Corner Reports

Bimonthly Report (December 2008 - January 2009) 10 February 2009

I. PUBLIC EVENTS AND VIOLATION OF DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLES

1.1. Prohibition of abortion or a way to theocracy?

1.2. Allocation of funds from the budget of the Republic of Macedonia to citizens associations and foundations 

1.3. The Venice Commission confirmed the position of the Helsinki Committee on the anti-discrimination legislation in Macedonia        

1.4. If the dawn heralds the day...

1.5. Ignoring of legal obligations and duties by the Public Prosecutor’s Office and First Instance Court Skopje 1- Skopje

1.6. Visit to the public institution Inter-Municipal Centre for Social Affairs in Makedonski Brod and the foster families in the village of Manastirec

II. VIOLATION OF THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RIGHTS

2.1. The case of Gjorgji Biljanoski

2.2. The Payment Operations Law violates the social rights of the citizens 

2.2.1. The case of Milka Simonovska 

2.2.2. The case of Milos Naumovski

III. CASES INVOLVING THE POLICE AND THE COURTS 

3.1. Serious violations and misuse of detention  

3.1.1. The case of Goce Todorovski, Blagojce Aleksovski and Saso Velkovski

3.1.2. The case of Katerina Petro, Skopje

3.2. The case of Vanco Georgievski

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I. PUBLIC EVENTS AND VIOLATION OF DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLES

1.1. Prohibition of abortion or a way to theocracy?

Is Macedonia faced with a trend where instead of respect and development of human rights and democratisation it starts to enter a period of theocracy[1]? 

Namely, for the second time we see an anti-abortion campaign, almost parallel to the campaign of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia for a third child. Astonishing, but also insulting, is the fact that those who organize, implement and support this campaign, even though allegedly the organizer is still not known, seem to have forgotten that birth-rate is not a state or anyone else’s tool that could be changed over night, to be maintained or to be increased on the account of human rights, and especially the right to a choice and dignity for the woman. 

Immediately afterwards most of the NGOs expressed their disapproval, with the exception of the NGO "Revita", which persistently fights for prohibition of abortion using false data and failing to check the state statistical data that are available to all the citizens at the official web site of the competent institutions. 

Taking into consideration the Law on Pregnancy Termination, the Rulebook on the work of the physician, the first and second-instance commissions for approving pregnancy termination, the numerous national and international ratified conventions on human rights protection, especially the rights of the women, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights supports the reactions of the Coalition for the Promotion and Protection of the Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities, the special reaction by the Association for Health Education and Research, as well of all the others aimed against the abortion prohibition campaign.

Namely, the pregnancy termination is comprehensively regulated in our country with a special law where the very Article 1 from the Law on Pregnancy Termination expressively stipulates that: “Termination of pregnancy is a special medical intervention for which the woman decides freely. The right to pregnancy termination can be limited only due to health concerns concerning the pregnant woman.” All the reasons for limiting the pregnancy termination due to health concerns concerning the pregnant woman are strictly regulated in the articles that follow in the above mentioned law. On the other hand, the way and the conditions in which the physician and the first and second instance commissions need to work in these cases are more specifically and strictly regulated in the Rulebook adopted for this purpose which among other things regulates that: “The physician in a health care facility performs pregnancy termination after confirming that the woman is not more that 10 weeks pregnant from the day of conception and if s/he has no doubts that the termination could have negative consequences on the health of the woman".

With such an existing and precise regulation during which adoption the legislator took into consideration the health of the woman, her right to a free choice and dignity, all the campaigns for its amending aimed at complete prohibition of abortion have no grounds, even more since the ratified international documents that bind the Republic of Macedonia say the opposite.  One should only mention the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and freedoms, the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discriminations against Women, the European Social Charter, and the International Pact of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and especially the UN CONFERENCE Recommendations of the Expert Group Meeting on Population Growth and Demographic Structure stating:  “In recognizing the rights of couples and individuals to choose the number and spacing of their children, the Expert Group urges Governments and the international community to give high priority to increasing the quantity and quality of comprehensive reproductive health-care". It is important to mention also the UN CONFERENCE Recommendations of the Expert Group Meeting on Population and Woman where in the Recommendation No.8 it is stated that: “Women who wish to terminate their pregnancies should have ready access to reliable information, sympathetic counselling and safe abortion services”. 

The teenagers admit that they do not have anybody to openly talk to on issues related to sexual life and reproduction health, and the parents are in most of the cases not ready to accept that the children are sexually active, so they avoid those type of talks. Hence, it would be better for the state to dedicate more time to finding new alternative ways for reducing the unwanted pregnancies, especially by stimulating young married couples to plan their families, finding ways to increase the awareness among teenagers, offering educational programmes on sexual health and ways of contraception in stead of working on measures for forceful increase of the birth-rate by violating the fundamental rights of the woman.  

