The Albanian Helsinki Committee has criticised mass arrests of protesters amid nation-wide demonstrations against rising prices. The arrests, the human rights organisation argues, were not carried out in line with Albanian law or international practices.
Amid rising gas prices tied to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, protests have erupted in several Albanian towns as residents demand transparency and government action. Some 200 people were arrested and prosecuted last week for holding “illegal gatherings,” though a group was later released after the court described their arrests as partly unlawful.
According to the court, mass arrests on charges of “illegal gathering” and “opposition to police forces” were not in line with Albanian law. Charges of blocking roads, however, were endorsed by the court. The majority of the arrests took place in Albania’s capital of Tirana, and a number of the arresting officers were in plain clothes.
The Albaninan Helsinki Committee’s report said that mass arrests carried out by State Police while the protesters were committing the alleged offences was “in violation of the guarantees of the right of assembly provided in Article 47 of the Constitution of the Republic of Albania and Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights”.
Moreover, the Albaninan Helsinki Committee said the law was broken during a number of arrest. In some cases, investigators found that the reason for the arrest was not written in the relevant documents as required by law.
At the same time, there were reportedly irregularities in the police documentation of arrests; some detainees reported being held in poor conditions. Alleged injuries sustained by protesters during their arrests’ were not registered in official documentation.
“The Helsinki Committee draws attention to the non-compliance with the [Albanian] legal framework and international standards for the procedure of documenting signs of physical harm by medical staff and the failure to report to the prosecutor’s office,” reads the report.
The report also refers to the a case where a person with disabilities was arrested by police.
Demonstrations began in Albania in early March, with citizens protesting rises in the prices of gas and food. Last week, the price of gas reached a record high, exceeding €2 a litre. Albania’s minimum wage is just €240 a month.
Protesters have published a list of demands, including the removal of a range of taxes on gas. Government taxes currently make up 53 percent of the price of gas in Albania.