2009 Albania: Assessment of Juvenile Justice Reform Achievement in Albania
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A comprehensive system of juvenile justice does not exist in Albania. There is no juvenile justice law,
and accused juveniles are prosecuted under special chapters of the Criminal Code and the Code of
Criminal Procedure. Although there is no specialized juvenile court, specialized judges and prosecutors
have been appointed recently, in six courts. There are no detention nor correctional facilities exclusively
for juveniles. Male juvenile offenders are confined in special sections of pretrial detention facilities and
the special section of a prison; adolescent girls are detained and serve sentences in facilities for women.
Juveniles under age 14 may not be prosecuted for any crime or offence, and those over age 16 may
be prosecuted for any offence; those aged 14 or 15 may be prosecuted only for crimes. The maximum
sentence that may be imposed on convicted juveniles is twelve years and six months. There are no
closed educational facilities – and indeed, no rehabilitation programmes of any kind – for children
under age 14 involved in criminal activity.
The number of offences committed by children and juveniles in the most recent year for which
data are available is 949, of which 253 were committed by children under age 14.10 The number of
juveniles sentenced in that year, 2006, was 268. The number of juveniles deprived of liberty is small:
at the time of the assessment mission, there were 13 serving sentences and 59 in detention awaiting
trial or the outcome of an appeal.
In 2001, UNICEF supported the establishment of an interministerial working group on juvenile justice
and in 2004 it supported the preparation of a situation analysis by an international consultant.
A programme called ‘On the Rights Track: Preventive and Restorative Juvenile Justice Reform’
was prepared in 2005. Implemented in January 2006, the programme will end in December 2009.11
The programme has focused mainly on advocacy training and law reform, pilot projects on legal
and psychological assistance, mediation and alternative sentences and, to some extent, prevention.
The budget is € 2,257,000.12
No other international donors play a significant role in juvenile justice reform as such, but they do
support programmes that will have important impact on juvenile justice. A major programme of
replacing old prisons and detention facilities is underway, with the support of the European Union.
The OSCE is supporting the development of a probation system which, when established, could have
a significant impact on juvenile justice, in particular in the areas of diversion, alternative sentences
and post-release support.
Important progress has been made in bringing Albanian law and practice into conformity with
international standards and best practices. This is a dynamic process, which is continuing. Much
remains to be done.
Positive developments include the creation of specialized sections of district courts, specialized
prosecutors and a specialized police unit; the renovation and elimination of overcrowding in some
detention facilities; greater access of both juvenile prisoners and detainees to education, social
workers, psychologists and religious counsellors; and the positive attitudes of senior correctional staff
regarding the rights of children. These developments are due to a large extent to the advocacy and
training supported by UNICEF’s programme, to the interest of governmental partners and to the active
participation of civil society. The pilot projects on legal and psychosocial assistance, on alternative
sentences and on mediation are working effectively, and it seems possible that they will be sustainable.
Important challenges remain. Although its application has been humanized, the law remains
essentially punitive. Further efforts are needed to reduce the use of pretrial detention. Work on law
reform has proceeded slowly, and there is no clear and comprehensive plan on juvenile justice.
Compiling and publishing data on juvenile justice would help support the reform process and
monitor the results of reforms undertaken. Coordination between the actors involved in juvenile
justice focuses on implementation of the programme; no permanent coordination mechanism
exists. Diversion should be put on a sound legal basis and expanded. Secondary prevention requires
more attention, and programmes for children under age 14 involved in criminal activity are needed.
A recent report on the use of violence in one pretrial detention centre indicates that accountability
mechanisms are not functioning effectively.
The assessment team recommends that a policy on juvenile justice should be developed jointly by all
concerned sectors; a comprehensive law on juvenile justice or a Children’s Code containing a section
on juvenile justice should be adopted; a permanent interministerial, intersectoral coordinating body
should be established; a draft legislation on the establishment of a probation service and legal
assistance centres for children should be adopted and implemented; the feasibility of establishing
one or more specialized juvenile courts should be evaluated; priority should be given to eliminating
delays in the investigation and adjudication of cases involving juveniles, reducing the use of pretrial
detention and increasing the use of diversion; research on offending by children without criminal
responsibility should be undertaken in order to identify most appropriate forms of prevention and
assistance; one or more community-based secondary prevention programmes should be designed
and piloted; training of all personnel in contact with juvenile offenders should be institutionalized;
and qualifications and codes of professional conduct should be established and enforced.
Finally, the assessment team recommends that UNICEF continue to encourage the development
of a juvenile justice system, in particular, by facilitating access to information on the relevant laws
and experiences of other countries; by documenting the results of pilot projects on diversion and
alternative sentences; by supporting the institutionalization of diversion and alternative sentences;
by promoting the development of indicators, better management and the use of data on offending
and offenders; by favouring the debate; and by providing information on secondary prevention
programmes and on programmes for underage offenders.
7 Data for 2000–2005 from Korini, E. and Sado, L., Children in Conflict with the Law in Albania, Analytical Report, Ministry of Justice and Social Research Centre (INSTAT), Tirana, mimeo, 2006, p. 10; data for 2006 from Mandro, A., Juvenile Justice in Albania, Children’s Human Rights Centre of Albania, Tirana, 2007, Appendix 2.
8 Children in Conflict with the Law in Albania, p. 10. (All convicted male juveniles given custodial sentences serve them in this facility, once the conviction has been confirmed on appeal.)
9 Juvenile Justice in Albania, pp. 92–97.
11 Originally for three years, the programme was extended for a fourth year, without additional funding.
12 At the time of the assessment mission, 71 per cent of the budget had been received; the remainder is pledged by
the Swedish International Development Authority (Sida), the European Commission (EC) and UNICEF.
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