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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Macedonia

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1994
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Macedonia, 30 January 1994, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa6214.html [accessed 18 September 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.
MACEDONIA[1]*

 

Macedonia, which became independent following the breakup of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, is a parliamentary democracy. The Parliament was elected in free and fair elections in 1990 and voted for Kiro Gligorov as President in January 1991. The Government, a broad-based coalition of Social Democrats, Socialists, Liberals, and ethnic Albanians completed a year in power in September 1993. In August Parliament began consideration of new electoral laws, including a proposal for direct, popular election of the president. Divisions, even within the coalition, however, have delayed action on this and other important pieces of legislation. New elections are scheduled for November 1994 at the latest.

The Ministry of Interior oversees a security apparatus, including uniformed police, border police, and the domestic and foreign intelligence services. By law, the Ministry is under the control of a civilian minister and the civilian Government. A standing parliamentary commission oversees operations. Charges of excessive use of force in connection with the handling of an early 1993 demonstration and public disturbances in late 1992 led to a formal parliamentary review and debate.

Historically, Macedonia was the poorest of the former Yugoslav republics. Its economy, based on agriculture, mining, and light industry, was closely tied to those of the other republics, especially Serbia. Conflict in the region and the imposition of international sanctions against Serbia/ Montenegro, coupled with dislocations caused by the transition to a market economy, have severely disrupted the economy. Unemployment stands at approximately 36 percent, production has fallen some 50 percent, and the Government estimates the cost of sanctions to the Macedonian economy at $1.8 billion.

Fundamental human rights are provided for in the Constitution and are generally respected, but there continue to be credible reports of police abuse of detainees and prisoners.

Minorities, including Albanians, Turks, and Serbs, have raised various credible allegations of human rights infringements and discrimination at the hands of the ethnic Macedonian population. Ethnic Macedonians predominate beyond their apparent percentage of the population in civil administration, education, the court system, the armed forces, and police.

Ethnic Albanians, who dispute official 1991 census figures that credit them with 22 percent of the population, claim to constitute at least one-third of the population. They hold far fewer than 10 percent of positions in government employment and are particularly underrepresented at senior levels. They also charge economic discrimination and incommensurate political rights, particularly inadequate representation in local administration. They continue to demand increased Albanian-language instruction, greater representation in public sector jobs, and enhanced media access. In a positive development, the Government reached agreement with representatives of the Serbian community on similar issues. Due to change in the leadership of the Serbian community, that agreement has been called into question.

A striking example of interethnic tension occurred in a February clash between ethnic Macedonians and Bosnian Muslim refugees at a camp in Skopje in which a number of people were injured (see Section 5). In June the Council for Interethnic Relations was established. The Constitution assigns the Council a broad range of responsibilities, including appraisal of interethnic issues and recommendations of solutions, which the Parliament is obliged to consider for implementation.

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 killings during 1993. An Albanian national implicated in the "All-Albanian Army" conspiracy, died while undergoing interrogation. Although the autopsy reported the cause of death as a heart attack, credible persistent rumors circulated that the heart attack may have been caused by the stress associated with a beating. A parliamentary commission that investigated the November 1992 riot in Skopje exonerated the police involved.

b. Disappearance

There were no reported disappearances in 1993.

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

The Constitution prohibits such treatment and punishment. Early in the year, a number of ethnic Albanian prisoners claimed mistreatment was occurring at the Idrizovo prison near Skopje. The monitoring mission of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) investigated, and conditions improved. Informed independent sources describe prison mistreatment as rare. Government sources stated that 37 cases brought against police officers for exceeding their authority resulted in disciplinary action; 28 officers were fined and 9 were dismissed.

One of the ethnic Albanians arrested for alleged involvement in a separatist plot claimed he was mistreated at first but not after being transferred to Skopje.

On New Year's Day, ethnic Serbs clashed with Macedonian police in a village with a Serbian majority, and Serbs charged that police used excessive force. Macedonian authorities alleged that a Serbian guard had provoked the police by hurling stones.

The indigenous Forum for Human Rights successfully intervened with the Government to obtain separate detention for juvenile offenders after receiving reports that juvenile detainees were raped by adult inmates.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

There were no confirmed reports of arbitrary arrest in 1993. Some ethnic Albanians continued to report instances of unprovoked harassment such as the June 25 detention of a number of Albanians for approximately 4 hours. Police explained the incident as a "sweep" for unregistered and illegal devices in an apartment building. There appears to be little or no systematic use of detention as a form of nonjudicial punishment. Incommunicado detention is not practiced in Macedonia.

