By Ina Xhepa, lawyer and Executive Director at the European Centre (Albania)
Over the last decade, the Albanian judiciary was considered to be one of the weakest aspects of the functioning of the rule of law in the country. Field surveys revealed high levels of corruption and led to the loss of citizen’s trust towards the juridical system. This motivated the Albanian Assembly to undertake an in-depth justice reform, aimed at challenging the culture of impunity and restoring citizens’ trust towards this system. Re-evaluation of all judges, prosecutors and legal advisors in office based on three criteria, also known as the vetting process, was considered to be the corner stone of the justice reform.
This contribution discusses one of the latest judgments delivered by the European Court of Human Rights (‘the Court’), the case of Xhoxhaj v. Albania. The judgment`s focus lies on some of the most important aspects of Albania’s vetting process. The Court decided that the respondent State respected fair trial guarantees whilst setting up the vetting bodies. It considered this two-instance structure as tribunals set up by law, which enjoy sufficient legal and structural guarantees to be independent and impartial. The Court considered the Albanian case sui generis. Moreover, a lifetime veto to take juridical office was not considered to constitute a violation of human rights. The following contribution will firstly shed light on the background and facts of the case, before engaging in a discussion on the dilemmas and consequences of the judgment.Continue reading