Judicial reform/ VOA: There are only 117 subjects without vetting, the challenge is to replace over 380 who have left

2023-09-01 20:04:00, Vetingu CNA

Judicial reform/ VOA: There are only 117 subjects without vetting, the challenge

In Albania, the reform of the judicial system dismissed over 380 judges and prosecutors, while currently the courts are working with a limited number of judges.

The Independent Qualification Commission informed the Voice of America today that there are still 117 subjects left to be examined by the vetting process, out of a total of 805.

But while this process is coming to an end, replacing the departed with new judges remains a major challenge.

A study by the INFOCIP center revealed that, mainly due to the lack of judges, a large number of court cases have exceeded the reasonable trial deadlines, while stockpiles of thousands of files have been created in the Court of Appeal, which currently has only one the third of the judges, which should be there.

From the study of the INFOCIP Center, it emerged that the exceeding of reasonable trial terms is a disturbing phenomenon that is growing in the Albanian courts, starting from the Court of Tirana and then to the Court of Appeal. The capital court during the last year had over 670 decisions of the civil chamber outside the reasonable trial period.

In the Court of Appeal of Tirana during the past year, 72 percent of civil cases and 57 percent of criminal cases exceeded the legal term of reasonable trial. The Center for Public Information Issues, INFOCIP, has undertaken a study to assess the situation of court decisions that come out beyond reasonable deadlines and the costs associated with them. The head of the Center, Gerti Shella, says that if these overdue cases were appealed to the Strasbourg Court, the costs and damages would amount to several million euros for the Albanian state.

"The Code of Civil Procedure provides for a compensation even from the local courts, if the party finds that the reasonable time limits of the trial have been exceeded. The Strasbourg Court can also demand damages, if this is proven. From the assessment undertaken, the phenomenon is increasing. If the assessment were to be extended to all the courts, the volume of judicial delays is very high", says Mr. Shella.

The Independent Qualification Commission confirmed today to VOA the latest figures from the vetting process.

According to these data, from February 2018 to August 31, 2023, for a total of 805 vetting subjects, 688 decisions have been made so far, and 117 subjects remain to be examined until the end of 2024, when the mandate of the KPK ends. . An average rate of 125 decisions per year.

Of the 688 decisions so far, 296 subjects have been confirmed in office, 237 were dismissed from office, 96 resigned, 47 retired, 8 left as soon as the law entered into force, and 4 were suspended from office.

While the vetting process is coming to an end, the biggest challenge remains filling the courts with judges at all three levels. The departures of judges continue, while the inflows from the Magistrate's school have been insufficient to fill the dismissals.

The Court of Appeal has 25 judges out of the required 78, or less than 1/3 of the judiciary.

The experts of the INFOCIP Center estimate that this average of their work is very high, while the filling of empty positions remains a great need.

"As of now we are beyond the standard of judicial workload for each judge. From a simple calculation for 30,000 files awaiting a decision in the Appeal, for 300 working days and 24 judges, it will take at least 4 years of work to be handled", says Mr. Shella.

The capital's appeal was transformed from March of this year into the only national appeal court, after 6 district appeals were merged into it.

The stock of cases awaiting trial in the Appeal for 2022 was 23,375 files. While with the backlog files that were brought by the other Appeals, which were merged, they raised to 30 thousand the number of cases awaiting a decision from the Tirana Appeal.

From the stock of nearly 30,000 files, INFOCIP estimates that about 14,000 of them are foundational files, and a significant part risks going beyond the reasonable trial period, and the costs for possible appeals against these delays are again millions of euros.

The ones that are delayed the most are the fundamental issues, and during 2022 they accounted for 47 percent of the decision-making in the Appeal./ VOA

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