Progress was slow in war crimes prosecutions. Anti-discrimination legislation failed to meet international standards. Freedom of the media declined.
The dispute with Greece over the name “Macedonia” continued to dominate international relations and domestic politics. In November the European Commission criticized Macedonia’s uneven progress towards EU accession, highlighting concerns about independence of the judiciary and media freedom, but recommended that accession talks should be opened, pending resolution of the country’s name.
Relations deteriorated between the Macedonian majority government and ethnic Albanian political parties, including within the governing coalition. Divisions arose over war crimes proceedings, the proposed 2011 census – which ethnic Albanians alleged would be discriminatory – and government expenditure on monuments to Macedonia’s history.Top of page
Reforms required by the European Commission partially addressed concerns about the independence of the judiciary, but in November the Commission remained concerned about executive interference and political control by the Ministry of Justice. According to the Ombudsperson, 20 per cent of complaints received in 2009 related to the judiciary.
In May the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (Tribunal) upheld the 2008 conviction of Johan Tarčulovski, who was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment for his involvement in war crimes committed by the Macedonian police in Ljuboten during the 2001 conflict. An appeal against the acquittal of former Macedonian Interior Minister Ljube Boškoski was dismissed.
Little progress was made in the four war crimes cases returned to Macedonia for prosecution from the Tribunal in February 2008. Proceedings in the “Mavrovo” road workers case, which opened in September 2008, were repeatedly adjourned including in February, when the accused were not provided with Albanian-language documentation. The prosecution commenced in April against 11 of the 23 accused, one of whom, Sulejman Rushiti, committed suicide in Izdrovo prison in May. The Macedonian road workers were allegedly abducted in August 2001 by the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army and ill-treated, sexually violated and threatened with death before being released.
According to the government the three other cases were under investigation, but no further progress was reported. Ethnic Albanian political parties argued for the cases to be dropped under the 2002 Amnesty Law, which granted amnesty to those involved in the 2001 armed conflict, except in cases taken under the jurisdiction of the Tribunal. As the cases were investigated but not prosecuted by the Tribunal, they argued that the Amnesty Law should apply.
Impunity continued for the enforced disappearance in 2001 of six ethnic Albanians and the abduction of 13 ethnic Macedonians and one Bulgarian.Top of page
In March the Macedonian Helsinki Committee reported that serious shortcomings in psychiatric hospitals often amounted to violations of patients’ rights. Living conditions were described by the Ombudsperson in September as “catastrophic”. In September the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture carried out a visit to places of detention, including social care homes and psychiatric hospitals.
Reports of ill-treatment by police continued.
Investigative journalists alleged government interference in their work, including through threats to their lives, intimidation and defamation cases brought by government officials.
In April the parliament adopted an Anti-Discrimination Law, which failed to meet EU standards, including by failing to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination.
In June the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) raised concerns that Roma and refugee children remained without registration and identity documents, and highlighted discrimination against minority children, especially Roma, including street children and disabled children. In March the Ombudsperson reported that Romani children were over-represented in schools for children with mental disabilities.
Macedonia’s failure to fund and implement National Action Plans for the Decade of Roma Inclusion, including a strategy to improve the status of Romani women, was criticized in June by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance.
The UN Development Fund for Women published research in January by Romani women documenting the disproportionate barriers they faced in reporting domestic violence. In February a second report revealed that 75 per cent of Romani women experienced discrimination by public officials when accessing services.
Some 320,000 people, including Roma, continued to live in informal settlements, many without potable water or sanitation.
Some 1,542 Roma and Ashkali refugees from Kosovo remained in Macedonia. Few were granted asylum; the majority were transferred to a local integration programme under the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare. Roma protested in March, April and October to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, that the Ministry had failed to pay their monthly allowances, so that they were unable to pay rent and utility bills; as a result some families had reportedly become homeless. UNHCR made disbursments to bridge the gap between payments.
Following liberalization of the EU visa regime, ethnic Albanians and Roma from northern Macedonia travelled to EU member states, apparently seeking asylum. More than 400 were summarily returned to Macedonia from Belgium in March. In October the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs reportedly threatened to withdraw the visa agreement.Top of page
Following the introduction of free legal aid in December 2009, women’s organizations sought to provide legal assistance to women in cases of domestic violence. The CRC noted a high rate of teenage births and abortions amongst Roma and other minority girls, and a lack of reproductive health care in rural areas.Top of page