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Greeks of albania and albanians in greece

September 1994
The Tragi-Comic Experience of Witness Vasil Gjinopullo The General Problems of the Greek Minority INTRODUCTION
The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), with national committees in 30 OSCE countries,sent a multi-member delegation to Albania to observe the trial of the five members of Omonia, and, on thisoccasion, to investigate the complaints concerning both the period of the preliminary investigation and the moregeneral institutional discrimination against the Greek minority, as well as the conditions of Albania citizens'expulsions from Greece, as a measure of reprisal for the trial. The trial was observed, at the beginning, bymembers of the National Helsinki Committees of Denmark and Poland (also the official OSCE-ODIHRrepresentative), and, during the last days, by a member of the Swedish Helsinki Committee.
The more general problems in Tirana were also examined by members from the national committees of the
Netherlands, Norway and Germany. Finally, a special mission consisting of one member of the Bulgarian
Helsinki Committee, as an IHF representative, one member of the Albanian Helsinki Committee and one member
of Greek Helsinki Monitor, made a local examination of the problems both in Tirana and in Southern Albania (in
the areas of Saranda / Aghioi Saranda in Greek, Gjirokastra / Argyrokastro, and Kakavije / Kakavia), between
23 and 31 August 1994. Unfortunately, the member of the Albanian Helsinki Committee withdrew from the
mission, disagreeing with its working methods. Greek Helsinki Monitor, on the basis of the material gathered by
all IHF observers, prepared an extensive report in four chapters: prosecution of the Omonoia members;
expulsion of Albanians from Greece; general problems of the Greek minority; and the problem of issuing visas by
the Greek authorities. The first version of that report was published, in Greek, in Eleftherotypia, between 5-8
September 1994. Here we present a second version, updated as of late February 1995, to include both the recent
evolution and the reports on the trials and / or the minority by OSCE's High Commissioner on National
Minorities, Human Rights Watch / Helsinki, Minority Rights Group International, Amnesty International,
Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, International Human Rights Law Institute of DePaul University
College of Law, and the US Department of State.
It is worth noting that, in spite of the early notice, both the Greek and the Albanian Ministries of Foreign Affairsrefused to brief the mission. We must note that there haw been a request for a briefing on the problems of theGreek minority in Albania pending in the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 1992! The Albanian PrimeMinister's advisor on minorities arranged a meeting with the mission, but failed to turn up. The Albanianauthorities are, therefore, responsible for any incomplete information of the mission on the Albanian authorities'views and answers to the complaints. On the contrary, the Archbishop of Albania, the Greek Embassy in Tirana,the Greek Consulate in Gjirokastra, the prefect, the mayor and the chief of police in Saranda, as well as manyothers (leading members of Omonoia and the Human Rights Union, relatives of the defendants, witnesses in thetrial, teachers and priests, as well as simple Albanian citizens of Albanian or Greek nationality) co-operatedeagerly with the delegation. The latter, moreover, never felt that it was under surveillance by the securityservices, as had manifestly happened a year before, in a similar IHF mission in Western Greek Macedonia.
"The IHF, based on reports by members, considers that Albania violated its international obligations under theInternational Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), specifically articles 9, 10, 14 and 17, as regards theconditions of arrest and treatment under detention, the right to due process of law and fair and public hearing bya competent, independent and impartial tribunal, and internationally recognized rights for a person accused of acrime" (IHF, 1994:1). This statement was based on most of the information that follows herein.
Albanian penal law and corresponding international legal standards
The Albanian Penal Code and Penal Procedure Codes, adopted in 1980 under the communist regime and validthrough 1994, were the most totalitarian in Europe: it was characteristic that article 47c, which was used againstthe defendants, considered as treason even the attempt to overthrow the proletariat dictatorship. However,constitutional and legal texts adopted by Albania between 1991 and 1993, and especially Law No. 7692 of31/3/1993, safeguarded for its citizens the rights the ICCPR and the International Bill of Human Rights. For thisreason, a new penal code, compatible with international standards and without the provisions under which thefive members of Omonoia were tried, was tabled in Parliament in 1994 (and was finally voted upon and enactedin February 1995). In this transitional period, therefore, Albania had to observe the relevant internationalprovisions of ICCPR and, in particular, articles 9 and 10 (rights of arrested and detained persons), 14 (dueprocess of law for a person accused of crime) and 17 (protection of privacy and honor of every subject), and notthe anachronistic provisions of 1980, wherever there was a divergence between the two. All internationalobservers, therefore, appraised the prosecution of the Omonoia members on the basis of the internationalstandards.
Illegal arrests, searches and seizure
On 10 April 1994, an Albanian military post in Peshkepi (Episkopi in Greek), near the Greek-Albanian border,
was attacked in the early morning hours; two Albanian soldiers were killed and three wounded by unidentified
gunmen. Albanian authorities alleged that the perpetrators were dressed in Greek military uniforms and were
speaking Greek, and blamed the attack on "the Greek special forces." In Greece, the unknown organization
"Northern Epirus Liberation Front" (MAVI) claimed responsibility both the next day and some months later,
while the extreme right, racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic and intolerant weekly newspaper Stohos regularly
reported in a proud way about the incident. On the other hand, the Greek government flatly denied any
responsibility in the event and, in the first couple of days, even excluded the possibility that any Greeks could
have been involved in the incident. Moreover, when Greek foreign and defense ministry sources confirmed that
the commando was probably Greek, all newspapers but the leftist daily Avgi, decided to censor the information.
Eventually, in fall 1994, a group of Greek intellectuals asked the public prosecutors office to investigate the
probable Greek involvement in that commando attack: by February 1995, the matter is still at the preliminary
investigation stage.
In what is largely believed to be a reprisal to this attack, which was felt by Albanians as a profound humiliation,on 18 April 1994, Albanian police undertook a coordinated police action mainly in Southern Albania where theGreek minority is concentrated. Policemen carried out searches, seizures and arrests without warrants. Theagents who presented themselves to persons subsequently arrested afterwards were dressed in civilian clothesand refused to identify themselves. As prosecutors later told the Minnesota Advocates delegation (1994:2), theseagents belonged to the Albanian secret police "ShIK": this entitled them not to identify themselves but, on thecontrary, denied them the right to make arrests. During house searches, the agents used force unwarranted bythe circumstances. On the other hand, these arrests were made under article 48 of the Penal Code, whichconcerned foreigners and stateless persons. Given that the defendants were Albanian citizens, their arrest andfirst days of detention was therefore illegal.
The Omonoia headquarters in Saranda were searched after midnight, while there was no emergency to warrantit. The Albanian police stated to the IHF mission that night search without warrant is permitted only in case of acrime in process or an in flagrant procedure. But when asked which was the crime that made such a direct nightsearch necessary, the police said it was a state secret. When the police was asked to provide the specific list ofstate secrets so as to ascertain if the nature of an in flagrant crime is among them, they refused to give it.
Evidently, the reference to the in flagrant procedure - which in any case does not appear in the final indictment - was made in order to justify the illegal search of the premises without warrant. Minnesota Advocates came to asimilar conclusion (1994:8). Similar searches were also carried out in other Omonoia offices. In most office andhouse searches, archives, books, publications, family albums, savings passbooks, etc. were seized withoutprotocols.
Eventually, six persons were arrested and detained for more than 24 hours. They were:
1. Vangjel Papakristo (in Greek Vangelis Papachristos), President of Omonoia's Saranda branch and member of
2. Panajot Marto (Panayotis Martos), President of Omonoia's Delvina branch;
3. Theodori Bezhani (Theodoros Bezianis), President of Omonoia's Gjirokastra branch;
4. Kosta Qirjako (Costas Kyriakou), Secretary of the Association of Former Political Prisoners and member of
the County Council of Sofratike, Gjirokastra; 5. Irakli Sirmo (Herakles Syrmos), President of the Association of Former Political Prisoners, Vice-President of
Omonoia's Gjirokastra branch, and member of Gjirokastra's Prefecture Council; and 6. Kosta Cavo (Costas Tsavos).
No charges were made against them by any authorized officer of the law, while the Albanian code provided thatthey should have been taken before the public prosecutor to be charged within 48 hours of their arrest. Theinvestigating magistrates never identified themselves to the defendants during the investigation. In fact,according to Albanian law, the six Omonoia members were "arrested" only when their cases were transferredfrom the police (in this case ShIK) to the prosecutor, which happened three to five days after their actual arrestand detention by ShIK.
Illegal interrogations, use of force during them, and bad detention conditions
There were interrogations that lasted up to 72 hours without break. Not all police officers who interrogated thedefendants and were present during the initial examinations were listed in the judicial file. Qirjako protested theinterrogation conditions through a fifty-hour hunger strike. Police officers reportedly tortured defendants Sirmoand Qirjako and used threats and hate speech against the defendants. They also blackmailed the defendants bymanipulating parental feeling which led some of them to suffer from hallucinations. Most of these abuses toolplace in the first days of detention, before formal charges were brought; it was during that same period that manycoerced statements were made by the defendants. Contrary to international obligations, the Albanian authoritiesnever investigated the complaints of police abuse and torture.
