Manushaqe Puto and others v. Albania | 2012

Millions paid in compensation to families whose lands were seized under communism

…final and enforceable Commission decisions in favour of [the former owners] remained unenforced for periods varying between 15 and 17 years.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, December 2012


Many families lost their lands under the former communist regime in Albania, where private property was banned.

Following the collapse of communism, a series of commissions recognised thousands of land claims and decided that compensation should be paid.

But then nothing happened.

Some people got some of their land back – those parts which were not already occupied – but they were not compensated for the rest. Others got nothing at all.

One family, the Putos, sent countless letters to the authorities but received no official response. For years they waited for the compensation they were owed.

The Putos, along with several other claimants – families and individuals – turned to the European Court of Human Rights for justice.


Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The European court ruled that Albania had violated the claimants’ property rights and denied them a fair hearing.

It was not the first time the court had ruled against Albania on this issue. While the Albanian government had made changes to try to solve the problem, the court considered these measures, including the existing financial compensation scheme, to be flawed. There was no way the claimants could get justice in their own country.

The court awarded the applicants combined damages of almost €3m.

Faced with dozens of similar complaints from other people in Albania, the European court made use of its ‘pilot judgment’ procedure, which is a way of dealing with widespread problems. The court insisted that the Albanian government set up an effective compensation scheme within 18 months.


Albania compensated the claimants as required by the European court.

In response to the court’s pilot judgment, the Albanian government drafted a new law, with help from Council of Europe experts, which came into force in 2016, creating a new compensation scheme. The equivalent of €1.2bn was set aside to cover the cost of claims.

By September 2018, the Albanian government had issued the equivalent of tens of millions of euros in financial compensation and in land, from a separate fund, in over 400 individual cases.

As part of a separate ruling in a similar case in 2020, the European court endorsed the new scheme as an effective way for claimants to get justice.

However, the court noted that property valuations under the new scheme might result, in some cases, in much lower levels of compensation than under previous laws. While accepting that the scheme had “[a] significant economic impact for [Albania] as a whole”, the court ruled that, “to prevent an extreme burden on former owners”, compensation had to be at least equal to 10% of what they would be owed if valuations were to be based on current property classifications and not the original ones.

The compensation procedure continues.


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