A new map drastically reducing the number of courts in the Albania, to address the shortage of judges caused by the vetting process and the overload of the justice system, has drawn criticism from rights watchdogs, which say it will reduce access to the courts. The High Judicial Council, HJC, and the Ministry of Justice proposed the map last December.
“Reducing the number of judges as a result of the vetting process should not lead us to short-term solutions by significantly reducing the number of courts,” Erida Skendaj, head of Helsinki Committee in Albania, one of the opposing organisations, has told BIRN.
“The legislature and the judiciary need to think of the effective solutions to fill these vacancies. The new court map undermines access to justice for groups in need,” she added.
According to the proposed draft, the number of first instance courts in Albania is expected to fall to 12. The HJC also proposes merging six courts of appeal into a single court, the National Court of Appeals. The draft also envisages cutting the number of administrative courts from six to three, based in Lushnje and Tirana.
In total, the closure of 19 courts out of 39 is planned.
“Our concept is less court and more quality,” the president of the HJC, Naureda Llagami, said during the presentation. The proposal for the new map is expected to be approved by the Council of Ministers.
But civil society organisations focused on law and human rights have called on the HJC and the Ministry of Justice to review the proposed map.
The group said in a joint statement that the reorganisation of the courts and their territorial jurisdiction is important and should take into account “increasing access, quality and reducing costs for citizens in obtaining justice and in respect of the right to a fair trial”.
Albanian Parliament approved unanimously a few days ago to prolong the mandate of the vetting process in judiciary bodies which has failed to reform the judiciary system but internationals like US and EU praise what is being done with the justice system in this Balkan country.
No country of the Western Balkans involved in the EU integration process has accepted to carry out Albanian judiciary reform considering it a disaster. /argumentum.al