Albania: Amnesty International Issues Monitoring Report on Domestic Violence Law

Three years after Albania adopted the Law on Measures against Violence in Family Relations (Domestic Violence Law), Amnesty International has issued a report evaluating the impact of the law. The report, Ending Domestic Violence in Albania: The Next Steps, contains recommendations for the Albanian government to better protect victims of domestic violence.

The Domestic Violence Law, which provides for civil protection orders for domestic violence victims, came into effect on 1 June 2007. Since then, the number of domestic violence incidents reported to police has noticeably increased. Amnesty found that the introduction of the law and the subsequent establishment of special police units dealing with domestic violence in major urban centers empowered many women to report domestic violence for the first time; however, domestic violence continues to be underreported, particularly in rural areas, and more women continue to turn to NGOs than to police.

The first protection order under the law was issued in July 2007, and hundreds of women have since applied for protection orders against their current or former husbands or partners. Most of these women later withdrew their petitions. One study of petitions for protection orders filed with Tirana District Court between April 2008 and June 2009 found that no protection orders were issued in 80% of cases; in most of these cases, women had either withdrawn their petitions or failed to attend court hearings. A significant number of women applying for protection orders had no legal representation at their first court appearance.

According to Amnesty's report, police officers in Albania do not have adequate training or resources to enforce protection orders, and often fail to initiate criminal proceedings against abusers who violate protection orders, even though criminal sanctions for violation of protection orders are provided in the law. Some judges are also reluctant to order the abusive partner to leave the family home because of scarce housing and low incomes; therefore, these judges frequently order the abuser and the victim to live in different parts of the same apartment.

The report cites a dire need for shelters and lack of economic independence as factors which make it harder for women to leave violent relationships.

Amnesty has recommended that the Albanian government criminalize domestic violence, guarantee free legal representation to domestic violence victims, and continue training police, prosecutors and judges to ensure effective enforcement of protection orders.

Compiled from: Ending Domestic Violence in Albania: The Next Steps, Amnesty International (EUR 11/001/2010) (March 2010). (PDF, 16 pages).