The exhibition in the small museum in the former remand prison of Shkodër displays documents on the persecution that took place during the communist dictatorship. The files of the secret police have only been accessible to victims and researchers since 2015. Today, with a few exceptions, it is mostly only the people directly affected by these events who are still interested in transitional justice.
The oversized national coat of arms is emblazoned on the front wall of the Albanian parliament. It was here in April 2015, twenty-five years after the end of one-party rule, that the deputies of the Socialist Party decided to open the files of the Sigurimi, the communist secret police. Since then, former victims of persecution and their relatives have been able to view the files that were collected on them. Academics and journalists also have access to the files. But critics say the law is inadequate.
Albania is the last former communist country in Central and Southeastern Europe to make the files of its secret police accessible to the public. Law No. 45/2015, "On the Right to Information on Documents of the Former State Security of the People's Socialist Republic of Albania," entered into force on April 30, 2015. The issue was debated for years before the parliamentary decision was finally made.
How many of the Sigurimi's original documents were destroyed prior to the opening of the archives of the Ministry of the Interior remains unknown. Orders to reduce the inventory were issued several times in 1990 and 1991. The personnel records of all employees were among the documents eliminated in 1991. Nearly 50,000 files are believed to have been destroyed in this single purge.
The law on opening the files was not put to a vote by the Socialist Party until 2015. The timing may have been motivated in part by the efforts to begin accession negotiations with the European Union. The opposition Democratic Party boycotted the vote because it considered the law insufficient.
The law is closely modeled on the Stasi Records Act in Germany. Persecuted individuals, relatives of missing persons, and former Sigurimi employees can view the Sigurimi files kept on them. In addition, high-ranking politicians, candidates for elected office and civil servants can be investigated for their past cooperation with the secret police. If confirmed, however, the law does not provide for sanctions. In fact, there has not been a single case thus far in which an influential figure in politics, the judiciary or the police has been convicted of collaborating with the Sigurimi. The former head of the Interior Ministry's archives has also criticized that the Sigurimi files were removed from the original collection.
An independent authority has been placed in charge of carrying out the tasks regulated by the law. It consists of five members elected by Parliament, including two representatives of victims and human rights associations. They cannot have been members of the Politburo, the Central Committee or the State Security Service during the Hoxha dictatorship, or have held any other prominent position in the repressive apparatus.
Click here for the Albanian Sigurimi law (Albanian)
A guide to archives, research institutions and sites of memory in Albania
Interview with the head of the Albanian State Security Records Agency
Website of the Albanian State Security Records Agency (Albanian)
After the Dictatorship. Instruments of Transitional Justice in Former Authoritarian Systems – An International Comparison
A project at the Department of Modern History at the University of Würzburg
Instagram: After the dictatorship
With financial support from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development