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Supreme Court risks suspension after remaining with only two members

TIRANA, May 23 – Albania’s Supreme Court risks inability to perform even some of its most minimum functions as it remained with only two judges since Thursday.

The Special Appeals College (KPA) decided to dismiss court member Edmond Ismailaj, who passed successfully in June last year the first filter of the verification process under the justice reform.

The Independent Qualification Commission (IQC) did not initially find any issues in all three pillars of the evaluation process, such as the property, its moral integrity and professional preparation.

However, a few weeks later the Public Commissioner decided to appeal the IQC’s decision concerning Islamaj.

“In the assessment of the Public Commissioner, in this case, the investigation of the Independent Qualification Commission is not complete. Consequently, the facts and evidence administered at the conclusion of this administrative investigation are insufficient to support the decision of the Independent Qualification Commission for the ongoing confirmation of the reevaluated subject,” the Public Commissioner explained in July last year.

The problems this Supreme Court member has, according to the Commissioner, are related to his property. In several occasions, Islamaj defended himself before the KPA, pointing out that all the evidence is in line with the decision previously taken by the IQC and that it is not about false statements or concealment of property since a big part of it is inherited.

But in the current KPA decision, the trial panel said the judge had failed to prove that some of his wife’s real estate (an apartment, a cafe and a garage) hold legal sources, as well as the cash values ​​declared by him.

According to the KPA, the judge’s declarations are false.

The Supreme Court, according to a 2013 legal amendment, should have 19 members. The law increased the number of its judges by five, but political clashes between the majority and former President Bujar Nishani made the additional members not to be elected.

Prior to start of the vetting, five of the High Judges resigned for having filled their mandate years, although the law provides that they may remain in duty until the moment of replacement.

Of the remaining nine members, only four of them successfully passed the vetting. One of them, Mehdi Bici. resigned after being elected a member of the High Judicial Council. After the decision for Judge Islamaj, only its chairman Xhezair Zaganjori remains part of the court, although the KPA has opened a reevaluation process against him too.

The other remaining member is Ardian Dvorani, while several tens of thousands of files have piled up in the meantime, their review pending.  

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