Date: Thu, 3 Jul 97 19:26:39 CDT
Albanian elections reflect will of the people; Future government must improve human rights record
International Helsinki Federation: Greek Helsinki Monitor press release, 1 July 1997
Tirana 1 July 1997. Four major human rights groups stated today that the parliamentary elections of 29 June 1997 in Albania were conducted in a general free and fair manner and called upon the future government to substantially improve Albanian's human rights record and re-establish the rule of law.
The Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) and three of its affiliates, the Albania Helsinki Committee in Tirana, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki in New York and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee in Oslo monitored the elections in a number of major cities and smaller town including Tirana, Durres, Lushnje, Kavaje, Kruja, Bathore and surrounding areas. Based on our observations and consultations with OSCE election monitors, local NGOs and journalists , we conclude that the elections reflect the political will of the Albanian electorate. Some irregularities were observed, such as incidents of intimidation, incomplete voting lists and a few reported acts of violence including one tragic death. These incidents should be investigated by Electoral Commissions and the police and those found to be responsible should be held accountable. But we believe that these irregularities were not sufficient to question the validity of the vote as a whole.
We praise the peaceful conduct of the electorate during the elections which demonstrates the Albanian citizens' high level of civic consciousness, political maturity and individual responsibility, and appreciate the professional and cooperative manner in which the Local Electoral Commissions performed their duties.
The presence of the Multinational Protection Force and the OSCE monitors helped to create an atmosphere of security in the country. Likewise, we commend the Albanian police for performing their tasks in a professional and non-partisan manner.
The success of the elections and the peaceful conduct of the electorate and the authorities demonstrate the desire of the Albanian people to resolve their problems through democratic means. We call upon Albania's politicians to respect the desire of the people and the result of the election.
At the same time, we expect the future Albanian government to substantially improve its human rights record with particular attention to independence of the judiciary, freedom of expression and the press the minority rights. As a member of the OSCE and the Council of Europe, the Albanian government is obliged to honor its commitments under the Helsinki Accords and its follow-up documents and domestic and international law. We urge the future government to take all necessary steps to return Albania to a state governed by democratic principles, the rule of the law and respect of human rights. We also appeal to the authorities and the media to avoid inflammatory rhetoric and hate speech which has played such a destructive role during this crisis.
We call upon the international community to stay actively involved in Albania by giving its financial and political support to the future government, provided that the Albanian government respects its human rights commitments. Support should be given to the democratic process rather than a particular political force.
We also wish to emphasize that the non-governmental sector has played a crucial role in developing Albanian civil society which is a critical component of a democratic state. We encourage the Albanian government to recognize and respect the contribution of NGOs and for the international community to provide its support to the non-governmental sector during this critical time in Albania.