February 16, 2018

Urgent investigation and responsibility for the case of sexual abuse of a child in the “25 May” foster-care facility!

Upon receiving information about a case of sexual abuse of a juvenile protégé of the Public Institution for care of children with educational and social problems “May 25”, with indications of involvement of employees in the institution, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia turned to the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy requesting information within regards to this case in order to establish responsibility. According to the report of the European Roma Rights Center, the protégé, together with the other children from the home, was taken to a “children’s summer camp” where an unknown perpetrator sexually abused the protégé. After she got back to the facility, the girl reported the abuse to the caregivers in the home, but the charges were dismissed as irrelevant and the girl was accused of lying. Later, she was transferred to the “Ranka Milanovic” childcare facility, where she found out that she had got pregnant as a result of the abuse.

Bearing in mind the gravity of the case and the fact that a thirteen year old child is in question, who was taken care of in an institution the main task of which is to offer institutional protection and which operates under a Ministry the competence and duty of which is to supervise the institution’s work by means of authorized inspectors and through the Institute for Social Activities, a few questions arise. According to the Law on Social Protection, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy supervises the implementation of the provisions of the law and carries out inspection and supervision over the implementation and application of the laws and other regulations in the area of social protection in the social protection institutions, as well as the other legal and natural persons that undertake certain activities within the scope of social protection as a professional activity. In accordance with the same law, the Office for Social Activities supervises the professional work of the institutions for social protection and the employees working there. The Office is particularly focused on monitoring, among other vulnerable groups, the children without parents and parental care and children with educational and social problems and juvenile delinquents. In this specific case, there had been reports of abuse by a protégé in a social protection institution that the institution had not acted upon.

For that purpose, the Helsinki Committee urged the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy in writing, if they had not already done so, to urgently conduct a procedure to carry out inspection of the “May 25” Institution with regards to this specific case and determine the reasons why, despite the report of sexual abuse of the protégé, the employees in the institution did not take any action. At the same time, we demand from the Ministry to investigate why the reports of the protégé were not taken into consideration by the employees of the institution and whether they had investigated the allegations at all, and under what circumstances it was concluded that the allegations were false? Furthermore, we demand from the Ministry to investigate why the Ministry of Interior was not informed about the case, in order to investigate the truthfulness of the defendant’s allegations and possibly initiate a procedure to prosecute the perpetrators, the mediators and those who knew, but did not undertake any measures, thus concealing the crime.

We would like to mention that the case in question constitutes the criminal act of “Trafficking in juveniles” in accordance with Article 418-d of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Macedonia, the text of which reads: “Any person who recruits, transports, transfers, buys, sells, harbours or accepts a juvenile for the purpose of exploitation by prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation, pornography, forced labour or servitude, slavery, forced marriage, forced fertilization, illegal adoption or similar relationship, or illegal transplantation of human organs, shall be sentenced to imprisonment of at least eight years”, while in accordance to paragraph 2 of the same Article “Any person who commits the crime as referred to in paragraph (1) by using force, serious threats, delusion, or other form of coercion, abduction, deception, or abuses his or hers position or conditions of pregnancy, disability or physical or mental incapability of another person, or by giving or taking money or other benefits in order to get consent from a person who has control over another person, shall be sentenced to imprisonment of at least ten years”.

It is truly alarming that apart from the case in question, there are indications of another two similar cases involving juvenile girls who are also protégés of the “25 May” Institution. The serious nature of these cases requires urgent investigation and action to be taken on the part of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy in order to immediately protect the children who not only are at social risk as children without parents or parental care, but are at even higher risk and serious threat of violation of their rights, without any protection on the part of the state. We demand from the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy to conduct supervision of the “25 May” Institution and to come forward with information about the specific case and the measures that will be taken. We demand responsibility and urgent protection for the children in foster care!