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AI:Human Rights in Macedonia Deteriorated

May 25, 2012

The dropping of war crimes cases and a lack of press freedom are among the main concerns in Macedonia that Amnesty International mentions in its annual human rights report.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic, Balkan Insight, 25.05.2012



“Respect for human rights deteriorated throughout the year” reads the report on 2011.

The human rights group states that Macedonia acted “in violation of Macedonia’s international obligations” when in July 2011 the parliament changed the 2002 Amnesty Law, which granted amnesty to former ethnic Albanian insurgents in the 2001 conflict, to include those charged with war crimes.

The move resulted in the prosecution dropping four war crimes cases, returned in 2008 from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia to Macedonia. All four cases involved members of the now disbanded Albanian insurgents, some of which now occupy high political positions.

As a result of the change to the amnesty law, Skopje Criminal Court ceased proceedings in the “Mavrovo” road workers case at the request of the Public Prosecutor.

In 2001 a group of road workers were allegedly abducted, ill-treated, sexually abused and threatened with death before being finally released by the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army, NLA.

The remaining cases were also swiftly annulled. One of the accused in the  “NLA Leadership” case was Ali Ahmeti, the leader of the junior ruling party, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, and a former leader of the NLA.

The “Neprosteno” case, alleged that 12 ethnic Macedonians and one Bulgarian had been abducted by the NLA, while the final anulled case had centred on accusations that NLA members had cut off the water supply to the town of Kumanovo.

Later in the report, Amnesty argues that “the freedom of expression of journalists and independent media workers was increasingly limited by government interference, ranging from direct intimidation to control of advertising companies”.

A large number of defamation cases against journalists are mentioned, as well as the closure of the country’s most popular pro-opposition TV channel,  A1 TV, which  was widely blamed on pressure by the Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.  Gruevski denies such claims.

The human rights group also says that government-funded “nationalist monuments exacerbated inter-ethnic tensions” and notes that reports of “ill-treatment by the police continued”.

Amnesty mentions the case of Martin Neskovski who was severely beaten by a police officer on 6 June during post-election celebrations in Skopje, and died of head wounds, noting that “repeated public protests questioned delays in the investigation and called for stricter civilian oversight of the police”.

Amnesty says that Macedonia failed to instigate proceedings after a complaint by Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese origin.

El-Masri complains to the European Court of Human Rights that Macedonia helped in his unlawful abduction in Skopje in 2003. He says he was ill-treated for 23 days while in detention in Macedonia before being handed over to CIA officers who transferred him to Afghanistan where they tortured him, mistaking him for terrorist.

Amnesty also mentions Macedonia’s new anti-discrimination law adopted last year. “The Law lacked provisions for the protection of lesbians, gay men, bisexual and transgender people” Amnesty says.

The group also slams Macedonia for failing to provide adequate financial assistance and housing for some 1,500 asylum-seekers, including 1,100 Kosovo Roma and Ashkali, who remained in Macedonia after the 1999 NATO campaign against Serbia.

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