At least 98 persons who have committed sex crimes against children have regained freedom, but none of them has been identified by the justice system as pedophiles and they have not received any relevant medical treatment during or after serving their sentence in the last ten years, turning again into a threat for the children living near their dwellings all over Albania.
The most endangered cities are Tirana, Durrës, Elbasan, Korça where there live some 61 child abusers who have served their sentence. 41 of them have committed sex crimes against children, eight of which using violence. The alarm is multiplied when you learn that Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Sections at the Local Police Departments in the endangered cities don’t have more than two officers who, among other cases, are required to observe sexual predators. In Tirana, the surveillance ratio is two officers per 48 free pedophiles.
The data have been issued from an investigation of Albanian Center MediaLook on crimes against children under 14 years old for the period 2010-2019, including information and decisions extracted officially from District Courts, General Prosecutor Office, Police Departments, as well as by accessing the decisions that are found online in the ICMIS system for the District Courts and ARK-IT for the Tirana District Court. (access the database)
This investigation has pointed out that the judicial system and other state structures have taken the wrong approach in treating this issue, as they don’t prevent, identify in time, or apply medical methods for the pedophiles, but they “wait” for the consequences and only take care of the children-victims.
In addition, we have noticed that the courts punish, but don’t rehabilitate sexual predators, who tend to repeat the same crime against children due to the typology of pedophilia as a psychiatric disorder.
WHO: Pedophilia as a psychiatric disorder! Dr. Pilika: It is treated through psychotherapy and medications
World Health Organization and the American Psychiatric Association classify pedophilia as a psychiatric disorder characterized by sexual attraction to children under the age of 14, who have not yet reached puberty.
In the eleventh report on “International Classification of Diseases” published on April 2019, WHO has updated scientific conclusions on health problems, including pedophilia, classifying it as a “psychiatric disorder, part of paraphilic disorders”:
Pedophilia is characterized by a sustained, focused, and intense pattern of sexual arousal – as manifested by persistent sexual thoughts, fantasies, urges, or behaviors – involving pre-pubertal children. In addition, in order for Pedophilic Disorder to be diagnosed, the individual must have acted on these thoughts, fantasies or urges or be markedly distressed by them. This diagnosis does not apply to sexual behaviors among pre- or post-pubertal children with peers who are close in age.
The American Psychiatric Association has the same diagnosis for pedophiles. In its latest edition of DSM-5, in addition to the above-mentioned definition, it specifies that “for an individual to be classified as a pedophile he/she must be at least 16 years old and at least 5 years older than the child he/she is sexually harassing”. Furthermore, according to this document “pedophilic disorder, as psychotic disorders or addiction to alcohol or games of fate, do not exclude the individual from criminal responsibility”. However, it is recommended that each case be diagnosed in order to see the degree of influence of these disorders into human behavior.
In Albania, as specified in medical protocols, both psychotherapy and medical treatment are applied for the treatment of a Pedophilic patient. Dr. Anila Pilika, Lecturer at the University of Medicine QSUT – Neurosciences, asserts that “the most efficient psychotherapy is the Cognitive, Behavioral, and medical, which makes use of antiandrogen and anti-depressives, mainly SSRI”. As the doctor explains, the latter are “the selective obstruction of serotonin control in order to treat compulsive coexisting sexual disorders of pedophilia”. Dr. Pilika confirms that “the treatment used for pedophilia are not always effective for several reasons”, but she adds that “medical protocols must be applied, because an untreated patient tends to aggravate”.
The scandal with the courts! Only one request for pedophile examination in 10 years, not a single case of compulsory medical treatment for them
The Albanian Courts have not given a single complementary punishment of medical treatment for persons convicted of sexual crimes against pre-pubertal children in the last ten years, in which there is a predominance of cases of “Sexual or homosexual relations with minors” (92 cases) and “Immoral acts” (114 cases).
This statistics is also confirmed from the analysis that MediaLook has made to 151 out of 303 court decisions issued throughout the last decade on sex crimes with children who have not reached puberty. In only one case have the judges requested psychiatric examination to find out if the predator suffers from the pedophilic disorder, and this is the only case out of 151 where the word “pedophile” is mentioned in a court decision for these criminal offences. The case at stake is that of the trial publicly known as “the pedophile of Lapraka”, in which the predator was considered as a person who “poses a high risk due to his sexual preferences towards children”. However, the judges failed to consider giving a complementary punishment of medical treatment in this case, even though this option is provided by law (Article 60/11).
