©Adriatik Gacaferi

Kosovo: Baseless lawsuits against environmental activists dropped in victory for freedom of expression

  • Spokespeople available 
  • Activists and lawyers press conference outside Kosovo Environment Ministry at 13.00 20 October

Responding to news that the Austrian-based Kelkos Energy has withdrawn its baseless defamation lawsuits against Shpresa Loshaj and Adriatik Gacaferi, environmental activists in Kosovo who publicly raised concerns about the environmental impact of hydropower projects, Jelena Sesar, Western Balkans researcher at Amnesty International said:

“Kelkos Energy was using these lawsuits to intimidate and silence activists from speaking out about the possible environmental damage caused by the company’s exploitation of Kosovo’s natural resources. Kelkos Energy’s decision to immediately and unconditionally drop these lawsuits is a victory for freedom of expression, but Shpresa Loshaj and Adriatik Gacaferi should have never been sued in the first place.”

Strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP) have become a frequently used tool by governments and corporations to target and harass human rights defenders and journalists exposing the wrongdoing of those in power. Although such lawsuits claim to protect the reputation of an individual or a corporation, in reality, they are designed to intimidate, tire and deplete the financial and psychological resources of activists. SLAPPs can have a devastating impact on human rights defenders and undermine the right to freedom of expression.

We are keenly watching efforts at EU level to develop legislation to counter SLAPPs. As the Commission is gearing up to propose legislation, the EU Parliament is due to adopt another strong call for an anti-SLAPP directive next month. Although Kosovo is not an EU member, EU-wide legislation would set an important standard for existing and aspiring members alike and would send a clear message to corporations around the world that targeting critical voices will no longer be tolerated

Jelena Sesar, Western Balkans researcher at Amnesty International

“Corporations should stop misusing the justice system to censor critics. Kosovo’s authorities must allow activists and local communities to engage in public debate, access information and actively participate in decision-making on issues that affect their lives and ensure they can raise critical questions without fear of reprisals,” said Jelena Sesar.

“We are keenly watching efforts at EU level to develop legislation to counter SLAPPs. As the Commission is gearing up to propose legislation, the EU Parliament is due to adopt another strong call for an anti-SLAPP directive next month. Although Kosovo is not an EU member, EU-wide legislation would set an important standard for existing and aspiring members alike and would send a clear message to corporations around the world that targeting critical voices will no longer be tolerated.”

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:     

Alison Abrahams on [email protected] or +32 483 680 812     

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Background

Amnesty International’s public statement “Kosovo: SLAPP suits aimed at silencing environmental activists” is available here.  

In June 2020, Kelkos Energy filed a defamation lawsuit against Shpresa Loshaj and demanded EUR 100,000 in “reputational damages” caused by her public campaigning against the company’s operations in Kosovo. Kelkos Energy also demanded that Shpresa Loshaj publicly retract and apologize for her statement and refrain from stating “untrue facts” about the company in the future.

In a similar lawsuit filed in 2020, Kelkos Energy demanded EUR 10,000 in reputational damages from environmental activist Adriatik Gacaferi, over a Facebook post that also criticized the company’s hydropower plant operations in the Deçan region. Kelkos Energy demanded that Gacaferi remove the contested post and publish a retraction.