After the intervention of American diplomats, Bezhani was allowed to engage a lawyer five days after his arrest.
The others were allowed to engage lawyers at the end of June (for Qirjako), or a few days before the trial (forMarto, Papakristo and Sirmo): these lawyers were not of the defendants' choosing (except in the case ofBezhani), but chosen from a list provided by the police; in fact, lawyer Spartak Ngjelia who was initially chosenby Qirjako (soon after his arrest) and Sirmo (later) was turned down by the Albanian authorities. Both lawyersand defendants mentioned during the trial that they were hindered in assisting each other properly. Thedefendants were deprived of their right to gave access to their lawyers and their relatives for long periods oftime. Albanian authorities did not allow even the two Human Rights Union deputies. Thoma Mitci and KostaMakariadhi, to visit the defendants in order to ascertain the conditions of their detention. So the dismissal by theAlbanian authorities of the claims made by some of the defendants that torture toll place cannot be consideredcredible, since no contact with the defendants was allowed during the period they claim they were abused if nottortured. Likewise, Albanian authorities failed to provide convincing evidence to back their allegation that thedefendants had signed the statements waiving their right to counsel, produced in court, of their own accordwithout undue pressure. The IHF mission was moreover informed that, through the end of August, Albanian authorities had forbidden Qirjako's wife to see her husband, even for a few minutes during some break of thetrial.
At the end of May 1994, Albanian authorities rounded up 56 witnesses en masse without proper summons inmost of the cases, and thus illegally, and by using methods that gave the impression they were making arrests.
The cells where the defendants were detained were small (2.5-3.5 m) and without or with little light andventilation. Their continuing detention is deemed unacceptable, since they could have been released on bail. Atthe end of the preliminary investigation, the defendants had practically no access to the case files: they weregiven the opportunity to "read" 1,200 pages in half an hour: the refusal of the defendants right to have full accessto their files is a violation of Articles 14.3a &c of the ICCPR.
The inadmissible indictment
On 2 August 1994, five out of the six defendants were referred to a trial to be held on 15 August, charged withhigh treason for attempting to change Albanian borders (Article 47c of the Albanian Penal Code) and forespionage (Article 47g); both crimes were punishable with no less than 10 years on prison or by death sentence.
The defendants were also charged with conspiracy (Article 13), while three of them (Bezhani, Sirmo, Qirjako)were also charged with illegal possession of arms (Article 224/1). The indictment is inadmissible. Those whodrew it up did not make clear in it who did what, when, in what way and with what motive. The indictment wasobviously aiming not at the five defendants, i.e. Omonoia, and the Human Rights Union, as well as at Greece.
However, on the basis of Albanian law, the Constitutional Court is the competent body to examine the legality ofthe activities of political organizations. Besides, if Albania had enough evidence about violations of the UNCharter by Greece trying to interfere in Albania's domestic affairs, the competent body would be theInternational Court of Justice in The Hague. Therefore, it was not within the jurisdiction of the Criminal Court ofTirana to judge accusations concerning the activities of political organizations as well as Greece's interference inAlbania's domestic affairs.
Most of the alleged criminal activity of the defendants -in their capacity as leaders of the Greek minority inAlbania- mentioned in the indictment are in accordance with internationally norms of activity for minoritygroups, protected by Article 27 of the ICCPR and Chapter IV of the Document of the 1990 CopenhagenMeeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE, of which Albania is a participating state. Theespionage charge is unfounded according to what is internationally acceptable: espionage exists only when thedefendant has access to confidential or secret information and responsibility to safeguard it. The five defendantsin this trial have never held such positions. Only on the basis of the anachronistic Albanian Penal Code whichfollows communist standards, can such an accusation be founded (For a detailed challenge to the espionagecharge, see Minnesota Advocates, 1994:11-12). It is therefore believed that "these defendants were chosenrandomly and that the composition of the defendants could be quite different; the only demonstrable connectionbetween these defendants is that they are activists of the same ethnic minority" (Rzeplinski, 1994:6).
The charge for illegal possession of arms need no lengthy comment. Almost all Albanians have hunting weaponsas a result of a long-standing cultural tradition. The three defendants had such weapons and not more modernones. In any case, the weapons found in the defendants' homes during the -illegal- searches were two bullets, anunregistered hunting rifle, and a pistol.
Irregularities in the court proceedings
In the beginning of the trial, the prosecutor dropped the first charge as anachronistic. This caused someconfusion to the defense lawyers who, nevertheless, merely asked the court to adjourn for one day. On thesecond day, they did not ask for any clarification for the consequences of the prosecutor's action that in reality changed the character of the trial: for example, it raised the issue of challenging article 47g on espionage, on thesame grounds that the prosecutor declared article 47c anachronistic.
Two years ago, Albania had no defense lawyers at all; as a consequence, independent lawyers are by and largeinexperienced. The defense lawyers of the five defendants, for example, seemed not to be aware of theconstitutional civil rights of their clients, as well as of the international standards and their applicability in thecase of the defendants. They did not believe that they are equal in standing with the prosecutor and thus theyhesitated to object to many questionable activities of the latter. In particular, the defense lawyers did notchallenge in court the preliminary investigation just because they believed that the court would dismiss theirobjection. The defense lawyers should also have raised the issue of the maltreatment during the preliminaryinvestigation on the first day of the trial rather than waiting for it to be raised later by the defendants.
The prosecutors, during the trial, repeated the mistake of the indictment: generalize, without specifying how thedefendants' guilt is proved for crimes such as forming a criminal group, conspiracy, or in the preparation ofparticular deeds. With the court's passive acceptance, they asked the witnesses exactly the same questions theyhad asked the defendants, without warning the witnesses, on the basis of article 14.3e of the ICCPR, that theymight incriminate themselves with their answers. Many questions to the witnesses concerned the financing of theelectoral campaign of minority organizations by the Greek authorities. Given though that such an accusation didnot exist in the indictment, any reference to it as part of the accusation was unacceptable.
One of the fudges, aged 25-27, was obviously inexperienced dealing with such serious case and gave theimpression, from a question he asked Bezhani, that he is not impartial. The judges violated international practice,when three defendants were questioned by their defense counselors first and then by the prosecutor, a procedurewhich favors the prosecution. Besides, the court did not react to the too "active" examination of witnesses by theprosecutors, in a case of passive behavior of the defense counselors. The chairman of the court prevented anymention of the defendants' maltreatment during preliminary investigation, or references to positive informationabout their personal history, considering them irrelevant to the indictment.
The defendants were seated too far from their defense counselors in the courtroom, while there were policemenin between, which resulted in making direct consultation between defense lawyers and defendants extremelydifficult. Besides, by selecting a small courtroom for the trial, in addition to the unbearable conditions prevailingduring the trial, the judicial authority limited to the minimum the presence of the defendants' relatives, journalistsand international observers of the trial, while it did not permit any TV channels other than the Albanian to videothe proceedings: the latter, however, was of such importance that the court would go into short recesses toallow the TV crew to change the tapes.
It must be noted that, on the second day, there was a confusion as to whether the first day pass was still valid ornot (the pass was eventually valid for all days), and as a result entry was refused to holders of passes, such as thePresident of the Athens Bar Association. Similar problems were recorded the following days too. The passcontrol was being made four times before reaching the courtroom, as well as in every court recess, howevershort, when all the audience had to leave and the control was repeated before the audience could re-enter. Ingeneral, all these security measures created an atmosphere incompatible with a truly accessible publicproceeding.
The defendants were also deprived of their basic right to have witnesses on their behalf: the names they proposedwere rejected by the court without any explanation, while a great number of witnesses on behalf of theprosecution were admitted: in fact, many of the latter were not even present, but their statements during theinvestigation were read; given the retractions by so many witnesses present in court, and as only the investigatingofficer was present when these statements were made, their credibility was very questionable. As lawyer SpartakNgjelia (who had been turned down by the courts) told the IHF mission, the acceptance or rejection of witnesses for the defense is at the discretion of the court according to Albanian law, which is though totalitarian andcontrary to every international principle of law. The court's failure to allow witnesses for the defense and the useof statements by witnesses who did not appear so as to be cross-examined is a violation of the correspondingArticle 14.3e of the ICCPR.
On the first day of the trial, the police tried to push back the people who had gathered outside the court usingexcessive force. A Greek journalist was badly beaten by 5-6 policemen, according to the statement of the DanishHelsinki Committee observer. 23 Greeks were arrested; among them journalists and the Deputy Mayor ofSalonica. The latter and another person were seriously injured and taken to hospital. The Deputy Mayor ofSalonica had to be flown back to Salonica urgently. It is worth mentioning here that, during the trial,plainclothesmen identified as agents of the "criminal police" were regularly controlling and even searching peoplegoing in the Greek Embassy in Tirana, while refusing to give their badge numbers; in some cases, Greekjournalists were detained by them, and a few were even subsequently expelled for the country.
