Today, 10 September 2018, locals – hanging on to the tatters of their patience and faith – filled the courthouse in Tropoja, only to hear yet more proof of the corruption rampant in the Tropoja judicial system.
In March 2018, 30 local people and NGO TOKA filed criminal charges against Dragobia Kryeplak Adem Metaliaj and Dragobia Energy Administrator Artila Ulaj, for validating a public consultation which included the signatures of dead people. It is crucial to establish the validity of this public consultation as it was an integral part of the application process for the environmental permit for the Dragobia Energy hydropowers. After dithering for 6 months, Tropoja court met today to hear the argument of the prosecutor who stated that although there was no question that the signatures were faked, he was nonetheless asking the court to throw out the charges on the basis that the period for complaint had expired.
Local people, still recovering from the actions of the local court on 31 July which effectively blocked the administrative appeals court decision to stop the construction, found themselves facing yet another confirmation of the complete breakdown of justice in Tropoja. Falsified signatures must be reported within 5 years. The criminal charges were filed 29 days before this deadline. Despite lengthy and legally based arguments on the part of the accusers, the Tropoja court ruled to uphold the request of the prosecutor to throw out the charges. Apparently, not only is the Tropoja court firmly in the pocket of hydropower developer Gener-2, they can’t even count.
But the scandal gets bigger, the closer you look. The court-appointed officer charged with investigating the issue of falisified signatures is one Elton Hoxha, who happens to be the son of Skender Hoxha, the engineer in charge of the hydropower construction.
Locals were represented during the court by Avokati Altin Fushaxhia of the Open Society Foundation of Albania. Together they will be moving to appeal the Tropoja court decision in Shkoder as soon as possible. This appeal, however, will be the 11th legal action instigated by local people, and at this point it is hard for locals to believe that it will not meet the same fate as all their other legal actions – spinning around endlessly in the inefficient and counterproductive laissez-faire Albanian legal system which functions only to waste time, and allow the construction to continue.
At this point, it is hard for locals to see any choice, but to enforce the law themselves.