Another astonishing thing is the fact that only few months after the adoption of the Strategic Assessment of the Policy, Quality, and Access to Contraception and Abortion in the Republic of Macedonia, a document prepared by the Ministry of Health and the Republic’s Health Protection Institute, steps are made which are completely opposite to the principle goals and objective envisaged in the document. According to the official data from the State Statistical Office in 2006 the birth-rate in Macedonia was 11.1 per 1000 inhabitants and the mortality rate was 9.1 per 1000 inhabitants, which shows an annual population growth of 2.0 per 1000 inhabitants. They also show that in Macedonia in the past period the number of registered abortions is in constant decline, thus in 1991 the number of abortions was 665.1 per 1000 live-born babies compared to 2006 when this number was reduced to 272.9 per 1000 live-born babies.   Other encouraging data is the fact that Macedonia marks a significant fall in infant mortality rate, as well as fall in the maternal mortality rate.

Even if it is not so, the Government of the Republic of Macedonia should always respect the human rights, especially the right to a free choice, and in compliance with the Strategic Policy in cooperation with the Ministry of Health to continuously work on the plan for identifying the state of affairs, the problems and finding proper solutions by engaging all the relevant institutions in the country that would improve the sexual and reproductive health.  To achieve the principle objectives through coordination as the main reason for the adoption of the Strategic Policy and namely we would only like to remind them that those are: how to reduce the need for abortion, and not to prohibited it; how to improve the access and availability of contraception; how to improve the quality of the abortion services and to protect the right of the women to reproductive health, and not only to introduce measures that will only increase the illegal abortion services endangering the health of women. 

On the other hand, it is true that every child has a right to life, but the right to dignity and happy life, fulfilled with love and family warmth and not a life with a filling of rejection and being unwanted. Especially since the Republic of Macedonia has failed to create an adequate system for looking after the children with no parental care and children rejected by their families which number, one can predict, that will increase in a situation when the abortion is prohibited.

The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights urges the competent state bodies and institutions to make efforts for consistent implementation of the objectives envisaged in the recently adopted Strategic Policy and to redirect its activities mostly towards the promotion and improvement of the reproduction health among women, with a special emphasis on the adolescent population and the women in the rural areas, by health– educational activities and advices for protection from unwanted pregnancy and safe sexual behaviour. 

1.2. Allocation of funds from the Budget of the Republic of Macedonia to citizens associations and foundations 

On 25 December 2008 the Official Gazette of the Republic of Macedonia published information that the Government of the Republic of Macedonia had a meeting on 2 December 2008 at which they adopted a decision for allocating funds from the Budget of Macedonia to citizens associations and foundations.  The competition was published at the end of February 2008 with a deadline for submitting the applications by 7 March 2008. 

Even though the Government published a strategy for cooperation with the NGO sector as well as an Action Plan for 2007-2011; also in order to ensure transparency and to establish the fundamental organisational criteria for efficient monitoring of the financial support for the citizens associations and foundations there is a Code of Good Practice in the field of the financial support of the citizens associations and foundations; and one of the recommendations of the EU Report on the progress of Macedonia is enhancement of the cooperation with the NGO sector and increasing the transparency in allocating funds … just like before, the funds were again distributed to 83 organisations but not in a transparent manner and with no clear allocation criteria.  

One of the organisational criteria published in the open call stated: “To be involved in activities and projects of public interest”. It is questionable how many of the organisations that got funds have experience with projects of public interest, and how many with local development, especially since with the decentralisation the local associations got an opportunity to apply for funds from the local self-governments.  In this context, at least according to the titles of the projects, some of the projects definitely are in the domain of other ministries (Mathematical Olympics, cultural and sporting events, etc.)

According to the Code, in the open call there was no methodology on evaluating the draft projects so it seems that was the reason why the organisations that were refused did not get even an explanation what was the reason for being refused so that in the future they could improve the quality of their applications. 

The citizens of Macedonia have the right to know how their money is spent. So far the Government has not published either financial or narrative reports on the projects they spent money on in the previous years. This year, again the decision and the information on the web site state only the name of the organisation, the projects titles and the amount of allocated funds. As citizens of Macedonia we have a right to know if we have some kind of problem and if we want to get involved in some of the activities that the Government supports who we should contact. 

In this sense we asked for answers from the General Secretariat of the Government and we got a letter in which the Secretary General practically gives no answer to any of the essential questions. 

