Press Release

Tropoja, 22 October 2021

Our Ongoing Battle to See Enforcement of the High Court Decision for HPP to Stop all Operation

No one thought that a small rural community would have an easy time stopping one of the most powerful Oligarchs in Albania.  But the burning question now is:  Is the government on the side of the people, or on the side of the Oligarchs?  You be the judge. 

On 21 July, 2021, the High Court of Albania ruled that 2 hydropower on Valbona River must stop all operations.  Utill today, 22 October, they continue to work uninterrupted.  What is happening?

Here is how the process is supposed to work (when justice functions):

1.  Court holds hearing and announces decision.

2.  Court publishes formal written decision – may be some months later.

3.  Plaintiff obtains original copy of court decision and requests a bailiff to ‘execute’ the decision

– to do this, plaintiff must take 1. an original copy of the court decision and 2. a signed request to execute the court decision to a bailiff.  

– the bailiff then gives the plaintiff an invoice for the fee

– plaintiff takes this to the bank and pays

– plaintiff returns to the bailiff with the proof of payment from the bank.

4.  Bailiff informs the developer in writing via registered post of the court decision, and gives them 10 days to stop working.

5.  10 working days after the bailiff’s letter is delivered to the developer (as proved by registered mail tracking through the posta shqiptare), the bailiff visits the work site to determine whether they have stopped working.  If they find work continues, they request assistance of the police to shut the works down.  

6.  Within a day or two of #5, the police and bailiff shut the operations down.

Here is what has actually happened:

21 July 21 – High court of Albania rules to uphold the interim stop work measure requested in 2017.  

September 21 – Written High Court decision is published (link to court decision below)

7 Oct 21 – Plaintiff TOKA visits Tropoja public bailiff Eduart Mrishaj with necessary documentation and requests he enforce the court decision (link below).  

Mrishaj says he doesn’t want to do it.  Refuses to accept documents, refuses to put his refusal in writing, refuses to issue invoice for fees.  Mrishaj states that TOKA should hire a private bailiff.  (On inquiry in 2018, a private bailiff requested 35,000 euro to execute the decision)  

When media contacts Mrishaj to ask his defense of his actions he states “I have no information about this case in my office.”  Of course he doesn’t – he refused to take it.

8 Oct 21 – TOKA returns all original docs to Kalo & Associates in Tirana, via registered post

16 Oct 21 – Kalo sends court decision and request to execute via registered post to 1.  Tropoja Bailiff Mrishaj, copying:  2. Ministry of Justice and 3.  Head of Bailiffs in Tirana. (link below)

16 Oct 21 – TOKA files complaint with Ombudsman’s office (link below) 

20 Oct 21 – Posta Shqiptare reports that request is signed for by Tropoja Bailiff’s office.  TOKA has not received any notice from the Bailiff’s office.

20 Oct 21 – Office of Kalo & Associates receives email from office of head of bailiffs stating that the Tropoja Bailiff will execute the decision (link below).

22 Oct 21 – TOKA receives confirimation from Kalo offices that Posta Shqiptare reports that request to execute the court decision has been delivered to the Tropoja Bailiff, Eduart Mrishaj.  Two days later, no action has been taken by him or his office.

Nota Bene:  

– Until the developer formally receives notification from a bailiff, they are not legally required to cease operations.

– For this reason, we see the continuing operation of the hydropower as a failure of the function of the Albanian justice system, rather than a per se legal fault of the developer.

– Be aware that another stop work order from the Albanian administrative court of appeals was avoided in 2018, when the developer counter-sued the office of the bailiff in Tropojan district court, claiming that to enforce a court decision would be illegal.  This suit was upheld by Tropojan court, in a move that the Ministry of Justice at the time called “illegal” but did nothing to counteract.  The 2018 order to cease construction remains in effect and unenforced.  For this reason, we believe it is CRITICAL that external attention is paid to the current situation, to ensure that the 21 July court decision is enforced.  Otherwise, any pretense of legal function of justice in Albania is a sad joke.

– If it seems that we are bizarre for insisting that a public bailiff execute the court decision, despite their obvious lack of enthusiasm, this is because:  1.  We do not have 35,000 euro to pay a private bailiff, but 2.  More importantly, we feel it is crucial to prove (or disprove) that your average citizen in Albania can access justice.  If we are to believe that democracy exists in Albania today, we must force this system to function.

Document Links:

High Court Decision:  21 July 2021, published September 2021.

TOKA request to execute: 7 October 2021

Formal lawyers request to execute: 16 October 2021

Complaint to Ombudsman:  16 October 2021

Response from Head Bailiff’s Office: 20 October 2021