Four out of the five defendants stated that their confessions had been made under the use of psychological oreven physical force and retracted them. A lot of witnesses also retracted fully or partially statements made duringthe investigation, declaring that either force was exercised on them, or the minutes of their statements werealtered and they signed them under pressure. To face off these allegations, the court held a closed session, fromwhich all international observers were excluded, in which videotaped testimony by the defendants taken byhidden camera during the investigation was viewed: the court allowed only a small number of Albanianjournalists and an Albanian TV crew to attend the session. The court admitted the tapes as evidence and, ontheir basis, rejected the defendants' complaints of having made statements under coercion in the investigation.
Selected excerpts of these tapes were also shown on the Albanian TV news, in an effort to discredit thedefendants. As these tapes were never shown in an open session, their handling violated the right to a fair andpublic hearing guaranteed by Article 14.1 of the ICCPR.
In conclusion, the court should have separated any alleged criminal "guilt" of the defendants from any allegedpolitical "guilt" of the political organizations they belong to, as well as from Greece's activities. Only the formerwas within its jurisdiction. Nevertheless, on 7 September 1994, the court convicted the five (they were foundguilty on all counts), but only to 6-8 years of prison: this downward deviation from statutory terms ofimprisonment were based on Article 32. The Appeals Court, on 6 October 1994, upheld the convictions butreduced the sentences of all defendants to 5-7 years. On 26 November 1994, all of the defendants had theirsentences reduced further by one-third as part of a general amnesty granted to over 500 prisoners. On 24December 1994, Irakli Sirmo was released from prison, along with fourteen other prisoners, following apresidential pardon, while the other four prisoners' sentences were reduced by one or two years. Finally,Albania's Supreme Court, on 8 February 1995, upheld the convictions and handed over suspended sentences offive years for each defendant (except for Sirmo whose suspended sentence was four years); so the other fourOmonoia leaders were released from prison.
Greek Helsinki Monitor and the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights believe that, under thesecircumstances, the court's verdict lacked legitimacy. For this reason, the five convicted and imprisoneddefendants were considered by the IHF as prisoners of conscience. This had already been mentioned to thedefendants' relatives by the mission.
Finally, it must be mentioned that the sixth Omonoia member arrested, Kosta Cavo, was charged only withillegally carrying a weapon: on 17 September he was tried, convicted and sentenced to two years on prison. On26 November 1994, he was set free because of the general amnesty.
Vasil Gjinopullo (Vasilis Ginopoulos in Greek) lives in Dervican (like defendants Qirjako and Sirmo) and is afriend of defendant Irakli Sirmo with whom he has done time at the Spac prison, during the communist period.
With Irakli Sirmo and others, he founded the Association of Former Political Prisoners, in 1991 in Athens. ThisAssociation created later on a technical training school in Ioannina, where Vasil Gjinopullo works today in theconstruction business, along with his brother.
Being outside Albania in late May 1994, Vasil Gjinopullo had not been summoned for questioning at that time.
However, when he returned, on 2 June, he was notified orally by a policeman to present himself the followingday at the Gjirokastra police station. When he presented himself, on 3 June, they put him in a simple car withoutlicense plates (such cars usually belong to ShIK) together with an investigating officer and, misleading him andwithout informing him or his relatives, they took him to Tirana for questioning (similar illegal transfer forquestioning had been used for other witnesses, too).
His questioning lasted from 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. of 3 June and from 8:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. of 4 June. In thebeginning of the questioning he protested against the manner of his transfer, which he characterized kidnapping.
The interrogating officers told him that incriminating evidence had been found against him too, and if he did notcooperate, he could become a defendant too. He was asked about the activities of the Association of FormerPolitical Prisoners and of the training school, as well as about his contacts with the Greek police, where, as hestated, most of the members of the Association had to go on a regular basis in order to have their residencepermits renewed, being foreigners in Greece. In the final record of his deposition, there were some alterations ofwhat he had actually said, against which he protested, but he was forced to sign it.
The night of 3 June, after the questioning, examiners and Gjinopullo went together to a nearby restaurant to havedinner and slept in the same room, at the Tirana police headquarters. Though it was obviously an illegalprocedure, that can be considered as an attempt to intimidate the witness, both the latter and the IHF missionformed the opinion that the procedure of dinner and sleep was simply the most convenient and inexpensive,without any other intention on the part of the authorities. It should be noted that Vasil Gjinopullo had beenobliged to pay for his dinner and return ticket from Tirana to Dervican, where he found his mother worried, asthe police, despite their assurances to the contrary, had not informed her about the whereabouts of her son.
When two months later Vasil Gjinopullo saw his name in the indictment as being the last witness for theprosecution, he returned to Albania and went to Tirana in order to testify, so that his former slightly altereddeposition not be used against Sirmo. Between 15-20 August, he waited in vain to testify as a witness for theprosecution or at least for the defense, as he himself had been asking. Then, in the evening of 20 August, hereturned, desperate, to Dervican.
The next day, 21 August, at 5:30 a.m., a policeman woke him up and asked him to follow him to the Gjirokastrapolice station, "so that they ask him some questions". Given that the policeman did not have any summons orwarrant, Vasil Gjinopullo protested. However, the numerous presence of policemen outside his house made himfollow them right away as they were asking him, without having the time to shave or take anything with him, ashe suspected that he would be transferred to Tirana. At the Gjirokastra police station, the officer in chargeinformed him of his impending transfer, with others, to Tirana in order to testify and left him in a room with justa glass of water. At 2:15 p.m., Vasil Gjinopullo, tired of waiting and being forgotten, and assuming that theguard had changed, left the room and the station . undisturbed. He went to Dervican, shaved, took his thingsand, determined as he was to testify, showed up again and on his own will at 4:30 p.m. at the Gjirokastra policestation, in order to be taken to Tirana. There he found out that his precedent "escape" had set on the alarm. Theofficer in charge had already been checked for disciplinary sanctions, the border checkpoint had been notified not to let him leave the country, and his brother had been arrested, probably as a hostage. Finally after they had allcalmed down and two police trucks had come from Tirana, he was transferred -only he and another one fromTepelene together with 15 policemen- at Tirana in the record-time of 4 hours (instead of the 5-6 hours needed bya private car).
At Tirana the policemen asked him if he had anywhere to sleep; he replied negatively and was offered a bed atthe police headquarters, in the same room where the policemen slept: again the intention was not to intimidatehim, but the inability to find another solution, along with the ignorance on the part of the Albanian authorities ofthe fact that such behavior, however well-intentioned, may always be interpreted as an effort to influence thewitness. So, on 22 August, Vasil Gjinopullo testified at the court, partially retracting his former deposition andprotesting for the conditions of his summons. When, in the end, he asked for compensation for his travelingexpenses, he was told to address himself to the court of his region. In a relative question of the IHF mission onwhether he went to collect the money, he answered negatively, saying that being one of the last witnesses, hewould have heard if compensation for the traveling expenses was being given.
The story of Vasil Gjinopullo is indicative of a series of unacceptable actions of the police and the investigativeauthorities in Albania. If some actions, like the use of psychological violence during interrogation, obviously aimat influencing the witness, others, such as the conditions of summoning and sleeping in police stations, show thecomplete ignorance on the part of the competent Albanian authorities of the obligations of the police and of theinvestigators in a democratic country. Finally, the facility with which Vasil Gjinopullo left the police stationshows how much paralysis and sometimes lawlessness which reign in Albania have affected even the police.
In recent years, many foreigners, political refugees and mainly economic immigrants, have settled in Greece.
Most of them gave neither residence permits nor, and most importantly, work permits. During 1994, the number
of illegal immigrants in Greece has officially been estimated at 235,000 by Minister of Labor Ioannis Skoularikis
(Eleftherotypia, 28/8/94) and up to 500,000-700,000 by Minister of Public Order Stelios Papathemelis
(Ethnos, 23/1/94). The large majority of them is considered to consist of Albanians (of Albanian or Greek
The large number of illegal immigrants in Greece is due to three reasons: the inability to efficiently guard theborders in order to prevent such illegal mass entries; the search for employment by the immigrants away fromtheir country; and the significant potential to offer employment to such persons in Greece. The latter fact is themost important: if these persons could not find employment in Greece, they would have eventually gone to othercountries. Most illegal immigrants in Greece seem to be employed as, usually heavy, manual workers or ashelpers, for which there dies not exists sufficient labor supply from Greeks or legal immigrants.