With no further analysis once again we will repeat the position of the Committee which is the same as last year:

The NGO exist to help the citizens in fulfilling their needs that the state cannot fulfil.  In the Republic of Macedonia unfortunately there is still no mechanism for the NGO sector to get support based on objective criteria that will ensure evaluation of the activities of the NGOs  without any political influence by those in power.  This is especially necessary in a time when the foreign supporters of the NGO sector are slowly but definitely withdrawing their support for the Macedonian citizens associations and foundations or have exit strategy for the coming years. The Government of the Republic of Macedonia which publishes a strategy for cooperation with the NGO sector in a parading manner, as well as the 2007-2011 Action Plan by establishing these mechanisms and in no other way can assist the NGOs to find their place and to achieve their objectives in our society. The Government should respect the documents it adopts as an example of the rule of law. 

1.3. The Venice Commission confirmed the position of the Helsinki Committee on the anti-discrimination legislation in Macedonia!

Even though the Helsinki Committee in the past five years has been pointing out the need of urgent adoption of a special ant-discrimination law which would be clear and unambiguous and in compliance with the international legislation and the needs of the citizens of Macedonia; even though the Helsinki Committee in 2005 drafted and submitted such a draft law to the Parliament; even though the Helsinki Committee kept alarming the Macedonia public about the need of normative shaping of this sphere as well as about the presence of legal gap and inability for the Macedonian citizens to be protected… the Macedonian authorities have remained deaf to this issue and have been looking for ways of postponing this process.

In a letter dated on 16 June 2008, Mr. Meskov in the capacity of a Minister of Labour and Social Policy asked for an expertise from the Venice Commission about the anti-discrimination draft law. Consequently representatives from the Venice Commission visited Macedonia on 24-26 November and carried out a fact-finding mission in the field of the anti-discrimination legislation. Furthermore, they had meetings with representatives from the Government, the civil sector and with some experts in this field. The remarks and information collected during this mission were incorporated in a report which was presented at the 77th Plenary Session of the Venice Commission (Venice, 12-13 December) at which an “opinion” on the anti-corruption draft law was adopted incorporating the conclusions about Macedonia.  In its “Opinion” the Venice Commission welcomes and encourages the intention of the Government to draft a general anti-discrimination law and it believes it is an important step in fighting discrimination and improving the legal protection against discrimination in Macedonia. However, it also believes that the draft law does not incorporate the international standards and the national needs for effective protection from discrimination. The Venice Commission recommends for the Macedonian Government to modify the current draft law before its adoption by the Parliament, and in doing so to take into consideration the remarks by the Venice Commission as well as to actively involve the civil sector in redefining the draft law. Furthermore, one of the many recommendations is for the draft law to be clearer and more precise. 

The Helsinki Committee sincerely hopes that the Macedonian citizens will get the Law they deserve and that the Macedonian government will make efforts to direct its activities for the adoption of the anti-discrimination law in compliance with the recommendations by the Venice Commission. 

1.4. If the dawn heralds the day…

At first sight three unrelated events from the period covered with this report of the Committee only strengthen the impression that maybe – when the media independence, the freedom of the NGOs to act, the reforms in the field of the criminal law and the MOI reforms are being finalised – the situation continues to deteriorate. The details from the events are sufficiently evident and clear that they do not need any additional explanation or comment. We mention them only to ease our conscience – we should worn where they might lead.

Messages from Brussels – Ambassador Erwan Fuere urged the Macedonian Government to stop stigmatising the media and marginalising the NGO sector in the country because both are necessary for a healthy democratic society. This request was uttered from the speaker’s platform at the European Parliament at the meeting of the Committee on Foreign Affairs at which they were supposed to vote for the Report on Macedonia. He said that the Government needs to make more efforts to involve the NGO sector. The Government should listen to criticisms, and not marginalise them, according to Fuere, in front of the EU MPs, presenting the crucial challenges for Macedonia in the coming year, mostly related to the next elections. According to him enormous efforts need to be made by judiciary in order to sanction the perpetrators from the June elections, before the next elections sending a message that this kind of behaviour is inacceptable.  He also pointed out as crucial the fulfilling of the OSCE recommendations concerning the elections, as well as the competences and the resources of the Broadcasting Council for monitoring the media objectivity.

Professor Kalajdziev removed from a seminar – At the end of January, as the newspaper Dnevnik reported “The Head of the Justice Department of the US Embassy in Skopje, Cynthia Lee forced Professor Gordan Kalajdziev from the Law Faculty to leave the training seminar for the Macedonian judges and prosecutors with a justification that with his presence he was imposing pressure on the representatives of the third pillar of power.  The US Embassy Security threw Kalajdziev out of the hotel where the seminar was held, last Thursday”. 

Dr. Kalajdziev apart from being a Professor at the Law Faculty at the state University in Skopje, he also heads the group at the Ministry of Justice working  on the amendments to the Law on Criminal Procedure, which was also the topic of the seminar and he is one of its authors, and as a representative of the Penal Law Association and of the Ministry he had a duty to monitor the project and the discussion on the law, while the associations of judges and the international organisations, such as OPDAT, had a duty to ensure that.

