Albanian citizens had few of the guarantees of human rights and
fundamental freedoms that have become standard in Western democracies.
A large and very effective security service, whose name was changed
in July 1991 from the directorate of State Security (Drejtorija
e Sigurimit te Shtetit--Sigurimi) to the National Information
Service (NIS), helped to support the rule of the communist party
by means of consistently violating citizens' rights and freedoms.
According to Amnesty International, political prisoners were tortured
and beaten by the Sigurimi during investigations, and political
detainees lacked adequate legal safeguards during pretrial investigations.
Most investigations into political offenses lasted for several
months. Such violations were described in Kadare's literary works.
Alia's regime took an important step toward democracy in early
May 1990, when it announced its desire to join the Conference
on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE--see Glossary), while
at the same time introducing positive changes in its legal system.
A prerequisite for membership in the CSCE is the protection of
human rights. The United Nations Human Rights Committee had severely
criticized Albania for its human rights abuses in 1989, and in
May 1990 the secretary general of the United Nations (UN) visited
Albania and discussed the issue of human rights. The results of
these efforts were mixed, but in general the leadership became
more tolerant of political dissent.
Deputy Prime Minister Manush Myftiu announced in 1991 a long
list of legislative changes that were designed to improve Albania's
human rights record. Among the reforms were the right to a speedy
trial, legal defense and appeal; the reduction of the number of
crimes punishable by death; the right of all nationals to obtain
passports for travel abroad; and the removal of loopholes in the
definition of crimes against the state. The government also eased
its persecution of religious practice and even allowed some religious
activity and "religious propaganda" (see Religion, ch. 2). Restrictions
on travel were liberalized, and the number of passports issued
was increased significantly. In addition, foreign broadcasts,
including those from Voice of America, were no longer jammed.
Data as of April 1992