Prime Minister Edi Rama’s remarks at ceremony declaring the four Jan 21 protest victims “Martyrs of the Fatherland”:
It’s been ten years since the January 21 tragedy and the government of the Republic of Albania has decided to award the Martyrs of the Fatherland to the four fallen martyrs on the 10th anniversary of the peaceful protest on January 21.
Today is also the day to reflect after this 10-year journey to jointly try to figure out how that tragic event and four innocent lost lives have influenced our new history in two fundamental directions; on the one hand, in terms of the government’s relationship with the protest and, on the other, in terms of transforming the justice system.
The January 21, beyond the inconsolable wounds that it inflicted upon the soul of the families of the four martyrs and in addition to the grave wound it inflicted upon our society, helped to reveal to the eyes of everyone the sludge of politics and justice, politics as a tool in the hands of the power and the justice system as an insurmountable wall to this country’s people and our society and their democratic transformations effort and transition from a totalitarian regime to a functioning state on the basis of freedom and human rights.
If we were to look at the primary aspect of this event, I believe today we have every reason to bow down with great gratitude before the memory of these four martyrs, whose loss of lives actually set a red and clearly readable line for everyone, making the state’s power vis-à-vis the freedom and the right to protest insurmountable.
I feel sincerely proud that as part of that effort during a completely different and extremely complex time in terms of assuming the huge responsibility of governing the country, we have been the embodiment of a steadfast and unwavering willingness to ensure for all and forever the freedom and the right to protest also in much more dramatic situations in terms of the threat from the protest force outside the whole framework stipulated by the Constitution and the law on the right to protest, we have guaranteed a proportionate response by primary ensuring in any case that the life of the protester should not be questioned in any way and the dignity of the protest, which is the dignity of the society, should not be violated in the name of protecting the fence or in the name of protecting the space beyond the fence despite the repeated excesses with which the whole society has been directly confronted in the wake of protests.
Everyone has also witnessed another truth, which has already become a norm, the truth that the protest is an expression of the right and the need to be heard and, like never before, the government of the Republic of Albania over the past years has been not only willing to listen, but it has also had the character to react, even by apologizing, when the protest, though its right, has unfolded reasons, which have shown that the government has been on the position of the party that should backtrack and the protesters have been in the position of the part whose voice not should be heard, but it should also be evaluated by giving it right for the argument.
Of course, although the protest is an indisputable right, the right is not always with those who protest, but in all cases, the maximum appreciation and unquestioning guarantee of this indisputable right is an inalienable duty of those who govern and no comparison can be drawn if we were to take January 21st as the culmination of the degradation of power into an example of the example of force and not of the force of example.
On the other hand, I am pretty aware that anytime it comes to Jan 21 events and on every Jan 21 each year, many hurt hearts and minds distressed because of memory of that tragedy, which, for the sake of truth, was the result of a barbarism incompatible with the continent we live in and incomparable to the situations in the countries of this European family we belong to, promptly voice their concern, raise the question and raise charges against us by saying a truth that the justice about the Jan 21 events is incomplete, it is far from being complete, but confusing on the other hand the time. Today, actually since the ‘90s, the party or the ruling parties, the government or the Prime Minister himself cannot do what the justice is tasked with doing.
It is not the parliament to bring people to court and deliver court’s rulings.
The government doesn’t play the role of the prosecutor and it neither the Justice Minister, nor any cabinet member the ones who raise criminal charges and bring people to the party’s court. It is the justice system that does all these, the judiciary, which is one of the three constitutional powers in a democratic system and totally independent either from the legislative or the executive power.
Many see this as an attempt to justify the fact that even today justice has not fulfilled its duty to put in place each of the partakers in that tragedy, to deliver justice and restore the indisputable right of all relatives, children, parents, sisters and brothers of the four martyrs of January 21 and to put in place what ultimately materializes a justice process; the right reflected in the penalties.
This is indeed not an excuse. This is the truth and what clearly distinguishes this truth told this way by us with the same truth told in other circumstances is that we have not sat idly by, on the contrary. If we the representatives of the legislature and the executive are not the ones that can play the role of the prosecutor or the judge, it is we who have the responsibility and obligation to ensure the entire legal and regulatory framework of a justice system to be able to do what people ask about January 21 events and not only, but about many, many injustices done in the past or continue to be done in the present, give that the justice system is still far from being a justice system that does justice and ensures equality of everyone before justice.
It is us who come from the path of this tragedy and who have included not just in our program or simply in the order of program priorities, but in the way of solving the great problem of liberating justice and the creation in our country of a justice worthy of a functional state.
If we were to look at January 21 events with the eyes of the past, there are undoubtedly 1001 words that can be said to argue that nothing has been done, as long as the four martyrs of January 21, 10 years after having passed away, do not rest in peace. Just like, all their family, all their relatives and friends whenever that wound hurts, there is no way to breathe a sigh of relief, at least from the fact that justice has been done. But if we were to look at the Jan 21 events through the eyes of the future and if we were to objectively assess the present situation with the past of the justice system, we have all the more reason to be fully confident and encouraged that the transformation is working. Of course, there is still a long way to go and complete this transformation. We are somehow halfway between the past the future, just like we are halfway between the past the future in every other direction. Just like the reconstruction sites are today in the wake of the earthquake, still inhabitable, but definitely still there, showing that the worst is over and the best lies ahead for everyone. The new sites to host reconstruction projects are precisely where marshlands and ruins of the past used to lie, just like Albania was in its all sectors just seven years ago, while today everyone finds consolidated grounds, rebuilt infrastructure, and new buildings being constructed one by one.