As far as we know this is the first case made public where it is evident that even the foreign facilitators of our reforms have their own interests, as well as efficient ways of fulfilling them. 

The Directorate for Security and Counterintelligence will control itself – The Media reported and the Interior Ministry did not deny it that amendments are being drafted for the Law on Internal Affairs according to which “the Directorate for Security and Counterintelligence will continue to function with no control as in the developed democratic states”. Truth of the matter is that the same sources also reported that it is possible this to be done by the competent parliamentary committee and the Ombudsman but with no possibility for any kind of investigation.

The Directorate for Security and Counterintelligence has already got broader competences for using the special investigative measures and significantly increased budget both last and this year. 

1.5. Ignoring of legal obligations and duties by the Public Prosecutor’s Office and First Instance Court Skopje 1- Skopje)

Even though the report from the last visit between 30 June -3 July by the Delegation of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) recommends – “that a fully independent investigation be carried out into the allegations of ill-treatment of persons detained in the course of Operation Mountain Storm”, there have not been any results.  

There is no doubt, and the entire Macedonian public was a witness, that the individuals Tafil Dauti, Flurim Ameti, Nevzat Ziberi and Hebib Ameti, all of them from the village of Brodec, were subjected to torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment by the members of the police responsible for the actions in the course of the police operation called “Mountain Storm”. However, Public Prosecutor’s Office (PPO) and an investigative judge from the First Instance Court Skopje 1 – Skopje have been ignoring the legal obligation stipulated in Article 142 Paragraph 1 and 3[2] from the Criminal Code.

The Helsinki Committee has written to the above mentioned institutions asking them what the reasons were for not initiating formal procedure, i.e. why criminal charges had not been brought for a crime of “torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment”.  There has not been any answer, yet!

After receiving written permission by the four defendants in the Brodec case the Helsinki Committee brought criminal charges before the Public Prosecutor's Office in Tetovo against unknown perpetrators, members of the police who participated in the police operation “Mountain Storm” in the village of Brodec and at the Police Station in Gazi Baba-Skopje for the crime of “torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment” based on Article 142 Paragraph 1 from the Criminal Code and a crime of “ill-treatment while performing official duties” based on Article 143 from the Criminal Code.

The Helsinki Committee still hopes that the competent bodies will realise the mistake they made and that they will support the criminal charges due to the evident validity of the evidences; that they will carry out an effective and real investigation and criminal procedure will be initiated against the perpetrators.  Otherwise this silence and failure to fulfil the legal obligations in the future could only increase the excessive use of force. 

1.4. Visit to the public institution Inter-Municipal Centre for Social Affairs in Makedonski Brod and the foster families in the village of Manastirec

Representatives of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights visited the Centre for Social Affairs in Makedonski Brod on 25 December 2008.   The expert service of the Centre employs only two people - a social worker and a psychologist, and the latter is also the Director. The technical staff consists of four people with full time employment: a treasurer, an accountant, a driver and an operator for entering data. According to the Systematisation Regulation currently the Centre lacks a pedagogue, a lawyer and a special education teacher.  Due to the evident problem with the lack of professional staff, and contrary to the Law on Social Protection[3], the Centre informed us that they had submitted to the Ministry a form with the employments they need, more than once, but so far they had not been realised.   At the Centre there is no proper space for meetings even though this is envisaged as one of its activities of the centre. There is no separate room to work with minors at risk, so the activities are organised at the Director’s office. Furthermore, we were informed about the problem with the vehicle donated by UNICEF, which they cannot use due to problems with its registration. 

Accommodation in foster families is one of the forms of extra-institutional protection of children and adults which is realised within the system of social protection.  The Centre monitors and coordinates the accommodation and care for the individuals in foster families. The foster family is obligated to act in compliance with the directions provided by the Centre for looking after the individual in their care and to timely inform the Centre about all the changes and needs of the accommodated individual.  The Centre could accommodate in one foster family at the most five persons, taking into consideration the accommodation conditions and the possibilities of the family. In Makedonski Brod and in the village of Manastirec there are 32 foster families out of which 20 families are currently active (7 in Makedonski Brod and 13 in the village of Manastirec). The children accommodated in these families are usually children with special needs, and most of them are with cerebral paralysis and Down syndrome.  The age of the children accommodated in these families is between 1 and 20 years of age. The children’s nationality is mixed, even though most of them are Macedonians there are also Roma and Albanians. All the children have a family physician in Makedonski Brod and if there is a need to consult a specialist they go to Prilep or Kicevo.   For emergencies they call for an ambulance from Makedonski Brod.  A construction of a policlinic is planned in the village of Manastirec, and at this moment a physician visits the village once a month.  In the village of Manastirec a Child Centre was formed where a social worker on a part-time contract is employed.  

