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News 14 Oct 15

Albania To Open Communists’ Secret Files

The Albanian parliament has started the process of selecting the members of the state office that will be in charge of opening up Communist-era secret police files.

Fatjona Mejdini
BIRN
Tirana

Albanian Parliament | Photo by: Kris Hodaj

The first of five candidates for the office in charge of opening up secret police files that were compiled during the reign of Albanian Communist dictator Enver Hoxha is expected to be approved by parliament on Thursday.

The first candidate was nominated by Albania’s Council of Ministers; two more will be proposed by the parliamentary majority while the other two will be nominated by associations representing people persecuted by the Communist regime.

Under Communist rule, Hoxha imprisoned tens of thousands of people with the help of the secret police, but until this year, Albania was one of the few countries in Eastern Europe where Communist-era secret police files remained confidential.

The ex-director of the state-funded Albanian Institute of Formerly Persecuted People, Simon Mirakaj told BIRN that he has put himself forward as a candidate for the new office.

Mirakaj said the new body would stop the practice of alleging that people were collaborators in order to smear their reputations for political advantage.

"This initiative will stop political allegations through disclosing who really was and was not a collaborator with the communist Sigurimi i Shtetit [Secret Police]," he said. 

A law came into force in May to open up the files, although it was not supported by the opposition, which argued that Albania should not open the former secret files just for transparency’s sake, but should instead ‘lustrate’ former collaborators, restricting them from holding public office.

The law that was passed makes it possible for people who were persecuted under Communism and their families to ask to see the files on them and know the names of the people who spied on them. 

The body overseeing the initiative will also have the authority to do check-ups on political party officials and holders of public office to see if they were police collaborators. 

It is further expected to disclose for the first time the exact number of secret police files that were compiled under Communism in Albania.

Bilal Kola, the director of the Albanian Institute for Formerly Persecuted People, told BIRN that his organisation had also put forward a candidate for the new body.

"The associations of formerly persecuted people have supported [the inititaive] but they also have high expectation about this new body. We hope that the members of this authority will do their best,” he said. 

Enver Hoxha ruled Albania with an iron fist for nearly half a century, building a personality cult often compared to today’s North Korea.

Albania’s Association of Former Political Prisoners believes that about 5,577 men and 450 women were executed for political crimes during the Communist era from 1946 to 1991. Tens of thousands of others were imprisoned or sent to labour camps.

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