Where are today all of those who by using the mallet of the judge of the Republic of Albania, through absurd court sessions, deformed the right of all family members and the society to see the justice over the Jan 21 events done. A part of them are no longer part of the justice system. They have been removed from the system as part of the scum that is being cleaned out of the system. Some of them have resigned being fully aware that they couldn’t go through the system’s cleaning filter and some of them are still part of the system, as their turn to go through the vetting filter has yet to come.
This is the justice system’s situation, completely similar to the reconstruction sites and every other sector. There is something critically important to add in this case. Many think that holding these people accountable is over once they undergo the vetting process.
Many have probably thought that vetting is the punishment rendered to the system. No! Vetting is the filter that cleans all the inflow to the system. Vetting is part of a whole infrastructure built to put new justice system on whole new foundations and ensure that entire organism of the new justice bodies is freed of the metastases of a cancer that constantly degraded the system, degrading indeed consistently the organism of the state and our society. It would be precisely the next stage of a cancer-free system that would deliver what impatiently wait for; attacking all those who took justice hostage over years and made our country a place where justice turned into a good or service that was bought and sold.
Even today as we speak, right has not been definitively separated from commodity. The right is still being treated as a commodity in many cases, in many courts, by judges and prosecutors who are part of that sludge that is still being cleaned, but if we look at the numbers of those who have been removed, they have surpassed even the most pessimistic predictions, in the sense of being so many of them. All the predictions made when the Justice Reform was designed, when the system analysis was done, when the depth of cancer penetration into the system was guessed, spoke of possible figures that have been surpassed as we speak today, while the process has yet to complete. This is a great challenge in itself, in the sense of replacing this old blood with fresh blood.
If we were to read the trial file on the two individuals accused of January 21st, if you were to be not aware of the fact that this is an event that has actually happened – and this is a trial file over an event that happened – you would probably think that these are actually pages of a satirical book. Two individuals identified as the ones who pulled the trigger, identified as killers, are considered by the court as two individuals who haven’t cooperated with each other, as two individuals who new none of the victims and haven’t cooperated with third individuals, and this is what the Appeals Court says. And it says in a written form that these two persons didn’t intent to kill, but they created victims out of excessive self-confidence. Just like terrorists who do not know their victims when they place a bomb at a station. Just like terrorists who do not cooperate with third parties, but are overconfident to establish a new world order and kill people and claim to be innocent. This is the absurdity of the real life of the organization of the justice system that we have been facing and continue to face from our position in the legislative and the executive power that are trying on their part to press ahead with total overhaul of the justice system.
These all sound like words delivered in an academic lecture, but they are not. On the contrary, they are words seeking to say that all this that is being materialized as a missing justice on this 10th anniversary has primarily reasons that have to do with the choice we have made by deciding to move from a totalitarian regime to a democratic system.
It is always a difficult relationship in the democratic system, the relationship between the good and the evil, because good cannot take up the means of evil to fight evil and evil is always a step forward until the moment it is hit by the system, no by man, by justice, not by politics, by judges, not by politicians.
It is not the year 1945 and neither the government nor the parliamentary majority nor the ruling party or parties can be asked to send people to jail even when those people are seen with guns in their hands killing people because this is exactly the border between democracy and any other form of social and economic organism. Having all these said, I would like to say that first of all I am very happy that today we are taking an important step, not formally, by placing the four fallen men at the January 21 events to their deserved place, on the altar of the homeland, as witnesses of a time and a history where they lost their lives not accidentally, but because they believed in their rights and freedoms and protested for their rights and freedoms. On the other hand, despite the fact that there is not a lot to say about the final result at this moment, I feel really proud that there is a lot to say about the effort to arrive at the final result, which is creation of a justice system that delivers justice and ultimately break up and separate justice from being a commodity and a service that is bought and sold. And if the present day fails to give entire deserved credit to this political force and ruling majority for opening the Pandora’s box, and actually opening all the hermetically sealed manholes, the future will definitely seal as a historic role everything we have done and we are doing since we opened the chapter of cleaning and transforming the justice system.
However, I feel also good about another fact. We have not been able to do more, but we have done everything we could not to leave the family members, relatives and the children of the January 21 victims alone, which gives us the necessary comfort to be not with our heads down in front of their memory. We cannot hold our heads up high as long as all this process I already described is not over, as long as there is still sludge to clean and as long as those who have been cleaned by the system have yet to be held accountable, but definitely we look them in the eye with everything we have had to do, everything we do and everything we will do for their families.
Today we are handing over to the families the Martyr of the Fatherland symbol for their beloved ones and I am convinced that the presence of that symbol in all four homes will be a visible point of reference for children to look at when thinking of their parents not just in sense of appreciation, but in the sense of trust that justice will do its part and those who killed them a second time and killed them in collaboration with each other with third parties dressed under the judge’s black robe, will be held accountable. They will be held accountable just like it will be the case with all judges and prosecutors, who are strongly committed to turn April 25 into a referendum against this referendum, along with the leaders of this referendum.
But it is not the time to talk about this today, as it is time to hand over these symbols to the four families, extending not only the wish may their memory be eternal, but also the conviction that their memory will be really eternal.