MediaLook has contacted the Psychiatric Service at the University Hospital Center “Mother Teresa” (QSUT), which has officially confirmed that “the number of patients treated by court decision with the diagnose of “Pedophilia” for the period 2010-2019 is zero”.
Meanwhile, in three other cases when the court has requested psychiatric examination, this was only to specify if the defendant is mentally ill or not, and if is he/she is excluded from criminal responsibility, without requesting specific medical expertise on pedophilic disorder.
In another case investigated by Vlora Prosecutor Office, an evaluation from the psychologist has been requested. The psychologist in his argumentation has also given a psychiatric evaluation of the defendant. Based on this expertise, the judges have changed the classification of the crime from paragraph two which envisages a sentence of not less than 25 years to paragraph one, by “saving” 18 years of imprisonment for the defendant. (See Court Decisions “Red Flag”)
The above data point out the wrong approach taken by the justice system towards pedophilia, resulting only in convicting and temporary deterring the aggressor who has a tendency to repeat the same crime, but failing to require medical treatment for these “paraphilic disorder” which does not exclude the abuser from criminal responsibility. This form of judgement on Pedophilia is in contradiction with the reason for conviction which is the rehabilitation and not the punishment of the defendant.
Child abuse within the family, courts do not terminate parental responsibility
Although parents’ tendency is to protect their children from strangers, the typology of sex crimes against children in Albania shows that the most serious crimes occur within the family, neighbors, and friends, where the abusers have greater access to the child.
The MediaLook observation finds that, in 60 cases (or 40.5%) out of 151 court decisions in ten years, child abuse comes from neighbors and family friends. The crimes committed by this category are mainly related to “immoral acts” against children in 21 cases, but also to sexual relations in 12 cases, seven of which using violence. (See detailed data)
Meanwhile, the second category which is mainly related to sex abuse comes from within the family with a total of 38 crimes, 16 of which were committed by the parent against the child. As for the typology of the crimes committed, there is a prevalence of immoral acts in 12 cases, followed by incest against children in 11 cases, 5 of which using violence.
What can be pointed out as a problem with Albanian court decisions is the fact that only in one case, out of 16 parent-child sex crimes, the court has issued a complementary punishment to terminate parental responsibility. It was the Dibra District Court which, in 2016, in addition to sentencing the pedophile father to a 15-year imprisonment, decided to terminate his parental responsibility. In the other 15 crimes, including the cases when the father has committed forced sexual relations with his child, and one case when the mother in collaboration with the stepfather have sexually abused the child, neither the Prosecutor Office, nor the Court has requested termination of parental responsibility as a complementary punishment. Thus, parents convicted of pedophilia still continue to exercise all legal parental rights upon their children. The problem is even more complicated when the abusing father or mother is the child’s single parent.
Parent-child abuse mainly starts in early childhood in the age of 5-9, while sex crimes outside the family relations have been committed mainly against children aged 10-14.
Another category that is quite evident in the Albanian reality is affectionate relationships with children in a total of 20 cases, 19 of which have ended up in sexual relations. Based on the analysis of factual circumstances of court decisions, it turns out that 6 cases belong to the Rom community.
25% of pedophiles confirmed as recidivists, the police lack surveillance capacities
Ardian Prrenjasi, otherwise known by the media in 2013 as “the monster of Lapraka”, is the most significant example proving that the justice system and the police in Albania have failed with the treatment of pedophilia cases.
Before committing the serious sex crimes in Tirana, Prrenjasi had been previously convicted for at least three such crimes against children in Albania and Greece.
In 1994, he was jailed for four years for the criminal offence of “pederasty” by the Librazhd District Court as he had had homosexual relations with a child in the town of Prrenjas. After serving his prison sentence, he emigrated in Greece. In a very short period of time, he committed another crime against a child and was arrested for the criminal offence of “mass raping and illegal possession of a firearm”, receiving a conviction of 14 years and 6 months of imprisonment and being declared “persona non grata”. In 2004, Ardian came back to Albania in the town of Prrenjas, where he lived until 2006, when he moved to Tirana. In 2008, he was sentenced for the criminal offence of “kidnapping” by Tirana District Court, as he fraudulently took and detained a child.
