The importance of the re-opening of the Gerdec case by the justice system

8 Shkurt 2023, 21:01Op-Ed Mero Baze

The Court of the Special Anti-Corruption Structure will be in charge of judging Fatmir Mediu’s responsibilities as former Defense Minister in the tragedy of Gerdec, where 26 people lost their lives, while 300 were injured. The submission of a lawsuit is a serious step toward the creation of a standard of punishment and justice regarding a painful and tragic story, caused by state corruption and the control of state institutions by the family of a Prime Minister. But, why is the fair trial of the Gerdec tragedy of such an unusual importance for Albania?

Fifteen years after the tragedy, we are all aware of the consequences of lack of justice. Looking back at these consequences, one realizes that the lack of punishment of those who caused the Gerdec tragedy has produced a second tragedy, not only for the families of the victims, but also for the Albanian justice system.

Firstly, the tragedy of Gerdec blocked and destroyed all government reforms during the Democratic Party’s term in power. If the government was eager until 2008 to achieve economic, financial and infrastructure reforms, all of its energies after 15 March 2008 were spent to save from punishment those in charge of the tragedy.

The government continued to be reformatted in the basis of who was more eager to defend Shkelzen Berisha and his father, while those who distanced themselves from the tragedy, were pushed aside. For many government officials interested in advancing their careers, the Gerdec tragedy was a fortunate moment, since it gave them the opportunity to impress Sali Berisha and hence move up the ladder. Several Defense and Justice Ministers were placed in such position precisely because they expressed their defense of Berisha’s family. One such was Aldo Bumci, forgotten by Democrats and perhaps even by God, who was brought back in government because apparently, his office had sent a fax that consisted on the Defense Ministry’s opinion regarding Shkelzen Berisha’s business of arms dismantling in Gerdec. The fax had been sent for approval to Shkelzen Berisha from Bumci’s office.

Secondly, the lack of punishment destroyed the state institutions. The Prime Minister of the time, Sali Berisha entered into a conflict with then Chief Prosecutor Ina Rama and President Bamir Topi, in order to prevent any deeper investigation of the case as well as not allowing for his son to be investigated and he succeeded. Even when a prosecutor advised Shkelzen Berisha to be present for an informal interview with prosecutors, Sali Berisha waged public attacks, threatening and blackmailing prosecutors, until they eventually retreated.

Thirdly, the Gerdec tragedy sparked radical changes on the Democratic Party itself. After 15 March 2008, the conditions for a career in the party relied on how much one contributed to defend Shkelzen Berisha. Many unknown party officials climbed the career ladder, while more prominent Democrats got expelled simply because they were indifferent to the case.

Fourthly, the lack of punishment created a low standard of justice. Since a serious and flagrant affair could go unpunished, nothing could help to increase the public’s trust for the justice system.

Finally, the collective battle of the Democratic Party and the government of the time to defend Sali Berisha’s son, only made him more politically powerful as well as it increased the support of his followers. Instead of going to jail, or at least hide from the public eye, Sali Berisha only grew scarier, more powerful and more involved in stealing from public funds until the end of his term in 2013. In other words, the lack of punishment created a leader who was untouchable, granting him even more immunity from the justice system.

It is rather tragic knowing that Democrats have been more aware than the rest of the society, since they have touched and felt that reality, and they are the ones who are being imposed to have Shkelzen Berisha as their de-facto leader. Even though he, like his father, has been designated as non-grata by the United States, Shkelzen Berisha continues to finance the anti-American struggle that aims to take over the Democratic Party. This is one of the longest lasting wounds that the Gerdec tragedy has left on the Democratic Party’s history.

Therefore, the recent decision to send the case to court is not so much important because of those who will face the justice system, but rather because it raises the very standards of the justice system when it comes to serious tragedies that have happened during  Albania’s political transition, where the case of Gerdec remains on top of the list. Otherwise, our justice system shall be remembered as a system that punishes officials for petty corruption, while the big fishes, which are responsible about the deaths of innocent citizens, remain free.




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