Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 April 2014, 13:06 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Macedonia

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1995
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Macedonia, 30 January 1995, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa43c.html [accessed 16 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA

 

 

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), which became independent following the breakup of Yugoslavia, is a parliamentary democracy. President Kiro Gligorov, elected by Parliament in 1990, was directly reelected in October. In multiparty parliamentary elections, which international monitors judged generally free and fair despite numerous procedural irregularities, the Social Democratic Alliance of Macedonia, the former Communist party, emerged with a clear majority.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs oversees the security apparatus, including uniformed police, border police, and the state intelligence service. A civilian minister directs the Ministry, and a parliamentary commission oversees operations.

Historically, FYROM was the poorest of the Yugoslav republics, and its economy was closely tied to the other republics, especially Serbia. Conflict in the region and international sanctions imposed on Serbia-Montenegro have led to severe economic difficulties. In February Greece imposed a trade embargo on FYROM in a dispute over the country's name, flag, and constitution, which contributed to a sharp drop in gross domestic product. Official unemployment is about a third of the work force. Major exports are manufactured goods and machinery and transport equipment.

The human rights situation in the FYROM is impaired by delay in the enactment of legislation to provide mechanisms for implementing the rule of law and protection of human rights provided for in the Constitution. Police occasionally abuse detainees and reportedly harass the political opposition. They also do not abide strictly by constitutional provisions regarding arraignment of the accused, the maximum period of pretrial detention, and the accused's right to counsel at the time of arrest. Minorities, including ethnic Albanians, Turks, and Serbs, have raised various allegations of human rights violations and discrimination. Ethnic Macedonians occupy preeminent positions in state institutions, including state-owned companies. Ethnic Albanians continue to demand increased Albanian-language education, greater representation in public sector jobs, and improved access to the media. The Government has agreed in principle to many of these demands but has done little, citing resource constraints as the reason.

Ethnic Albanians dispute unofficial 1994 census figures that credit them with 22.9 percent of the population, and claim to constitute up to 40 percent of the population. Nevertheless, the 1994 census, carried out with the assistance of the Council of Europe, was generally pronounced to have been satisfactory by European experts who monitored it.

Underlying ethnic tension did not produce any major clashes during 1994. Tensions flared temporarily when a fight between groups of Macedonians and ethnic Albanians resulted in the death of a Macedonian youth. It appeared, however, that the fight was not ethnically motivated but rather a clash between two gangs known to the police.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings.

b. Disappearance

There were no reported disappearances.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution prohibits such treatment and punishment. However, police occasionally used excessive force against criminal suspects following their arrest. In April Jove Bojkovski was reportedly fired at and severely wounded while in police custody. He also alleges that he was severely mistreated during his 4 days of detention. Police state that he was in custody during the alleged period but that the gunshot wound was self-inflicted.

Of 10 ethnic Albanians charged with conspiracy in the so-called Albanian Paramilitary affair, 9 alleged mistreatment by the police over a period of 3 days. Their complaints were consistent and credible (see Section 1.e.). The Government rejected the allegations and took no action against the police in this case.

Government sources stated that allegations of excessive force during the first 9 months of 1994 resulted in the conviction of four policemen on criminal charges and the punishment of two by administrative means.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

There were no confirmed reports of arbitrary arrest or detention, although opposition political parties have alleged police harassment of their members. There is no systematic use of detention as a form of nonjudicial punishment. Incommunicado detention is not practiced.

The Constitution states that a person must be arraigned in court within 24 hours of arrest, but police do not always meet this deadline for filing charges. The Constitution also sets the maximum duration of detention pending trial at 90 days. However, prisoners in the Albanian Paramilitary case, accused of fomenting an armed uprising against the Government, were held for almost 7 months before their trial began in May.

The accused must be informed of his or her legal rights and the reasons for arrest or detention. The accused is entitled to contact a lawyer at the time of arrest and to have a lawyer present during police and court proceedings. The police ignored this provision in their initial interrogations of those accused in the Albanian Paramilitary case. The prisoners claimed they were held incommunicado and mistreated for 3 days before being formally charged and sent to a pretrial detention facility. According to human rights observers and criminal defense attorneys, police often violate the 24-hour requirement and deny immediate access to an attorney. Although the law requires judicial warrants for arrests, police sometimes ignore this provision, and judges issue the warrant only some time after the arrest has taken place.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Constitutionally, the courts are autonomous and independent. Municipal and district courts and the Supreme Court form a three-tier court system. A Constitutional Court deals with matters of constitutional interpretation. Political considerations do not appear to influence most trials, but there was one major exception during the year.