In 2013, Ardian Prrenjasi committed another more serious sex crime against a child and was sentenced to 25 years in prison for “sexual or homosexual relations with minors” and “kidnapping”.
If courts had given a complementary punishment of medical treatment for Prrenjasi and if the Police had kept him under surveillance as provided by directives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the preventive structures would have functioned the serious crime against the child would have been avoided.
However, the case of “the monster of Lapraka” is not the only one. Due to the typology of the crime as a paraphilic mental disorder, the abusers have the tendency to repeat such offences against children unless they are treated.
Another similar case is that of a sexual predator in Pogradec in 2015. As he was awaiting trial on bail for the criminal offence of “sexual harassment” against a 13-year-old girl, he committed shameful deeds against three other girls aged 9, 10, and 11. Thus, another parallel case of criminal proceedings started against him.
What is more, in 50% of court decisions in Albania in the last ten years on criminal offences against children under 14 years old, over 25% of pedophiles have been proved to be recidivists by investigation institutions. The other group of child sexual abusers must be considered as a potentially recidivist contingent as long as they do not receive medical treatment.
This means that 98 child abusers who have regained freedom are a constant risk for the children in the neighborhoods and areas where they live, which is why surveillance and preventive measures of the police must be at their maximum.
But, does the State Police have real capacity to detect or prevent the repetition of these offences?
Based on the trials that have taken place during this decade, only 3.3% of the cases – out of a total of 151 court decisions on sex crimes against children under 14 years old – have been detected by state structures. Only one of these cases has been tracked down by the police, four other cases have been identified by school staff – two by psychologists, and two by teachers. The rest of the cases have been reported by the victims or their family.
MediaLook has been informed and is aware of the content of a recent restricted order of the Minister of Internal Affairs dated 25.11.2019, which sets forth the rules of processing police information and the administration of documents for the surveillance of persons who have just come out of prison.
This voluminous material provides that a “file of criminal precedent” be created for every person who is released from prison and, in the case of pedophiles, the officers of Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Section are responsible for their surveillance for a period of 5-10 years, which is referred to as rehabilitation under Article 69 of the Criminal Code. After this period, the information about them is stored for ten more years. The order also envisages that the data about the person who has served his sentence, including pedophiles, are filed in the information system MEMEX, that can be accessed by authorized police employees. The criminal file of surveillance is also created for Albanian citizens convicted abroad, the moment they enter the Albanian territory, i.e. the police also has information on pedophiles who have committed sex crimes against children abroad.
But, despite the existence of this order, sources from Regional Police Directorates in Tirana and other districts have informed MediaLook that it is objectively impossible to apply such a surveillance on pedophiles due to lack of human resources. The Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Section in the capital city has only two police officers available for the surveillance of 48 pedophiles. In Durrës there is only one officer, while in Vlora and Fier there are two officers. According to sources from the police, the officers from this section, in addition to sex crimes, have simultaneously been assigned for the investigation of other criminal cases, including prevention, tracking, and surveillance of persons with criminal precedents.
Difficulties in tracing down and convicting pedophiles online, Hazizaj: There is no infrastructure, Criminal Code must be amended
In March 2019, World Observatory against Pedophilia, part of Meter Association, which has been operating since 1989 in Italy, published the annual report for 2018, in which it pointed out that its system had traced down 302 cases of photos, links, and videos of pedophile content originating from the “.al” domain of Albania.
This was an increase of 27 times higher as compared to the cases that the same system had traced down during 2017, making Albania rank third in Europe following Guernsey Island in the United Kingdom with 1108 reports form the “.gg” domain, and France with 702 cases from the “.fr” domain. Meanwhile, at world level Albania was listed in the eighth place based on the number of the cases.
Considering this report as an important indicator, MediaLook contacted the Electronic and Postal Communications Authority (AKEP) responsible for the sale of the “.al” domains to third parties. In response to our inquiry, AKEP asserted that “during the period 2010-2019 no page of pornographic content or harmful materials involving children has been evidenced in the ‘.al’ domain”.
Agencies or other investigation institutions in Albania have held a less optimistic approach regarding to sex crimes against children and illegal contents on the internet.