The Constitution states that a person must be arraigned in court within 24 hours of arrest and sets the maximum duration of detention pending trial at 90 days. The accused must be informed of his or her legal rights and of the reasons for arrest and 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 Constitution also provides that a person illegally detained has the right to compensation. Judges issue warrants at the request of prosecutors. Practice generally appears to conform to the law. Exile, internal or external, is not used as a form of punishment.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Constitutionally, the courts are "autonomous and independent." The court system is three-tiered: municipal, district, and the Supreme Court. The Constitutional Court deals exclusively with matters of constitutional interpretation. Although some progress has been made in establishing the system envisioned under the Constitution, parliamentary deadlock has stalled the election of new judges and the implementation of the proposed system. As such, the mandates of most, if not all, of the country's judges, who were appointed prior to independence, expired in 1992. Judges continued to exercise their judicial authority pending legislative action on the judicial reform program.

There were no known trials on purely political charges in 1993, and no political prisoners are known to be held. The Government said that the 10 political prisoners noted in the Department of State's report for 1992 were released with a finding that they had been improperly incarcerated.

The Constitutional Court has a mandate to protect the human rights of citizens, but it has not yet taken any action in this area. Parliament has not passed the necessary implementing law to establish a people's ombudsman to defend citizens' constitutional and legal rights.

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

The right to privacy of person, home, and correspondence is provided in the Constitution. Although no instances of abuse were substantiated, officials of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO) opposition party charged that their telephones were tapped and the privacy of communications not respected.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution forbids censorship and guarantees freedom of speech, public access, public information, and freedom to establish institutions for public information. These freedoms are generally respected.

There are several daily newspapers in Skopje and numerous weekly political and other publications. An Albanian and a Turkish newspaper are also published nationally and are directly subsidized by the Government. Other cities publish their own dailies or have them printed in Skopje. Some critics complain that the Government, through the powerful national daily Nova Makedonija and affiliates, monopolizes local press coverage. The Government's ability to present its views through this influential medium has led to the criticism that it manages the news. Nove Makedonija receives income from its near monopoly on printing, rental space, and kiosks.

Macedonian Radio-Television (MRT) in Skopje, which is state owned, transmits programs in the Macedonian, Rom, Turkish, Albanian, Serbian, and Vlach languages. There are currently three television and four radio stations under MRT's control. In addition, there are several private radio and television broadcasters throughout the country. Towards the end of the year, a private radio station with an all-Albanian format reportedly began broadcasting in Skopje. The Albanian minority has complained of insufficient Albanian-language broadcasting on state television, only some 5 hours per week. VMRO complained of unequal access to the media. However, several journalists claimed that VMRO does not understand that a free press has editorial freedom.

There are no legal barriers to setting up independent media outlets, although the country's difficult economic conditions and the coalition's inability to pass required legislation to facilitate the move to a market economy complicate such initiatives.

Foreign books and publications are freely available, principally in larger cities. Academic freedom appeared to be respected despite the fact that the university relied upon the Government for funding. Reportedly, there was no government interference with professorial latitude in research or publishing.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for these rights. Groups and political parties may not advocate the forcible overthrow of the constitutional order, encourage the commission of military aggression, or promote national, racial, or religious hatred or intolerance. Advance notification for an assembly is required to ensure adequate security, but such provisions do not appear to have been abused.

Political parties and nongovernmental organizations are required to register with the Interior Ministry in compliance with a comprehensive political party registration law. Over 50 political parties and associations are registered, including two major ethnic Albanian political parties, a political party of Serbs, and a pro-Bulgarian party. An ethnic Albanian party was denied registration. Although the denial was supposedly based on the similarity of its proposed name to that of an existing entity and because it was not an indigenous organization, critics charged the denial constituted harassment. In October the Ministry of Interior announced plans to seek the deregistration of two parties for advocating the "forcible change of the constitutional order and/or promoting ethnic or religious intolerance." One of the parties involved opposes independence and supports reintegration with Yugoslavia. The other allegedly espouses the establishment of a fundamentalist Islamic state.

c. Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religion is guaranteed, and there is no governmental interference with the practice of religion. The dominant faiths are Eastern Orthodox and Muslim, but many others are active. Although the Macedonian Orthodox Church is specifically named in the Constitution, it does not enjoy any special legal status. That church and all other religious communities and groups are separate from the State and equal under the law. They are free to establish religious schools and social and philanthropic organizations.

