July 27, 2016

The Constitutional Court in the Grip between Political Parties and Human Rights

In the past five years, and especially since 2013 onwards, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Macedonia has marked a decline in the number of received and closed cases, a decline in the number of repealed and annulled provisions from laws and bylaws, a decline in the number of employees, without this triggering a change in the among of funds in the annual budget. According to the annual reports of the Court, the number of cases received is on a constant decline compared to 2011 when 236 cases were received, while 128 cases were received in 2015 (-46%). The comparison based on cases closed in the course of those two years is 231/150 (-35%);, repealing/annulling decisions 32/11 (-66%); and citizens’ requests for protection of freedoms and rights 23/13 (-43%). These negative indicators point to an unusual passivity in the work of the Court, a decline in the citizens’ confidence, bias towards the policies of the legislative and executive authority and neglect on the part of the state when it comes to the development of the bastion of human rights and promotion of the professionalism of the constitutional judges and the professional service.

In 2015 and 2016, the Constitutional Court was frequently criticized by the professional and general public, and its work was also increasingly subject to media coverage. In circumstances when it is disputable whether the all of the members of the Constitutional Court are from the lines of “distinguished lawyers”, their political appointment, disregard for their own previous practice, closing the sessions to the public and disregard for the opinions of the Venice Commission raised reasonable doubts that the Court, instead of being a body protecting constitutionality and lawfulness, had turned into an institution subordinate to the legislative and executive authorities and political parties. This has seriously impaired the independence, impartiality, competence and legitimacy of the Constitutional Court. The problems in the functioning of the Court were also mentioned in the Progress Report on the Republic of Macedonia by the European Commission, which objects to the composition of the Court, its impartiality and the delays in the adoption of the decisions.

The Helsinki Committee is one of the rare organizations in the Republic of Macedonia which has a long-standing, continual experience in the monitoring of court proceedings and sessions. Furthermore, through its programme for free legal aid, the Committee has had the chance to review court records which are an integral part of the cases examined by the Constitutional Court. Consequently, the monitors from the Helsinki Committee were able to observe the proceedings during the Court session from both a scientific and legal aspect, as well as practical point of view. This analysis emerged as a result of the 30 observed sessions of the Constitutional Court in the period from 25 March 2015 until 18 May 2016.