OF NATIONWIDE RECONCILIATION
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Letter: In regard to the rapport for the Security Council of United Nations about the phenomenon of blood feud in Albania.
Tirana on 16 April 2010
To: Professor Philip ALSTON
United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions
John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law
New York University School of Law
40 Washington Square South, 305
New York, NY 10012
Telephone: (212) 998-6173
Facsimile: (212) 995-4030
Dear Prof. Alston.
I am sorry for the delay in sending this letter but I have had some health issues and was unable to write you after your email of March 9th 2010. Once again I thank you on behalf of Committee of Nationwide Reconciliation for the work that you did regarding the situation of blood feud and isolated families in Albania.
I am writing in regard to the rapport that you are preparing for the Security Council of United Nations about the phenomenon of blood feud in Albania. I find it reasonable to write to you about some concerns that were raised by your press release on February 23rd, including the ones that I have sent you on the email of March 1st for this case.
Apart the objective description in your declaration, there are some interpretations that do not reflect the real situation. This might come as a result of the information that you have received by the government and the directors of police, who have made the same interpretations in front of the public opinion and the international organizations.
I believe you did not get the necessary information about the reasons that the Albanian government is interested in concealing the real situation of enmities and blood feud. The conceal of blood feud has been a continuous behavior of the Albanian government because blood feud is not only an index of lack of justice and effective rule of law, but primarily shows the irresponsibility of the government officials, corruption and the inability of the political class for dealing with the situation. In the recent years this conceal has become more prominent for not hindering the process of the acceptance of Albania in the European Union.
In your press release there was also a lack of clarification about what the nature of Albanian Kanun is; how deep its influence is in the life of Albanians; how it is deformed; and what is its nowadays activity. The influence of this Kanun in the life of Albanians is not an exaggeration because there is no reason or interest for such an exaggeration. I believe that time frame of your stay in Albania was very short to fully comprehend this situation.
In the resolution of the Third Congress of Reconciliation Missionaries held on March 30th 2009, and in other reports before and after this congress, you can find a wider description of this situation and the factors that have led to its creation.
It cannot be true that the decrease of number of murders for blood feud in the recent years has come as a result of the arrests and sentences given by justice, or as a result of the empowerment of the legal state. Committee of Nationwide Reconciliation has emphasized that the decrease of the number of murders from one year to another comes mainly as a result of reconciliations and the emigration outside of Albania of the families involved in conflicts. The influence of the arrests and other sentences given by justice in the decrease in the number of murders for blood feud is very little. Even if there have been few sentences of 20 years of imprisonment or life sentences, blood feud was not closed until there was a reconciliation between the parties. On the other hand, labeling the murders differently from what they are, has favored the murders by helping them avoid severe punishments and has deepened the enmity between families. In the same way honor killings, which are the most tragic part of the Albanian society, are concealed and labeled by the police as murders for “weak motives” even though they are committed purely under the psychology of a deformed Kanun. Furthermore, the Prime Minister has declared in the Albanian Parliament that these murders are a trauma of Albanian society and should be punished with a life sentence.
In the second page of your press release it is written that: “ … This self-isolation is maintained even where there are no specific threats or assault attempts by the other family. The isolated family presumes that an attack is possible, unless the other family offers them a besa (an often limited or temporary reprieve from the threat of revenge). They often also feel that, in the absence of a besa, honour requires them to remain isolated, even where there has been no concrete threat”. This is also repeated several times in your press release.
I want to stress that it is inhumane and very false to implicitly say that the self-isolation of the families in conflict is paranoiac and not based on concrete threats. In all these case, everyone knows that if you move freely you are in danger of being killed, furthermore when you have been told that “you are in blood”. It is true that sometimes families do not directly threaten to “take blood”, however they always declare that they “have not forgiven the blood or murder”, and everyone that lives in Albania knows that that is a direct and very concrete threat of murder for blood feud. These are the unwritten rules that govern the behavior of self-isolation and calling it paranoiac is blatantly offensive, the least. Not only the Committee of Nationwide Reconciliation but tens of other professors and you colleagues have analyzed this phenomenon that does not happen only in Albania.
Albanian government declares that the murders for blood feud have stopped, that special police structures have been established, that centers and projects for isolated children have been created, that law articles for blood feud have been included in the penal code and that the court of heavy crimes and hides the fact that all these measure are only in paper. Even those structures that have been established have failed. The national center for isolated children in Polican has failed and has changed the destination with the request of the designated ministry because of this failure, the police structure in Shkodra did not have any results and does not exist anymore as a structure. In the same way, the Coordinative Council for the Fight Against Blood Feud, established by law and lead by the President of the Republic has not functioned until now because the government has not released any funds apart the continuous efforts of the President to support the process of reconciliation and prevention of blood feud.
In your press release of February 23rd you emphasize that one of the factors influencing the exaggeration of blood feud is the interest of some associations for receiving donations.
