According to Vladimir Banushi, a project assistant for the commission, a lack of faith in the legal system to prosecute murderers causes families to settle disputes themselves.

Albania’s criminal code provides for harsher sentences for homicides related to blood feuds than other murders.

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They have not met any of the Jakinis, who live in a village 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) away.

Blood feuds are not specific to one religious group, however the phenomenon exists almost exclusively in northern Albania.

Bilal Ademi gestures while recounting the story of his family’s situation in his home in Mushan, Albania on Nov. Bilal’s cousin, a policeman, shot and killed a fellow officer in a dispute, sparking a blood feud with the victim’s family. Oegger) The Ademi men are the objects of a “blood feud,” targets of retribution for the killing of Tom Jakini.

According to a set of traditional Albanian laws dating back to the 15th century called the “Kanun of Lekë Dukagjini,” the family of the victim has the right to avenge Jakini’s death by killing one of the Ademi men.

After the regime’s fall in 1991, renewed disputes over land and weakened rule of law led to a resurgence of blood feuds.

Free movement and migration became legal and citizens from rural areas flocked to cities, spreading blood feuds to bigger population centers.

The incidence of blood feuds spiked again in 1997 after the collapse of a pyramid scheme led to an uprising that forced the government’s resignation.

Many Albanians had invested in government-promoted savings funds.

Citizens in the southern part of the country balk at the tradition held by some of their neighbors in the rural, poorer north.

Geographically isolated by mountainous terrain, northern villages maintained more autonomy under 46 years of Communist rule and preserved more customary laws of the Kanun.

According to Marcello Requirez, coordinator for Operation Dove, “The law is good, but not applied.” Even when the state does administer justice, Requirez recalls instances where men were murdered by rival families after completing prison terms.