventing Albanian society from overcoming the legacy of its totalitarian past.
Despite the fact that few institutional efforts have been made to address the missing persons issue, families have tried continuously to locate the remains of their relatives. As a result, an unknown number of human remains have been recovered and identified, although documentation supporting the identification process is not adequate in every case.
In 2006 the Albanian Parliament adopted a resolution “condemning the crimes of communism in Albania.” This was the first time an Albanian legislative body in the post-communist era had appealed for the resolution of the fate of missing persons. Article 15 of the resolution calls, among other things, for support for a “fund for locating the missing and killed with or without trial for political purposes”. In March 2010, the Albanian Government decided to establish a “Task Force for searching, locating and identifying persons executed during the communist regime”. The Task Force is led by the Deputy Interior Minister and includes representatives of the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Defense, the intelligence services, and other agencies.
In April 2010, ICMP initiated regular contacts with the Albanian Government, human rights NGOs and families of missing persons and offered technical assistance to address the issue.
Following discussions with Albanian officials – including Prime Minister Sali Berisha and Chairman of the Task Force Avenir Peka – in April 2010, the Albanian authorities formally invited ICMP to provide assistance in institution building and technical assitance in identification of remains through a DNA-led process.
ICMP proposed, among other things, that Albania take steps to:
- Strengthen domestic rule of law institutions;
- Develop relevant domestic legislation;
- Establish central records and databases;
- Ensure the engagement of victims’ groups, families of the missing and civil society; and
- Establish an integrated scientific process for locating, recovering and identifying missing persons, incorporating DNA-based identification processes.
In October 2012, the Albanian Prime Minister indicated that the Government would convene a Donors Conference to support ICMP’s proposal; no further progress has been made since then.
ICMP remains in contact with the Albanian authorities, NGOs and families of missing persons in the country.