Illegal Grit Exploitation

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The decision of the Kosovo Government to stop river grit exploitation is not being fully implemented because of the lack of inspectors. There were some cases where the inspectors were threatened. One of these inspectors is Refki Morina who was forced to take a vacation because he was threatened by Arben Rrustemi. Arben Rrustemi is one of the persons who exploited grit without a license from the Independent Commission of Mines and Minerals.  

Around one year ago, the Kosovo Government made the decision to stop grit exploitation in the regional rivers. This decision was signed by the Prime Minister Hashim Thaci. Thaci put in charge the Independent Commission for Mines and Minerals to implement the decision. However, the lakes continue to be exploited.

On March 23, 2011, the team of “Justice in Kosovo” accompanied the mine and environment inspectors while they were confiscating an excavator from the river bed.

After identifying that the unlicensed excavator belonging to Arben Rrustemi exploited grit in the Gllaviqice village, the inspectors’ team confiscated the excavator. While they were transporting the excavator, a bulldozer, which was parked in a company Vellezerit Rrustemi’s parking lot, attacked them to destroy the excavator.

The regional inspector, Refki Morina, who was part of the action, said that he felt threatened by the owners of the excavator and they told him that he would be in danger if he did not help take the excavator back. “That same day, Arben Rrustemi and two other persons followed me while I was going back to Prishtina,” said Morina.

Morina also said that the case was sent in to the police station and the police confirmed it. He was threatened by the Rrustemi family not just once, but several times. The Kosovo Police has pressed penal charges and has sent the case into the prosecution of Peja, according to a spokesperson from the police unit in Peja.

Such threats have forced Refki Morina to stay home. He said that the institutional problems now have become familiar problems because he is scared to leave home without having family members nearby.

People who illegally exploit grit from the rivers usually begin working at 4:00 PM because inspectors finish their shifts during that time and the inspectors do not have the chance to catch them in the act.

Nuredin Bislimi, Head of the Independent Commission for Mines and Minerals, said: “It is very difficult to monitor them all the time because the inspectors are threatened and they should be accompanied by the police all the time.” He also said that the sentences for the companies are not being executed because the court is postponing the cases.

“Justice in Kosovo” also prepared a short report about the agreements regarding the guilty plea.

In this report, the case that occurred on June 14, 2013, in the Basic Court of Peja is being reviewed. After two court hearings, former judge Kolë Puka was sentenced to a year and a half in prison. Kolë Puka was accused for misusing his official position. Puka has made an agreement with the case prosecutor Ali Rexha.

The case judge has the right to make an agreement with the suspected perpetrator if he accepts the crime and the court will reduce his or her sentence.