PREMIUM LEGAL RESOURCES
ASK A LAWYER
Demographic data: Population (1990 est.) 3,100,000. Area 28,748 sq. km.
Population of largest city (Tirana, est.) 300,000.
The development of the criminal justice system of Albania is in line
with that of other European socialist countries. Following the
establishment of the People's Republic of Albania in 1946, the model for
criminal justice was taken from the USSR.
At the time of the establishment of the People's Republic, the 1929
Penal Code of the former Kingdom of Albania was in force. Between 1945
and 1952, separate enactments on penal law and criminal procedure were
adopted to remedy the immediate need for reform. A completely new penal
code was adopted in 1952. In connection with the constitutional reform
of 1977, the penal code was also reformed. This 1977 Penal Code has
been amended since then. A totally new penal code, reflecting the
extensive changes in the constitution adopted at the end of 1990 and the
beginning of 1991, shall be submitted to the People's Assembly in June
1991. It has been under preparation for three years.
The code of criminal procedure was first adopted in 1953. Since the
1970s, the 1953 Code has been extensively amended in order to correct
the influences of Soviet legislation and Soviet legal theory. The
present Code of Criminal Procedure (adopted by law no. 6069 on 25
December 1979) consolidated many of these amendments.
In 1968, a system of advocates was established. Following the changes
noted above, a draft for a new Code of Criminal Procedure shall be
submitted to the People's Assembly in September 1991.
The draft Constitution which is to be discussed by the new pluralist
Parliament constituted after the general election of 31 March 1991
contains several proposed amendments of the system of state organs and
of the judicial system. The draft Constitution is based on the principle
of the separation of powers.
The police force comprises the uniformed police, the criminal
investigation police, the traffic department, the laboratory for
criminalistics, and the fire department. The uniformed police, in turn,
consists of one division for the maintenance of order, and one division
for special guard duties (such as the guarding of government buildings,
as ordered by the Council of Ministers).
The total police force, not including the fire department, consists of
The police are organized in 26 district police forces, each of which has
a uniformed police department, a criminal investigation department, and
a fire department. The central administration is the responsibility of
the national police department of the Ministry for Internal Affairs.
Police training is provided at a two-year academy for non- commissioned
officers and a four-year academy for officers. Of the curriculum of the
two academies, 30 % of the subjects are law- related, 30 %
"professional", and the remaining 40 % assorted other subjects (such as
languages and physical training). 80 % of the officers have a secondary
THE INVESTIGATION AND PROSECUTION OF OFFENCES
Previously, according to the 1953 Code of Criminal Procedure, the
investigation and prosecution of offences was to be carried out by the
investigators of the office of the public prosecutor, by officers of the
State Security Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and by
constables of local departments of the police force.
Bodies responsible for law enforcement in administrative sectors, such
as finance, health care, trade, and customs, had the right, within the
scope of their jurisdiction, to gather evidence and bring this to the
attention of the police or the office of the public prosecutor.
In all cases, the public prosecutor had the right to supervise the
investigation of the case. The prosecutor had the authority to give
binding orders on the conduct of the investigation, to issue warrants
for arrest or searches, to dismiss the case, and to submit investigated
cases to the examination of the court. The prosecutor had the right to
prepare the indictment which was the basis for the court hearing.
The 1953 Code of Criminal Procedure granted public prosecutors and
bodies responsible for pre-trial investigation the right to initiate
cases in court. A case could be initiated only if there was sufficient
evidence of the probable guilt of a suspect.
The 1979 Code of Criminal Procedure concentrated the responsibility for
the investigation of offences into a single centralized body
subordinated to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. This body was
comprised of the Department of Investigation in the Ministry, and the
district level offices of investigation that are subordinated to the
district bodies for internal affairs. The right of the police and other
administrative bodies to investigate offences ceased. Their legal
obligation was solely to report cases directly to the court or to the
office of investigation.
The 1979 Code also restricted the role of the prosecutor in the pre-
trial investigation. The prosecutor had the right to control the
legality of investigation and prosecution.
In connection with an amendment of the Constitution (law no. 6799 of 29
June 1983), the Code of Criminal Procedure was again amended in respect
of the investigation of offences. The responsibility for pre-trial
investigation was separated from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and
turned over to the General Office of Investigation and to district
offices of investigation. The Director of the General Office of
Investigation is appointed by the People's Assembly. The offices of
investigation have the right to prosecute and investigate all criminal
cases, with the exception of those subject to private prosecution or to
the simplified pre-trial investigation noted above.
Decree no. 7177 of the Presidium of the People's Assembly (20 November
1987) granted the prosecutor the right to initiate the criminal case, to
bring certain cases where the evidence of guilt is manifest directly to
court, and to approve or overrule the principal procedural decisions of
the investigators. This decree strengthened the role of the public
prosecutor in the criminal process and, in some respects, created a
duality between the bodies of public prosecution and the higher bodies
responsible for investigation.
In 1990, the advocates (defence counsel) were provided with the right to
participate in all acts of pre-trial investigation. This, together with
the amendments described above, created the necessity for the present
work on total revision of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Currently, the police have the power of arrest for up to three days.
