70-th anniversary of commemoration of the execution of 16 Members of Parliament that opposed the first communist constitution establishing the totalitarian regime in Albania.

Oct 9, 2017

Speech by Brian J. Williams

On the special occasion of the 70-th anniversary of commemoration of the execution of 16 Members of Parliament that opposed the first communist constitution establishing the totalitarian regime in Albania.
 “Members of Parliament for the Members of Parliament”
Venue: Parliament of Albania

Excellency the Prime Minister,
Honorable Members of Parliament,
Chair of the Authority on the Sigurimi files,

Seventy years ago today, on October 10th 1947, 16 Albanian deputies were executed for having an opinion.  

Not for causing violence or stealing anything, but just for having an opinion about how Albanians should govern themselves.  

This injustice was just one of the early events of what was to became one of the most brutal dictatorships of the 20th century.  

Exactly one year and one month after the execution of those 16 parliamentarians, on the 10th of December 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in Paris, by the newly-born United Nations.

The Declaration stood for those very things the dictatorship denied: freedom of expression, liberty and the freedom of movement, the right to participate in government, the right to a free vote, the principle of human equality, and the importance of protecting human rights by the rule of law.

The Declaration gave impetus to a human rights movement that took root around the world, inspiring a rapid multiplication of human rights instruments and activists across all of the worlds cultures and continents.  

The growth of this movement led the United Nations to establish a permanent Council on Human Rights, seated in Geneva, a Council on which Albania today proudly sits.  And last year the Council sent its independent Working Group on Enforced Disappearances to Albania.

Here, somewhat to their astonishment, these independent human rights experts found a legacy of the dictatorship that has yet to be sufficiently addressed.

They found a caseload of perhaps 6,000 disappeared individuals.  Cases which, according to their legal opinion, are still open, as remains have not been found, justice has not been rendered, and so the principal of a “continuous crime” applies. [[They found that, 25 years after the fall of communism, “no case of enforced disappearance [has been] tried in court.” ]]

More generally, they state in their conclusions – presented just last month at the Council in Geneva – the need for a broad and comprehensive approach for dealing with the past.  I quote:

“Albania has still to come to terms with the gross and systemic violations of human rights, committed by the dictatorship. More than 25 years after the collapse of the regime in 1991, the past remains omnipresent and the wounds remain deep…. Current positive initiatives aimed at good governance, institution building, and the rule of law, cannot and will not reach their full potential if restrained by the bulk of the country’s painful past. The State should encourage and facilitate a national public debate on the legacy of the repressive past and how to collectively overcome its painful consequences. Such a debate is especially important in a society lacking trust in State institutions…”  

Today’s parliamentary session creates an excellent opportunity to build momentum for such a comprehensive process, a process which can bring justice and truth, and provide vehicles for healing through memorialization, reparations and social support.  Such a process needs to recognize anyone ‘disappeared’ by the regime, whether an explicit political target or not.
The Working Group report does cite several positive examples, including specifically the installation of Bunk Art 2, the work towards the agreement with the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) to help identify remains, and especially the establishment of the Authority on Sigurimi files.
The United Nations congratulates the Government for the Authority’s establishment, and the Authority itself for the rapid embrace of its mandate, shedding light on past crimes, participating in initiatives for judicial reform and transparency in politics, supporting the recovery of remains of Sigurimi victims, and advocating for memorialization.  

The United Nations Development Programme is pleased to be doing what we can, in collaboration with partners, to support the Authority, and I encourage the Government to give it the means necessary to undertake its tasks.  

Allow me to congratulate you again, honored parliamentarians, in organizing today’s special session – the first of its kind – for the Trial of Deputies of 1947.  

Hopefully today will be remembered as a turning point in Albania’s action to bring its past to light. 

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