There is some sense among non-Orthodox believers that the Orthodox Church benefits informally from its position as first among equals. According to some observers, it appears easier for the Orthodox than for the others to obtain prime property for construction and building permits. In a positive development, the "agreed minutes" negotiated between the Government and representatives of the ethnic Serbian community provided for treatment for the Serbian Orthodox Church equal to with accorded to other faiths. Relations between the Macedonian and Serbian Orthodox Churches were badly strained because the latter does not recognize either Macedonia's independence or the separateness of the Macedonian Orthodox Church.

The Muslim community continued to complain over the placement of crosses on the facades of public buildings in some towns, as well as to criticize the reproduction on the national currency of cultural monuments, such as churches with crosses. The currency also portrays monuments from the period of Ottoman rule on some denominations.

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. These rights may be restricted for security, public health, and safety reasons.

In August the Government began requiring citizens of Serbia/Montenegro to show a passport when seeking to enter Macedonia. Previously, citizens of both countries could cross the border on the basis of identity cards. Ethnic Albanians criticized this change, claiming that the group most seriously affected are Albanians from Kosovo, already pressured and isolated within Serbia. Consequently, they considered it discriminatory. The Government suggested it would consider special arrangements to accommodate inhabitants of immediate border areas, which would require the cooperation of the Serbian authorities.

Macedonia has accepted a number of refugees from the crisis in Bosnia. Since the summer of 1992, however, the Government has restricted the entry of additional refugees, and it is openly concerned that a rising refugee flow from Kosovo, in the event of a crisis in that region, could destroy Macedonia's ethnic identity and its fragile economy.

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

The citizens of Macedonia chose their Government in 1990 by secret ballot in free, fair, multiparty, and multicandidate elections. The parliamentary term is 4 years. The Constitution allows citizens who are at least 18 years of age to vote. There are no formal restrictions on the participation of women in political activities. Approximately 3 percent of the seats in Parliament are held by women. Although two women serve as ministers in the coalition Government, most of the senior government and party positions are held by men. Albanians participated in the 1992 elections, and the major ethnic Albanian political party is a member of the ruling coalition. They hold about 20 percent of parliamentary seats and have one deputy Prime Minister, a minister without portfolio, and three ministerial posts in the Government.

A unicameral parliament of 120 members, called the Assembly, governs the country. The Prime Minister, who is the Head of Government, is the candidate of the party or parties that are in the majority in the Assembly. The Prime Minister and the other ministers do not have to be members of the Assembly. The Prime Minister is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Assembly. The Constitution provides for legislation by initiative and referendum. Although the Assembly elected the sitting President, current legislative proposals, when enacted, will result in direct popular election of the Head of State. In addition to being the Head of State, the President is also the chairman of the Security Council and the commander in chief of the armed forces.

The Government, formed in September 1992, is a broad-based coalition that unites the Social Democratic Alliance, the Liberal Party, the Party for Democratic Prosperity (Albanian), and a number of other small parties. The Prime Minister, Branko Crvenkovski, is a member of the Social Democratic Alliance.

The main political party of the Roma is the Party for the Complete Emancipation of Romanies in Macedonia (PSERM), which claims 36,000 members and has local branches throughout the country. Its president is also a member of the Macedonian Parliament, representing the predominantly Romany town of Suto Orizari, located on the outskirts of Skopje. PSERM was instrumental in securing rights for the Roma and successfully campaigned for Romany-language instruction in elementary schools, the establishment of Romany studies at the university, and daily television and radio news and current affairs programs in Romany.

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

Human rights groups and ethnic community representatives meet frequently with foreign representatives without government interference. The Forum for Human Rights was established in 1990 by a group predominantly made up of academics to propagate a culture of respect for human rights. While their effort is primarily educational, they work with the Government and institutions to improve protection of human rights.

The Government did not oppose visits or investigations by international human rights groups. It has cooperated fully with the CSCE "spillover" monitor mission operating in Skopje. The mediator on ethnic groups of the International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia visited Macedonia frequently to negotiate "agreed minutes" between the Serbs and the Government and between the Albanians and the Government.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,

Disability, Language, or Social Status

Women

Women possess the same legal rights as men. Little is known of the extent to which violence against women, including domestic violence, occurs. Macedonian society, both in the Christian and Muslim communities, is traditionally patriarchal, and the advancement of women into nontraditional roles is still limited. In 1993 a few fledgling women's advocacy or support groups began to organize.

