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Albania: Rights Group Demands Linking Aid With Reforms

Bonn, 16 October 1997 (RFE/RL) -- An international human rights organization, Human Rights Watch, says international economic aid for Albania should be linked to democratic reform and respect for human rights.

The statement was issued two days before international donors meet in Rome (on Friday) to consider how they can assist Albania in its economic and political development after the unrest earlier this year.

Human Rights Watch, whose European headquarters are in Brussels, said Albania was "in desperate need" of foreign aid. But it also said aid should not be given blindly.

"Large amounts of aid without conditions will be a mistake," it said. "From 1991-1996 Albania received more foreign aid per capita than any other country in Eastern Europe. The result was economic corruption and political collapse."

"The international community must learn from its mistakes. Foreign aid should be linked to human rights conditions and the Albanian government's willingness to undertake democratic reform. Unlike in the past, assistance should benefit the democratic process rather than any political force."

Human Rights Watch said this year's crisis showed that long-lasting stability would come to Albania only when it had a democratic society based on the rule of law.

The European Director of Human Rights Watch, Lotte Leicht, said the organization had sent a message to the donors meeting in Rome proposing that foreign assistance should be directly linked to progress in nine key areas.

They include development of a constitution which guarantees a separation of powers and full respect for basic human rights. Another is reform of the judiciary "to guarantee that individuals are provided a fair trial before a competent and objective tribunal.,"

She said Human rights Watch believed the international community should seek guarantees that prisoners rights will be respected according to international law. Prisoners under the age of 18 should be kept separate from adults. Non-Government organizations should have free access to monitor Albanian prisons.

Leicht said Human Rights watch also wanted a far-reaching reform of the police and the secret police (SHIK), including training courses for police and government officials about human rights standards and protections..

"A clear structure should be established for aggrieved individuals to file complaints about police abuse or misconduct," she said. "Police who overstep their legal bounds must be held accountable before the law. Non-governmental organizations should be allowed to monitor the work of the police, including having access to police stations, where most abuse takes place."

In regard to the secret police, Human Rights Watch said international donors should insist that it become a non-partisan agency which serves the interest of the nation rather than the interests of one or another political party.

It also called for the appointment of a human rights ombudsman with clearly-defined rights regarding legislation and government policy.

Human Rights Watch says the international donors should also press for amendments to the statutes of the state-run television and radio to guarantee their political independence.

A new broadcast law should be introduced to allow for the ownership of private radio and television stations and the non-discriminatory allocation of broadcast licenses.