Ten years after the 2001 armed conflict, prosecutions for war crimes cases, returned from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (the Tribunal) for prosecution, were annulled. The government curtailed freedom of the media.
Respect for human rights deteriorated throughout the year. An election was called in June following a parliamentary boycott by opposition parties, partially because of alleged government interference in the media. The VMRO-DPMNE (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization – Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity) was returned to power, in coalition with the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI). The DUI joined the coalition on several conditions, including an amnesty for war crimes cases.
The construction of nationalist monuments exacerbated inter-ethnic tensions. In February, ethnic Albanians, including DUI officials, attempted to stop the construction of a church-shaped museum inside Skopje Fortress; eight people were injured. In October, a population census was cancelled shortly after it started because of disagreement on the inclusion of ethnic Albanians who had lived outside Macedonia for over a year, in violation of EU rules on data gathering.
The European Commission in October again recommended that negotiations on EU accession should begin, but the EU Council of Ministers again deferred the commencement of talks, partially due to the continuing dispute with Greece over the name of the country.Top of page
In July, parliament adopted a new interpretation of the 2002 Amnesty Law, which had granted amnesty to those involved in the 2001 armed conflict except in cases taken under the jurisdiction of the Tribunal. This interpretation stated that four war crimes cases returned in 2008 from the Tribunal to Macedonia for prosecution could only be prosecuted by the Tribunal and not by domestic courts – in violation of Macedonia’s international obligations.
As a result, Skopje Criminal Court dismissed the “Mavrovo” road workers case at the request of the Public Prosecutor in September. In 2001 the road workers were allegedly abducted, ill-treated, sexually abused and threatened with death before release by the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA). The court granted the victims leave to claim compensation in civil proceedings.
The remaining cases were annulled by the end of October. The “NLA Leadership” case included charges against Ali Ahmeti, leader of the DUI, then leader of the NLA. Another case, “Neprosteno”, alleged the abduction of 12 ethnic Macedonians and one Bulgarian by the NLA.
Impunity continued for the enforced disappearance in 2001 of six ethnic Albanians by the Macedonian authorities.Top of page
In April, the Ombudsman’s Office started functioning as a National Preventive Mechanism under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, but lacked the authority and resources to fulfil its mandate.
Impunity for ill-treatment by the police continued. Prosecutors failed to effectively investigate allegations. Reports of ill-treatment by the “Alpha” police unit continued.Top of page
Proceedings had not been initiated in a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights by Khaled el-Masri against Macedonia, relating to Macedonia’s role in his abduction, unlawful detention and ill-treatment for 23 days in Skopje in 2003.
Khaled el-Masri had been subsequently transferred to the custody of US authorities and flown to Afghanistan, where he was allegedly subjected to torture and other ill-treatment. In civil proceedings in February, an expert witness provided evidence relating to alleged rendition flights transferring Khaled el-Masri from Skopje to Kabul. However, proceedings were adjourned in the absence of procedures allowing Khaled el-Masri to testify by video link from Germany.Top of page
The freedom of expression of journalists and independent media workers was increasingly limited by government interference, ranging from direct intimidation to control of advertising companies. By October, some 105 defamation cases had been brought against journalists, many by government officials. Jadranka Kostova, editor of Focus, was fined 1 million denar (€16,259) for alleged defamation.
In January, the authorities froze the bank accounts of the A1 television channel and associated newspapers, Vreme, Shpic and Koha e Re, which were critical of the government. This followed the arrest and detention for alleged fraud and tax evasion of A1 TV’s owner and 14 others in December 2010. The subsequent trial was highly politicized, and concerns were expressed about the length of defendants’ detention.
In July, A1 TV closed and print versions of the newspapers ceased. Hundreds of journalists protested against their closure and consequent sacking of journalists; a union leader was dismissed, reportedly for participating in the protests. Later that month, amendments to the Law on Broadcasting increased government control over the Broadcasting Council, which regulates electronic media.
In October, talks began between government officials and journalists, who demanded the decriminalization of defamation. In a television interview, the Prime Minister accused journalist Borjan Jovanovski of undermining the country’s accession to the EU.Top of page
The 2010 Anti-Discrimination Law came into force in January; the Commission for Protection against Discrimination began to receive complaints in April. NGOs questioned the Commission’s competence and independence, as elected members lacked human rights expertise and three were state employees. The Law lacked provisions for the protection of lesbians, gay men, bisexual and transgender people, although the Commission ordered the withdrawal of a psychology text book with homophobic content.
Implementation of the 2001 Ohrid Agreement, addressing discrimination against Albanians, continued. Decentralization of powers to municipalities progressed slowly and the Law on Languages was partially implemented. The segregation of ethnic Albanian and Roma children in education continued.
In July, Macedonia assumed the Presidency of the Decade of Roma Inclusion, but failed to commit adequate resources for the implementation of its own action plans or the National Strategy for the Advancement of Romani Women.
Many Roma remained without the personal documentation needed to access education, health, employment and social protection. The NGO National Roma Centrum assisted 1,519 Roma in applying to legalize their property under a law adopted in March. Informal Roma settlements lack running water, electricity, drainage and roads.
The European Roma Rights Centre reported in May that Romani children comprised 46 per cent of students attending special schools or primary-school classes for children with special needs.
Around 1,519 asylum-seekers, including 1,100 Kosovo Roma and Ashkali, remained in Macedonia. The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare failed to provide them with financial assistance and housing required under a 2010 local integration agreement. Some 193 Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians returned to Kosovo and 16 moved to Serbia. Another 185 were waiting to return while 726 opted to integrate locally.
Under pressure from the European Commission, the government strengthened border controls, introducing exit controls which limited the right to leave the country, often targeting Roma. The Interior Minister reported that 764 nationals had been denied the right to leave Macedonia in June alone.Top of page