Based on a considerable number of references to article 117 on Pornography, which also includes cases of sex crimes against children, the Prosecutor General Office informs that during the last five years, January 2014-June 2019, investigation has started for 128 cases, 12 of which have been dismissed and only two have been sent to trial. The latter have been concluded with convictions.
This means that only 1.56% of cases have resulted in the identification and conviction of the abuser, a very low percentage which shows the difficulties that online crime agencies are facing towards these crimes.
Sources from the Tirana Prosecutor Office have revealed to MediaLook that the low number of investigations started relates to the fact that in many cases the material submitted by the police lacks sufficient data and evidence to start a criminal proceeding. What is more, in one of the two cases that were concluded with the conviction of the abuser for online pedophilia, Cyber Crime Section had received detailed information from the Interpol office in Germany.
In the meantime, the Department of Criminal Police, Cyber Crime Investigation Sector, as part of the General Directorate of State Police, Regional Police Directorate of Tirana, and National Agency for Cyber Security have failed to answer to five official requests for information on this issue.
Criminal Police Department has not even replied to reports that the Albanian investigation institutions have received from the Central Interpol Office, even though this request was accordingly sent by the National Office of Interpol Tirana following the inquiry of MediaLook.
Despite this refusal, sources from the General Police Directorate have informed that the police are facing difficulties with these types of online crimes. First, because the Cyber Crime Sector has very limited qualified human resources amid a great flow of cases and, second, because a considerable part of reports in the ICSE system of Interpol include photos or videos of children uploaded in social networks in Albania by family members. This flow of content involving children uploaded online makes the experts’ job more difficult.
The Head of Children’s Rights Center of Albania (CRCA), Altin Hazizaj, told MediaLook that “the main problem in tracing and investigating these cases has to do with the lack of proper technology for sex crimes in the internet by the Cyber Crime Section of the State Police”. According to him, these means are essential as the main part of these offenses nowadays are initiated online, because there most of the children lack parental control, which is a preventive measure.
In addition, Hazizaj raises the concern that Albania is legally unprepared to handle the reality of online criminal offences, which the justice system groups together under Article 117 – Pornography. According to the Head of CRCA, there is a range of phenomena including the exchange of sex messages online, which is widely known as Sexting, or the “Grooming” phenomenon, which is not addressed by the current Penal Law.
Is a new approach to pedophilia needed?
State Agency on Children’s Rights and Protection (SACRP), the most important preventive, coordinating, and controlling body of all institutions of children protection at national level, failed to answer to MediaLook regarding shortcomings or problems it has noticed with these institutions since the beginning of its operation.
But this institution has informed that “during the period January 2019- September 2019 some 23 cases of online child abuse or bullying have been identified in the form of videos circulating in social networks”. According to SACRP,
According to SACRP, the cases have been identified by the Agency’s Children Protection Units and the National Line for Children Counseling ALO 116 111. All the 23 cases have been reported to the police structures for the investigation and blocking of these webpages. On the other hand, the Ombudsman’s Office has notified that it has kept a close look on the procedures for the cases investigated by the police until they have been submitted to the Prosecutor Office.
Although the chain of structures exists, the analysis of court decisions in the last ten years show that this chain turned out to be successful only in 5 out of 151 cases, with 4 reports by the psychologists and schoolteachers and only one case tacked down by the police.
Maybe it’s time for a new approach to this problem, starting from amendments in the Criminal Code to the creation of a new perspective of the judicial system in order to focus not only on the temporary punishment of the abusers, but also on their rehabilitation.
A transformation is also required regarding the philosophy of the other state structures so that they do not only “wait” and offer help to the children victims, but start to address the problem from the genesis in order to prevent it.
In this respect, a good practice comes from Germany with the so-called “Dunkenfeld Project”, which has functioned since 2005 and deals with the free-of-charge medical treatment for pedophiles who turn for help.
This initiative has brought about two great innovations: First, in the treatment, identification, and surveillance of persons suffering from pedophilia disorders and, second, the reduction of cases and increasing the support for children by keeping child sexual abusers under control.
Note: The Albanian Center MediaLook’s investigation is realised by:
The financial support of Democracy Commission Small Grants Program of the U.S. Embassy in Tirana, Albania