Gener 2 & Dragobia Energy vs. TOKA and Catherine Bohne “The American of Valbona”
First Hearing 2 May 2018
On 2nd May at midday, in the Gjykata e Rrethit Gjyqesor in Tirana (Civil Court), Judge Eneida Civici presided over the first procedural hearing in the case of Gener-2 and Dragobia Energy vs. NGO TOKA and Catherine Bohne, in which the companies are asking for an award of 20,000,000 Albanian lek to compensate for “damages done to their reputations” during the campaign against the hydropowers being constructed in Valbona Valley National Park.
Convinced more than ever in the cause, Ms. Bohne declared right after the first court hearing “TOKA, the locals and I will continue to fight. Of course. This lawsuit is a small threat, compared to the threat of destroying Valbona. What does it matter if they take my house, dogs and sheep, compared to if they succeed in stealing the National Park belonging to all the Albanian People?”
The defendants argue that this is actually a case against freedom of speech. With this level of public opposition, it is clear that the hydropowers are not viewed as a positive thing by most people, and it is completely unrealistic to think that people will not voice their fears and complaints, as publicly as they can. As is the unalienable right of all Albanian people and activists.
Are the developers ready to sue hundreds and hundreds of citizens who have expressed their opposition against the hydropowers in the Valbona National Park through peaceful manifestations in the squares of Tropoja and Tirana or in online portals ? Don’t the actions of this company seem self-damaging and triggering indignation among the population? It seems yes, given the enourmous reactions of the supporters of Valbona National Park Valley.
This is not the fight of one family, this is the struggle of the whole Valbona Valley
In a country where the NGOs are often accused of lack of representation in the population, a consistent group of 50 inhabitants together with TOKA are currently in three open judicial processes. What is more, in a small village such as Dragobia with around 230 inhabitans, an unprecedented case in Albania has been registered in late April this year. As a result of the disappointment of the inhabitants, an emergency vote has taken place during which the people removed the old, Bashkia-appointed village head, Adem Metaliaj who in 2013 confirmed the public consultation approving the hydropowers. This consultation is currently the subject of criminal charges for falsification of signatures in the Tropoja Prosecutor’s office. The majority of villages voted to replace Mr. Metaliaj with Mr. Hysni Sokolaj, who pledged to “oppose the hydropowers and end the abuses being done in the name of the inhabitants and against their will.”
What is often claimed by hydropower supporters as the fight of only one family in Valbona with the aim of minimising the opposition, as a matter of fact is an unprecedented example of broad-based democracy, which is worth being taken as example everywhere in other communities where other exploitations are happening. What people are demanding is more representation, more democratic and transparent decision making, and that the voice of simple people is heard.
The case continues on 31 May at 12:00 with the first judicial hearing.