Ambassador’s Remarks at the USAID Digital Audio Recording Event

Chief Justice Zaganjori, Minister Naco, judges, inspectors, ladies and gentlemen,

How do Albanian citizens figure out which judges and prosecutors are corrupt and which judges and prosecutors are honorable and doing their jobs well?  How do Albanian citizens regain their faith in their court system to deliver justice without a big bag of cash?

One of the most important roads to a more honest judicial system is through comprehensive judicial reform.  Experts from the United States, the European Union and the Council of Europe have invested years of effort in supporting this reform.  Deputy Eduard Halimi announced last week that the opposition would participate constructively in the commission guiding this reform.  All Albanians should feel confidence that this process is moving forward.

Another way that Albanians can begin to rebuild their confidence in their legal system is through the introduction of new technology — technology that holds judges, prosecutors and lawyers accountable.  We are proud that through USAID all Albanian courts will have the ability to record court sessions in a manner that is accessible to judges, to inspectors and to the public.  These digital records are kept locally but also kept on a central computer server in Tirana so they cannot be erased or lost or overwritten.

Digital audio recording has already helped the Albanian legal system in two important ways.  First, it makes less likely that judges, prosecutors and lawyers would make a decision or statement based on a bribe because they know that everything they are doing is being recorded and can be used as evidence against them.

Second, the legal system is slow in Albania because the high number of cases and the shortage of judges and courtrooms.  Digital recording speeds up each court hearing because judges no longer have to wait for the court reporter to write down every word by hand.  Digital recording also encourages better courtroom procedures and a more serious environment, because no one wants to make mistakes that are recorded forever.

Finally, we not only care about normal citizens getting justice from their courts.  We also hope that, through judicial reform and the introduction of this new technology, more violent criminals, organized crime figures, and high-level corrupt officials will be convicted and go to jail.  I think we can all agree that Albania would be better off with fewer criminals on the streets.

Congratulations to Chief Justice Zaganjori and the many other judges who have welcomed this new technology.  Congratulations to the Ministry of Justice and High Council of Justice for embracing digital recording and making its use mandatory.  Congratulations to the JuST program for its terrific work installing this system in every court room in Albania and training hundreds of people on its use.  And most of all, congratulations to the people of Albania for fighting for justice and a judicial system free from corruption.