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Joseph Limprecht Memorial Website



Remarks of United States Ambassador Joseph Limprecht
National Judicial Conference
Tirana, Albania, December 4, 2000

President Meidani, Chief Justice Kondi, and honored guests:

Thank you for inviting me to speak again at your National Judicial Conference. When I addressed this gathering last year, I emphasized the importance of an independent judiciary to a strong democracy. Now, a year later, I believe that the judiciary in Albania has grown even stronger. I commend all of you for the progress you have made.

This year's Conference comes at an opportune moment to discuss developments in the strengthening of rule of law in Albania. Looking back on the last two years, or even on the year since you last convened, we can see that there has been a true strengthening of the State in Albania. The fundamental public sector institutions have been reinforced to create the foundations of the rule of law. Government, especially through the police and public prosecutors, is more aggressively attacking the criminal elements of society and enforcing law and order. The Parliament is stronger and more engaged in the governing process. And of course, the Judiciary has matured, asserted its independence, and is more effectively playing its proper role in the legal system. Together these institutions have shown an increased ability to withstand the challenges of those who would undermine public order through violence and intimidation to try to gain political advantage.

The United States has always been interested in helping Albania build democracy, achieve lasting stability and enjoy prosperity. I spend much of my time and effort trying to correct the persistent image in the Western media that Albania is still unstable. What may have been true in 1997 and 1998 is not true today. Albania has demonstrated, especially in the past month, that it will not descend into chaos with the first political confrontation.

Demonstrations are part of a democratic society, just as public debates are the essence of political campaigns and the electoral process. But these activities must remain peaceful. When they step outside the bounds of what is acceptable in a democratic society, Government has the responsibility to step in to ensure public order. Only in this way can it give its citizens confidence that its democracy is strong and that the state will protect their most basic rights.

As judges, you are crucial to making certain this democracy prospers. Without your active engagement and commitment, Government’s efforts to ensure public order and the rule of law would fail. The judicial process is the backbone of law enforcement. To be effective, the Judiciary must not only be independent, which you have essentially achieved. Judges must also be competent enough to command public respect. With the help of international donors working with the Law Faculty and the Magistrates School, you are increasing your ability to understand the technical aspects of the law and adjudicate more consistently.

And finally, judges must demonstrate the highest possible standards of ethics. Your challenge at this Conference is to focus on ethics and review a draft code of judicial ethics. I am pleased that a well respected American legal scholar and former Federal Judge, Abner Mikva, was able to come to Albania this year to work with you on that. The international community will be watching with interest as you consider and debate the next steps in the fight against corruption.

Anyone who has observed Albania during the last couple of years would have to acknowledge that it has made impressive strides in public order. You, as judges, can take pride in the role you have played in strengthening Albania’s democracy and asserting its rule of law. I congratulate you on your successes. I challenge you to resolve the issues that still face you today.

Thank you.