Children

Macedonia's commitment to children's rights and welfare is limited by its resources. The State does have social welfare programs to support children, but the current economic crisis brought on by the sanctions against Serbia have rendered many inoperative. For example, allowances to parents whose employers have gone bankrupt are at least 5 months in arrears. Despite the State's financial limitations, it undertook a children's vaccination program in the spring of 1993 that reportedly covered at least 95 percent of the country's children. There is no pattern of societal abuse against children.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The population of about 2.2 million is composed of a variety of national and ethnic groups – Macedonians, Albanians, Turks, Romas (Gypsies), Serbs, Greeks, and Vlachs (Aromanians). All citizens are equal under the law. The Constitution provides for the protection of the ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious identity of minorities. However, ethnic tension and suspicion are evident within the population, and popular prejudices exist. The Government appears committed to a policy of trying to address nationality concerns without provoking an extremist, nationalist backlash.

Representatives of the Albanian community are the most vocal in alleging discrimination. Expressing concern about undercounting, the Albanian community refused to participate in the 1991 census. As a result, there are no authoritative figures on its percentage of the population. According to the 1981 census, Macedonians comprised 67 percent of the population, Albanians 20 percent, Turks 5 percent, and Serbs 2 percent. Most observers estimate that Albanians now account for at least 30 percent of the population, while some Albanians claim 40 percent.

Albanians also boycotted the 1991 independence referendum because of objections to several articles in the Constitution, which referred to them as a minority rather than as a separate national group. Much of the Macedonian population considers the Albanian desire to be recognized as a nation responsible for its own affairs, rather than as a minority, as an assault on the unitary nature of the State and a step toward secession.

Albanians point out that there is a minimum amount of Albanian-language broadcasts on state radio and television, some 5 hours per week of television broadcasts. They contend there is inadequate schooling in the Albanian language and charge patterns of employment discrimination. Albanian advocacy groups and political parties have specifically charged that Albanians are underrepresented in both the military and the police forces.

The Government has acknowledged underrepresentation in the military and police, and the Ministries of Defense and Interior have instituted moderate measures to respond to the imbalance, including special competitions for midlevel positions open only to members of ethnic minorities and quotas for the induction of ethnic minorities into the military college and the police academy. Following the most recent conscription, the army, some 16,000 troops, is now 26.5-percent Albanian, and the police, 7,000 strong, are to reach 15 percent within 2 years, according to the Minister of Interior.

The State defends its record on access to television time. It notes that one of the state-owned stations broadcasts international programming which is either in English, French, or German. The remaining stations carry programming not only in Macedonian and Albanian but also in the languages of other ethnic groups. On the question of Albanian education, the State notes that primary and secondary education are provided, as well as Albanian-language courses at the college level to prepare primary and secondary schoolteachers.

Ethnic Turks, who comprise almost 5 percent of the population, have complained of governmental, societal, and cultural discrimination. Their main complaints concern insufficient Turkish-language education, exclusion from Macedonian political life, inadequate media access, and incommensurate representation in the state bureaucracy. For instance, they cited an inability to obtain primary and secondary education in Turkish for their children, but in many cases the children did not speak Turkish. The State has refused to offer instruction in a language the children do not speak. Citizens have begun to teach their children Turkish in the hopes of reversing the decision.

In the past Serbs, who comprise 2 percent of the population, have also complained of discrimination. The constitution at the time of independence enumerated only substantial minority groups. Sespite the fact that Serbian minority rights have generally been observed, Serbs have demanded explicit constitutional recognition as a guarantee that they would have equal minority rights. An August 27 agreement between the Government and the ethnic Serbian community provided the latter equal rights with other minorities and specified an 18-month time frame for amending the Constitution. After Serbia/ Montenegro criticized the agreement, a new Serbian leadership emerged and abrogated the agreement.

Popularly held prejudices were manifested in mid-February during a demonstration in the Gjorche Petrov suburb of Skopje against the construction of a refugee camp for Bosnian Muslims in the neighborhood. Police intervened to disperse demonstrators, and in the ensuing Macedonian-Bosnian Muslim melee 14 people, including 8 policemen, were injured. Parliament investigated police actions in the incident and exonerated the police of wrongdoing.

