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News 19 Sep 17

Albania Police Seek Vetting Process That is 'Fair'

After the new Interior Minister announced ambitious plans to vet the whole police force next year, police organisations have urged PM Rama not to turn the process into a show.

Fatjona Mejdini
BIRN
Tirana
Albanian Police. Photo: Ministria e Puneve te Brendshme 

Albanian police organisations called on Edi Rama's government to vet the state police next year in a fair way, and not let it serve as a showcase for his new Interior Minister.

Interior Minister Fatmir Xhafaj has issued a directive announcing the start of the vetting process in 2018, once the relevant legislation is adopted this year.

Xhafaj took up his new post as Interior Minister last Wednesday, and the issue of the vetting decree is his first act in office.

A working group was formed on Friday and is expected to define the criteria of the process, which will aim to check whether all members of the police are free of links to crime and corruption while also assessing their professional abilities.

The police in Albania comprises around 11,000 staff and it is still not clear if the whole force is going to undergo the process, or whether it will be reserved only to those in senior positions.

Aleks Hajdari, who chairs an organisation for dismissed policeman, told BIRN that in principle they support the initiative, although it will be important to see who is in charge of it.

"It will all depend on the criteria that are set, as well on who controls the process. International and local police organisations must be part of it, for it to be fair and unbiased," he said.

In fact, the ministry directive emphasises that PAMECA, the EU funded technical assistance project, and ICITAP, the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program, are going to assist the working group.

However, the opposition has expressed concern and a lack of trust. The former Interior Minister, Flamur Noka, an MP for the centre-right Democratic Party took to Facebook on Saturday to call the initiative a sideshow.

He insists that the current crop of police directors are responsible for widespread cannabis cultivation and have even been beneficiaries of drugs trafficking.

"If the main chain of police does not quit in order to face justice, this initiative is going to be just a show," he said.

On Monday, he said the real vetting process should start with PM Rama, considering him the main figure responsible for the huge cannabis-growing problem in the country.

"All that they want is to do a partial hunt – time will show," he said.

The widespread nature of cannabis cultivation during 2016 took its toll on the police's image, with opposition politicians accusing senior members of the Rama-led government of involvement in trafficking.

Following changes in the police chain of command, the police launched a tougher campaign to crack down on cannabis cultivation this year.

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