News 17 Oct 12

Albania Police Win Power to Break up Hunger Strike

Tirana court on Wednesday gives police powers to disperse a hunger strike by former political prisoners, seeking faster reparations for their incarceration under the Communists.

Besar Likmeta
A doctor tends to a hunger striker, among many former political prisoners who are demanding compensation from the government for alleged acts carried out by the former communist regime in Tirana, Albania, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012 | Photo by :AP/Hektor Pustina

The ruling by Judge Arjana Caco considers the tent where the strikers have camped out as a crime scene, after two ex-prisoners set themselves on fire last week in protest against the government's refusal to negotiate over their demands.

Using an article of the labour code that gives the police powers to disperse strikes where criminal acts occur, the judge has ordered the tent to be dismantled.

“The strikers are being thrown out with a court order, when everyone knows the courts are controlled by Prime Minister Sali Berisha,” the strike coordinator, Skender Tufa, said.

“In Albania a new dictatorship has been installed, which acts in the most brutal way,” he added.

The Communist Party ruled Albania with an iron fist for nearly half a century, imprisoning tens of thousands of people under appalling conditions in a network of prisons and concentration camps.  

Nearly 20 Communist-era ex-prisoners have been on a hunger strike in the Paris Commune neighborhood of Tirana since September 25, trying pressure the centre-right government into action over a 2007 law, which grants former political prisoners 2000 lek (€14) for every day they spent in prison during the Communist regime.

The law said that the reparations would be paid out in eight tranches with one installment paid out each year. However, in the past five years only one segment has been paid out.

Prime Minister Berisha has refused to consider the strikers' requests, saying the protest has been manipulated by the opposition and pointing out that his government has already paid out some compensation.  

In an appeal issued on Tuesday, Amnesty International called on the government to establish dialogue and promptly address the ex-prisoners' concerns.

“Few prisoners, including those who were tortured or subject to other forms of ill treatment, have received any form of rehabilitation, including psychological support, except that provided by nongovernmental organizations,” Amnesty noted.

 “They should be eligible to receive full reparation, including restitution, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition,” the human rights watchdog concluded.  

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