From the conversation with the foster families we got information that the representatives from the home centres visit the children when necessary, but usually between one and three times annually.  They regularly contact the families by phone.  Only as an example we would like to point out that the mothers we talked to informed us that even though in the past they used to be very much engaged, the specialist team from Veles had not visited them for a year. One of the foster families did not even receive free school books for the child so they had to buy them.  The second family that has taken in a child through the Centre for Social Affairs in Kavadarci informed us that they asked them to come and visit them on several occasions, but they told them that they were too busy. Most of the complaints were addressed to the Centre for Social Affairs in Skopje, concerning the visits as well as the attitude and cooperation.  The mothers informed us that the visits from the Centre in Makedonski Brod are almost on daily bases.

Generally the visit to the foster families left us with a good impression, however the Helsinki Committee believes that there is a problem with the supervision and the control that need to be implemented by the home centres for social affairs. Even though neither the law nor the rulebook state how many times a child should be visited, still more frequent visits are in the best interest of the child.  Furthermore, the Centre for Social Affairs in Makedonski Brod urgently needs its expert team to be fully staffed, to get the space they need for their work and to get an operating motor vehicle. 

II. VIOLATIONS OF THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RIGHTS

2.1. The case of Gjorgji Biljanoski

The individual Gjorgji Biljanoski in 2006 addressed the Building Inspectorate at the Municipality of Ohrid reporting unlawfully constructed loft by his neighbour.  Based on his petition the building inspectorate at the Municipality of Ohrid responded that a Decision was adopted for demolition of the construction[4] as well as a conclusion on the upgrading[5] of the loft by the neighbour.   Furthermore, the party was informed that the documents were already forwarded to the Enforcement Department.

Ever since, in the course of the past two years Biljanovski has been in contact with the competent state and local institutions in Ohrid concerning the building of his neighbour which is located in the protected urban area of Star Del of the City of Ohrid which is under a special regime.  But, even after two years, the building for which there is a Demolition Decision forwarded to the Enforcement Department nothing has been done.

Concerning this case the Helsinki Committee contacted the Executor’s Department of the Municipal Building Inspectorate in Ohrid and they informed us that the investor initiated a legalisation procedure for this building even though the top of the roof of the disputed building is 35 cm higher than the approved height.

Taking into consideration the fact that the building is in an area under a special protection regime, the Helsinki Committee contacted the Institute for Cultural Heritage Protection asking for information whether they have issued a permit for the construction of the disputed building and the answer was negative. 

Still, regardless of this answer and the factual situation where the neighbour of the party built a construction higher than the approved one, in a protected area and without a permit from the Institute for Cultural Heritage Protection he is still undertaking a legalisation procedure?! After more than two years the disputed construction has not been demolished and the institutions are silent. 

The Helsinki Committee is amazed from the attitude of the institutions (the Municipal Building Inspectorate in Ohrid), their inertness in implementing the laws, especially when we have a protected area of special national interest, as well as protection and unlimited use of one’s property.   The Helsinki Committee urges the competent authorities to fulfil their legal obligations in order to insure rule of law. 

2.2. The Payment Operations Law violates the social rights of the citizens

In its monthly report for February 2008 the Helsinki Committee warned that there are dilemmas and ambiguities regarding the practical application of the Payment Operations Law. Article 22 from the Payment Operations Law envisages that if a certain person (legal or private) does not have enough money on his/her account in the given bank for which a court decision needs to be enacted for compelled payment of his/her duties on various grounds, his/her bank should inform all the other banks to freeze the bank accounts that that person opened in those banks.  In general this decision is legally grounded and justified. However, the problem that might emerge is whether that decision can apply for accounts where the debtor- a natural person appears as somebody’s guardian, legal representative, a proxy of the account holder for using his/her pension.   In brief this provision requires a more detailed regulation in the context of taking into consideration the social actions.  

The Helsinki Committee appealed to the competent institutions to clarify these and similar dilemmas by adopting separate guidelines for the operative implementation of the Payment Operations Law. Unfortunately nothing has been done so far and in the practice we already have some specific cases.

2.2.1. The case of Milka Simonovska

Milka Simonovska is a pensioner who on 29 May 2008 got an Enforcement Order establishing a prohibition for 1/3 of her pension.   Two months later or specifically on 22 June 2008 she got a second order for a payment of 93.240,00 MKD to be made from the same transaction account.  

Even though there is a legal obligation for limitation in executing payment orders from pensions up to one third of the pension according to the Law on Enforcement, Milka Simonovska was left without its regular income for her daily needs. 

