|Constitutional Court of Albania |
Gjykata Kushtetuese e Shqipërisë
|Established||29 April 1992|
|Composition method||Executive, legislative & judicial selection|
|Authorized by||Constitution of Albania|
|Judge term length||9 years |
|Number of positions||9|
|Currently||Vitore Tusha (acting)|
The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Albania (Albanian: Gjykata Kushtetuese e Republikës së Shqipërisë) is the highest authority in Albania’s legal system that defends and assures the respect of the Constitution of Albania.
The judges of the Constitutional Court, also known as members, deal with the following common cases: the compatibility of an international agreement that has not yet been ratified with the mandates of the Constitution; the compliance of a law passed by either a local, a regional or the central level of government in Albania with the Constitution; a dispute pertaining to a violation or violations of a constitutional right or constitutional rights of an Albanian citizen or citizens.
In the first two decades of its operation, the Constitutional Court has encountered several criticisms. Some of the criticism directed at the Constitutional Court has concerned the process in which the judges of the said court are appointed and elected, and the decisions made by the aforementioned court on the Parliament of Albania's revision of provisions.
In accordance with Section 1 of Article 131 of the Constitution, it is the Constitutional Court’s role to pronounce judgments on the following:
The interpretation of the Constitution is one of the primary functions of the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court performs an interpretive role when an appropriate case on either an international agreement, a law or a violation of a constitutional right or rights is before the said court.
There are several reasons why the Constitutional Court has an interpretive function, one of which is so that the Constitutional Court can reaffirm the articles found in the Constitution. Another reason for the Constitutional Court’s interpretive role is so that the Constitutional Court can clarify the articles contained in the Constitution. Such clarification guides Albanian public bodies in the use of their powers by providing them with a framework, one that conforms to the Constitution, to work within.
An example of the aforementioned framework is the production of constitutional standards for Albanian constitutional organs by the Constitutional Court. Constitutional standards formulated by the Constitutional Court ultimately form the basis of these institutions’ actions.
The historical background of the Constitutional Court is similar to the backgrounds of various other constitutional courts in Central and Eastern Europe. As was the case for Central and Eastern Europe, Albania experienced historical and democratic changes in the early 1990s. One such transformation was the establishment of constitutional courts.
The Constitutional Court should be composed of nine judges as stated by Albanian law. Albanian law also states how individuals come by the position of judge of the Constitutional Court.
For example, Article 125 of the Constitution details parts of the process of judge renewal which, in accordance with the said article, should take place every three years when three judges of the Constitutional Court reach the end of their nine-year terms. In the early stages of the aforementioned process, the Justice Appointments Council chooses three eligible candidates for each opening for judge of the Constitutional Court by selecting the three highest-ranked individuals. According to Article 125 of the Constitution, for an individual to be eligible for candidacy for judge of the Constitutional Court, they must have obtained a law degree and must have had at least fifteen years’ worth of professional experience in the legal profession as either a judge, prosecutor, professor or lecturer of law, senior civil servant in public administration, or as an advocate. In the latter stages of the said process, the President appoints an individual to fill the first opening for judge of the Constitutional Court, the Parliament elects an individual to fill the second opening and the Supreme Court elects an individual to fill the third opening. In the final stage of the aforementioned process, an individual swears an oath before the President to signify the start of their tenure as a judge of the Constitutional Court.
Of the nine judges who are in office, three judges should have been appointed by the President, three judges should have been elected by the Parliament, and three judges should have been elected by the Supreme Court over the course of several phases of judge renewal as per Article 125 of the Constitution.
The incumbent President of the Constitutional Court is also an incumbent judge of the said court. A judge of the Constitutional Court serves as the President of the aforementioned court for a term of three years with the right to only one re-election. For a judge of the Constitutional Court to become the President of the said court, they would have to be elected via a secret ballot having obtained a majority vote from all the judges in the aforementioned court.
|No.||Name||Term in office|
|1||Rustem Gjata||19 May 1992||14 March 1998|
|2||Fehmi Abdiu||23 April 1998||3 May 2004|
|3||Gjergj Sauli||3 May 2004||16 May 2007|
|4||Vladimir Kristo||23 May 2007||27 September 2010|
|5||Bashkim Dedja||27 September 2010||17 December 2018|
|6||Vitore Tusha||2019||Acting President|
The Constitutional Court has been the object of criticisms on a variety of issues. Amongst them:
Criticisms have been aimed at the Constitutional Court for issues that persist in the process of appointing and electing judges of the Constitutional Court. In 2019, one such issue involved the President of Albania, who was forced to violate Albanian constitutional court law due to the actions of the Justice Appointments Council and the Parliament. The said violation came about because of a series of events.
Criticisms have been levelled at the Constitutional Court for a series of controversial decisions made in November and December 1997 that pertained to the Parliament’s amendment of provisions.
The first contentious decision made by the Constitutional Court in the final two months of 1997 was Verdict Number 53 in which the aforementioned court repealed a legal provision on November 13. The legal provision related to the authorisation of government-nominated administrators to handle assets relating to pyramid schemes which swindled more than two-thirds of Albania’s citizens.
After the Constitutional Court’s fifty-third verdict of 1997, the new Government of Albania expressed concern over its ability to complete the termination of pyramid schemes through liquidation. The Parliament reacted by re-enacting the legal provision that was struck down by the Constitutional Court and revised a constitutional provision.
In response, the Constitutional Court sua sponte repudiated the Parliament’s constitutional provision in Verdict Number 57 having maintained that it had supremacy over constitutional affairs. Verdict Number 57 was delivered on December 5 and was the Constitutional Court’s second contentious decision in the final two months of 1997. Such a verdict by the Constitutional Court breached the Major Constitutional Provisions as the said laws indicate that the Parliament acted in accordance with its collective authority to amend constitutional provisions. The fifty-seventh verdict of 1997 also effectively vetoed the Parliament’s authority to reply to verdicts of the Constitutional Court by revising constitutional provisions.
Following the Constitutional Court’s Verdict Number 57, the Venice Commission was critical of the aforementioned court’s December 5 decision. The Venice Commission stated that the Constitutional Court’s December 5 verdict damaged the functioning of the said court by transgressing its authority and engaging in a political dispute with the Parliament.
Relations between the Constitutional Court and the Parliament were further politicised when the aforementioned parliament passed a resolution requiring the judges of the said court to rotate as per the Constitution. The Democratic Party of Albania denounced the approved resolution as the aforementioned party claimed that the Constitutional Court had acted within its constitutional right to function independently. Prior to the Parliament’s resolution on judge rotation, the Constitutional Court was composed of judges that had been nominated by the previous Democratic-controlled parliament.