The Albanian immigrants in Greece
As it was mentioned above, the large majority of illegally employed immigrants in Greece are Albanian. But,their number fluctuates from 150,000 according to the estimation of Mr. Skoularikis up to, proportionally,350,000-500,000 in the estimation of Mr. Papathemelis. If the first estimation is valid, the majority of Albaniansin Greece do posses a legal entry visa for entry, which may also be true in the case of the second estimation. TheIHF mission in Albania heard of two estimations by Greek consular authorities in that country for the number of visas issued for Albanians during 1993: one reached 80,000 and the other exceeded 200,000. Some visas are fora three-month period, others for twelve months.
Of course, a visa provides the right of residence but not also of employment in Greece. A work permit from thecompetent Greek authorities is required for the latter, for the issuing of which a visa is a necessary, but notsufficient, prerequisite. However, the large number of visas on Albanian passports from the Greek consularauthorities is issued for their holders to come to Greece and work, not for tourism. Thus the Greek authorities,by the massive issuing of visas, contribute decisively to the existence of extensive illegal employment in Greece:it is well-known, for example, how parsimonious the authorities of countries such as the USA in granting touristvisas, exactly because they fear that many tourists are potential illegal immigrants.
The expulsion of Albanians from Greece as reprisals for the trial of the Omonoia five
As it has widely been written in the Greek press, in 1993 as well as in 1994, Greek authorities chose the methodof massive expulsions of Albanians, as a response to the expulsion of an Archimandrite of Gjirokastra who wasaccused of autonomist propaganda in 1993, as well as to the trial of the Omonoia members in 1994.
In the first case, Greek authorities had announced at the beginning and officially that the expulsions constitutereprisals, whereas in 1994 the official explanation was that the expulsions were not related to the trial. It isthough a fact that, their number increased significantly, reaching 4,000 per day at the end of August, whenGreece decided to exercise pressure to Albania due to the trial of the members of Omonoia, as Greek authoritieswere systematically informing the Greek media. Eventually, between August-November 1994, Greece expelledover 115,000 illegal Albanian immigrants, a figure quoted in the US Department of State Human Rights Reportand given to the American authorities by their Greek counterpart.
The mission visited the Kakavije border crossing, on Saturday 27 August 1994, between 6-8 p.m. Fromtestimonies of Albanians who where being expelled at that time, it found out that Greek authorities weredeporting not only Albanians who were illegally in Greece, but also Albanians who had legal visas for Greece. Inboth cases, deportees reported that expulsions were made with the same summary procedures whereas, at leastfor the visas holders, the authorities had to justify the expulsion and provide them with the possibility of legalrecourse against it.
Deportees reported to the mission, though, that those who had legal visas saw the police tearing either the page,or the entire passport, sometimes even the Albanian identity card. To their related complaints, they were toldthat the torn documents were forged. These actions of Greek authorities were totally illegal. Identity cards andpassports of Albanians constituted public documents of the Albanian state and their destruction was a criminalaction of whoever committed it, as on the same grounds as the destruction of identity cards and passports ofGreek citizens.
If the Greek authorities were suspicious that some of these documents were forged, they had to give them to theAlbanian authorities for further action. The above procedure was also confirmed to us by diplomatic sources inTirana.
The, often inadmissible, conditions of expulsion of Albanians
Albanians who were obliged to return to their country, at the time when the mission was at Kakavije, belongedto three categories, on the basis of their treatment by the police. Some were returning with all of their family andtheir personal belongings: for example, two families from the Arvanite village of Lefktra in Boetia. Others, though, were being sent back to Albania immediately after their arrest, without having the opportunity to takewith them their money and their personal belongings: in some cases, it was denounced that money and personalbelongings of Albanians were stolen by Greek policemen.
A characteristic case from Crete was reported to the mission. Two Albanians were arrested by the police whileworking in the fields and were taken to the police station in order to be immediately expelled, without theirpersonal objects. During their detention for a few hours at the station, their employer looked out for and foundthem in order to give them their salaries before they were expelled. In some cases, Greek authorities separatedfamilies: two Albanians told the mission of the arrest and detention of their wives, in one case with their twounder age children too, with the accusation of prostitution, which they denied categorically; at the same time, itwas indicated to them to return back to Albania and wait for their wives there.
The third category of deportees concerns those persons who were subjected to police abuse, Besides manyanonymous denunciations, the mission had the denunciation of Ilia Matka from Fier, who accepted to bephotographed with his swollen face and the bruises on his chest and left hand. Ilia Matka had been living for fouryears in Kalamata and had a residence permit, without previously having obtained a visa (according to Greekconsular circles, such irregular "legalization" may have been the result of bribery). On the eve of his expulsion,he was summoned to the police station of Kalamata, where the police director tore his residence permit and puthim under detention, where other policemen beat him. Finally, he was expelled without being allowed neither totake with him his identity card and passport, which he had at home, nor, of course, to go to the bank andwithdraw his money.
Also, when the mission was on the Greek side of Kakavije, it witnessed the merciless beating of an Albanian
inside the police station, while the chief of police who spoke to the mission had blood on his shirt and his hands.
He stated to the mission that the Albanian's wounds were self-inflicted in order to create impressions, but the
mission had the impression that he was a victim of beating, Greek authorities were called on (in Eleftherotypia,
6/9/1994) to order administrative investigations for those two cases, otherwise the impression will be created
that the maltreatment of Albanians takes place under their tolerance, Subsequently, in the next few days, the
government's Ministers for Public Order Mr. Papathemelis and for Press and Mass Media Evangelos Venizelos
rejected the IHF accusations as unfounded without having previously ordered any investigation; on the other
hand, following complaints filed by a Kalamata-based human rights non-governmental organization, the
Committee for Human Rights and Against Racism, there were initiated both an administrative and a judicial
investigation of the Matka case which were still in progress by February 1995.
Finally, it is worth reporting that, on their own initiative, two Albanians of Greek nationality from Dervican, whoat the time were normally returning to Albania -i.e. they were not being expelled, came up to the mission. Theyexpressed their indignation for the expulsions and the conditions under which they were taking place, accusedthe governments of the two countries for, through their policies, creating problems to their citizens, and stressedthat they were afraid that the Albanian population will consider Omonoia responsible for the expulsions and willturn against the minority for revenge. It is a fear the mission heard from other Greeks of Albania too.
The IHF (and Greek Helsinki Monitor) considers the Greek treatment of the Albanian deportees as a violation ofits international obligations which derive from Articles 7 (the right to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman ordegrading treatment), 13 (no expelling aliens lawfully residing in a country) and 26 (equality before the law)ofthe ICCPR.
Greece's stance damages innocent persons who become victims of a crisis in bilateral relations and may causetension in the region which could threaten the minorities' welfare and, finally, the region's stability. Greece had toresolve as soon as possible its problem of illegal employment, on the basis of the country's economic anddemographic needs, so that all immigrants who work in Greece enjoy the same rights and obligations as theGreek workers, instead of being exploited by some employers and the hostages of Greek foreign policy.
Finally, to the extent that expulsions of illegal immigrants need continue, Greek authorities have to treat themwith respect for their rights and their personalities and to punish severely all police and other agents who violatethese principles and expose the country.
Article 44 of the draft constitution which was rejected in a referendum on 6 November 1994 read as follows:"Members of a national minority have the right to exercise the basic human rights and freedoms in full equalitybefore the law. They have the right to express, preserve and develop freely their ethnic, cultural, religious andlinguistic identity; to learn and to be taught in their mother tongue as well as to join organizations andassociations that defend their interest and identity." Assuming that such an article will be in the new constitution whenever adopted, and should it be "fullyimplemented in letter and spirit at all levels of government, it could, together with the implementation of theCSCE Copenhagen Document to which President Berisha had pledged himself and his government, provide asolid basis for the well being of the Greek minority," as the CSCE mission to Albania (CSCE HighCommissioner on National Minorities Max Van der Stoel, Norwegian Institute of Human Rights DirectorProfessor Asbjorn Eide, and Minority Rights Group International Chairman Sir John Thompson) concluded(CSCE High Commissioner, 1994:2). Unfortunately, as it was already made clear in the preceding section andbecome more evident in this section, the current situation does not correspond to the above intentions of theAlbanian authorities, even though the Greek minority enjoys rights that many other minorities in the Balkans andespecially in Greece have been denied.
The minority's education
As the CSCE mission, and every other international human rights monitor, found out, education in Greek is theminority's principal, if not sometimes only, demand (CSCE High Commissioner, 1994:5). Education in Albaniahad four levels: a three-year kindergarten, an eight-year school of basic education (with which ends compulsoryeducation), a four-year middle school (the counter-part of Lyceum) with a general or vocational direction, andthen higher education. Education in Greek is provided only in the kindergarten and in the basic education andonly in the villages with a majority of Greek population, which are in the minority zones of Saranda, Delvina,and Gjirokastra: this arrangement excluded the Greeks living in the towns which were thus implicitly targeted forassimilation. Until 1951, education throughout the (then) seven-year school was in Greek. As it was consideredthat by that system minority people faced great difficulties in continuing their education in the middle schools,the content was changed.