The Albanian Paramilitary case, which was tried in Skopje in May and June, was at least in part politically motivated. The prosecution presented substantial evidence that most, if not all, of the 10 defendants had committed firearms and hard currency trading offenses. However, there was some indication that the arrests and prosecution of a Deputy Minister of Defense and a former secretary general of the National Democratic Party (PDP), a party representing ethnic Albanians, may have taken place as a result of political intrigue involving the Government and the PDP, apparently maneuvering over jobs.

The prisoners were held for almost 7 months before the trial. During the trial, defense attorneys were not permitted to call several witnesses for the defense or to have independent experts examine the evidence. The court allowed confessions alleged by the defendants to have been coerced to be admitted into evidence. The defendants claimed that they were acting purely in self-defense against the Yugoslav army, and that they had ceased their activities when FYROM's own army was formed over 2 years ago. The defendants were convicted on all counts and sentenced to terms ranging from 5 to 8 years. The case is now on appeal. There is a widespread credible perception that bribery is not uncommon in the courts in FYROM.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The Constitution provides for the right to privacy of person, home, and correspondence. Although no instances of abuses were substantiated, officials of the rightwing opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO) charged that the state security service tapped their telephones

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and public information, as well as freedom to establish private media outlets, and forbids censorship. The Government generally respected these freedoms.

There are daily newspapers in Skopje, the capital, and in other cities, as well as numerous political and other publications. An Albanian and a Turkish newspaper, which the Government subsidizes, have nationwide distribution. The bulk of newspapers and magazines published in the country are government owned and government oriented.

Opposition parties made alleged government control and manipulation of the media a major theme of their October election campaigns. The state-owned media reported such charges and in general did a creditable job of covering the rallies, statements, and press conferences of all the major parties running in the elections. The overall balance of coverage, however, was in favor of the Government.

The Government owns the only modern, high-speed printing plant in the country, as well as most newspaper kiosks. Opposition groups complain that the company charges high prices for the services of the printing plant.

Newspapers may be imported from Bulgaria, Serbia, Albania, and Greece only with the permission of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Ethnic Albanians complain that there are not enough Albanian- language media outlets. The Government provided funds to make the state-owned Albanian-language newspaper, Flaka, a daily rather than a thrice weekly publication. The Government has also agreed in principle to increase the minimum amount of broadcast time in the Albanian language on state television (5 hours weekly).

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for these rights, and the Government respects them. Organizers of large assemblies must notify police in advance, but permits are usually granted. Dozens of opposition rallies occurred during the election campaign with no major incidents, as did a large antigovernment demonstration to protest alleged election fraud in October. The opposition held mock protest balloting to mark their boycott of the second round of elections October 30; these rallies were also peaceful.

The Political Party Registration Law requires political parties and nongovernmental organizations to register with the Internal Affairs Ministry. About 70 political parties are registered, including ethnically based parties of Albanians, Turks, Serbs, and Roma. After a split in the largest Albanian party in February, the Ministry denied registration to the "radical" faction of the party under the party's original name, ruling that the name belonged to the original faction of the party. Candidates of the "radical" faction ran as independents in the October elections. Later in the year, many political parties experienced technical difficulties in reregistering, but there was no indication that this was politically motivated.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Government does not generally interfere with the practice of religion. However, the refusal of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Serbia-Montenegro to recognize the independence of the Macedonian Orthodox Church has led to difficulties for Serbs in FYROM to worship in their own church. On a number of occasions, the Government has refused Serbian Orthodox priests permission to enter the country, and one priest was arrested for "fomenting ethnic hatred" and forbidden to practice as a priest for 1 year.

While only the Macedonian Orthodox Church is mentioned by name in the Constitution referring to the freedom of religion, it does not enjoy a special status. However, members of other religious communities credibly charge that the Government actions on its behalf reflect its favored position in the country.

All churches and religious communities may establish religious schools and social and philanthropic organizations, but no religious schooling is provided for in the law.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Citizens are permitted free movement within the country as well as the right to leave and return. The Government may restrict these rights for security, public health, and safety reasons but fully respects them in practice. The law on citizenship is highly restrictive. It requires 15 years of residence, thus denying citizenship to some citizens of the former Yugoslavia who lived legally in FYROM at the time of independence. Ethnic Albanians are especially affected by this law. When the last old Yugoslav passports expired in 1994, those without citizenship were left without travel documents.

