They’ve Made It to the Second Round

Margarita Nikitina
Vremya
Astana, Kazakhstan
December 25, 2009
The Supreme Court has acknowledged as legal the complaints of the residents of the village of Berezovka and demanded a reexamination of their case. The legal process has proceeded to a new level.

As this newspaper has already reported, the village has an unfortunate neighbor—the oil extraction company, “Karachaganak Petroleum Operating,” (see “In a Zone of Special Attention,” Vremya, January 1, 2009). Since 2002, the relocation of the villagers from the environmentally dangerous zone has been promised a hundred times. But the case never got any further than a promise. Furthermore, in 2004, the State Sanitary Epidemiology Department decreased the Sanitary Protection Zone from five to three kilometers, in order to exclude the village from the zone. This decision, by the way, was found to be illegal and the zone was reinstated by the General Prosecutor, but it was then disregarded.

The village residents filed a lawsuit against the government, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Environmental Protection, claiming negligence on their part. All of the legal instances in the lawsuit were refused (see “The Restless Village,” and “The Process Is Squeezed”, Vremia from April 21 and 29, 2009). And only the Supreme Court from the beginning instituted review proceedings, and then returned the entire case for a new review. Even the plaintiffs did not expect such a decision.

“I was in shock,” said the lawyer for the Ecological Society “Green Salvation“ Svetlana Katorcha, who is defending the interests of the Berezovka residents. What happened this past Thursday, the review of the situation by the Review Board, is very rare. Like a thunderstorm in the midst of winter. Furthermore, in this case, we are talking about a lawsuit against the government. In order to get this far, you have to be brave!”

Translation by Crude Accountability