First Anniversary of the 5th of May Protests 05 May 2016
On this day, exactly one year ago, the public became aware of the phone conversations related to the attempt to cover up Martin Neshkovski’s murder, in which were involved the former Minister of Interior GordanaJankulovska, the former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, the former MI spokesperson Ivo Kotevski, the former Director of the Security and Counter-Intelligence Directorate SashoMijalkov, and the PrimeMinister’s Chief of the Cabinet Martin Protugjer. Disgusted by the conversations’ content, the citizens gathered spontaneously on the same night, 05 May 2015, in front of the Government of RM building, with the aim to express their revolt. What started as a peaceful protest, after 9 pm evolved into a clash between citizens and police officers, which was initiated by the pushing off of the groups of citizens away from the Government premises, during which act disproportionate and excessive force was used, even in cases when it was absolutely unnecessary, i.e. against citizens who were sitting peacefully with their hands in the air. Force was also used during the act of apprehending some of the participants of the protests, while there were information that injuries were suffered by several persons who did not take part in the protests at all, but simply happened to be on the streets. During that night’s police intervention, the officers forcibly entered several objects, including the library “BrakjaMiladinovci”, with the explanation that some of the students present in the library were actually participants in the protests.
On the night of 05 May 2015, 42 persons were apprehended, out of whom 12 persons were issued detention measures, while 1 person was put under house arrest. The criminally prosecuted demonstrators were pronounces suspended sentences in duration of 3 months, which would not be enforced provided they do not commit the same offence within one year period.
Some of the persons arrested and taken into custody 24 hours after the protest, but also persons against whom excessive force was used, both participants and non-participants in the protest, approached the Helsinki Committee with requests for legal assistance.
Most of the persons who approached the Helsinki Committee to report Police violence were reluctant to initiate procedures against the Police on account of their overstepping authority and use of excessive physical force, due to their mistrust in the institutions. They believed that their rights were not going to be protected, and that the prospective procedures they might initiate would harm ether them or their families. Statements of this kind actually confirm the conclusion which the Helsinki Committee draws in its reports with regard to the citizens’ mistrust in the institutions, especially in the Judiciary, due to their close connections with certain political parties and inability to resist the influence of the Executive power.
The Public Prosecution has not initiated a single ex-officio procedure on account of the above overstepping of official authority by the Police.
As far as the event which took place in the “BrakaMiladinovci” library is concerned, the Liberal Democratic Party filed criminal charges to the Public Prosecution, while out of the persons against whom excessive force was used, only one filed charges, on account of Abuse when performing official duty. Despite the seriousness of the charges, the Public Prosecution has not yet informed the public about the outcome of the investigation, as well as whether court procedure against the suspected police officers is going to be initiated.
Now, one year later, the citizens are again expressing their revolt on the streets, as a result of the unlawfulness of the politics practiced by the Government, and again 13 persons were apprehended. 11 of them were issued misdemeanor sanctions, while 4 persons were put under house arrest.
There is no doubt that the summons for questioning in police stations and the decisions on house arrest and initiating criminal procedures are nothing but methods of intimidating the citizens who participate in the protests taking place during this period. These actions are in breach of Article 21 of the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia, which guarantees the citizens’ right to assemble and express public protest without prior notification or special permit. The exercise of this right may be restricted only in conditions of war or state of emergency, which is presently not the case. In comparison, the Committee had its observers at the violent protests against the Center Municipality, held in 2014. No court procedure was initiated against the participants in those protests, a fact that clearly demonstrates the selective approach of the law enforcement bodies and the Courts.