Political disputes between the President and the Prime Minister, the government and ethnic Albanian parties, and amongst ethnic Albanian parties, hampered legislative reform. Albanian politicians accused the government of breaching the Ohrid Agreement, which concluded the 2001 internal conflict and aimed to guarantee the rights of the Albanian community.
No date was set for negotiations on accession to the European Union (EU) due to Macedonia’s slow progress in implementing reforms set out in a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU. The Council of Europe urged the authorities to speed up reforms on decentralization, the police, the independence of the judiciary and in combating organized crime and corruption.
Impunity for war crimes
The trial of former Minister of the Interior Ljube Boshkovski opened in April at the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (Tribunal). He was indicted in 2005 for violations of the laws and customs of war, including for his failure to investigate, prevent or punish his co-indicted, Johan Tarčulovski, an Escort Inspector in the President’s Security Unit, for the deaths of seven ethnic Albanians and the detention and cruel treatment of over 100 others in Ljuboten in August 2001.
There were delays in the adoption of a draft Law on Cooperation with the Tribunal, and disputes between the Ministry of Justice and Macedonia’s Public Prosecutor on jurisdiction over four cases due to be returned to Macedonia from the Tribunal by the end of the year. Albanian political parties argued for the application of the law adopted in March 2002, which provided an amnesty for all those involved in the 2001 armed conflict, except those accused of war crimes under the jurisdiction of the Tribunal.
No progress was made in resolving the enforced disappearance during the 2001 internal conflict of three ethnic Albanians, Sultan Memeti, Hajredin Halimi and Ruzdi Veliu.
Torture, other ill-treatment and possible extrajudicial execution
The NGO Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights (MHC) continued to report on cases of torture and ill-treatment, including during arrest and detention, in which the Ministry of Interior had failed to conduct investigations according to internal procedures, domestic law and international standards. The draft Law on Public Prosecutions failed to include specific time frames for the conduct of investigations.
- On 15 February, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the authorities had failed to investigate allegations that Pejrushan Jashar, a Roma from Shtip, had been beaten while in police custody in 1998, in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The court ordered Macedonia to pay €3,000 in damages.
Witnesses continued to be examined in a judicial investigation, opened in 2005, into the death in custody of ethnic Albanian Sabri Asani, who had been arrested in 2000 in connection with the killing of three police officers.
Armed opposition groups
The security situation deteriorated: armed opposition groups effectively controlled areas near the border with Kosovo. On 10 September ethnic Albanian police commander Fatmir Halili was killed and two police officers were wounded in Vaksince on the Kosovo border during the course of an attempted arrest; two ethnic Albanians, Skender Halili and Xheladin Hiseni, were killed.
Amnesty International expressed concerns in November at the possible excessive use of force by the Macedonian authorities in operation “Mountain Storm”, which aimed to capture members of armed opposition groups, including several men who in August had escaped from Dubrava prison in Kosovo, and who had been hiding in the area close to the border with Kosovo. One escapee, Xhavit Morina, former commander of the armed opposition group Albanian National Army (AKSh), had already been killed by persons unknown near Tetovo on 1 November.
During the operation in Brodec village six people were killed and 13 arrested. Witnesses reported to the MHC that the detained men were beaten, while handcuffed and lying on the ground; five of the men were hospitalized for several days after reportedly resisting arrest. An internal investigation by the Ministry of Interior concluded that “the use of firearms by police officers was appropriate, proportionate, justified and necessary”, and that the detainees had been injured while resisting arrest.
‘War on terror’
- In a closed hearing on 18 May, a parliamentary committee considered written statements by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and on behalf of Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent. They concluded that the security services had not overstepped their powers in detaining Khaled el-Masri for 23 days in 2003 in a Skopje hotel, before rendering him to the US authorities at Skopje airport, from where he was flown to Afghanistan, and subjected to torture. In June, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe concluded that the authorities’ account was “utterly untenable”.
Discrimination against minorities
In May, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) found Macedonia in breach of its obligations towards the Romani community, including with respect to citizenship, language and access to documentation required to access basic rights. The CERD also expressed concerns about the education of ethnic Albanian children, ethnic Turkish children and Romani children.
The Macedonian authorities failed to uphold the rights of Romani women and girls, who faced double discrimination on the basis of their ethnicity and their gender. Discrimination in education led to few girls completing primary education or attending secondary school; their consequent lack of qualifications and discrimination by employers led to the denial of access to work in the formal economy. Many Romani women were not eligible for health insurance or lacked the necessary documentation; others could not afford the fee for basic medicines. Romani women and girls faced discrimination when they attempted to report domestic violence to the authorities. No comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation was in force. Although in December the authorities reportedly began discussions on such a law, they refused to consider drafts proposed by NGOs.
Refugees from Kosovo
Some 1,860 refugees remained in Macedonia. The majority were predominantly Roma and Ashkalia refugees from Kosovo who had been granted temporary “asylum for humanitarian protection”, or those whose applications for asylum had been rejected. The state failed to guarantee refugees access to social and economic rights. Many feared forcible deportation, although in June the authorities agreed to suspend deportations pending the resolution of the status of Kosovo.
Violence against women and girls – child trafficking
Macedonia failed to ratify the Council of Europe’s Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. In February an agreement signed between the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy established protocols for the protection of trafficked children. The latter Ministry signed an agreement with an NGO providing shelter for an increasing number of internally trafficked people.
Amnesty International visit/reports
- Amnesty International delegates visited Macedonia in December.
- Europe and Central Asia: Summary of Amnesty International’s concerns in the region, Macedonia: July-December 2006 (EUR 01/001/2007); January-June 2007 (EUR 01/010/2007)
- “Little by little we women have learned our rights”: The Macedonian government’s failure to uphold the rights of Romani women and girls (EUR 65/004/2007)