On 22 July 2021, in Tirana, Albania, UNODC through its Global Firearms Programme conducted a workshop on information exchange on criminal procedural law applicable in firearms investigations. The workshop was attended by 12 Albanian criminal justice practitioners, including judges, prosecutors, judicial police officers and members of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The specific objective of the workshop was to enhance knowledge on conducting investigation and prosecution of firearms trafficking cases through analysis and identification of challenges and good practices in the application of criminal procedure law. The methodology included presentation and review of adjudicated trafficking cases under Article 278a of the Criminal Code of Albania, including the facts of the case, the profile of the perpetrators, the type and quantity of firearms, the qualification of the offence and the indictment, the arguments before the basic court, the arguments before the appeal’s court and the arguments in the final verdict.
Among others, the discussions resulted in the identification of challenges of several challenges in the criminal procedure. The first is related to the application of the special investigative measures by judicial police officers for securing evidence under the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC). The deviation from the process prescribed by the CPC leads to the collection of inadmissible evidence, which has an impact on the formulation of the criminal charges. The possible solutions are 1) making a second attempt for collection of evidence in line with CPC if it is still available, or 2) re-qualification of the offence from illicit trafficking to illicit possession. The participants identified also a challenge linked to the use of the special investigative measures in firearms trafficking cases – the lack of clear standards of what represents “reasonable doubt” for requesting and securing their use.
Another challenge is the strict deadlines for finalizing the investigation, which does not allow for conducting thorough tracing of the illicit firearms and waiting for results from international counterparts. This leaves unanswered the question about the source of the seized illicit firearms. Finally, the participants could not reach a consensus on the application of the provision for proving “material or any other benefit” in firearms trafficking cases, as prescribed in Article 278a of the Criminal Code. They have established that the judicial practice is also not consistent on this issue and it varies depending on the type of firearms involved. In cases of a trafficking single pistol, it was accepted by courts that the prosecution could not prove a material benefit and the perpetrator was charged with illicit possession instead, whereas, in cases of trafficking of an automatic firearm, the courts have accepted the presence of material benefit and passed verdicts on illicit trafficking.
This activity is implemented with the financial contribution provided by Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway through the Western Balkans SALW Control Roadmap Trust Fund and supported by the European Union.