Thus, until 1991, in the first four years of the eight-year school, when children have a single teacher as in theGreek elementary school, all courses were in Greek, whereas Albanian was taught simply as a language for onehour per day. In the rest of the classes of the eight-year school, when pupils had different teachers from courseto course as in the Greek secondary schools, teaching took place in Albanian and Greek was taught for fourhours per week. Transition from the fourth to the fifth grade was usually smooth, despite the change in the language of instruction because teachers were Greek. In the middle school, instruction has always been inAlbanian, except for the Teachers' Academy of Gjirokastra preparing the teachers of the minority schools.
With Instruction 17/21-9-1991, education throughout the eight-year school was established to be in Greek, whileon the same time the opportunity was provided for new minority schools to open upon the decision of the localadministration in areas where such schools had not operated until then, but there existed a sufficient number ofGreek students. Schools opened then in the mixed communities (with a majority of Albanians) of Saranda,Delvina, Metoq, Ksamil, Bistritsa and SMT. On the same time, a new school was to open in Gjirokastra in 1993.
However, with Instruction 19/14-9-1993 most of the reforms introduced in 1991 were canceled. The newregulation was probably a continuation of the Greek-Albanian crisis which had begun with the expulsion ofArchimandrite Mandoni from Albania and continued with the expulsions of some 30,000 Albanians from Greecein the summer of 1993. The competence of local administration (granted in 1982) to open new schools outsidethe minority zones was withdrawn by this regulation and transferred to the Ministry of Education; the latter wasrefusing through 1994 to open new schools with education in Greek and was simply continuing the classes thathad been created after 1991 until their graduation. Furthermore, the 1993 regulation kept the instruction inGreek only in the first through the fourth grades, introducing a mixed program in Greek and Albanian for thefifth through the eighth grades. It should be mentioned that the questionable constitutionality of Instruction 19led to a new prime ministerial Decision (500/25-10-1993), which brought back the competence for educationalissues in Albanian schools to the local administration, but kept the competence for the education of the minorityin the hands of the Ministry of Education. Moreover, the implementation of some of these changes occurredafter the beginning of the school year, resulting in confusion and the use of police to force the new measures ionsome places.
The pressures of the CSCE High Commissioner Max Van Der Stoel for improvements in the education of theminority appear to have led the Albanian government to marginal improvements for the new school year 1994-1995, with Decision 396/22-8-1994 and Instruction 14/1994. Basically, the instruction of all courses in Greekwas reintroduced in grades five through eight, except for mathematics, physics, chemistry, and Albanian history,geography, and knowledge of the constitutional system. It appears that this arrangement is acceptable to manymembers of the minority, whereas others continue to prefer a full eight-year education in Greek. Also, the dailyfree transfer by bus was provided for pupils wishing to follow the Greek program from the mixed communitieswhere they were living (and where there were no Greek schools) to nearby villages with Greek schools: thisarrangement has appeared acceptable to the CSCE High Commissioner (whose only remaining concern was therefusal to allow in the Greek language schools children whose parents were registered as Albanians in nationality-1994:4-5) but not to the minority itself, as in practice it recognizes the "minority zones." Finally, theopportunity to learn Greek as a (foreign) language was provided wherever there were at least 32 pupilsinterested (a rather high number indeed), for pupils that would not by bused to the villages: however, in thatcase, Greek will be taught instead of English or French, a disadvantage for these pupils. It should be mentionedthat the relevant decree 396/22-8-1994 invokes in its preface the principles of the European Charter for Minorityand Regional Languages of the Council of Europe, a Charter Greece voted against in 1992 during the vote,changed its vote into abstention later on, and had not signed through early 1995.
Schoolbooks are the exact translation into Greek of the official Albanian schoolbooks: their printing is done bythe Greek authorities in Greece. In cities with an important Greek population, including Tirana, it had not beenpossible to teach Greek until 1994. Since 1994 the Albanian government has allowed the teaching of Greek as aforeign language, like English, Italian etc. The Albanian government should in any case allow the operation ofprivate Greek schools in the same way a Turkish private school has been created in Tirana (where there alsoexists an international private school, but for children of foreign citizens). The absence of a law for privateeducation in Albania constitutes the formal reason for denying the founding of such schools: but is has notprevented the founding of the Turkish school. Albanian authorities have committed themselves to the CSCE mission to introduce the appropriate legislation, as well as to open two Greek language middle schools, one eachin Gjirokastra and Saranda, on condition that there is sufficient demand.
There is also the special case of Himara. In order to have schools with Greek education, the interestedinhabitants must declare their Greek nationality. But, as it has been confirmed to us by the Greek embassy inTirana, Himarans have developed a separate identity and do not wish to be considered Greeks or Albanians; as aresult, the operation of schools with Greek education is difficult in their area, even if the 1991 decree werereinstated.
In higher education, a Department of Modern Greek Studies operates at the University of Gjirokastra, while inthe third and fourth years in the School of Philosophy Greek language can be chosen as an option. Thesearrangements were made after the restoration of relations between Greece and Albania in 1987, in application ofthe educational protocol between the two countries. On the contrary, as the Greek Embassy in Tirana hasinformed the mission, the University of Ioannina (Greece) has not fulfilled its own obligations which are thefounding and operation of a Department of Albanian Studies, exchanges with the University of Gjirokastra, andproviding technical and material support to the latter.
Finally, it should be mentioned that immigration of many members of the minority to Greece has significantlylimited the number of students who need Greek education, a fact which the Albanian government usessometimes in order to reduce the number of schools. Today in Cuka, for example, an 85% Greek village through1990, the eight-year school has overall less than half the students it had in 1990, and their composition is almost50-50 Greek and Albanian.
The distribution of the agrarian land
The region on which lives the greater part of the Greek minority in Albania belonged until 1946 to largelandowners -agas and beys- as the inhabitants say today. In 1946, the agrarian reform of the communistgovernment led to the distribution of the large country estates to the peasants: thus, the Greek minority founditself owning the land which, until then, it simply cultivated, a fact that created the impression that the minoritywas favored by the communist regime. In reality the reform favored the landless at the expense of the largelandowners; as the Greeks were landless, they were favored, but not because they were Greeks.
In 1956, the peasants were obliged to form cooperatives and in the early 1960’s many cooperatives became stateagrarian businesses by decisions of the authorities. In 1993, it was decided not to return the state land to itsformer owners, but to distribute it to the peasants who lived in rural areas until 31/7/1991, depending in the sizeof their families. Those among the inhabitants, though, who were «intellectuals» (in Albania this term coins everyperson with some education and the civil servants) were eligible for half that land. Also, the descendants of theformer large landowners, even if they did not live any more in the villages, were entitled to a small part of theirfamilies’ former property, about one-tenth. Given though that many Greeks during the last thirty years left thevillages and settled in towns and cities, whereas in the minority villages settled many Albanians from the north,usually to work in agricultural or other businesses, the new land reform led to giving land which belonged toGreeks before 1960 to Albanians. Thus, the impression was created that the distribution of land was unfair to theminority, whereas Greeks who lost their former land did not lose it because they were members of the minority,but because they had emigrated to towns. It should be mentioned that the many controversies on theimplementation of the policy had, among other things, led to the delay in the issuing of the deeds, for themembers of the members of the minority as well as for the rest of the Albanians.
In the area of Cuka and of the Butrint lake, which the mission visited, it heard complaints not on theredistribution but on the use of the land. Albanian authorities do not allow the inhabitants to exploit for tourism part of the land they obtained, even though it belongs to a zone officially recognized as tourist. The inhabitantssuspect that the state intends to expropriate the land, for a low price, in order to then give it, for a high price, toa foreign tourist company. The Church has a similar complaint: the monastery of St. George claims the return ofthe land (50-60 hectares) that belonged to it, in order to exploit it in multiple ways (including the establishmentof a summer camp); this land is located in a picturesque place between the lake and the sea with an enormouspotential for tourist development. Albanian authorities, though, have not even returned the one-tenth of the oldmonastery land, as it should have done in application of the relevant law mentioned above.
The impression of the inhabitants of the region is that the confrontation with the state for the use of the land isnot on principle the result of the minority composition of the population, but that this factor is probablyinfluencing the negative stand of the authorities. Let it be pointed out that the mission was impressed by the factthat, in the same area, state land, resulting from the drainage of a swamp between1957-1960, belongs today to ajoint venture between the Albanian state and a Greek businessman from Greece using the funds of the Europeanprogram INTERREG: all these just a few kilometers from the Greek-Albanian border.
The minority in the public sector
During the last two years, a large number of minority people left the public sector, especially the police and thearmed forces, with a result minority policemen or officers in the armed forces to have become rare henceforth. Itseems that many among them resigned, following their transfer to far away places, considered as an unfavorabletransfer, as until then policemen and officers enjoyed tenure in the place they were stationed. Undoubtedly, someamong those who left were rather not disappointed by that fact, since they left in search of better conditions andhigher income in Greece. In the same way, many Albanians have preferred to evade the army and take refuge toGreece in order to work.
