Albania’s Government Unconstitutionally Pushes Draconian Sentences in Fight Against COVID-19
The Albanian government has unconstitutionally proposed draconian amendments to the Criminal Code on April 8th with the discussion on their approval expected to take place in Parliament today (April 16). The proposed amendments aim to impose prison sentences of up to 15 years on citizens found guilty of breaking government orders taken to prevent and fight the spread of COVID-19.
Criminal sanctions must be proportionate to the threat posed by offenses, hence there is no need for such harsh measures in Albanian society as there are no particular concerns of public disobedience. Therefore, the criminal sentences proposed are in violation of the principle of proportionality.
Furthermore, the Constitution of Albania does not allow for an accelerated procedure of approval for laws that are to be passed with qualified majority, such as the Criminal Code. This Code is a law of crucial importance and its amendments need to be based on reliable research, and should be subject of public debate and consultations with civil society and other groups. Additionally it is concerning that there is no distinction between subjects committing these offenses based on whether they are positive with the coronavirus or not. Such formulations may lead to arbitrary interpretations and the violation of citizens’ rights and freedoms.
Finally, given the crisis, it is important to remember that states around the world are aiming to reduce the number of detainees due to the added risk that the COVID-19 outbreak has in confined spaces.
For all the above mentioned reasons, Civil Rights Defenders joins a group of 30 Albanian civil society organisations in calling the parliament not to approve the amendments to the Criminal Code.
We call upon the Albanian authorities to respect international human rights standards and refrain from actions that are both unconstitutional and highly uncharacteristic of an aspiring EU member state.
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