Little progress was made in prosecuting war crimes arising from the 2001 internal conflict. Measures were taken to address impunity for ill-treatment by the police and prison conditions. Roma continued to suffer discrimination.
Greece continued to dispute the name of the country. In January a hearing opened at the International Court of Justice in proceedings initiated by Macedonia in November 2008; both countries claimed that the other had violated a 1995 interim agreement, in which Macedonia had temporarily agreed to use the name the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Greece had agreed not to block Macedonia’s membership of international organizations but had blocked membership of NATO in 2008.
In October the European Commission (EC) recommended opening negotiations on accession, but in December EU Foreign Ministers postponed their decision at Greece’s request.
NGOs expressed concerns at measures taken by the government to reinforce Macedonia’s claims to a historic identity (including the building of monuments at public expense), and the increasing influence of the Macedonian Orthodox Church on the secular state. The Constitutional Court in April abolished Article 26 of the Law on Primary Education which had provided for the introduction of religious education.
Justice system – war crimes
Proceedings in the case of the “Mavrovo” road workers, returned to Macedonia for prosecution from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (Tribunal), were adjourned in May pending extradition from Germany of one of the accused. The Macedonian workers were allegedly abducted in August 2001 by the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army, ill-treated, sexually violated and threatened with death before being released.
No progress was reported in three other cases returned by the Tribunal.
Impunity continued for the enforced disappearance in 2001 of three ethnic Albanians and the abduction of 13 ethnic Macedonians and one Bulgarian.
Torture and other ill-treatment
In February Macedonia ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture; the Ombudsman’s Office was appointed as the national preventive mechanism to give effect to the Protocol, and was empowered to co-operate with NGOs.
Both police and NGOs reported a decline in torture and other ill-treatment. This followed the disbanding of the special “Alfi” police units outside Skopje; improvements in investigations by the Ministry of Interior Sector for Internal Control and Professional Standards (SICPS); and the introduction of custody records at police stations. However, judges and prosecutors failed to initiate investigations into allegations of ill-treatment, even when detainees brought before the court showed signs of ill-treatment.
In March, following an investigation into the alleged beating of Jovica Janevski at Tetovo Police Station in 2008, the SICPS referred the case to the Tetovo Public Prosecutor, who had previously failed to open an investigation into the allegations.
The Ministry of Justice initiated a Strategic Plan to address “deplorable” prison conditions reported by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture in 2008, including the urgent refurbishment of several prisons, facilities for prisoners, and the strengthening and training of prison staff.
In June, the European Court of Human Rights made a preliminary consideration of an application made by Jasmina Sulja, the partner of Sabri Asani, an ethnic Albanian who died after allegedly being beaten while in police custody in January 2000. No effective investigation had been carried out, denying Jasmina Sulja an effective remedy.
Counter-terror and security
The Prosecutor failed to respond to a claim filed by Khaled el-Masri in January against Macedonia for its role in his unlawful abduction, detention and ill-treatment for 23 days in 2003, before being transferred to the custody of US authorities and flown to Afghanistan, where he was allegedly subjected to torture and other ill-treatment. The European Court of Human Rights held preliminary hearings following his application against Macedonia.
Freedom of expression
In March, the police failed to protect around 150 students – demonstrating against a government proposal to build a church in Skopje’s central square – from attack by a large counter-demonstration, reportedly organized by the Macedonian Orthodox Church. Public order charges were brought against nine demonstrators and seven counter-demonstrators. Three student organizers were charged with failing to protect public safety. In April a parliamentary committee called for an investigation; the SICPS found that police had acted correctly. A November march in Skopje on the UN Day of Tolerance passed without incident.
Anti-discrimination legislation, required as part of the EU accession process, did not reach the statutes. The draft failed to meet international and EU standards and many NGOs complained that they had not been consulted in the drafting process.
In April the Constitutional Court ruled unconstitutional provisions of the 2008 Law on Health Insurance on the payment of child benefit only to mothers living in municipalities with an annual birth rate below 2.1 children per 1,000 people. These provisions would have discriminated against ethnic Albanian and other mothers from minority communities.
Progress on addressing discrimination against Roma remained uneven. A registration programme, coordinated by UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, and implemented by Romani NGOs, significantly reduced the numbers of undocumented Roma.
Romani children’s access to education was improved by government measures to provide free text books and transport, and scholarships for secondary students. Building work began on a secondary school in Šuto Orizari, a predominantly Roma municipality. However, an increasing number of children attended effectively segregated schools.
The EC in November reported negatively on Macedonia’s progress regarding the Roma. Revised National Action Plans (NAP) for the Decade of Roma Inclusion were not adopted until May.
The government failed to allocate any funds to implement the NAP for Improving the Status of Romani Women. UNIFEM, the UN Development Fund for Women, supported research into Romani women’s experience of state services.
Some 140 homeless Roma who had protested about their living conditions in Čičino Selo were evicted at night in September to a holiday centre, where they had no access to education, health care or work. Another 20 families were threatened with eviction from the Aerodrom municipality of Skopje. The government failed to provide health care and housing to homeless Romani children as young as nine years of age, reported to be intravenously injecting heroin.
A Law on Asylum and Temporary Protection established an administrative court to hear appeals against rejection of refugee status. However, few of the 1,700 Roma and Ashkalia from Kosovo, who had been granted subsidiary protection, received access to a full and fair procedure for determining their need for international protection.
According to UNHCR, some 350 people applied to return to Kosovo. Those who remained were eligible for local integration, but the strategy remained to be approved by the government.
In May, Macedonia ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, which entered into force in September. However, legislation giving effect to the Convention was not implemented in practice. The 2006 Law on Equality between Men and Women remained to be fully implemented.
Amnesty international visit/report
- Amnesty International delegates visited Macedonia in October.
- Amnesty International's Concerns in Macedonia: January-June 2009