Ethnic Albanian political leaders also charge that Ministry of Internal Affairs officials responsible for making decisions about citizenship discriminate against ethnic Albanian applicants. These officials appear to be more exacting in their documentary requirements, fail to act on applications expeditiously, and reportedly demand bribes in return for a favorable decision.

While FYROM accepted a number of refugees from Croatia and Bosnia at the start of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, it restricted entry of additional refugees in 1992 and now accepts only citizens and other former residents of FYROM for repatriation. The Government is concerned about the possibility of a flood of refugees from neighboring Kosovo in the event of violence there, a possibility that many fear would upset the ethnic balance in FYROM and be a disastrous blow to its economy.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Citizens directly elected a President for the first time in October, and at the same time chose a new Parliament in the second multiparty elections in the country's postwar history, the first since independence. Opposition groups charged the Government with massive fraud and announced a boycott of the second round. International monitors, under the auspices of the Council of Europe and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), judged the elections generally free and fair despite widespread irregularities attributed to careless organization.

Ethnic minorities, including Albanians, Turks, Serbs, and Roma, have political parties to represent their interests. Minorities complained that the political structures were biased against them: Albanians credibly claimed that Albanian- majority districts had far more voters than Macedonian ones, thus violating the "one-person, one-vote" principle. The ethnic Turkish and Serbian communities were disappointed because the previous Parliament had failed to pass a new election law providing for 20 seats to be elected by proportional representation, thus depriving their dispersed members from electing a candidate on an ethnic basis. Ethnic Albanians complained that discrimination against them in citizenship decisions effectively disfranchised a large portion of their community (see Section 2.d.).

The unicameral Parliament of 120 members, elected for a 4-year term, governs the country. The Prime Minister is selected by the party or coalition that can produce a majority in Parliament and is formally appointed by the President, who is Head of State and commander in chief of the armed forces. Government ministers may not be members of Parliament (M.

P.'s). Following an opposition boycott, the three-party ruling coalition, the Alliance for Macedonia, took 95 of the 120 parliamentary seats. The Alliance formed a Government that also includes ministers from the ethnic Albanian PDP.

There are no formal restrictions on the participation of women in politics and government. There are 2 female ministers (out of 19) and 4 female M.

P.'s (out of 120).

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Human rights groups and ethnic community representatives meet freely with foreign representatives without government interference. Human rights groups that exist in the FYROM are conspicuous by the low level of their activity. There is no indication that this is the result of government hindrance of the groups. The Forum for Human Rights, a nongovernmental human rights group, operates freely. The Government does not oppose visits or investigations by international human rights groups. The mediator on ethnic issues of the International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia has visited the country frequently to discuss various issues with representatives of minority groups and with the Government.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution guarantees equal rights to all citizens regardless of sex, race, color of skin, national and social origin, political and religious beliefs, property, and social status.

Women

Women have the same legal rights as men. Although Macedonian society, in both the Muslim and Christian communities, remains traditionally patriarchal and advancement of women into nontraditional roles is limited, some professional women have achieved prominence. Women's advocacy groups include the Union of Macedonian Women and the League of Albanian Women in Macedonia.

A crisis hot line for women was established in Skopje during 1994.

Children

Limited resources constrain FYROM's strong commitment to the rights and welfare of its children. There is no pattern of societal abuse against children.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

A variety of national/ethnic groups, mainly Macedonians, Albanians, Turks, Roma, Serbs, and Vlachs comprise FYROM's population of 2.2 million. All citizens are equal under the law. The Constitution provides for the protection of the ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious identity of minorities, including state support for education in minority languages. The 13-member Council on Ethnic Relations, representing the country's main ethnic groups, has not played an active role.

Ethnic tensions and prejudices are evident. The Government is committed to a policy of peaceful integration of all ethnic groups into society but faces political resistance and the persistence of popular prejudices in the lower levels of administration. Moreover, the Government has had difficulty providing the additional services sought by minorities, such as more education in minority languages.

Representatives of the ethnic Albanian community, by far the largest minority group with about 23 percent of the population, are the most vocal in charging discrimination. Expressing concern about government manipulation of the data, the ethnic Albanian community boycotted a 1990 census. Threats of a boycott also marred to some extent a census held during the summer of 1994 to correct the situation. Experts from the Council of Europe, however, were generally satisfied that the Government carried out the census fairly and accurately and that almost all of the ethnic Albanian community took part. Final results show ethnic Albanians with 22.9 percent of the population, Turks with 4 percent, Roma 2.3 percent, and Serbs 2 percent. About 8,500 citizens declared themselves as Vlachs.

