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The Rule of Law and Human Rights Must Be Seen as Complimentary, Not Antagonistic

11 June 2019
Skanderbeg Square in Tirana, Albania the location of the 2019 Matra Rule of Law Training Programme Alumni Day. photo c/o: Ervin Gjata

In April 2019, the Matra Rule of Law Training (RoLT) Programme Alumni Days took place in Tirana, Albania. The event provides an opportunity for participants to meet again and reflect on lessons learnt and highlight progress of the back home actions plans each participant made. Such events help maintain the active and trans-national network of expertise that the Matra RoLT programme promotes.

At previous Alumni events, practitioners and experts in the rule of law shared their thoughts about the topic. This year Albania’s People’s Advocate Erinda Ballanca spoke about the rule of law and human rights.

The rule of law and human rights must be seen as complimentary, not antagonistic

Ballanca began her address by introducing her work for The People’s Advocate Institution in Albania, an ombudsman organisation that assesses the degree to which State institutions guarantee human rights in the country. The institution, in short, serves “as a knot where the need for the rule of law and respect for human rights tie together.”

Ballanca highlighted that in Albania, and indeed around the world, “there is a risk of collision between the state’s mission to enforce the law and the desire of citizens to enjoy their full civil rights.” Recent protests in Albania, and the consequent police and legislative response, have illustrated this tension. Ballanca however shared her own opinion stating, “the only way to eradicate the conflict between the rule of law and human rights is by seeing them as complementary, rather than as antagonistic.”

Erinda Ballanca People's Advocate for Albania photo c/o: International Ombudsman Institute

Examining this conviction, Ballanca noted that the fundamental goals of both human rights and the rule of law are “a better society for everyone.” It is her belief that “stubborn insistence on blind law enforcement on one hand, and emotional hysteria in defence of the inviolability of human rights on the other” represents a rejection of progress. The key, according to Ballanca, in ensuring that human rights and the rule of law “act as two limbs of the same body,” is “knowing each other and mutual education,” exactly as is represented by the trans-national knowledge sharing that lies at the heart of the Matra RoLT programme.

On propaganda, hate speech and the importance of truth

Ballanca also spoke passionately on the subjects of propaganda and truth. Truth, Ballanca argued, lies at the very heart of modern democratic society. “In one way or another, our entire society, its mode of organization, and the institutions that make it functional, are built on the premise of truth and the rejection of deceit, illusion and falsehood.”

Worryingly however, Ballanca noted that recent years have seen the border between truth and propaganda being dangerously blurred. “Propaganda in our time exists as an attempt to create favourable realities for private interests. In essence propaganda is an industrial fabrication of convenient truths.”

the only way to eradicate the conflict between the rule of law and human rights is by seeing them as complementary, rather than as antagonistic.” – Erinda Ballanca

In her role as People’s Advocate, one of the key objectives is to address women’s rights and the struggle for gender equality. Ballanca explained that in Albania there still exists a culture whereby women are still considered “mentally insufficient or emotionally incapable of handling important duties and having a career.” It is, according to Ballanca, a culture that is perpetuated by hate speech which prevents from women from being taken seriously.

In the domain of women’s rights however, she identifies optimism and opportunity. Recently Albania has taken great legislative steps towards gender equality and the elimination of discrimination (the focus of NHC’s LGBTI project). With the strong encouragement of the law it is“maybe the time now to push society forward, to accept the need for gender equality.” It is possible, Ballanca concluded, that “perhaps this might be one of the most beautiful examples of the marriage between the rule of law and the cause of human rights.”