To the attention of:
• Electronic and print media
• EU delegation in Tirana
• UN Office in Tirana
• Diplomatic Corps accredited in Tirana
• American Embassy in Tirana
Through this open letter we want to bring to the attention of the diplomatic corps accredited in Tirana as well as all other international bodies, a severe case of unwarranted interference of a high state authority, the Minister Olldashi, which without being based in the law and although not necessary in a democratic society, in his official response to a request for information from the center “Res Publica” attacks them by considering them “communists” and by stating that “the organization funding your projects will be informed on this issue .. ” making this way the official letter of response a discriminative and unofficial communication.
The center “Res Publica” is a non-governmental non-profit organization that provides free legal assistance to individuals and groups in need. For two years we have been committed to protecting the rights and legitimate interests of many people who are affected by illegal activity of the state administration entities. Worth mentioning are the families of Gerdec blast victims, relatives of victims of the 21st of January, former Albpetrol employees, people to whom access to the court was denied due to the legal fees, various well-known journalists who are often the attacked subject in the civil and criminal processes in the Albanian courts etc.. Recently, the lawyers of “Res Publica” have taken over the protection of the legitimate interests of dispossessed people living in the houses returned to expropriated subjects. All the above activities are currently being carried out pro bono and are not donor funded.
Additionally, Res Publica is implementing two other projects, funded by the Open Society Foundation for Albania and the National Endowment for Democracy, that aim at protecting the rights of the Albanian citizens to exercise freedom of expression and information. In the framework of one of these two projects, Res Publica has requested written information from various institutions, which to date would amount to about 140 requests. In many cases institutions have maintained a correct attitude while we have filed administrative complaints in the cases we have noticed irregularities. In general, these administrative conflicts follow the usual procedures, where no emotional attitudes are involved.
But different is the last case involving the Minister of Public Works and Transport, Mr. Olldashi, who arbitrarily, using an inappropriate language, and with an individual approach, has deliberately refused to fulfill his obligations as a public official. In his last letter, no. 5197 prot. dt. 17.12.2012 sent by mail, our understanding is that, he has used an ironic, threatening and judgmental language, which is not the way any active civil society organization should be treated.
In his response, Mr. Olldashi labels us as “communists” trying to politicize our actions, which are the same as in the other 140 cases, where none of the authorities have complained, but have met their legal obligations instead. Mr. Olldashi says he will contact the donor to review our funding because we are making unfair criticism to the initiatives taken by the government, when our work so far has consisted of continuous protection of human rights.
The initiatives we have criticized are the construction of the Gerdec dismantling factory without respecting the technical safety regulations, which resulted in the violation of the right to life of the Gerdec inhabitants, or initiatives to dismiss the employees of Albpetrol JSC without giving them the rewards for seniority, violating this way the rights derived by the Labor Code, or the initiative to establish high court fees which have become a serious impediment to access to court by many low-income individuals. All these criticism is based on best practices of Western countries. Very often the same concerns have been raised by international organizations in their reports for Albania.
The recent initiative of the government to exempt the houses occupied by dispossessed people and to hand them back to the owners, has been criticized not for the fact that the owners will finally take back their property, but for the fact that the release of housing is done without previously finding an effective solution for the adequate accommodation of the people who still live in these houses. So far, the state, after having violated the rights owners for 20 years, is making another offense to the right of citizens to adequate housing, aggravating the financial burden that Albania will have to pay for the violations that will be observed by the European Court of Human Rights.
But Mr. Minister Olldashi has used these arguments to demotivate us in seeking our rights. Expressions such as: “I have been following you since two months …”, “this is the case and your mission in your perspective as communist representatives…” or “the organization that funds your projects will be informed on this issue …” , are not at all normal in an official communication between a minister and the civil society.
The Minister also said that we do not have the right to request information on public funds, and intentionally refuses to make available these informations. This marks his worst approach in his letter, as it actually harms our interests and those of our clients to be informed on how the public funds are used to finance the lending process by the NCB for the homeless citizens.
We call upon all international organizations to mark this case as an unjustified interference of a high state authority, without being based in the law and order and unnecessary in a democratic society. The case in question constitutes a breach of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 23 of the Constitution. The case in question constitutes discrimination and unfair attack towards the civil society, and more specifically to a truly independent and courageous organization that has undertaken to help actively and often without any funding, the people facing human rights violations.
This behavior is not worthy of a minister and is a clear indication of a personalized policy, where the heads of departments use officially attack organisations when the conflict can be of a personal nature. We would like to remind the minister that for these issues he could use public information means, avoiding the involvement of the state structures for this purpose.
Please find attached:
Center “Res Publica”
Av. Dorian Matlija
Av. Andi Kananaj