Mediation in penal case reconciliation
Jun 30, 2011
reviewed by Martin Wright
The idea of retribution for wrongdoing is deeply ingrained, and its extreme form is the blood feud or revenge killing. Professor Elezi describes the long struggle to eliminate it in one country. A Western reader, on learning that there are still blood feuds in parts of Albania, may dismiss them as a relic from more primitive times; but perhaps it is worth reflecting that the principle is still at work among gangs in our big cities and, some would say, in civil wars and international conflicts. So it is interesting to see how it has been tackled in Albania.
The striking feature is the way in which it has been codified, in the local Kanuns (canons). The family of the victim may agree to a 24-hour truce with the murderer, during which he must attend the funeral and wake; after that he and his family are at risk for up to three generations if they leave their house or the sanctuary of a ‘confinement tower’. The 15th-century hero Skanderbeg called for reconciliation of blood feuds in order to unite against the Ottoman invaders; by the 19th century general assemblies called for reconciliation, and the Ottoman rulers themselves tried to promote it.
Now there is new hope in the establishment of the Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation Foundation in 1995, supported by the Danish and later the Norwegian governments. The Foundation works to educate the public and to remind everyone that reconciliation is also an ancient tradition. Some other countries might wish for a similarly energetic NGO to promote restorative justice.
Professor Elezi takes us through periods of Albanian history, culminating in the formation of the Albanian state in 1912, the Anti-Fascism Liberation War (a.k.a. World War Two), the Communist and post-communist periods. Born in 1920, he has lived through difficult times himself. Taking first steps in research, a survey in 1996 found some support for reconciliation. The Foundation, various organizations and some individuals are conducting reconciliations, but local mediation centres are needed. ‘Self-judgement’ (lynch law) is unacceptable, so in a country where there is still little confidence in the courts, mediation may be the best way.
He stresses the need to tackle causes such as availability of weapons, illegal behaviour by public servants, unemployment, and conflicts over land (another opportunity for mediation), and regrets that the population ‘were not capable to organize themselves and protect the values of national culture, schools, libraries, museums, etc. from the vandalistic destructions’ of the ‘Albanian irresponsible political class’ (p. 74). He lists different types of conflict, and ways in which they can be resolved.
Possible preventive measures are listed (although they are easier said than done), and types of case suitable for reconciliation, especially victim complainant offences. The Foundation has successfully lobbied for laws on mediation in 1999 and 2003, and these are summarized. They lay down for example that mediators must be graduates, over 22, appointed by a relevant NGO in co-operation with justice institutions and local authorities. Figures for mediation in criminal cases are given.
The translation reads well, except in one or two places; there is no index, but a detailed contents list. The book gives an interesting picture of the way in which a previously isolated country drew on the best of its traditions, with support from outside, to promote restorative justice and begin to integrate it into its present-day law and practice.