From: Alice Taylor
Albanian Bailiff Refuses to Execute High Court Ruling Against Hydropower Company Genr2
A Tropojan bailiff has reportedly refused to execute a court order against hydropower plant construction company Genr2.In July 2021, Albania’s High Court ruled that Gern2, who also owns a large media company, must suspend the construction of two hydropower plants in Valbona, pending the outcome of an administrative court case on whether the construction is legal. This was considered a victory in a long-running legal battle between the local community and the construction company.Genr2 ignored the court decision and continued with the work. Meanwhile, TOKA, the organization that was involved in bringing the case against Genr2, tried to find a bailiff who would execute the decision.According to a statement sent to Exit, representatives of TOKA visited the state bailiff office in Tropoja on  October 7. Bailiff Eduart Mrishaj refused to accept the request to enforce the court decision.After reading the court decision, TOKA said he told them “I did this job the last time, and people said bad things about me in the media. That’s not fair.”He then allegedly said that since the last court decision, he had married someone related to the people building the hydropower plant.

“So I cannot accept to enforce the court decision,” he said.

TOKA President Catherine Bohne asked him to put his refusal in writing, which Mrishaj also declined to do. Instead, he advised them to file the execution request in Tirana.

In a statement, Bohne said it was clear there was no way to physically force Mrishaj to do his job.

“Is this access to justice in Albania today? That local authorities pick and choose how to administer their duties? That high court decision cannot be enforced because of regional corruption and laziness?” she added.

“Men like Mrishaj may feel they are exempt from their duties, but surely justice lives somewhere in Albania?”

TOKA said they will file the request to execute via registered post, and include the office of the head of bailiffs and the Ministry of Justice.

Exit sent questions to Mrishaj, asking why he refused to enforce the order, whether he has been asked not to, and if so, by whom. He said “There is no relevant execution orders for which I have to offer an explanation. To be able to offer a refusal, there must be a registered order.”

The reason there is no registered order, is because according to TOKA, he refused to register it.

The Ministry of Justice was also contacted and asked whether a state bailiff can refuse to execute a High Court decision, and what process should be followed in this case. No answer was received.

Timeline of events

  • 21 July 2021: High Court of Albania rules that Genr2 must stop all construction work and or operations on two hydropower plants in Valbona.
  • 21 July- ongoing: Genr2 ignore the court decision because they have not been formally requested to stop by a bailiff.
  • 21 September: The formal court decision is published and must be delivered by the plaintiff (TOKA and 27 local residents) to the bailiff who must execute the decision. The bailiff is required to notify the developer of the decision and give them 10 days to stop working. If they do not, the bailiff must request police assistance and any continued activity becomes a crime.
  • 5 October: Instead of voluntarily obeying the court decision, Genr2 turns on the Dragobia HPP, and it begins operating for the first time. The Valbona River immediately reduces flow. The Cerem HPP has been operating for several months and the river bed is completely dry.
  • 7 October: TOKA visits bailiff Eduart Mrishaj with all necessary documents to execute the decision, but he refuses.

In Europe – and Albania – the key document defining access to justice and rule of law regarding environmental matters is the 1998 Aarhus convention.  Albania signed the convention in 2001, agreeing to the following:

“In order to contribute to the protection of the right of every person of present and future generations to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and well-being, each Party shall guarantee the rights of access to information, public participation in decision-making, and access to justice in environmental matters in accordance with the provisions of this Convention.”

TOKA said that none of the Aarhus protocol has been followed, and they are being denied access to justice, as is a fundamental human right.