The problem of dismissals led to the making up of catalogues with the manes of the persons dismissed, whichintergovernmental organizations and foreign diplomats in Tirana demanded in order to look into the subject.
These catalogues ended up being part of the «incriminating» evidence for high treason through conspiracyagainst the five Omonoia members.
The mission was also informed that members of the minority had also been dismissed from important places inthe rest of the public sector, such as the responsible for international relations in the Ministry of Defense and theHealth Director of Saranda. The massive dismissals of minority members created the impression that «in the end,it was better off during the dictatorship in the subject of minority participation of the minority in the publicsector», as Human Rights Union MP Thoma Mitci stated. If Albanian authorities want to dispel all claims ofdiscrimination, they should follow the CSCE High Commissioner’s advice to set up an appropriate institution toexamine in an objective way such complaints (1994:6).
Political representation of the minority
The July 1991 Law 7502 prohibits the «formation of parties on a religious, ethnic and regional basis.» So,Omonoia, which was founded in January 1991 and participated in the 31 March (first round) - 7 April (secondround) 1991 elections, was not able to take part in the 22 March 1992 elections. For that reason, in February1992, when the electoral law confirmed Omonoia’s inability to run, the Human Rights Union was created by theminority though it included some Albanians too, and received 48,923 votes or 2.9% of the valid votes. This partywas not able to take part in the complementary distribution of seats, because it did not have electoral lists in atleast 33 electoral constituencies, since the authorities invalidated initially 11 and eventually 7 of its 36 candidates.
If it had had 33 candidates, instead of 29, and had received 4% of the votes, the Human Rights Union would have elected 5-6 MPs and not just the 2 it elected in the current Parliament of 140 seats. It should be mentionedthat in 1991, with much fewer votes, Omonoia had elected 5 MPs in a Parliament of 250 seats. Also, the HumanRights Union did not challenge the electoral results after the elections.
The prohibition of the operation of minority parties is inadmissible and contrary to the CSCE principles: it istherefore surprising that the CSCE High Commissioner made no mention to this problem in his report.
Unfortunately, though, a similar provision exists in Bulgaria, whereas in Greece it is well known that the 3%threshold for the National and European Parliamentary Election was introduced in order to prevent therepresentation of minorities, even if it finally also eliminated the Progressive Left Coalition from the GreekParliament and Democratic Renewal (DIANA) from the European one.
It should be mentioned though that, besides the six minority deputies, there are scores of Greek elected officialsin the local administration, and one can even find a Greek mayor in Saranda, where the minority males up no orethan 40% of the electorate. Moreover, the three minority regions of Gjirokastra, Delvina, and Saranda haveelected Greek prefects.
The use of Greek symbols by the minority
One of Omonoia’s demands is the uninhibited use of the Greek flag and the Greek national anthem side by sidewith the corresponding Albanian ones in important celebrations of the minority. In general, flags and anthems areconsidered symbols of a state and not of the dominant nation within it. For that reason, this demand may soundstrange. The mission ascertained however that even the representative of the governing Democratic Party inSaranda considered this demand reasonable, in the condition that there will not be any abuse of it. It should bereminded here that the European Union’s «Badinter Commission» (which reviewed the demands for recognitionbe the various former Yugoslav republics) had a similar provision for the Serbs of Croatia in its relevant advice.
The problems of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church
As it was stated to the mission, liturgy and other services were being held unimpedently in the language ofpreference of the congregation. Its carrying out in Aromanian was being considered in areas where theAromanians (Vlachs) wished so. The major problem of the Church was the return of the monasteries’ property,so that it can have financial independence. Albanian authorities may have returned the churches of themonasteries of Ardenice, St. George of Cuka, St. John Vladimir of Elbasan etc., but not the other buildings (ofthe convent) nor the surrounding land. So, the monastery of Ardenice, the symbol of Orthodoxy in Albania,functions as a restaurant, tavern, bar and hotel. Also, even though the authorities were obligated to return part ofthe monasteries’ property according to the law mentioned above, they had not given a single piece of land,depriving the Church of crucial financial means.
Also, the Church demands the return of the money confiscated in 1967, when religions were banned; as well asof the icons, the archives, etc. Likewise, Albanian authorities often prevent in many ways the building of newchurches or the holding of open-air religious processions, whereas state media frequently attack the Archbishopand the Church, with the latter not having the possibility to reply (for example during the campaign for the 1994referendum). On the other hand, Albanian state television broadcasts important Orthodox Christian services andmessages of the Archbishop. It should be added, too, that the fact that the Archbishop of the AutocephalousChurch of Greece is the Chairman of the Committee for the Northern Epirus Struggle, perceived in Albania as anirrendentist organization, especially when it criticizens even the moderate and realistic stands of Omonoia;likewise, the inflammatory programs of the «Voice of Northern Epirus», broadcasting from the Greek village of Konitsa and operated by its Bishop, but with obvious state tolerance of not support, are, to a lesser extent, aproblem for both the Archbishop and the Greek minority in Albania.
Finally, the constitution rejected in the referendum had a provision requiring the religious leaders to be Albaniancitizens and to have lived in the country for at least twenty tears, conditions that Archbishop Anastasios, a Greekcitizen appointed by the Patriarchate, could not meet. It is hoped that the final constitution will not include suchprovision which will only create tensions between the Orhodox Church and the authorities.
Intimidation of the minority
Upon the arrival of Olympic Airways flights from Athens, and only then, at the exit of the airport,plainclothesmen checked and wrote down the names and other related information of all persons who ride oncars, obviously in order to be informed of the persons with whom people from Athens had contacts in Albania.
Also, in front of the Greek embassy in Tirana, again plainclothesmen wrote down the names of every person whowas going in. It was reported to the mission and to the media that, following similar controls, some Greekjournalists were detained and, in some cases, even deported for various formal reasons like that upon their entryin the country they had declared a different professional occupation and not that of journalist. These measureshave a discouraging impact in the minority, even on its leadership, which became more reserved on its contactswith the Greek Embassy, as it was stated to the mission and as the mission itself had the opportunity to ascertain.
On the same time, after April 1994, Albanian authorities make sporadic arrests to intimidate the minority. Sixarrests of minority persons from Krania and Finiki were reported to the mission; they were detained until thenext day of their arrest; the mission also heard of the arrests of three Himarans, because they possessed tractswith content against the regime: all three were detained for a few hours, and two of them complained of havingbeen mistreated.
The deputy prefect of Gjirokastra Jani Dako was arrested in Tirana, before testifying in the trial, byplainclothesmen (who did not have the authority to make arrests): the cause of the arrest was the fact that heused a double room in Hotel Arbana alone, which is prohibited, since Albanian citizens pay Dako, Human RightsUnion MP Thoma Mitci who was present, protested and attempted to follow the detained to the police station,but was pushed back by force and the threat of a gun by the agents who made the arrest. Use of violence in suchcase was inadmissible, because the MP was protected by his parliamentary immunity.
More in general, we observed a reluctance of the members of the minority to provide us with specific statisticaldata no the minority, since similar data constituted part of the evidence for the persecution against the embers ofOmonoia and fear existed for similar prosecutions. It has appeared though that, after the conclusion of theOmonoia trial, this climate of intimidation had subsided. On the other hand, it should be mentioned that there hasnot been any evidence of inter-ethnic tensions between Greeks and Albanians, even at the height of the crisis in1994.
The minority and Greece
Carefully stated criticism of Greece’s attitude in matters which concern them directly or indirectly, an attitudeconsidered to have possible implications on minority’s fate and welfare, was evident in discussions with membersof the minority. The mayor of Saranda Llambi Gjati linked the worsening of the education policy for the minorityin 1993 with Greece’s earlier attitude, obviously implying the expulsions of Albanians which followed theexpulsion of Archimandrite Mandonis. He also said: «We regret the Greek attitude towards the Albanianimmigrants and the Albanian attitude towards the minority: both do not help ordinary people. In Albania, we say: after fights love grows stronger. Let’s hope that this is also going to happen now». On the broader issue ofNorthern Epirus, he added: «We in Omonoia never made the mistake to put forward the issue of NorthernEpirus. We just ask for our rights. The attitude of some circles in Greece contributed to the crisis. In any case,we do not have any complaints from the Greek government on this matter». The prefect of Saranda, VangjelCako, added: «No Greek government, no Greek political party, and, of course, neither Omonoia has ever askedfor a change of the borders». The MP of the Human Rights Union Thoma Mitci stated that «politicians in bothcountries create problems to use, the minority». On the other hand, the mission was impressed by the fact that, inSaranda, the only radio and TV stations that could be listened to or watched are Greek. Albanian electronic massmedia cannot reach this region of the country.