Roma comprise at least 3 percent of the population. and some estimates put their percentage as high as 10. President Gligorov has repeatedly and explicitly recognized Roma as full and equal citizens. There is a commendable lack of tension between the Romany population and the majority of Macedonian Slavs. There has been progress on concrete issues. For instance, educational issues are the paramount concern of the Roma in Macedonia, and there are frequent contacts and open communication between the Romany community and the Ministry of Education. A Romany primer has been prepared and will be printed shortly for use in schools. The Ministry and leading Romany educational experts have prepared a Romany educational program that would reportedly include 2 hours a week of instruction in the Romany language in grades one through eight. It is awaiting government approval. A 40,000-word Macedonian-Romany dictionary is under preparation, using the most widely spoken of the three main Romany dialects in the country. MRT provides some daily programming in the Romany language, offering instruction, news, and music.

The 13-member Council on Interethnic Relations, established in 1992 in accordance with the Constitution, is comprised of the President of the Assembly and two representatives each from six national and ethnic groups (Macedonians, Albanians, Turks, Serbs, Roma, and Vlach). The Council has not yet, however, demonstrated an ability to engage itself usefully in resolving ethnic conflicts.

People with Disabilities

Social programs to meet the needs of the disabled exist in Macedonia to the extent that government resources allow. Discrimination on the basis of disability is illegal. So far as is known, there is no law or regulation mandating accessibility for disabled persons.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The 1991 Constitution guarantees citizens the right to form trade unions. There are restrictions on that right for military personnel, police, and government workers. However, the Government still has not enacted the required laws to implement the constitutional guarantees.

The Council of Trade Unions of Macedonia (SSSM) is the labor confederation that is the successor organization to the old Communist labor confederation. It continues to maintain the assets of the Communist group and remains the Government's main negotiating partner. An active observer of labor issues has termed it "independent of the Government and not associated with any party." The Union of Independent and Autonomous Trade Unions was formed in 1992. Perhaps as much as 80 percent of Macedonia's work force is unionized, though this situation is a result of the recent Socialist past. The absence of the necessary legal framework, combined with difficult economic conditions, have restricted labor activism.

The Constitution guarantees the right to strike. Strikes were common in 1993 because of difficult economic conditions as a result of the collapse of markets and limitations on access to raw materials, further aggravated by the strengthening of international sanctions against Serbia. During 1993 only one strike was declared illegal, and that action is to be challenged in the courts.

Trade unions are free to join international trade union organizations.

b. The Right To Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Constitution implicitly recognizes employees' right to bargain collectively. Collective bargaining, however, is still in its formative stages. Formerly, public employee official unions, which encompassed the majority of unionized workers, established so-called collective agreements with the Government, which set minimum wages and various other standards. How this system is to be amended is still not resolved. As such, collective agreements are still common, and they have virtually the status of law. Parliament has not yet approved legislation defining collective bargaining rights or prohibiting antiunion discrimination, but in practice, such discrimination has not been observed.

There are no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Legal prohibitions against forced labor are effectively enforced by the Ministries of Interior and Labor.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The constitutional minimum age for employment of children is 15. Younger children, however, are often observed peddling items such as cigarettes, especially in the capital. Children may not legally work nights nor earn more leave than adults. They are permitted to work 42-hour weeks. Education is compulsory through grade eight. The ministries of labor and interior are responsible for enforcing laws regulating the employment of children.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The minimum wage, set in March, is approximately $50 (denars 1,500) per month. Negotiations involving the Government, employers, and labor organizations to increase this figure were under way in 1993, but agreement is proving elusive due in part to the serious economic conditions facing the country. Unions demanded an increase to $67 (denars 2,000). By law, in light of the fact that the average wage in July was denars 3,837, it should be raised to $76 (denars 2,302). Even if raised to the latter figure, however, the cost of living far exceeds the minimum wage.

Yugoslavia had extensive laws concerning acceptable conditions of work, including an official 42-hour workweek with a 24-hour rest period and generous vacation and sick leave benefits. Macedonia adopted many of these provisions, including specifically the workweek and rest period.

The Constitution guarantees safe working conditions, temporary disability compensation, and leave benefits. Although Macedonia has laws and regulations on worker safety remaining from the Yugoslav era, credible reports suggest they are not strictly enforced. The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare is responsible for enforcing regulations pertaining to working conditions.



[1]* Macedonia has proclaimed independent statehood but has not been formally recognized by the United States as a state. There has been a dispute regarding the name under which it should be recognized. We use "Macedonia" in this report informally for convenience; its use is not intended to have international or diplomatic significance.

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