Rights Court Backs Albania on How It Makes Up for Communist Ills

An unidentified woman sits by graves at a 2018 ceremony on the annual day to honor the missing, in the Grieving Valley of Kosovo where 19 years ago 376 Albanian civilians were killed by the Serb army. There are still about 1,650 people unaccounted for since the 1998-99 war that left some 10,000 dead. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

STRASBOURG, France (CN) — Albania’s system of compensating for land its former communist regime’s land seizures won support Thursday from Europe’s top rights court, despite claims from the public that it’s inadequate.

It is a win for the Balkan country that has lost numerous cases before the European Court of Human Rights for failing to pay more than lip service to victims with claims whose validity is not in dispute.

Voice of America quoted disappointment with the holding from Gëzim Boçari, a member of a group called Ownership by Justice that advocates for victims.

“Today’s Strasbourg decision has a double standard, it is disappointing,” said Boçari, who is not a party to Thursday’s case. “The Strasbourg court itself ruled in 2016 that compensation would be made at 2008 prices. But an owner today receives compensation that is 100 times less.”

Thursday’s ruling out of Strasbourg, France, comes in a case filed by Agim Beshrir, who has spent decades demanding just compensation for a villa that Albania took from his father in 1978.

The ECHR ruled in 2007 that the Albanian government apparently made no effort, and offered no explanation, for why it had not fulfilled Beshrir’s claim for compensation. 

After the ECHR ruled against Albania in another case led by Manushaqe Puto,

Albania finally adopted a scheme for compensating victims under the Property Act of 2015.

Ruling in a second case brought by Beshrir and 112 others, the rights court found that the system “provides the applicants with a right to an effective remedy.”

Beshrir and the other challengers had called it unfair to make them use a process created nearly two decades after filing their first claims. They also contended that the rates at which they would be compensated were insufficient. 

Thursday’s ruling denies the challengers relief, saying the 2015 act was an improvement on the previous system, which was disorganized and unfair, and the applicants would have to use it. 

The ruling does not deny that, under the new legislation, some victims might see drastically lower compensation than originally promised.

Responding to this point, the court set a 10% floor for those who applied under the previous system, meaning applicants under the system had to be given at least 10% of what they’d been initially offered. 

Property rights have been contentious issues in the former communist state. Enver Hoxha and his Communist Party ruled the country for 40 years, and one of his priorities was eradicating private land ownership. Following Hoxha’s death in 1985, Albanian citizens began to demand compensation from the government for their property. A series of commissions during the 1990s recognized the complaints and found that victims should be compensated for their loss. 

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