2.2.2. The case of Milos Naumovski

The Appellate Court in Skopje adopted a decision rejecting the appeal by Milos Naumovski in the capacity of a debtor as ungrounded, in which Naumovski complained that his account had been blocked since 15 June 2008 and that was the account on which he received his pension.   However, the Appellate Court in Skopje in the elaboration of its decision stated – “Hence, the order shows that it refers to Komercijalna Banka AD-Skopje and it does not state that the funds will come from the pension that the debtor receives.   Namely, from the provided evidences submitted with the appeal one cannot establish that the reason for blocking the debtor’s transaction account at Prokredit Banka, where he receives his pension is the disputed enforcement agent’s order”. 

And nobody is interested whether Milos Naumovski was left without his regular income for his basic daily needs.

III. CASES INVOLVING THE POLICE AND THE COURTS 

3.1. Serious violations and misuse of detention  

The issue of apprehension and detaining a person is regulated with the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia, the Law on Criminal Procedure, the Law on the Police and the Rules of operation within the MOI. Specifically in Article 12 Paragraph 4[6] from the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia, Article 3 Paragraph 3 from the Law on Criminal Procedure, Article 204 Paragraph 6[7] from the Law on Criminal Procedure, Article 50 Paragraph 1[8] from the Law on the Police and Article 44 Paragraph 5[9] from the Rules of operation within the MOI.  

In December 2008 the Helsinki Committee registered two very particular cases when police officers failed in performing their police competences. 

3.1.1. The case of Goce Todorovski, Blagojce Aleksovski and Saso Velkovski

Ms. Tatjana Todorovska and Ms. Lidija Velovska, both from Bitola, informed us about the case/event that happened to there sons, Goce Todorovski and Saso Velkovski, as well as to Blagojce Aleksovski.  

We were informed that on 26 October 2008, sometime around midnight, at a gas station at the regional road Kratovo-Probistip, during a routine check the traffic police officers took into custody the individuals Goce Todorovski and Saso Velkovski, as well as to Blagojce Aleksovski and they were taken to the Probistip Police Station where they were kept in custody as suspects who committed a serious crime of robbery in Probistip. 

These three men were taken into custody and they were held at the Probistip police station. On the next day, on 27 October Saso Velovski was taken with a car to the Police Forensic Department in Skopje and brought back around 9 P.M. on the same day. According to the statements by the mothers of these men, after the legal period of 24 hours from the moment when they were taken into custody was over, they were taken to a police station in Kocani without being broughtbefore a Judge. At this police station they were also interrogated and kept for 24 hours after which the next destination was the Police Station in Stip. 

On 30 October 2008 they were finally taken before an investigative judge at the First Instance Court in Stip and they were given 30 days of pre-trial detention. After the detention measure was uttered the detainees were taken to the Prilep Prison to serve the pre-trial detention measure. 

3.1.2. Katerina Petro, Skopje

On 20 December 2008 in the early morning hours a special police unit entered the home of Mrs. Katerina Petro by breaking here front door.  According to the statement by Mrs. Petro the police officers that entered the home of Mrs. Petro had no search warrant for her house. After two hours of interrogation in the house and carrying out the search warrant she was taken into custody to the Gazi Baba Police Station. Mrs. Petro was held there from. 6.00 A.M. until 11.00 P.M. Afterwards she was taken to the Cair Police Station and held additional 10 hours.  

The police confiscated from Mrs. Petro two cell phones and a laptop computer for which she got some kind of receipt but they still have not been returned to her. 

The Helsinki Committee,  after registering and reviewing the two cases, realised that there are indications that the custody procedure has not been fully complied with by the competent enforcement agency, in this given case the Ministry of Interior, i.e. the police stations where the parties were taken to one after the other. 

In all the above mentioned laws, bylaws - the Rulebook and the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia it is clearly stated that the “person deprived of his/her liberty should be immediately, and within 24 hours from the moment when s/he was deprive from his/her liberty at the latest taken before a court, which should immediately with no delay decide whether the apprehension was legal” (Article 3 Paragraph 3 from the Law on Criminal Procedure) or “after the end of this period the authorised officer from the Ministry of Interior is obligated to release the person held in custody or to act in compliance with the legal provisions (Article 204 Paragraph 6 from the Law on Criminal Procedure).

In the first case the gentlemen were held three times for 24 hours which is absolutely unacceptable according to the legal regulations, and in the second case Mrs. Petro was held 19 hours at the Gazi Baba Police Station and additional 10 hours at the Cair Police Station. In order to find out what are the reasons for that the Helsinki Committee contacted the competent institutions[10] and in each individual case asked to be informed in details about the reasons for the illegal multiple detention. 

We asked from the Internal Control Sector to inform us whether they were familiar with the case (even though the parties had already contacted them), whether an internal control and investigation was carried out, and if so what was the outcome. The Helsinki Committee asked to be informed whether the Sector initiated a procedure against the police officers who obviously failed to comply with the legal provisions and the apprehended person/persons deprived of their liberty were held at the police stations for more that 24 hours and they were not taken before an investigative judge after the end of the first 24 hours, i.e. on 27 October 2008, in the first case with the three gentlemen, and Mrs. Petro on the next day before being transferred to the Cair Police Station or to be released as the legal provisions envisage. 

