Notes on Albania and International Child Abduction
By Jeremy D. Morley
The U.S. and Albania are not treaty partners with respect to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
When a country accedes to the Convention, the U.S. State Department reviews the new signatory's domestic legal and administrative systems to determine whether the necessary legal and institutional mechanisms are in place for it to implement the Convention and to provide effective legal relief under it. If it determines that a country has the capability and capacity to be an effective treaty partner, the State Department declares its acceptance of the accession by depositing a written instrument with the Hague Permanent Bureau. Only then does the Convention enter into force between the United States and the acceding country. The State Department posts these details on its website and the Permanent Bureau maintains a current status list on its website.
In the case of Albania, the State Department has been unable to determine that Albania will be an effective treaty partner. For that reason, it has failed and refused to accept Albania as a Hague Convention partner, and the Convention will provide no assistance to a left-behind parent if a child is taken from the United States to Albania.
There are no bilateral agreements between Albania and the United States concerning international child abduction.
The U.S. State Department reports that:
- Significant human rights issues included: problems with the independence and integrity of the judiciary; lack of independent media; and persistent corruption in government, law enforcement, and municipal institutions.
- Denial of Fair Public Trial: Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, political pressure, intimidation, corruption, and limited resources prevented the judiciary from functioning fully, independently, and efficiently.
- Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government … The judicial system, which is undergoing reforms supported by the United States and European Union, continued to make some progress in breaking the cycle of impunity. Corruption: Corruption existed in all branches and levels of government, including through public procurement and public-private partnerships, though authorities made progress during the year in combatting corruption and ending impunity.
- World Vision Albania (WVA) reported domestic violence and violence against children continued to be major problems in the country. An August 2021 WVA report estimated 58 percent of surveyed children were exposed to violence and abuse, especially from other family members and friends, with boys more likely to be physically abused.
Albanian counsel report that:
- Enforcement of final judgments has been and remains a challenge for Albania, which has been penalized time after time by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). In this framework, the enforcement of the judgments on custody and access rights in case of divorce remain absolutely crucial, when taking into consideration the movement abroad of one of the spouses.
- Cross-border couples in Albania are largely inclined not to enforce the judgment on custody and access rights, even on child abduction. The Albanian national courts in certain cases have failed to implement the standards of international law and the jurisprudence of the ECtHR in their practice. Also the state authorities, including the bailiffs, have done the same. (L. Mandija, Cross-Border Disputes …, 2018).
Freedom House reports:
- The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but the underfunded courts are subject to political pressure and influence, and public trust in judicial institutions is low. Corruption in the judiciary remains a serious problem, and convictions of high-ranking judges for corruption and abuse of power are historically rare. In March 2021, the Assembly adopted amendments to 10 laws in an effort to strengthen the efficiency of the judiciary. The reevaluation of all judges and prosecutors, in line with the new judicial vetting mechanisms introduced in recent years, continued throughout 2021, and received praise from several international governance bodies for its effectiveness. All priority cases had been reviewed by September; more than 60 percent of all cases reviewed have resulted in dismissals “due to unexplained assets.”
Bajrami v Albania:
- In Bajrami v Albania, (Application no 35853/04), the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Albania had failed, in violation of its obligation to protect family life under Article 8 of the of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Following the separation of the Albanian parents the mother and her parents refused the father access to the child. The father brought divorce proceedings in Albania, and warned the Albanian authorities that the mother was planning to take the child to Greece without his consent, requesting that they block the mother's passport. However, some months later the mother moved to Greece with the child. The Albanian court eventually gave the father custody of the child, but the authorities took no steps to enforce the judgment over the following 2 years. The European Court ruled that under Albanian law there was no specific remedy to prevent or punish cases of abduction of children from Albania. Albania was not then a signatory to the Hague Convention, and had no other framework to provide practical and effective protection of the father's rights in respect of his child.
Albania is a safe haven for international child abduction from the United States to Albania.