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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.

10 Ibid.

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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