Regional conference “Greasing the wheels of the criminal justice system”

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In the framework of the Horizontal Facilitation for the Western Balkans and Turkey, the European Union / CoE “Preventing and Combating Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Albania”, was held the 2-day regional conference “Greasing the Wheel of the Criminal Justice System”.

This conference brought together the expertise of the Council of Europe, other international organizations such as FRA, OSCE-ODHIR, local organizations and Albanian institutions that are already working on this issue. The participants were from civil society and government representatives from Albania, Great Britain, France, Portugal, Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Romania.

In the opening speech, Claus Neukirch, Director of the European Council in Tirana, said: “Albania has made a lot of progress in little time, but there is still violence of various forms. The laws are, but they are if not implemented, it means that we are not fighting hate crimes. If we do not know how to handle these cases professionally, then there will be no reports. If there are no reports, then we can not measure this phenomenon.”

Peter Rigby, a member of the European LGBT Police Association, said that he is a gay cop and that there is no problem and no conflict between these two. In addition, Rigby said he had met highly educated people among civil society organizations and police officers whom he trained in Albania, who together could bring the necessary change in governance and politics.

Mrs. Merita Xhafaj, General Manager of the MSHMS, said that the Albanian government is aware that progress is achieved only with cooperation, if it serves the general interest and if it fully engages in the implementation of the National Action Plan.

“The LGBTI community in Albania is an important part of Albanian society, they work like every Albanian and build a society that respects the rights of every individual and gives everyone the opportunity to advance together” – said Ms. Xhafaj.

Following the preparation of a new guideline on “Hate crime policing against LGBTI persons: Training for a Professional Police Response,” over 150 police officers from all over Albania have been trained in a 2-month period to identify and address hate crimes against LGBTI people. The Sogi Manual is designed for police trainers, investigators, hate crime officers and field officers working in Council of Europe countries. It is based on the standards of the Council of Europe and its purpose is to provide the assistance, information, and the appropriate tools for the development of hate crimes training on LGBTI persons, to help improve the knowledge of law enforcement officers on hate crime against LGBTI persons and strengthen the capacity and practical skills to investigate such crimes. The manual was written by Joanna Perry and Paul Franey (for EGPA – the European Association of LGBT Police). In conclusion, the following conclusions were reached: Anti-LGBT violence should be recognized as an expanding phenomenon and addressed through various methods, not just as a hate crime, not just as a change in justice and politics, not just in reporting, documenting and dealing with cases.

LGBT civil society organizations and LGBT communities, together with police and justice institutions, are cherished for starting and pushing for change. If they do not participate in the reform, the changes (if they will happen) will not have consistency, responsibility, and depth.

Thus, when institutions understand the LGBT community’s appreciation, reforms are easier to achieve and are more productive.

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