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Elva Margariti, the Albanian Minister of Culture, has reported that the bodies found in Permet this week are from the medieval period.
In an Instagram post, the Minister wrote:
“A Medieval cemetery discovered in Permet…Preliminary results suggest we are dealing with a Medieval cemetery…At yesterday’s meeting of the National Cultural Heritage, we discussed and determined to carry out archaeological excavation and rescue the items for the National Heritage Institute.”
The country’s Anti-Communist Association of the Politically Persecuted, however, said they belong to victims of the communist regime. There are between 6,000 and 7,000 people still missing who were murdered by the regime from the 1940s onwards.
President of the Association, Nebil Çika, said that witnesses and other evidence suggest they are from the regime. He added that there was a military unit located on the site previously.
“Based on the data we have from the archives of the Ministry of Interior, but also witnesses, these types of isolated units, depending on the Ministry of Internal Affairs and State Security, were used as execution sites for opponents of the regime. ” Cika told BIRN.
“Those who were sentenced to death, those who were killed or captured at the border, were buried in these places,” he added.
Despite Permet being a communist stronghold, dozens of families had their loved ones murdered. There are believed to be around 100 people still missing from this area alone.
The Permet Prosecutor’s Office, however, supports the Minister’s statement, and they also believe the remains are from a much earlier period.
When asked about Margariti’s statement, Cika told Exit that:
“It’s the duty of the prosecution to investigate and state whether they are the remains of those missing from Communism. So far, the prosecution has not carried out or completed an investigation.”
He added that specialists from the Ministry of Culture could not visit the scene without the prosecution present as it’s considered a crime scene under Albanian law.
“If employees of the Ministry have been there without a prosecutor, they committed a criminal offense and could have destroyed evidence.”
He added he thinks the statement from the minister before an official investigation has been completed is a violation and “an attempt by the government to sabotage the search for the missing from the communist regime.”
Cika also noted that the Minister of Culture doesn’t have jurisdiction over criminal cases, and the prosecution is yet to react formally.
The failure of Albanian prosecutors to investigate the missing victims of the communist regime has been highlighted by the International Commission on Missing Persons. A 2021 report noted that the government’s obligation to account for missing persons was not being met as requests for excavations of suspected mass graves had not started.
The Commission noted that files sent to the prosecutor three years ago had still not been attended to, with no reason given. It adds that the lack of action from authorities has led to some family members trying to seek remains themselves. Excavations have been started without professional assistance and illegally, the report notes.
ICMP said that investigations must be adequate, prompt, transparent, and official.
The Socialist Party, of which Margariti is a member, is the direct descendant of the Communist Party. There has never been an official apology for the thousands killed and missing from 50 years of communist rule.
In terms of the bodies in Permet, Cika and his organization are yet to publicly present evidence that they are missing victims of communism. Likewise, the prosecution hasn’t conducted its investigation yet.
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