EU-funded project holds national conference to promote human rights in prisons and scrutiny of detention centres by civil society organisations (13/04/2011)

Tirana, 12 April 2011


A national conference was held today to discuss the situation of human rights in prisons and detention centres in Albania and promote civil society monitoring of the penitentiary. The conference was held in framework of an EU-funded project to the non-profit organisation Albanian Centre for Rehabilitation of Trauma and Torture. Participants took stock of best practices with regard to independent monitoring of the prison system. Reform of the penitentiary system is one of the 12 key priorities that Albania needs to address in order to be considered for EU membership.

The Opinion of the European Commission on Albania’s readiness for candidate status pointed out several shortcomings in Albania’s penitentiary system, especially persisting overcrowding of prisons and cases of ill-treatment. Apart from improved infrastructure, human resources and use of alternative sentences, enhanced civil society involvement would be beneficiary to the overall penitentiary system in Albania. A strong civil society role is important especially in terms of monitoring the situation of human rights in places of detention, pushing the reform agenda, and training penitentiary personnel. The conference held today focused on main achievements in the penitentiary system, current developments in the institutional reforms, needs and commitments.

During the conference, the Head of the EU Delegation to Albania, Ambassador Ettore Sequi emphasised the importance of penitentiary reform for rule of law, noting that “The challenges of reforming the penitentiary system will require sufficient resources in the long run, resources beyond donor assistance, which can guarantee a sound operation of the penitentiary structures and probation services”.

This project represents a contribution of above €500 000 to strengthen the role of civil society in penitentiary reform and to further improve the implementation in Albania of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT). The project started in December 2008 and will end in December 2011.

Current EU assistance to penitentiary reform in Albania is also aiming at the improvement of infrastructure and capacities (€18.2 million), as well as the consolidation of the Probation Service (€1 million). Thanks to financial assistance coming from EU taxpayers' money, Albania has now several newly built or reconstructed prisons and pre-trial detention centres, as well as a new Juvenile Reintegration Centre in Kavaja.

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