Avoid Formal Consultations in Parliament
Minister of Justice Should Publicly Apologize to Non-Governmental Organizations
The Albanian Helsinki Committee (AHC) appreciates the initiatives of Parliamentary Committees that, pursuant to article 36 of the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure and the important function of Parliament for parliamentary oversight, organize public hearing sessions also with civil society representatives.
On July 13, 2022, the Committee on Legal Affairs, Public Administration, and Human Rights (Committee of Laws) had invited AHC representatives to listen to them regarding the proposal of the High Judicial Council (AHC) on the re-organization of courts in the country (the new judicial map).
The hearing session at the Committee of Laws lasted for 6 hours and a half. After about three hours after it had begun, the Chair of the Committee of Laws, Ms. Klotilda Bushka, gave us the floor only after one of the MPs asked for it.
AHC was the only non-government civil society organization invited to this hearing session. Nevertheless, from the start of our remarks, the Chair of the Committee of Laws asked us to summarize also because MPs had become familiar earlier with a prior critique that AHC had prepared about the annual performance of the HJC. Furthermore, we had interruptions during our remarks with the note that we were not sticking to the question of the MP about AHC concerns about the new judicial map. This interruption occurred precisely when we were arguing about the lack of transparency and the standards of inclusivity by the interagency working group established by the HJC about the evaluation and proposals for the new judicial map.
Such interventions, aside from being unfair in our opinion, also carry elements of biased positions and formalism in public consultations, as well as obviously disproportionate standards vis-à-vis the time available as well as the stance during discussions of invitees from public institutions to this Parliamentary Committee.
We consider it necessary to mention also that the words and reactions of Minister of Justice Mr. Ulsi Manja, present in the meeting, toward non-profit organizations were prejudicial and insulting.
Mr. Manja may not agree with the views or criticism of the AHC representative and use any legal argument about disagreement with them. However, the Minister of Justice, and any other public official, is not allowed to use insulting rhetoric toward civil society organizations, alluding to affiliations of a political nature. Such rhetoric escalated when the Minister of Justice talked about positions of the organizations, in the context of their obligation to report about the projects they implement. In the course of such rhetoric, the Chair of the Committee of Laws did not deem it necessary to draw the attention of the Minister of Justice, in respect to parliamentary ethics as well as the opposing voice of any non-governmental civil society organization that displays opposing views and suggestions during a public parliamentary hearing.
AHC deems it necessary to underscore that such prejudicial and offensive elements during public stances of any public official, whether a minister, MP, or head of an independent institution, are not compatible with the principles of the rule of law and especially, the freedom of assembly and of expression. Such reactions create harmful premises for shrinking an environment that enables civil society organizations to fulfill their mission vis-à-vis the public and citizens.
AHC suggests that Mr. Manja apologizes publicly.
We would suggest to any head of parliamentary bodies that conduct public hearings, with civil society and groups of interest, to respect the necessary space for making contributions, without prejudice or elements of bias, with the same and unified standards toward other parties, as well as to avoid formal and non-productive public consultations.
In closing, AHC, as a non-governmental and independent organization will continue to fulfill its mission, in the interest of every citizen whose rights are infringed upon, with specil focus on groups in need.
 In advance, the AHC representative in this hearing session had prepared the written presentation that summarized and analyzed all the opposition views on the methodology pursued by the HJC on the new judicial map, updated with developments of the last month.