Prior to the reforms of the early 1990s, a politically and ideologically
oriented penal code facilitated systematic violations of human
rights and ensured the communist party control over all aspects
of Albania's political, economic, and cultural life. Article 53
of the 1982 code, for example, broadly defined sabotage as "activity
or inactivity to weaken or undermine the operations of the state
and the Albanian Party of Labor, the socialist economy, and the
organization and administration of the state and society"--a crime
punishable by at least ten years' imprisonment or by death. The
crime of "fascist, anti-democratic, religious, warmongering, and
antisocialist agitation and propaganda," as defined by Article
55, carried a penalty of three to ten years' imprisonment or,
in wartime, not less than ten years' imprisonment or death. Article
47 stipulated a penalty of not less than ten years or death for
"flight from the state" or for "refusal to return to the fatherland."
The penal code listed a total of thirty-four offenses punishable
by death, of which twelve were political and eleven were military.
Although individuals accused of criminal behavior theoretically
had the right to present a defense, they could not avail themselves
of the services of a professional attorney; the private practice
of law in Albania had been banned in 1967.
In 1990, following serious and widespread public unrest, steps
were taken to liberalize the penal code. The number of offenses
punishable by death was reduced from thirty-four to eleven, women
were exempted from the death penalty, the maximum prison sentence
for "anti-socialist agitation and propaganda" was reduced from
twenty-five to ten years, the maximum prison sentence for attempts
to leave the country illegally also was reduced from twenty-five
to ten years, the legal status of lawyers was restored, and the
official ban on religious activity was abolished.
Data as of April 1992