The minority and Albania
Speaking to the mission, the president of Omonoia, Sotir Qirjazati, showed understanding for the difficultiesAlbania faces in its transition to democracy. «A country which had been profoundly dictatorial cannotimmediately become a profoundly democratic». Besides, the chief of police of the province of Saranda assuredthe mission that there were no particular problems, or crimes of any kind, more acute with the Greek minority incomparison with the other Albanians. This meant that the activity of the minority did not cause particularproblems to Albanian authorities.
The minority and the Council of Europe
The leadership of the minority repeated to the mission its statement to the Council of Europe mission whichvisited Tirana at the end of August in order to examine Albanian’s preparation to enter this organization. Theysaid that if the Council of Europe was satisfied with the human rights standards in Albania, it may proceed toadmit Albania: this would only encourage and perpetuate the current situation. If, though, there existed somecriteria which must be fulfilled on the time of admission, these should be met. Otherwise, after its admission,Albania would not have any motive to apply these conditions, in the same way Turkey was not applying themeither. On the other hand, Greece, as the mission was told opposed in mid-1994 Albania’s admission to theCouncil of Europe.
The geographical area in which the Greek minority had traditionally lived in Albania is called sometimesSouthern Albania and sometimes Northern Epirus. It is moreover considered that the latter term should beavoided, as dissimulating Greek irredentism. The problematic towards a different perspective on the issue,presented to the IHF mission by one of its interlocutors in Albania (who would probably not like to be mentionedby name) led us in revising this simplistic view.
The area where the Greek minority lives in is indisputably Southern Albania, as it is located in the Southern partof the country. In the same way, the Paloponnese and Crete make up Southern Greece, without though losingtheir traditional geographical name. Likewise, therefore, Southern Albania nay also be called by its traditionalgeographical name: most books referring to the area before the creation of the Albanian state include today’sSouthern Albania in the greater area of Epirus. The use of this historic name seems to have widely resumedduring last century, as in the case of the names of Macedonia and Thrace.
Thus, as it is accepted that Western Thrace is part of Greece, Eastern Thrace part of Turkey and NorthernThrace part of Bulgaria, in the same way Southern Epirus is part of Greece and Northern Epirus part of Albania.
For the same reason, too, we have to accept today’s expression of the geographical division of Macedonia,which follows a slightly different terminology: Vardar Macedonia is today the independent Republic ofMacedonia, Aegean Macedonia is part of Greece and Pirin Macedonia part of Bulgaria (there is also a smallMacedonia strip in Albania).
Naturally, geographical names have been associated to specific expansionist claims (or irredentism’s, as theseclaims are called by nationalists). Northern Epirus has been a claim of Greece, and had once been annexed to it;likewise for Eastern Thrace. Moreover, Aegean Macedonian has been claimed by Bulgarians (who annexed atleast a part of it three times) and by Macedonians. One approach is to abolish all these geographical terms whichbecame means of claiming territories. This is an extreme solution, which also deprives the inhabitants of theseareas of the right to use them in order to describe their regional identity: Northern Epirots, AegeanMacedonians, etc. Another approach, the better adapted to the contemporary situation, is to permit the use ofthese names, in parallel of course with the official names, and to stop suspecting what is dissimulated in thesemanes. Modern day irredentists in the Balkans do not need these names in order to carry on their destabilizingactivity. They may as well talk of unredeemed Greeks of Albania instead of unredeemed Northern Epirots andunredeemed Macedonians instead of Aegean Macedonians. Thus, the use of the terms Northern Epirus andNorthern Epirot, as well as Aegean Macedonian and Aegean Macedonian is acceptable. What is unacceptable, isto precede them by an irredentist adjective.
There is considerable disagreement between the Greek and the Albanian sides about the estimation of the size ofthe Greek minority in Albania. The Albanian authorities give the figure which resulted from the last populationcensus in 1989, that is 58.000 Greeks. This number had obviously risen, as during 1991-1993 many Albaniancitizens have been allowed to change their declaration of nationality; many Greeks took advantage of it. TheGreek embassy in Tirana stated to the IHF mission that Greece does not make any official estimation. Theleadership of Omonoia estimates the minority at more than 300.000 persons. The US Department of State 1995Human Rights Report mentions an estimate of 80.000. The US CIA estimate (in its World Fact Books) wasdecreased from 260,000 in previous editions to 100,000 edition.
Calculations based on the electoral behavior of the minority party Human Rights Union in the March 1992parliamentarian elections and in the July 1992 local elections leads us to intermediate estimations. In fact, in theabove-mentioned elections, the Human Rights Union took 49,000 votes in the parliamentarian ones and 56,000in the local ones, despite the lower participation in the latter. These votes correspond to a 3%-4% of the totalelectorate. If we relate these percentages to the population (Albania today had almost 3,5 million inhabitants),the electoral scores of the minority party leads to an estimate of about 100,000-140,000 persons. Of course,some of the Human Rights Union voters are not Greeks, but, on the other hand, some minority members votedfor other parties (which elected 4 Greek deputies). Taking into account all these facts, one may conclude that theGreeks of Albania number almost 150,000. In the 300,000-400,000 figure which the Greek side asserts, allVlachs and some Orthodox Albanians are obviously included.
In order to end this confusion and controversy, it is necessary to conduct in Albania, too, a population censuswith the same international assistance (from the Council of Europe) which was given to the recent census inMacedonia (and which had been demanded by the Albanian minority living there), so that the ethnic and religiouscomposition of the population ceases to be an object of controversy that serves no one.
The IHF mission was been impressed by recurrent references by Greeks and Albanians to the issue of payoffs(bribes) for obtaining a visa from the Greek consular authorities. The «usual» price mentioned was 80,000-100,000 drs. It has been said, however, that when the 5-year visa will be introduced, the «price» is very likely toreach the sum of 1,000,000 drs.
A brief investigation of the issue showed that the persons who reported the fact of making money out of thevisas mentioned that the persons bribed were the «intermediaries» who were taking the passports to theconsulates and not the diplomats. Even when pressing the matter, very few believed that the consulates’ staffwas making money. Soma argued that maybe the consulates knew certain of the persons making money buttolerated them. The impression formed by the mission is that Greek consular authorities are probably aware ofthe situation and tolerate it, because they can hardly avoid it under the present circumstances, and that theyprobably do not know who of the intermediaries make money and who do not.
It is necessary here to explain why, under the present circumstances, the procedure of payoffs is unavoidable,because the presence of intermediaries is unavoidable. When is had been decided that visas will be given by theGreek consular authorities in Albania, naturally the demand was great. Greek policy favored the granting of visasto the persons belonging to the Greek minority, both to those having officially the minority identity and to thoseprohibited by the former regime to declare their being Greeks. The latter obviously opened Pandora’s box, asmany, for economic reasons, claimed the Greek nationality, while through this policy an effort was being madeto (re)gain the Vlachs.
At the same time, however, it was established that an Albanian citizen could easily obtain a counterfeit identitycard and maybe also a passport, which would make him appear as minoritarian. That is why the Greek consularauthorities have called upon the leaders of the minority, either to confirm the Greekness of some of thecandidates for visas or to send «genuine» minority persons to obtain visas. Moreover, the huge demand, incombination with the small consular staffs, led also to a third solution. Trustworthy members of the minoritysubmitted packs of passports for visas, which were immediately given, saving precious time. It seems that, inseveral of the above cases, the intermediaries acted for a consideration. Undoubtedly, this condition isunacceptable and exposes irreparably the Greek state, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the diplomatic corps,even if the latters’ members have no share in the payoffs. The prolongation of this situation nurtures all kinds ofsuspicions widespread rumors demanding to Greek authorities.
How can the problem be solved, especially now that the 5-year visas will begin to be granted (the consulate inGjirokastra told the mission that it avoids giving 5-year visas until the problem is settled, so as not make thesituation worse)? Greek authorities must obtain lists with the names of the inhabitants of the Greek and themixed villages and towns and to proceed in an orderly and systematic way with the granting of visas based onthese lists and after appropriate announcements. As for the Albanian population of the same areas, minoritymembers told the mission that they should also have similar treatment, in order not to avoid tensions caused bythe privileged treatment of the Greeks. They, also, reassured us that the vast majority of Greeks and Albanians,when they will have been granted the 5-year visas, will not settle in Greece permanently, but they will go thereonly for seasonal occupation, as there is such a need in Albania as well (e.g. in the fields). Moreover, in such acase, many -at least those coming from areas where there are minority schools, but also the majority of Albanian-will not be obliged to take their families for permanent settlement in Greece. Today, many immigrants of thiscategory with visas for one year or a few months stay in Greece lest they be stuck in Albania, in case they goback and do not obtain a new visa, or they have to pay again in order to obtain it. As this systematic and civilizedprocess takes time, Greek authorities should tacitly extend the visas of all those who obtained yearly ones in thenear past (and thus they have been «checked») until they obtain the 5-year visas, too, without having to queue upat the consulates or to have resources to intermediaries for renewal of their yearly visas.