The public prosecutor has the power of arrest for up to three months.
Under the reform presently underway, the powers of arrest held by the
prosecutor shall be repealed. All detainees must be brought to a court
within three days of their apprehension.
Certain petty criminal offences (such as defamation and petty assault)
may be prosecuted as private prosecution offences. Certain other petty
criminal offences are subject to a simplified pre-trial investigation
conducted by the local police, the offices of investigation, public
prosecutors or military units.
THE COURT SYSTEM
Albania has three levels of courts, the district courts, the territorial
(zonal) courts and the Supreme Court.
The 26 district courts are the first instance for almost all criminal
and civil cases. Sessions are presided over by a legally trained judge,
who is normally assisted by two lay assessors. In certain more
important cases, the judge will be assisted by four lay assessors.
Decisions are made by a majority vote. The lay assessors do not receive
any special training for their duties.
The district court judges are elected by a general vote of all the
citizens of the district. They are also subject to removal by the
voters or the local council.
The case (including the preparatory inquiry used in the more difficult
cases) is always dealt with by the full complement of judge and
assessors. This has led to a heavy case load in at least some courts.
However, the average length of the procedure, from the commission of the
offence to the court sentence, is estimated to be two months.
Decisions by district courts can be appealed by the defendant and the
prosecutor if the sentence is imprisonment for at least one month, re-
education for at least three months, or a fine of 100 leks. In
addition, the Minister of Justice, the President of the Supreme Court
and the General Prosecutor have the right to "present a demand for the
defence of law against court decisions of final form" (art. 179(4) of
the Code of Penal Procedure, as amended by Law no. 7386 of 8 May 1990).
The six zonal courts are, as a rule, courts of appeal. As an exception
to this rule, they are the first instance for certain important cases,
as decided by the President of the Supreme Court.
The zonal court judges are elected for a three-year term by the councils
of all the districts comprising the zone. The local councils may also
decide on removal of a judge.
The Supreme Court is the highest judicial body in Albania. In addition
to its appellate responsibilities, it is the first instance for the more
serious offences indicated by the President of the Supreme Court. It
has three divisions: penal, civil and military. The procedure before
the Supreme Court in appellate proceedings is written.
The members of the Supreme Court are elected by the People's Assembly.
The Presidium of the People's Assembly may decide on the pre-term
appointment or removal of a single member of the Supreme Court.
A plenary session of the Supreme Court has the power to issue mandatory
guidelines to the district courts. Such guidelines have been issued on,
inter alia, the criteria for sentencing in such offences as theft or
robbery of state property, homicide, and crimes in office.
Before 1990, Albania also had a network of village, city and
neighbourhood courts (comparable to the social courts or peer courts
found in some other Eastern European countries). These were abolished
by Law no. 7383 of 8 May 1990, "On Social Courts", which established a
new social court. This social court deals with minor criminal offences
that do not pose a great threat to society, and with some civil
complaints. It is solely a conciliatory body, with no powers to enforce
its decision. It has no powers, for example, to impose punishment.
If reconciliation fails, the case goes to the district court. However,
the district court judge has the discretion to renew the attempt at
reconciliation, before taking up the case formally (art. 125 of the Code
of Penal Procedure, as amended by Law no. 7386 of 8 May 1990).
According to the draft Constitution presently under discussion, the
judicial system is to operate independently of other state organs. The
Superior Council of the Judiciary, which is presided over by the
President of the Republic, is to have the right to appoint judges and
other magistrates as well as reprimand or remove them.
THE ENFORCEMENT OF SENTENCES
The forms of punishment are imprisonment, re-education and fines.
At the moment (January 1991), Albania reports some 3 100 prisoners. Of
these, only 19 prisoners are reported to be in the 14-17 year- old
bracket. In addition, 145 juveniles are in special re- education
centres. 41 % of the prisoners are recidivist prisoners.
44 % of the prisoners work in the mining industry. Other major fields
are agriculture and construction. The expansion of handicrafts is being
considered. Since the beginning of 1990, furloughs have been granted on
a discretionary basis. A total of 310 have been granted, and in all
except one case the conditions have been fulfilled.
Prisons do not report any particular disciplinary problems. Each prison
has a council of re-education, which is elected by the prisoners
themselves. This council is responsible, for example, for the
arrangement of hygiene, and for some disciplinary matters. Homosexuality
(which is illegal in Albania) causes some problems, as does card-
playing. No narcotics problems are reported. Tattooing, which is a
problem in certain other Eastern European countries, is no longer
regarded as a problem; earlier, it was particularly prevalent among
Parole can be granted after one half of the prison term has been
completed, and the offender has shown through his work and behaviour
that he has been reformed. Parole can be proposed by state organs and
social organizations, and the decision is made by the court. Revocation
of parole is possible if the offender commits a new offence during the
parole period which is at least as serious as the first offence (art.
42c, as amended by Law no. 7380 of 8 May 1990).
