European Court Rejects Suit on Albanian Blood Feud Case

The European Court of Human Rights has considered inadmissible the complaint of Shpend Shala, a Kosovo Albanian found guilty of murder in a blood feud, who claimed his right to a fair trial was not duly respected when a Swiss court jailed him for 18 years in 2010.

He complained that the court had failed to inform three witnesses of Kosovar nationality of their right to consular assistance under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention, which he said affected the verdict.

But the court disagreed. It said Shala "had not shown in a substantiated and tangible manner how the fact that the Swiss authorities had not informed the three witness of their right to consular assistance under Article 36 of the VCCR had had the slightest impact on the fairness of the proceedings against him".

Shala was sentenced for murdering a member of the H. family, in Switzerland, in 1997, one month after the head of Shala's own family was murdered by the brother of the victim in Kosovo.

Shala committed the crime for blood feud motives, an old tradition in the region of Albania and Kosovo, related to the Albanian social code known as the Canon of Leke Dukagjini.

The remnants of this medieval code of justice still burden local communities in Kosovo, pitting families against families in an endless circle of death.

Under the rules of the canon, there is an obligation to kill a person of another family, if they have murdered someone from the first family. This must be done to preserve the honour of the family.

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