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A year after the illegal shooting of “The Expendables 2” in the Devetashka cave the Court passed a definitive judgment in favor of NGOs and experts that contested the permission for filming given by the Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Water

A year after the illegal shooting of “The Expendables 2” in the Devetashka cave the Court passed a definitive judgment in favor of NGOs and experts that contested the permission for filming given by the Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Water

28.11.2012
As early as November 2011, citizens, bat experts, speleologists, and NGOs referred signals to the state institutions warning them of the fact that the shooting of “The Expendables 2” in the Devetashka Cave had an extremely negative impact on the bats wintering there and violated numerous laws and statutory acts.
This was followed by a strenuous dispute between the conservationists and the Ministry of Environment and Water and RIEW Pleven, and a real “media fight” on this case, waiting for the ruling of the Court...
On February 22nd, 2012, the Administrative Court of Pleven passed a judgment in favor of nature conservationists, concluding that RIEW Pleven had allowed the shooting infringing the relevant laws and the company had illegally got permission to film in the cave. The Court upholded the argument that RIEW Pleven had to implement an appropriate assessment procedure by virtue of Art. 31 of the Biological Diversity Act, and that the RIEW, violating the law, had “skipped” one of the legal steps intended to secure non-deterioration of habitats and species of pan-European significance. Last, but not least, the Court, being a law interpreting authority, traversed the statements made by the Director of RIEW Pleven, claiming that the actions of the RIEW had been administratively and legally consistent.


Subsequently, the above ruling of the Court was contested by RIEW Pleven and Nu Boyana Film Studio, arguing that Green Balkans had no legal interest, the complaint had not been lodged in due time, and the filming had been completed, which, in their opinion, were grounds to repeal the Court ruling.

By this decision, the Supreme Administrative Court rejected entirely the arguments of RIEW Pleven and Nu Boyana Film Studio, through which, being the highest instance, upholded the following:
- the filming activity in the cave had been illegal, violating the Protected Areas Act and the Designation Order;
- Green Balkans (respectively organizations and citizens that had sent signals of the case and were represented by Green Balkans) had a legal interest and right as provided by the national and international legislation (being an organization of public benefit, namely – nature conservation);
- the filming activity had affected the bats and the position papers of NGOs and experts from the Bat Research and Conservation Centre at the Bulgarian Academy of Science had been unbiased;
- the proceedings against the decision of the RIEW had been initiated in time with legally substantiated arguments reconfirmed by the highest instance – the Supreme Administrative Court!

Thus, a year AFTER the filming, the strenuous court battle between the citizens (represented by Green Balkans) and the state institutions was brought to an end. Unfortunately, the long court disputes and correspondence in this particular case only proved the truth and the arguments of the conservationists. In fact, they did not stop the illegal actions, which was entirely the responsibility of the relevant institutions...

Yet, the decision of the Supreme Administrative Court is an important precedent and a small “victory” for the civil society, since it is one of the few successful lawsuits initiated by NGOs and citizens against infringements on conservation legislation.

This case demonstrated once again the rights and chances of citizens (acting on their own or through NGOs of public benefit) to be a corrective to the functioning of the state institutions. This, in fact, is the mechanism for exerting public control as well as a guarantee for law observance.

Therefore, we would like to appeal to all citizens to avail themselves of their civil rights regarding the adoption and enforcement of the national legislation, which would enhance the functioning of the relevant institutions.
Our most sincere gratitude goes to all active citizens, the specialists from the Bat Research and Conservation Centre, as well as the representatives of Helictit Speleo Club and the Bulgarian Federation of Speleology for their active civic position on this case!

For further information, please contact:

Dobromir Dobrinov - Green Balkans
Mobile: +359 884 004 667

Boyan Petrov - Bat Research and Conservation Center at NMNH Sofia, BAS
Mobile:  +0893322107


Further information
:
http://www.greenbalkans.org/show.php?id=1270&language=en_EN&cat_id=35
http://www.greenbalkans.org/show.php?id=1280&language=en_EN&cat_id=35
http://www.greenbalkans.org/show.php?id=1282&language=en_EN&cat_id=35
http://www.greenbalkans.org/show.php?id=1307&language=en_EN&cat_id=35