We asked the police stations to inform us about the reasons why the persons that were held in custody were not taken before an investigative judge within the envisaged period of time, but they were handed over to their colleagues in other police stations. The police stations that took on the detained persons and held them additional 24 hours i.e. additional 10 hours in the case of Mr. Petro, were asked to inform us about the reasons for accepting these detained persons knowing that they already had been in 24 hour custody. And finally we asked all the competent institutions to inform us whether procedures were initiated against the police officers that ignored the legal provisions. 

In reference to our letters concerning the first case we got answers from the Probistip and Kocani Police Stations informing us that the case was investigated by the Internal Control Sector and they told us to contact it for additional information, something we had done at the very beginning.

In regard to the second case we received an elaborate response[11] from the Ministry of Interior pointing out the efforts of the Government in fighting crime, the transparency of the Ministry and its accountability. Furthermore, the Ministry in its letter unnecessarily offends the Director of the TV station TV AlsatM talking about the experience and the activism of the Director in the fields of journalism and the NGO sector.

The Helsinki Committee  expects that the Internal Control Sector and the Ministry of Interior will restrain from presenting their personal and political achievements and instead will respond to the specific questions, what are the reasons for holding the three men and the lady in custody for more than 24 hours, transferring them from one to another police station. 

The Helsinki Committee demands and expects that after the investigation the Sector will impose sanctions against the police officers who failed to comply with the law and we hope that these sanctions will not come down to monetary fines through disciplinary procedure, but they will also be criminally charged for a crime of “unlawful deprivation of liberty” according to Article 140 Paragraph 4vv and paragraph 1[12] from the Criminal Code.

3.1. The case of Vanco Georgievski

The individual Vanco Georgievski from Kocani has a court decision[13] from the Kocani First Instance Court obligating the accused Promet i uslugi “Tutun” AD Skopje to pay him, on the grounds of unpaid salaries for the period between 1 November 1997 until 28 February 2007, an amount of 637,926.00 MKD as well as the pension and disability insurance contributions for the same period. This court decision was final and enforceable on 10 July 2007.

Furthermore, with the court decision[14] which became final on 24 April 2006 the Appellate Court in Stip imposed an obligation for the defendant to cover the expenditures of the plaintiff Vanco Georgievski for the court procedure in the amount of 173,420.00 

Since both court decisions are final the plaintiff in compliance with the regulations submitted an Enforcement Request[15] to the enforcement agent appointed for the area that the Kocani First Instance Court covers.  However, even though the enforcement agent is legally bound[16] and has the means to act upon the Enforcement Request and after the duly paid administration tax by the party, he has not received his money, yet, two years later.

Since the account of the debtor was blocked according to the report of the enforcement agent, he asked for information from the Interior Ministry – Skopje Directorate for Internal Affairs if the debtor had the motor vehicles registered to his name.  Even though the MOI informed him that there are eight motor vehicles registered to the name the debtor, the enforcement agent made inventory and evaluation of the movable items that were with a third person. When the registration cards were checked the enforcement agent came to a conclusion that two of the vehicles were owned by a third party, while about the remaining vehicles listed by the MOI, the manager of the company stated that they were not in the motor pool of the company and that he had no knowledge where they were. With this the enforcement agent finalised the procedure on this case which had gone through a long court procedure to get to an effective court decision, accompanied by court expenditures, lawyers expenditures, expenditures for the enforcement tax for the enforcement agent but there was no enforcement!

In this case the competent enforcement agent not only failed to act upon the request for the worker-plaintiff to go back to work, but he did not even try to collect information about the property owned by the debtor, its movable property and especially the real estate even though the company-debtor is still active, which is HIS legal obligation[17] [18]. The absurd is even greater since the above mentioned enforcement agent made the inventory and the evaluation of the movable property only based on the statement by a third party that he did not know where the other vehicles were, failing based on the official information by the MOI to find and confiscate the debtor’s vehicles.

Unfortunately this is not a unique example in the legal labyrinth of the state which imposes the question whether the citizens of the Republic of Macedonia enjoy legal safety that would convince them that even after long wandering around the courts they will still be able to have their claims satisfied?!   Or maybe all the legal reforms are made on behalf of the citizens and justice but only on paper?!

The Helsinki Committee with this case would like to remind everybody that the Law on Enforcement gives the enforcement agents huge authorities in order to achieve greater efficiency in the process of enforcement and not to provide them with greater personal disposition. Hence, we urge the Ministry of Justice to be more efficient and to actively monitor the work of the enforcement agents, so that the clients would not be left alone and to the will of the enforcement agents. 

