In the afternoon of May 5, 2022, the Albanian Helsinki Committee (AHC), based on media reports on the self-hanging in the Kavajë Commissariat of young man Ilvi Meta, sent a team of observers to verify on site this painful and tragic incident. Based on the verification, the following resulted:
On May 4, based on an arrest warrant, police officers detained and accompanied to the Kavajë Police Commissariat premises the citizen Ilvi Meta, suspected of the criminal offense of stealing, which had occurred in a home about one month earlier.
In the meeting that they had with the chief of the Kavajë Police Commissariat, AHC observers were informed that two weeks before, the prosecution office had begun investigations into this incident and later requested in court the security measure of “arrest in prison” for the suspect Ilvi Meta. The court had accepted the request of the prosecution office. The family members had been made aware of this fact because at the moment of detention of the person by the police, a search had been conducted in the home of the suspect, in the presence of his father. Furthermore, the observers were informed that citizen Ilvi Meta had initially been accompanied to the Kavajë Police Commissariat at 11:30 of 04.05.2022, which was verified also in the Logbook of Data Evidence for Accompanied Persons.
At 15:50, the execution of the security measure “arrest in prison” was executed in the premises of the Commissariat, for the criminal offense of stealing (according to article 134/1 of the Criminal Code), and his family member, the father, was notified by patrol officer B.B. The late Ilvi Meta stayed alone in the security room. This piece of information was also verified in the Logbook of detained/arrested individuals in the Commissariat.
In the premises of the Commissariat, from the moment of his accompaniment until the occurrence of the incident, the person had not been subjected to any check or visit by the doctor, which has been verified also by the logbook of the doctor’s visits, which only reflected the statement of his death. It is worth emphasizing that, according to article 34/b, letter ç) of the Criminal Procedure Code and relevant by-laws, the authorities of the Commissariat had the obligation to take the necessary measures, as soon as possible, but no later than 12 hours from the moment of detention/arrest, for subjecting the citizen to a specialized medical check or visit. Given that in this concrete case, in the duty handover logbook, the officer on duty identified the risk of a suicidal attempt of this citizen, the medical check on him should have been carried out immediately after this fact had been stated. It is also worth emphasizing that respect for these guarantees is essential for identifying whether the person suffers from any illness and whether he needs any medical treatment, as well as for ruling out any reasonable and objective suspicion that the person has been subjected to physical violence, including elements of inhuman and degrading treatment (referring to the standards of jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and the recommendations of the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture).
The process-verbal of the personal inspection had highlighted that no forbidden item was found on the arrestee and that there was nothing to report. According to paragraph 9.2 of section 5 of Order 925, dated 18.07.2019 “Treating and Securing arrested/detained persons in the premises of the State Police, evidencing and resolving their requests/complaints,” before the person is placed in the security room, the room is checked by the officer responsible for security rooms to verify the conditions, among others, also about the existence of any other item (aside from those listed in this procedure) with which the arrestee/detainee may harm his own or any other person’s safety, life, or health (lighters, matches, drugs, weapons, etc.). Investigations should shed light also on the fulfillment of this requirement, but preliminarily, AHC notes that the consequences of this grave incident raise questions about the rigorous inspection of the security room and/or personal control of the arrestee.
AHC observers verified closely the conditions of the security room where the late Ilvi Meta was placed. The verification showed that it did not meet the criteria envisaged in section 8, paragraph 3.2/d of the Order 925, dated 18.07.2019 ““Treating and Securing arrested/detained persons in the premises of the State Police, evidencing and resolving their requests/complaints.” Concretely, the horizontal metal bar of the cell’s hole should not be higher than 60 cm. In fact, it was placed at a height of about 2 meters, thus creating the possibility for self-hanging. The Commissariat chief informed us that to end his life, the citizen had used a drawstring of the hood hanging on the metal bar.
The service guard for overseeing security rooms was the person who found that Ilvi Meta had hanged himself, but could not enter the room as he did not have the cell room, which was kept by the officer responsible for security rooms and, after he ended his service, the key was kept int he operational room of the Commissariat. He was notified immediately and after the door was opened, the man was accompanied to the closest hospital center where his death was stated.
The prosecution office started immediately a criminal case on the incident and there are three police officers arrested. During the verifications in the security rooms of this Commissariat, the arrested police officers were also present and AHC observers managed to communicate with two of them. One of the officers had been present in the physical check on the late man and stated that the sweater he had on did not have a hood. The other officer, responsible for security rooms, told observers that he was not on duty at the moment the incident occurred. This fact was verified later by the observers by reviewing the service handover logbook for security rooms, by P.B., on 04.05.2022, at 19:00. It is to be noted that the book contained a note for the officer that would assume the next shift that special attention should be paid to Ilvi Meta as the latter might attempt suicide. The note on the logbook is signed by P.B. who was leaving his shift as well as by G.H., the officer who assumed the shift as responsible for the security rooms. AHC observers report that this note contains mismatches with the note that doctor O.H. noted in the medical visits logbook, no. 63, writing 18:00 of May 4, as the time when the body of the late man was found dead. This mismatch makes it unclear when the officers realized the incident but does not, in our opinion, obstruct further investigation by the prosecution office to resolve the incident.
AHC expresses its concern that the case in question is not an isolated case. Superior institutions and those where detained or arrested citizens and even other citizens are kept in detention facilities or prisons, should show particular care for security measures and respect for them, in order to guarantee the life and health of these citizens. It is their responsibility and that of individuals tasked with this duty to implement correctly and with necessary vigilance, the laws and by-laws that establish preventive security measures that should be undertaken, the subjecting of these citizens to medical checks, and the realization of periodical inspections for the proper implementation of the legal framework.
AHC suggests to the prosecution office to conduct full, objective, and comprehensive investigations to discover the truth and hold accountable the persons who, with their action and inaction, did not fulfill relevant legal obligations.
In closing, AHC expresses its sincere condolences to the family and relatives of the victim and makes a public pledge to provide free, specialized legal services to represent their rights and interests before the justice bodies, should they agree.