Police violence against protesters is unacceptable

On May 4, some citizens of the city of Kukës organized a rally to express their dissatisfaction over the payment of dues and interests on electricity bills. District police bodies had rejected their initial request for a permit; nevertheless, the organizers did hold the planned rally. The footage aired by TV outlets and social media clearly showed that some police officers, while attempting to disperse the rally, used violence and, one of them also committed unacceptable actions, such as the threat of arms toward protesters.

The Albanian Helsinki Committee (AHC) deems it necessary to emphasize that the freedom of peaceful and arms-free assembly is a right guaranteed by the Constitution (article 47), as well as Law no. 8773, dated 23. 04. 2001 “On rallies.” The right of police to stop the rally may only be exercised in a motivated manner and in cases prescribed by the mentioned law (article 8).

AHC condemns these acts of violence, especially the threat of arms toward protesters and calls on the General Directory of Police to analyze objectively and on the basis of legal parameters the event that occurred, especially the actions by police officers while dispersing the protest. We also suggest to the Kukës Prosecutor’s Office to initiate investigations, on its own initiative, to find out whether there are elements of a criminal offence. This will help highlight the responsibility of concrete persons for the event and to deter such cases in the future.

Such cases should be avoided, especially in the current situation ahead of the June 21, 2015, elections when public calm is indispensable for enabling voters to form their independent belief on exercising the right to vote.

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