US Endorses Albanian Prosecutors’ Work

resizer18The US ambassador to Albania in an impassioned speech on Wednesday harshly attacked attempts by politicians to exert pressure on prosecutors, robustly upholding the profession’s independence.

At a ceremony marking the expansion of joint-investigation units commended for fighting economic crime in the last two years, John L. Withers emphasised that ”there must be no political pressure on prosecutors”. 

“Prosecutors have a very difficult job here in Albania, in part because of the size of this nation. Like many small states in the US, everyone knows everyone. In spite of this situation, prosecutors must remain independent and free from any coercion or political influence and they must be free to follow the evidence wherever it may lead, and they must have the courage to do so,” he said.

“Albania must commit to protecting the independence of prosecutors to ensure its democratic progress forward because any threat to this independence is a clear step backward,” Withers added.

Albania’s General Prosecutor Ina Rama has come under almost daily attack by government officials or pro-government media, for investigating high level corruption within the right-wing government of Prime Minister Sali Berisha, which has resulting in the indictment of two ministers from its government on charges of abuse of power and breaking tendering rules.

The Tirana Joint Investigative Unit to Fight Economic Crime and Corruption, which includes prosecutors and police officers, intelligence, customs and tax officials opened two years ago with the assistance of the US funded OPDAT program in support of the Albanian justice system.

The success of this unit has not only been a model for Albania but for others as well. Just to the north, Montenegro has organised a new task force of prosecutors and police, using the unit as a model.

Because of the success of the program, Albania – with US assistance – will create six regional Joint Investigative Units across the country: in Vlore, Fier, Korce, Gjirokaster, Durres, and Shkoder.

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