As I have written in the email of March 1st 2010, the Committee of Nationwide Reconciliation does not apply for projects to donors because the nature of the reconciliation process does not need such projects. That is why I assure you that only associations that cannot do the work of reconciliation in terrain get projects granted by international donors. They are tactically interested in supporting the political position of the government in hiding the situation because the government is the coordinator of the projects that are compiled for pouring money into civil society. Thus those projects are granted to associations that the government chooses. Regarding also your comment about the fact that actually the reconciliation process unintentionally nurtures the Kanun mentality, with all the respect I would beg to think differently. The situation of conflicts in the Albanian society comes because of the clash of formal institutions with the informal ones; the people do not trust in the state and see the state institutions as not part of their life. The reconciliation process is actually one of the most effective routes of actually making the formal and informal institutions compatible with each other, because the message that all the reconciliation missionaries always transmit to all the families in conflict is the observance of the rule of law, and the resolution of the conflict in a legal way. The reconciliation process is actually a very important grassroots work in the aspect of getting the local communities involved in discussing about the law and nurturing back the lost trust of the people in the state. In no way, this process is establishing parallel institutions, the only work it is doing is the one of merging the cultural informal institutions with the state ones, which is one of the most fundamental issues that needs to be resolved in Albania, otherwise long term progress will be impossible, and conflicts and blood feud will always be present.
There still exists a worry about the confrontation of figures about the victims of blood feud and enmities and with the interpretations of Kanun challenging the rule of law. This worry is raised mainly by representative of police and government, who declare the opposite when they are in opposition. Another worry is also for the increase on the number of suicides, which have become very often in this period. In the years 2000-2008, the number of suicides was 1502 while in the period 1974-1982, during a repressive communist regime, this number does not pass 100. We believe that these suicides do not come as a result of their publication in media or are incited by religious organizations, as the police or government declares. They mostly come as a result of the very stressful and depressive situation of the society, which the government tries to conceal with propaganda and demagogy.
In the second page of your press release of February 23rd, in the fifth paragraph it is written”… My own carefully considered view is that the correct numbers are much closer to those provided by the Government…” In the same paragraph you also say “…This is not to say that the Government statistics are definitive. Their accuracy is qualified by inadequate data-gathering and recording techniques, and insufficient coordination…”
If we would refer to the statistics about the conflicts for land and property, for human trafficking, for murders and injuries, the figures of the government and institutions are extremely unacceptable and an indicator of the irresponsible attitude. It is in the interest of the government to cover the real situation and declare that the figures of NGO-s are artificially increased when regarding blood feud, human trafficking, prostitution, corruption, unemployment, poverty or any other situation that they cannot confront.
As I have written on my email of March 1st I also remain a little concerned about the clarification of some figures presented in your final report. If the figure of 300 police officers killed while negotiating blood feud is taken from the resolution of the Third Congress of Reconciliation Missionaries, I want to clarify that in the resolution says that 300 officers were killed in the line of duty, not attempting to stop blood feud (presented to picture the challenges of the police officers). In another case where the figure of 9800 murders because of blood feud is mentioned, I want to clarify that if this figure is also taken in the same resolution, there it says that 9800 persons were killed through self-justice, which indicates the number of murders happening in the past 20 years in Albania, and these include all the murders for many different reasons among which is blood feud and revenge. Also media in the foreign countries have cited this figure as murders for blood feud by not being clear and citing it incorrectly.
In the third page, in sixth paragraph of your press release of February 23rd it is said that “…While the justice system does suffer from serious weaknesses and considerable corruption, there is no evidence that a perceived law and order vacuum explains a continuing attachment to the practice of blood feuds. While some cases, particularly older ones, remain unresolved, and some accused killers have gone into hiding or fled the country and not been extradited, in most of the cases I examined, the killer had either surrendered or been quickly arrested, and was prosecuted and sentenced. Moreover, the reduction in recent years in the overall homicide rate has also brought with it a reduction in blood feuds, thus attesting to the impact of more effective policing, among other factors.”
Blood feud cannot be the desire of anyone. It is imposed by the lack of state, observance of law and justice ad by many other factors, like the psychological, social, economical and cultural one. As emphasized before, the decrease of number murders is mainly as a result of emigration of families and persons in enmities and reconciliation but not as a result of the empowerment of the rule of law and the responsibility of institutions. According to the Minister of Agriculture Jemin Gjana, until August 2008, emigration and conflicts for land have left barren 90% of the fertile land of Albania. About one third of the population has emigrated outside Albania, and a considerable part of it is because of the conflicts and enmities. And of course, today we cannot compare the number of murders in Albania with the one of the years 1997-1997 and consider it a success.
In the fourth page, in second paragraph it says “…Moreover, many isolated families never receive a specific threat to which police could respond – they just believe that the lack of besa means they could be targeted at any time...”
As mentioned before, it is not that people think a priori that they in danger and that is why they stay isolated. The danger is present and the person that asks for protection does not need to try and move freely to prove if the family of the victim will take revenge, in order to convince the state institutions that he needs protection. It is completely rational, given the mentality of the population, to choose the safe way of self-isolation.
In the fourth page, third paragraph, you rightfully say that the penal code has been changed and the punishment for murder for blood feud is raised, but when you say that special polices structures have been created maybe you are talking about the ones in Shkodra, created in 2005, which does not function as mentioned also in the reports of United States Department of State reports. Also as emphasized before and in our other previous reports, the Coordinative Council for the Fight Against Blood Feud, created in 2005 does not function.
