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18 Jul 18
Albania Signs Agreement to Search for Communist Victims’ Bodies
After a lengthy delay, the Interior Ministry signed an agreement enabling the International Commission on Missing Persons to help find and identify the remains of people who disappeared under Communism.
|Deputy Interior Minister Rovena Voda and the ICMP’s Matthew Holliday sign the agreement in Tirana on Wednesday. Photo: Gjergj Erebara/BIRN.
Albania Deputy Interior Minister Rovena Voda and the International Commission on Missing Persons’ Western Balkans Programme Director Matthew Holliday signed on Wednesday in Tirana a long-awaited agreement that will allow the ICMP to help the authorities to search for and identify some of the several thousand missing victims of the Communist state.
„This is an exceptional opportunity for the society to come to terms with its violent past and create a future that is built on foundations of human rights, respect for human dignity and rule of law,“ said Holliday.
„Facing the past is a legal obligation but also a moral one,“ said Voda.
The European Union delegation in Tirana approved a 600,000-euro project last year to finance the ICMP’s work in Albania.
But the authorities needed also encouragement from the EU ambassador in Tirana, Romana Vlahutin, to go forward with the project and get it legally approved – a process that dragged on for several months and is not yet complete.
After being signed, the agreement will also have to go through parliamentary ratification, which is expected to happen after the summer recess.
Some relatives of victims who were executed and buried in secret graves expressed gratitude to the EU delegation in Tirana for financing the research.
Artan Lleshi, whose grandfather was killed in 1946, said he was hoping to be able one day to put a flower on his grave.
„For me, this is one of the very first days of democracy, which is foremost about respect for human rights,“ he said.
But others expressed doubts about the authorities’ commitment to dealing with the problem.
They argued that almost three decades after the fall of Communism, Albania is still refusing to come to terms with its violent past.
Agron Tufa, head of the National Institute for Research on Communism, said it was difficult to believe that the authorities would be fully engaged in the process because some officials who started their careers under Communism continued to hold positions of power in the state administration for years afterwards.
„I remember a meeting at the prime minister’s offices about the [missing persons] issue back in 2014. In front of me, participating in this meeting, was Ilir Mustafaraj, who was Deputy Interior Minister at that time, and also worked in such a position before the collapse of Communism,“ Tufa said. Ilirjan Mustafaraj retired in 2016.