23 February 2010 An independent United Nations human rights expert today voiced concern over Albanian society’s widespread acceptance of settling personal scores through deadly violence and prevalence of violence in the home.
“Blood feud killings – revenge killings by a victim’s family against the killer’s family – continue to have corrosive effects on society,” Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, said in a press statement released at the conclusion of a nine-day fact-finding mission to the Balkan country.
Mr. Alston stressed that this is especially true of the “practice of self-isolation by families who fear revenge killings, and a still widespread belief in the justness of collective punishment of innocent family members.”
Urging the Government to conduct a survey and analysis of blood feud incidents in Albania and to increase measures facilitating the reconciliation between families, Mr. Alston noted that the number of such disputes has fallen over the past five years.
“Civil society organizations and some media reports have clearly inflated the extent of blood feud killings,” he said. “While the true numbers are closer to those provided by the Government, official figures – especially relating to isolated children and families – are probably too low.”
In addition, the UN human rights expert underscored the prevalence of violence in the home, noting that at least 15 women were killed in domestic disputes last year and a third of Albanian women reported abuse at home.
“While the Government has adopted important initiatives to reduce the widespread violence against women in Albania, it must allocate funds for its programmes,” said Mr. Alston. “Much remains to be done to address the deep-seated patriarchal attitudes leading to violence.”
During the mission, Mr. Alston also made inquiries into accountability for the Gërdec explosion, killings after the Kosovo war, and communist-era abuses, including allegations that a few hundred people were tortured or killed in Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) camps in Albania.
“None of the international efforts to investigate KLA abuses in Albania has received meaningful cooperation from the Government of Albania,” he said. “Albania still has not comprehensively dealt with human rights abuses, including torture, disappearances and killings, committed during the Communist regime.”
Mr. Alston, a Professor of Law at New York University and Special Rapporteur since 2004, reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council in an independent, unpaid capacity.
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