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Last Updated: Friday, 12 December, 2003, 03:51 GMT
Albania soldiers in rape scandal
Prostitute
The trafficking of women is a continuing problem for Albania
Albanian police say several servicemen have been arrested on suspicion of sexually abusing a 16-year old girl.

The men are accused of raping the girl before selling her to a gang in Kosovo which forced her into prostitution.

UN staff eventually rescued the girl and helped her to return to Albania.

Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Pellumb Qazimi, who issued a public apology to the girl, has suspended the commander of the base in north-western Albania where the men were stationed.

Some reports say four civilians have also been arrested in connection with the case.

The 16-year-old was first abducted at the Bisht Palle naval base in June and sexually abused by soldiers for two months, according to a police spokesman.

She was then "sold" to Albanian hotel owners, before ending up in the southern Kosovo town of Prizren.

UN officials found her in Kosovo with irregular documents and took her to a rehabilitation centre for trafficked women in Durres.

The teenager has decided to bring charges against her abusers, police say.

Crackdown

Human trafficking and the forced prostitution of women continue to plague post-communist Albania.

Attempts by the authorities to address the problems, in an effort to join eventually join Nato and the European Union, have so far been in vain.

Criminal gangs take advantage of police corruption, a weak judicial system and lax border controls to exploit young women.

A new report, co-written by the UN and the 55-nation Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), has estimated that 120,000 women and children are trafficked into the EU each year, most of them through the Balkans.


SEE ALSO:
Country profile: Albania
30 Sep 03  |  Country profiles
Trafficking victims 'need help'
11 Dec 03  |  Europe
Tackling the human traffickers
09 Sep 02  |  UK News



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