Three amnesties have been granted over the past ten years. The most
recent amnesty, on 1 January 1989, affected 35 % of the prison
THE MINISTRY OF JUSTICE
Up to 1990, the duties of the Ministry of Justice were dealt with by a
special division of the Supreme Court. The Ministry of Justice was
established by Law no. 7381 of 9 May 1990, which took immediate effect.
The Ministry deals, among others, with the following: a) it oversees
the organization and functioning of the courts and the Bar; b) it
directs and controls the activity of the courts, the court records
office, the bailiff's office, the notary's office, and the register of
personal dwellings (however, it does not have the right to intervene in
the judicial process, which is independent of the Ministry); c) it
administers the system of statistics of the judicial organs, the office
of investigation, the public prosecutor's office and the office of state
arbitration; d) it prepares legislative drafts on questions within its
ambit, and reviews legislative drafts in other fields; e) it arranges
for the necessary training of lawyers who work for the State, f) it
directs the criminalistics and forensic medicine services, and g) it
represents Albania in international relations with other judicial
During the near future, some elements shall be transferred from the
Ministry of Internal Affairs to the Ministry of Justice. These include
in particular the Prison Department.
The Bar was established on the basis of a 1990 reform (Law on the
Advocacy in the People's Socialist Republic of Albania, Law no. 7382 of
8 May 1990; and amendment of art. 9, 10 and 14 of the Code of Penal
Procedure, law no. 7387 of 8 May 1990). Before the establishment of the
Bar, defendants (and others in need of legal counseling) were assisted
by legally trained officials ("advisers"), as established by Decree 4277
of 20 July 1967. The duties of such advisers did not extend to the
The primary purpose of the advocacy is to assist defendants during the
investigation and the trial, and serve as counsel in civil and
administrative cases (art. 1 of the Law on Advocacy). Participation of
an advocate is compulsory if the defendant is a minor (14-17,
inclusive), or is incapable of defending himself because of physical or
The Bar consists of collegiums of advocates (art. 4 of the Law on
Advocacy). Membership is restricted to persons with a law degree and at
least three years of experience as lawyers. The Minister of Justice may
grant exceptions from these requirements (art. 5).
The Bar is overseen by a Supervisory Council established in the Ministry
of Justice. This Council consists of the Min-ister, the deputy
Minister, the head of the department, and four advocates elected by the
assembly of all collegiums of advocates. The Council decides on the
admission of a lawyer as a member of a collegium (art. 6 of the Law on
Advocacy). The Council is also responsible for disciplinary measures
The Law on Advocacy contains provisions on, inter alia, the rights and
obligations of advocates. Article 13 stipulates that the Ministry of
Justice, in cooperation with the Ministry of Finance, determines the
schedule of fees, and all fees are paid to the account of the collegium
as a whole. The income thus accruing is shared among the members of the
collegium on the basis of rules issued by the Minister of Justice.
Advocates do not have a monopoly on the presentation of cases in court.
Individual citizens remain free to present their own case to court.
REFORM OF CRIMINAL LAW
At the end of 1990 and the beginning of 1991, considerable political and
constitutional changes have been made in Albania. The most significant
is the adoption of pluralist democracy (the establishment of different
political parties). These and other changes require extensive reform of
criminal law. In addition, although the authorities stress that Albania
has no problems with such offences as narcotics, organized crime or
illegal trade in weapons, the new criminal law shall include provisions
on these and other internationally recognized offences. During 1990, the
use of capital punishment was considerably reduced (art. 22 of the Penal
Code; amended by Law no. 7380 of 8 May 1990). It can now be used for
only a few of the more serious offences, such as homicide, treason,
terrorism, diversion (incitement to commit sabotage) and sabotage, and
espionage. Capital punishment may not be imposed on offenders below 18
years of age, or on women.
At the same time, the offence of treason was redefined. Unlawful
migration is no longer regarded as treason, but as "illegal trespass of
a border". The offence of agitation and propaganda was also redefined,
so that it is now limited to acts "which are aimed at the overthrow of
the social and state order established in the People's Socialist
Republic of Albania", including fascist and war- mongering propaganda.
As one of the results of the latter reform, the spreading of religious
propaganda is no longer punishable as agitation and propaganda (art. 58,
as amended by Law no. 7380 of 8 May 1990).
The 1990 reform also adopted provisions on prescription of prosecution
and prescription of the enforcement of sentences, as well as provisions
on rehabilitation ("extinction of penalty" for those who have been
reformed through re-education) (art. 39-42b, as amended by Law no. 7380
of 8 May 1990).
REFORM OF PROCEDURAL LAW
The authorities stress that the Albanian state has always abided by, and
its legislation has always reflected, the requirements and spirit of a
number of international agreements, such as the Charter of the United
Nations, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and the
International Pact on Civil and Political Rights.
Along with the changes noted above, criminal procedure is to be
reformed. The most important element of this change is an emphasis on
the independence of the judiciary and of the Bar.
Brought to you by - The 'Lectric Law Library
The Net's Finest Legal Resource For Legal Pros & Laypeople Alike.