NGOs can challenge decision to give hunters Miżieb woodland, court rules

Court recognises right of BirdLife and eNGOs to challenge Lands Authority decision to grant Miżieb and Aħrax to hunters

Miżieb is a mecca for hunting illegalities
Miżieb is a mecca for hunting illegalities

The Court of Appeal has ruled that a number of environmental NGOs led by BirdLife Malta have every right to challenge the Lands Authority’s decision to grant guardianship of the Miżieb and Aħrax woodlands to the Federation for Hunting and Conservation (FKNK) – a deed which secretly signed between the Government and FKNK in October of last year.

On 21 January 2021 the Tribunal for Administrative Review had decided that BirdLife Malta, Moviment Graffitti, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Friends of the Earth (Malta), Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar and Prof. Edward Mallia don’t have juridical interest in the case, and as such they do not qualify as aggrieved parties with the right to challenge the decision or take legal action in court.

Legal proceedings in this regard by BirdLife Malta and the other eNGOs had been initiated at the end of October 2020, three days before the sit-down protest held in front of Castille over the signing of this deal.

In February the eNGOs appealed the Tribunal’s decision in court.

Today the Appeals Court – following months of hearing of evidence and different witnesses – ruled that the Lands Authority’s deal can be challenged.

Mr Justice Lawrence Mintoff annulled the Tribunal’s January 2021 decision, rejected the conclusions reached and ordered the Tribunal to immediately proceed with the case.

The five NGOs and Prof. Edward Mallia were represented by environmental activist and lawyer Dr Claire Bonello. A separate, but allied court action, was also filed by the Ramblers Association, represented by Dr Joseph Ellis and Dr Martin Farrugia. 

The hunting lobby was given a formal concession for control over these two large woodlands – which are popular recreational areas for the Maltese public – through a secret agreement signed without the presence of the press on Friday 9th October 2020.

The signing was originally meant to take place on Sunday 11 October at Miżieb but following serious backlash from civil society and outrage from the general public when the plans were exposed, the date was moved forward without informing the press or the public. Fearing unrest, the government steamrolled over all those who were protesting and signed the agreement with the hunters in secret during a private event.