Underrepresentation of ethnic Albanians in the military and police is also a problem. Even in areas settled mostly by ethnic Albanians, only 4 percent of police personnel are ethnic Albanians. The Ministry of Internal Affairs maintains that it is making efforts to recruit qualified ethnic Albanian police cadets, but ethnic Albanian leaders allege continued discrimination against those who apply. Military service is a universal male obligation, and most young men, whatever their ethnic origin, serve. The proportion of ethnic Albanians in the ranks is now estimated at 25 percent, although in the officer corps it is lower.

Albanian-language education is a crucial issue for the ethnic Albanian community in order to preserve Albanian heritage and culture. Almost all ethnic Albanian children receive 8 years of education in Albanian-language schools. Only a third of them go on to high school, partly because of the lack of available classes and partly because in rural areas many ethnic Albanians see no need to educate their children, especially girls, beyond the eighth grade. The right to instruction in a minority language in primary and secondary school is permitted by the Constitution, but, by law, university-level education must be in the Macedonian language. In December police partially demolished a small structure that was to house an Albanian-language university being established by ethnic Albanians in Tetovo.

Ethnic Turks complain of governmental, societal, and cultural discrimination, specifically their dispute over the Education Ministry's refusal to support Turkish-language education for children who do not speak Turkish. Parents have banded together to hire teachers of their own, although the law does not authorize such practice.

Serbs also complain of discrimination, alleging censorship of the Serbian press and inability to worship freely in the Serbian Orthodox Church (see Section 2.c.). The Ministry of Internal Affairs acknowledges that it has temporarily banned some imported Serbian publications.

Roma comprise about 2.3 percent of the population. There is little evident tension between the Roma and other communities, and they have benefited from government provision of supplementary Roma-language education. However, the Government did not publish a promised Roma grammar in 1994. There is some Roma-language broadcasting.

People with Disabilities

Social programs to meet the needs of the disabled exist in FYROM to the extent that government resources allow. Discrimination on the basis of disability is forbidden by law. There are no laws or regulations mandating accessibility for disabled persons. Most buildings in the FYROM are not easily accessible to disabled persons.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The Constitution provides that citizens, except for military and police personnel and civil servants, have the right to form and join trade unions.

The Council of Trade Unions of Macedonia (SSM) is the successor organization to the former Socialist Labor Confederation. It maintains the assets of the old unions and is the Government's main negotiating partner on labor issues. While its officers may tend to oppose strikes because of the legacy of the past, they appear to be genuinely independent of the Government. An association of independent and autonomous unions was formed in 1992, and independent unions have been able to organize without harassment by the Government or SSM.

The Constitution provides for the right to strike, and many brief strikes occurred in 1994, mainly by employees of state-owned companies who were receiving their pay months late. Often, the companies, cut off by the Greek embargo from many foreign markets, simply did not have the money to pay their workers. Trade unions are free to affiliate internationally.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Constitution implicitly recognizes employees' right to bargain collectively, but collective bargaining is still in its infancy. Parliament has not adopted legislation in this area. Although no law prohibits antiunion discrimination, no instances were reported in 1994.

There are no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Ministries of Labor and Internal Affairs effectively enforce legal prohibitions against forced labor.

d. Minimum Age of Employment for Children

The constitutional minimum age for employment of children is 15. Younger children, however, are often seen peddling cigarettes or other small items, or working in family-owned shops or on family farms. Children are permitted to work 42-hour weeks but may not legally work at night. Education is compulsory through the eighth grade. The Ministries of Labor and Internal Affairs are responsible for enforcing laws regulating the employment of children.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The average monthly wage in October was $200 (8,287 denars). The minimum monthly wage is, by law, two-thirds of the average monthly wage, or about $133. The economic crisis meant that few workers could support a family on their wages alone. The official workweek is 42 hours, with a minimum 24-hour rest period and generous vacation and sick leave benefits.

The Constitution calls for safe working conditions, temporary disability compensation, and leave benefits. Laws and regulations on worker safety exist, but credible reports suggest that the Ministry of Labor and Social Work, which is responsible for enforcing regulations pertaining to working conditions, does not enforce them strictly.

Search Refworld