Court suspends Albania ban on ex-Communist agents

Albania's constitutional court suspended a law banning agents of ex-Communist regime for running for public office after complaints from the opposition.

Court suspends Albania ban on ex-Communist agents

Albania's constitutional court suspended on Monday a law banning agents of the former Communist regime for running for public office after complaints from the opposition, rights groups and the European Union.

The ruling is likely to temporarily defuse tensions between Prime Minister Sali Berisha's Democratic Party and the opposition Socialist Party, which regards the law as a ploy to sideline rivals at the next parliamentary election on June 28.

Last week, the European Union told Albania the law passed in December 2008 had raised concerns about free political dialogue and the independence of the judiciary, important conditions for Albania's bid to join the 27-member bloc.

"The court decided to suspend law until its final decision after it deemed its application might hinder the functioning of the rule of law and hurt fundamental human rights," a constitutional court spokeswoman told reporters.

The judges also decided to ask the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe's advisory body on constitutional matters, for an opinion on the law as "a friend of the court", she said.

The law denies access to office until 2014 to former members of bodies involved in violence under the Stalinist regime of late Enver Hoxha and informed for the Sigurimi secret service.

Prime Minister Berisha has disregarded calls from the EU, the Council of Europe and the United States to review the law, but he refrained from setting up a group on Monday to screen officials, which would have started the law's application.

Berisha said the court contravened the judiciary's principle of integrity, citing a conflict of interest for some judges, who he says ruled against dissidents under communism.

"I cannot allow myself to rise above the courts despite their absurd decisions. I pledge to continue this battle without interruptions. We are the ruling party, we have parliament and we shall continue our battle," Berisha said.

The opposition Socialist Party, which says the law violates 28 constitutional clauses, says Berisha's real aim is to use the law against judges and prosecutors investigating high-profile cases of corruption.

Reuters

Last Mod: 17 Şubat 2009, 18:34
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