In the fourth page, in the last paragraph it is said that “...Some people are virtually confined full time, while others go out occasionally, and still others might leave the house quite often...” and “…some organizations claimed that blood feud killings are increasingly targeting women and children. But, in fact, few have actually been killed, and two women who were appear to have been accidentally hit...”
Below I will present a worrying situation that is caused by the irresponsibility of the police and government to hide the reality of blood feud that might prove that also in this part of your press release the real situation is not emphasized. The fake declarations of the police and government regarding this phenomenon not only have not made any good or improved the situation but actually aggravated the situation by deepening even more the wound. It cannot be a coincidence that every time it is declared that there are no more murders for blood feud, the opposite happens and more families in enmity were involved in tragic acts.
This attitude of the government and the police sounds in the ears of the families of the victims not only as an offense, but also as a challenge and an alliance with the criminal who often is sentenced for a short period of time or is set free. In this way the police not only disturb the feelings of the families of the victims but also causes a reaction among other Albanian families that are in different conflicts caused by the laws and state institutions themselves. The families of the victims consider blood feud not only as a justice issue, but also as a honor issue. The families of the victims and the families in conflict ask for support, condolence, and justice and not for challenging them. The fake declarations have incited reactions. This was notices in the end of 2007 after the declarations of the police that in this year there were no murders for blood feud. A few days after this press release, on December 24 2007, a 55 years old mother, Age Filipi (teacher) and her son, Platin Filipi, 20 years old, who for over a year had been moving around carrying guns because the opponent party had not accepted reconciliation, were executed in Shkodra. In the same way three brothers in Lura, Diber, execute the boyfriend of their sister and their older sister declaring publicly that “we killed them for honor”, while in Tirana brother and sister are killed and their murderer, Hajdar Puci, declares stoically in media that he killed them for blood feud and that he had warned the police that he would take the blood. Confronted with these public declarations the police was forced to admit in 2008 5 murders for blood feud, but still hiding 24 other ones and 32 murder for “honor”. I want to stress that due to the deformations and misinterpretation of Kanun nowadays many people murder for honor under the psychology that they are taking blood, thus for blood feud. In the end of 2009 confronted with the requests of the questionnaire of EU and the decision for the liberalization of visas, police and government structures declared in media that during this year there was only one murder for blood feud, while there were 31 such murders and 36 for honor. From that moment in the first quarter of 2010 the number of murders almost doubled including women and minors. The public opinion was shocked during this period by the intensity of these murders and the declarations of relatives of victims that in all the cases the police was aware of the conflicts and enmities but was unable to intervene.
Confronted with this situation, on February 2nd 2010 the Prime Minister asked Committee of Nationwide Reconciliation and not the police for detailed information regarding the murder of January 7th 2010 in Durres where four families were forced to leave their house and self-isolate. Also, in this case it resulted that while members of the leaving families had asked for the support of the police during the moments of moving the house furniture, the police did not show up.
The police are conscientious that not only after every murder but also after every injury or honor violation, a murder might result if the parties do not reconcile. From the 90 to 130 murders that the police register every year, there are 90 to 130 potential blood feuds that the police do not have the minimal tool or legal options to confront. The number of families that are involved in blood feud because of land conflicts, human trafficking, honor issue or injuries is several times bigger than the number of murders for blood feud.
We have explained in many official papers that during these years, in opposition with the Kanun there were many murders of women and children, which was condemned by the whole community and Albanian public opinion because these murders are in opposition with the tradition as well that protects women and children in every circumstance. You were invited by the Albanian government to evaluate the situation, but we cannot say that there have been no murders of women and children for blood feud when the reality says the opposite. Only the above mentioned cases have 3 cases of women murdered. The government also knows that the murder in Vlora is still fresh in the minds of people, when a 22 years old man shoots for blood feud the mother of the murderer of his brother, who (the lady) was also a member of the military forces.
The families of the victims, that under the burden of pain and the lack of justice seek blood feud, are under continuous psychological pressure, on one side by the pressure of the public opinion that considers them weak if they do not take blood and on the other side by the interventions of the negotiators to forgive and reconcile. Their ignorance by the police affects their grave psychological and spiritual situation but also clashes with the ethics and professionalism of police thus having consequences. It often happens that when the mediators create the favorable terrain for reaching reconciliation everything is ruined as soon as irritations or other factors that hurt the dignity and honor of the damaged party in front of the public opinion rise. These irritations and ruining factors come as a result of a simply bad word said by anybody as well as by the irresponsible attitude of the representatives of state.
I hope that in the rapport that you are presenting to the Security Council, you will transmit these worries. Leaving the reality outside the descriptions in the report for maintaining equilibriums, I think might fade the influence and the contribution that is expected from you and UN regarding this phenomenon.
Please accept once again my hearty thanks for what you have done in this direction and I want to assure you that your presence in Albania was a great contribution for us. The Albanian media have treated your work with very high respect. You are one of the most honored guests of Albania and I am really honored to have met you personally
Tirana on 16 April 2010