Delayed reinstatement of suspended prosecutor in Albania violated Article 8

In the case of Gashi and Gina v. Albania (application no. 29943/18, 04.04.2023) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of Mr Gina. 

The applicants, Rovena Gashi and and Dritan Gina, are Albanian nationals who at the time of the events in question, were married and were working as prosecutors. The case concerned a criminal investigation into the applicants on suspicion of irregularities related to their declaration of assets and financial interests over the years, and their suspension from their positions as prosecutors as required by the relevant legislation. 

In 2016 Albania began a series of reforms to the justice system, which meant the re-evaluation of all serving prosecutors, including the applicants. Ms Gashi declared her and her family’s assets in this context. However, she was subsequently dismissed from office in 2018 owing to a failure to pass the financial integrity assessment. She appealed, ultimately losing in a final decision in May 2019. In the meantime, she had been suspended under the vetting laws as required by the relevant legislation. Mr Gina went through the vetting process himself in 2020-21

The Court noted that in May 2018 the Interim Prosecutor General had issued suspension orders in respect of the applicants, immediately preventing them from exercising their official duties. Those orders had been based on the fact that there had been an ongoing criminal investigation against them for a “serious crime committed deliberately” and on the fact that they had been charged. Suspension had been mandatory once a judge or prosecutor had obtained the status of defendant in a criminal investigation for that type of offence and had lasted until the termination of the criminal proceedings or the adoption of a final judicial decision.

 Concerning Ms Gashi, the Court ruled that her complaint concerning her suspension did not fall within the scope of Article 8 as she had not demonstrated that the consequences to her private life from the suspension order, which had been in force for just over two months during which she continued to receive her salary, had been sufficiently serious to engage Article 8. 

The Court was satisfied however that the consequences for Mr Gina – including being unable to work for 20 months, and the precariousness of hissituation during that period, despite continuing to receive his salary – had been sufficiently serious to have triggered the application of Article 8 and had 3 amounted to an “interference” with his private life.

 The Court held that his suspension had been devoid of any legal basis once the criminal investigation against him had ended, and had therefore not been “in accordance with the law”. The Court therefore found a violation as regards Mr Gina’s suspension from office. 

Reference from the website of the European Court of Human Rights