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[1] Theocracy is a form of a state order where God rules though the priesthood or through some secular ruler as its representative. In general, the faith i.e. religion plays the main role in the process of decision-making and in governing with a theocratic society.

[2] Article 142 Paragraph 3 – Law on Criminal Procedure

Everybody is obligated to report a crime which is prosecuted ex officio.

[3] Law on Social Protection (revised text)

Article 77

The Centre for Social Affairs (hereinafter The Centre) is established as a public institution for social protection with public competences for performing activities in the field of social protection.

The Centre could be founded if general condition for establishing a public institution for social protection are fulfilled in compliance with Article 55 from this law and it should at least employ the following educational profiles: a social worker, a psychologist, an educator, or a special prevention and re-socialisation pedagogue and a lawyer.

The individuals with education background as presented in Paragraph 2 of this Article should have at least a University degree.

The Centre could be founded for the area of one or more municipalities.

[4] A Decision for demolition of a construction with the Adm. No. 25-1734/6 from 1 February 2006

[5] A conclusion for enforcement with the Adm. No. 25-1734 from 2 February 2006

[6] Article 12 Paragraph 4 – Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia and Article 3 Paragraph 3 from the Law on Criminal Procedure 

Persons detained shall be brought before a court as soon as possible, within a maximum period of 24 hours from the moment of detention, and the legality of their detention shall there be decided upon without delay.

[7] The detention cannot be longer than 24 hours, calculated from the moment when the person was taken into custody. After this period the officer from the Ministry of Interior is obligated to release the detained person or to act in compliance with the legal provisions.

[8] The police officer could take into custody a person for whom there are grounds for suspicion that s/he committed a crime which is prosecuted ex officio, according to the conditions and in a way established with a special law and the detention could be 24 hours at the most.

[9] The detention could be 24 hours at the most after which the authorised officer should release the detained person or to take him/her before the competent investigative judge.

[10] In the case of the three men from the first case, the Helsinki Committee contacted the Internal Control Sector at the MOI – Skopje, the Probistip, Kocani and Stip police stations, and for the case of Mrs. Petro the Helsinki Committee contacted the Internal Control Sector and the Gazi Baba and Cair police stations.

[11] The letter was also forwarded to the Broadcasting Council, H.E. Erwan Fuere – the special EU envoy to the Republic of Macedonia and H.E. Philip Reeker, the US Ambassador to the Republic of Macedonia.

[12] Unlawful depravation of liberty – Article 140 – Criminal Code

(4) If the unlawful depravation of liberty is done by an official misusing the office or competences, s/he shall be sanctioned with a sentence imprisonment in the duration between three months and five years. 

(1) A person who unlawfully takes into custody, keeps detained, or in some other way takes away or limits the freedom of movement of another, shall be punished with a monetary fine, or with a sentence imprisonment of up to one year 

[13] P.br. 241/2006

[14] GZ br.2959/05

[15] Article 27, Law of Enforcement, Official Gazette of the Republic of Macedonia No. 35/05, from 18 May 2005 

Submitting an enforcement request

(1) The enforcement request of the enforcement document is submitted by the creditor to the enforcement agent. 

(2) The enforcement agent is obligated to act upon the enforcement request.

(3) By handing over the enforcement document which needs to be executed, the enforcement agent is authorised to choose the means of enforcement and the items of the debtor for complete execution of the enforcement document.

[16] Article 27, Law of Enforcement, Official Gazette of the Republic of Macedonia No. 35/05, from 18 May 2005 

Submitting an enforcement request

(1) The enforcement request of the enforcement document is submitted by the creditor to the enforcement agent. 

(2) The enforcement agent is obligated to act upon an enforcement request.

(3) By handing over the enforcement document which needs to be executed, the enforcement agent is authorised to choose the means of enforcement and the items of the debtor for complete execution of the enforcement document.

[17] Article 40, Law of Enforcement, Official Gazette of the Republic of Macedonia No. 35/05, from 18 May 2005 

“(1) The enforcement agent undertakes the following actions:

…- collects data about the property of the debtor for the purpose of enforcement;…

 - does inventory, evaluation, seizure and sale of the movable property, rights and real estate, receives money from the debtor, transfers of ownership …; 

- carries out moving out and other enforcement actions necessary for carrying out the enforcement as regulated by law and bylaws;…

- carries out other actions envisaged by law…”

[18] Article 24, Law of Enforcement, Official Gazette of the Republic of Macedonia No. 35/05, from 18 May 2005 

Subject of the enforcement

“A subject of enforcement in order to provide payment of the monetary claim could be any item or property right of the debtor, which are not exempted from the enforcement by law, i.e. if the enforcement on them is not limited by law.”


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