Of course, all the above have to be combined with the dissociation of the visas from the work permits. TheGreek state has to combat the illegal employment of all immigrants, both so that they can enjoy the sameemployment conditions with Greeks, but also that important social security payments not be lost. Moreover, the«exceptions» for the Northern Epirots which have been reported to the mission should be abolished: whenauthorities find illegal workers, if they are provided with certificates from certain Northern Epirus associations,they and their bosses are exempted from the legal consequences and sanctions.
Greek Helsinki Monitor, which played an active role in the decision to send a multi-member delegation of theInternational Helsinki Federation for Human Rights in Albania between 15 August - 7 September 1994,appraising the information gathered by the account similar reports of other NGOs or IGOs, has come to thefollowing general conclusions: 1. The Greek minority in Albania and the Orthodox Church more generally have been subjected to discriminations by Albanian authorities, particularly after 1993, when the positive developments that hadstarted in 1991 were reversed. The two main institutional problems are the limitation of the operation ofGreek schools only in the arbitrary «minority zones» and the dismissals of minority members from the civilservice, particularly from the armed forces and the police. Other important problems are the prevention ofboth the Orthodox Church (in which the Greek minority is only a small part of the congregation) to carryout its work, and Omonoia to function as a political party.
2. In 1994, the problems were intensified by the unprecedented persecution of the Omonoia leadership, through illegal arrests, detentions and summons of its members, as well as illegal searches of its offices andconfiscation of its archives. The persecution culminated with the prosecution, based on legally inadmissiblecharges, of five leading Omonoia members that led to a trial with multiple violations of judicial proceduresto such an extent that any decision taken by the court to lack legitimacy. For this reason, the convicteddefendants were considered as prisoners of conscience by the IHF. Their eventual release from prison inFebruary 1995 is certainly a positive development, although the IHF deplores that their conviction wasupheld by the Supreme Court which simply handed suspended sentences.
3. It must be noted, however, that, as the Greek minority also admits, the activity in Greece of individuals, organizations and, sometimes, the government has contributed to the development of a negative climate forthe minority in Albania government has exploited in order to legitimize even partially the persecution ofOmonoia. For this reason, there must be in Greece a systematic, sincere and categorical condemnation of allthose who dynamite the bilateral relations and undermine the welfare of the Greek community in Albania.
4. Unquestionably, the expulsion of more than 100,000 Albanians from Greece, and actually under unacceptable and inhuman conditions, did not constitute the proper answer of the Greek side. Greece andthe international organizations (CSCE, Council of Europe, European Union) to which Albania belongs orwishes to enter should impose on this country the respect of human rights and of its internationalcommitments. At the same time the international intergovernmental and non-governmental organizationsshould prepare human rights education programs for Albanian civil servants and, in particular police agents(also recommended by the CSCE High Commissioner -1994:7), politicians, journalists and members of non-governmental and minority organizations and persuade the Albanian government to accept a censusorganized by an independent international institution.
5. Finally, Greece and Albania should immediately commence a bona fide dialogue so as to reverse the recent negative development in bilateral relations. The removal of the discriminations against the minority and thelegalization of the Albanian immigrants who have or can find employment in Greece should be the mainissues for discussion. In this context, Greece should immediately regularize the visa procedure for Albaniancitizens in order to end the generalized visa trade.
Amnesty International (1994a) ‘Albania’ in Amnesty International Report 1994 (London).
Amnesty International (1994b) Albania: Clarification Sought on Arrest of Six Members of Greek Minority
(London, 9/6/1994).
Amnesty International (1994c) Albania: Amnesty International Concerned About Alleged Violation of
Right to Fair Trial
(London, 11/8/1994).
Amnesty International (1994d) Albania: Amnesty International Concerned About Reports of ill-treatment
of Greek Lawyers and Journalists Outside Tirana Courthouse
(London, 18/8/1994).
Amnesty International (1994e) Albania: Amnesty International Writes to President About Continuing
(London, 30/9/1994).
Amnesty International (1995a) Albania: Amnesty International Renews Appeal to President Berisha on
Behalf of Ethnic Greeks
(London, 27/1/1995).
Amnesty International (1995b) ‘Albania’ in Amnesty International Concerns in Europe: May - December
(London, February 1995).
Cassel Jr., Douglass W., with Peter M. Manikas, and Jonathan B. Gould [International Human Rights Law
Institute of De Paul University College of Law] (1994) Memorandum Addressing Issues of International
Law In Support of Defendant Theodori Bezhani’s Appeal
(Chicago, 28/10/1994).
CSCE/CPC (1994) Report of Trial Monitoring in Tirana (Vienna, September 1994)
CSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (1994) Letter to His Excellency Mr. Arian Starova, Acting
Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Albania
(The Hague, 2/11/1994).
Elmquist, Bjorn [Vice-chairman, Danish Helsinki Committee] (1994) Report on observation mission to the
trial in Tirana against five members of the Greek ethnic community in Albania
(Copenhagen, 18/8/1994).
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki (1995) Albania: The Greek Minority (New York, February 1995).
IHF [International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights] (1994) Abuses of human rights on both sides in
events surrounding Albanian-Greek minority case
(Vienna, 2/9/1994).
Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights (1994) Trial Observation Report: The Albanian Trial of Five
Ethnic Greeks For Espionage
(Minneapolis, September 1994).
Minority Rights Group International (1994) The Southern Balkans (London).
Rzeplinski, Andrzej [Professor of Warsaw University, Member of the Helsinki Committee in Poland] (1994)
Report from the CSCE/ODIHR Mission to Tirana, Albania (Warsaw, 25/8/1994).
US Department of State (1995) Country Reports on Human Rights Practices For 1994 (Washington,
«To protect my reputation as a human rights worker, I asked the CSCE not to send me to monitor anotherpolitical trial, after all that happened with my report on the Omonoia trial. Obviously, they want diplomats forsuch missions, and I am not a diplomat». The, by now well-known in Greece, 45-year old Polish universityprofessor and since 6 November member of the seven-member Executive Committee of the InternationalHelsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), Andrzej Rzeplinski, spoke candidly on the «adventure» of hismission to the Tirana trial last August.
«When I returned from Tirana, I wrote the report I submitted to the CSCE Office for Democratic Institutionsand Human Rights in Warsaw and also gave a copy to the Executive Director of the IHF Aaron Rhodes.
Immediately, negotiations started with the CSCE offices in Warsaw and the Hague on the content and thewording of the text. Especially the Hague office insisted that changes should be made, as my report, in its firstdraft form, made its mission to register the problems of the Greek minority in Albania very difficult». The Hagueoffice is that of the CSCE High Commissioner for Minorities Van der Stoel. The Rzeplinski report probably didnot allow him to write a moderate and diplomatic, thus not extensive and strictly objective, report on the Greekminority in Albania, as it would have upset Albania.
«In the end, I made some amendments to the original text, especially in the wording, keeping though all the basic
points on the trial’s irregularities, and I submitted the new version to the CSCE. Unfortunately, the latter decided
to keep in under the carpet. I assure you that the Albanian side has the second version too and knows very well
its content. Later, I heard that the Italian presidency of the CSCE released a short three-page statement about
the report. They did not have the courtesy not only to consult with me on its content, but not even to send me a
copy for my information. To this day, I have not seen this document» (which Eleftherotypia revealed when it
was first released). For that reason, Andrzej Rzeplinski, who had been sent to monitor other political trials in the
past, asked the CSCE not to use his services again.
«Naturally, I never retracted the content of my first report, contrary to the inaccurate allegations of the Albanianambassador to Poland» (which the Albanian government and many Albanian media quoted repeatedly). «Thediscussion with him took place in my office, in the presence of Marek Nowicki» (the Polish predecessor ofRzeplinski in the Executive Committee of the IHF) «and in Polish, which the Albanian ambassador speaksfluently. I mentioned to him the main points of my report, like the fact that it was a political trial, that thedefendants should be acquitted, and that Sebastianos’ chauvinism was the jurisdiction of another court».
Andrzej Rzeplinski was also very firm about the Albanian newspaper which distorted a statement of his and theAlbanian Helsinki Committee. «In an answer to a related question, only in the third day of the trial, I told thejournalist that I was hope that the court would be independent. The newspaper wrote that I allegedly said that Iwas convinced that the court was completely independent. It is in fact an expression I do not use, as a court caneither be or not be independent, it cannot be partly -therefore not completely- independent. Besides, when Iarrived at Tirana, I paid a visit to the Albanian Helsinki Committee office. As the group’s officers were not there,I left by telephone numbers in order to have a meeting with them. It never happened, neither did I see anyone offthem at the court house:, concluded Andrzej Rzeplinski, in an interview which confirmed the limited potential ofintergovernmental institutions like the CSCE to intervene efficiently in such situations, as well as the Albanians’tendency to distort in their statements of CSCE representatives (haven’t they repeatedly done so with Van derStoel’s views?).


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