Corner Reports

Monthly report- December 2015 20 January 2016

The Monthly report on the human rights situation in the Republic of Macedonia for December 2015 includes the following topics: Special Public Prosecutor’s Office (SJO); Contempt Ruling Annulled; Different Judgments by Different Courts on the Same Case; Smuggling and Hate Crimes against Refugees.

The monthly report can be downloaded at the following link.

SPECIAL PUBLIC PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE

On December 14th, the SJO decided on establishing subject-matter jurisdiction over 34 cases, including the case known to the public as "Puch”, in which one of the defendants is the opposition leader Zoran Zaev. Since the main hearing of the case was scheduled for December 21st, the SJO requested a postponement in order to become thoroughly acquainted with the facts and evidence of the case. The Court granted the requested delay and rescheduled the hearing for January 2016.

Meanwhile, the SJO also accepted the proposals for abolishment or replacement of the measure of detention of the accused Zoran Verushevski and Gjorgi Lazarevski submitted by their lawyers. Based on that opinion, the Criminal Council of the Department for Organized Crime and Corruption in the Basic Court Skopje 1 Skopje decided to lift the detention and rendered a prohibition to leave the place of residence or stay and temporary seizure of passport as precautionary measures.

The Helsinki greets the decision of the Criminal Council of the Department for Organized Crime and Corruption, especially since the defendants had been in custody for more than 10 months.

RECOMMENDATION:

We’d like to remind once again that courts should apply all the other precautionary measures to ensure the presence of the accused from detention, which because of the bad conditions that are degrading and inhumane, can be considered as a punishment.

CONTEMPT RULING ANNULLED

The Helsinki Committee monitors the proceedings of plaintiff Jasminka Angelova, wife of the leader of the political party “Dostoinstvo”, for bodily injury caused by a police officer at the protest held on 8 May 2015. During the proceedings, which are still in a phase of conciliation, the court sanctioned the plaintiff with a fine in the amount of 500 euros for insulting the court. The judge held that the posted Facebook status on the plaintiff’s private profile claimed that the defendant does not appear at the scheduled hearings and the court was not familiar enough with the case, which was an insult to the court. This decision was additionally affected by the fact that the Facebook status was used on the Naroden Glas webpage, and the judge considered it as an article.

The plaintiff appealed the decision and the Criminal Council decided to uphold the appeal and annul the contested decision. In its decision, the Criminal Council stated that it is unclear in what way and with which words the plaintiff had offended the court because of the lack of offensive words in her Facebook status, which was later posted on the webpage. Additionally, the court found it difficult to understand how the judge found that the plaintiff offended the accused as well, especially because it is obvious that she did not agree to anyone posting her status on the Naroden Glas webpage.

DIFFERENT JUDGMENTS BY DIFFERENT COURTS ON THE SAME CASE

The public was informed about the case of a victim of domestic violence and abduction from Kriva Palanka, who later became a defendant in a proceeding for the offense of false reporting of the same event. This case is another example of how victims of domestic violence are victimized by the very system that should protect them.

Namely, the victim was prosecuted by the Public Prosecutor's Office in Kriva Palanka for giving a false statement that her former partner had committed the crimes of rape and kidnapping, although that person acted as a subsidiary complainant in the Basic Court in Kumanovo. Acting on that proposal, the Primary Court in Kriva Palanka delivered a judgment against the victim for the offense of giving a false statement, which was then confirmed by the Appeal Court in Skopje.

In the second proceeding for the same case conducted before the Basic Court in Kumanovo, in which the victim is a subsidiary complainant, the Court ruled against the same person who appears as a complainant in the aforementioned proceeding before the Primary Court in Kriva Palanka. This judgment is not yet final and executory.

Due to the above, the victim filed a request for protection of legality to Public Prosecutor of the Republic of Macedonia on 30.12.2015 against the judgment of the Primary Court Kriva Palanka filed under number K.no.72/2015 from 06.05.2015 and against the judgment of the Appellate Court filed under number KZ.no.1047 /15 from 28.10.2015, for which no response has been issued yet.

The Helsinki Committee believes that such contradictory decisions violate the principle of legality. Namely, the Primary Court in Kriva Palanka failed to realize that the prosecution proposal by PPO Kriva Palanka did not specify in what way and for what reasons the defendant gave false testimony. It was also disregarded that the defendant had filed a subsidiary indictment to the Primary Court Kumanovo for the crimes of "Rape" and "Abduction" ‒ the very same crimes for which, according to the allegations of PPO Kriva Palanka in this proceeding, is accused of giving a false statement as a witness. Since the victim continued the proceeding as a subsidiary complainant, the Basic Court Kriva Palanka should have suspended the proceeding and made a decision according to the proceeding before the Basic Court in Kumanovo.

The Helsinki Committee expresses concern about the actions taken by the Primary Courts in Kriva Palanka and Kumanovo because two totally conflicting judgments have been issued for the same case, which violates the principle of legal certainty.

RECOMMENDATION:

Victims of domestic violence should be protected the judicial system will provide efficient justice by upholding the principles of legality and legal certainty.

SMUGGLING AND HATE CRIMES AGAINST REFUGEES

Smuggling and hate crimes against refugees in Republic of Macedonia posed a serious problem in 2014 and the first half of 2015. The problem was a result of the state’s treatment of all refugees as "illegal immigrants" who were not allowed to use the public transport because they were forced to cross state territory on foot or by illegal transportation. This situation persisted until June 2015 when the amendment to the Law on Asylum and Temporary Protection enabled 72-hour legal residence for all refugees who intended to submit an application for asylum

The adoption of amendments to the Law on Asylum contributed to the protection of human rights of refugees, as well as to reducing the number of Macedonian citizens who had been detained and sentenced for smuggling and hate crimes in the past.

During the month of November 2015, a discriminatory selection for admission of refugees based on their country of origin was initiated by Slovenia. This practice caused a chain reaction on all border crossings of the Balkan route. Consequently, only refugees coming from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq are allowed to pass through the Republic of Macedonia, while refugees with documentation originating from other countries are banned from passing through. This situation causes the illegal crossing of state borders by all refugees who are not citizens of the aforementioned countries.

A great number of refugees who have entered the country illegally become victims of smuggling and hate crimes. During December, the media reported a number of incidents related to smuggling and hate crimes on weekly basis. The Helsinki Committee registered four (4) incidents as hate crimes.

All incidents were registered on the railroad and road Koridor X, on the way from Gevgelija to Valandovo. At least 8 (eight) refugees from Morocco were attacked and robbed. Out of the 4 (four) registered incidents, the police managed to track down the perpetrators in one case only. The robbers' attacks were similar, i.e. the victims were either offered fake transport or were intercepted, after which offenders startled, attacked, hurt and robbed the victims using cold weapons (sometimes firearms and electric bats) after threatening or deceiving them that they were policemen. More details on every attack as well as on all registered attacks can be found on the Helsinki Committee webpage for registered hate crimes on www.zlostorstvaodomraza.mk. 

RECOMMENDATION:

According to domestic and international law, the Republic of Macedonia is obliged to allow the entry of any foreigner who intends to seek asylum at the border or in the territory of the country. For this reason, we call on the authorities to stop the discriminatory policy of allowing only refugees from certain countries. This would solve the problems of violation of human rights of refugees through attacks and smuggling by Macedonian citizens, some of which end up in detention and prison for insignificant financial earnings.

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