Appeals Court: Ministry of Defense Responsible for Gërdec

On January 25, the Appeals Court in Tirana declared the Ministry of Defense responsible for the explosion of a former weapons depot in Gërdec on March 15, 2008. The court case was started in 2011 by the family members of the 26 victims of the explosion and passed through an array of Albanian judicial institutions.

In its verdict, as transmitted through a joint press release of the Open Society Foundation and legal center Res Publica, the Appeals Court agreed with an earlier verdict of the Administrative Court, which placed responsibility for the explosion on the Ministry of Defense, state military import–export company MEICO, and private company Albdemil. What is in official parlance referred to as the “technological accident” has now been determined to be a state crime, opening the door to compensation of the families by the state.

Queried by Exit about the compensation demanded by the families, lawyer Dorian Matlija of Res Publica answered:

Regarding the amount, our clients asked us not to disclose this to the press because of security reasons. We must respect their will. But I can tell you that this is the first decision in the upcoming chain of other decisions and the total amount may go beyond 6 or 7 million USD. The exact amount is not easy to calculate now because there are two other cases pending before the First Instance Court and there are 7 other cases that the Appeals Court will resend back to the First Instance Court because of procedural issues. In total there are 37 cases we defend at the moment and there are some other 10 cases defended by other private lawyers. Together with the other cases the amount may go even higher.

The Albanian state has never accepted formal responsibility for the Gërdec accident.