U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Macedonia
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Macedonia, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa5910.html [accessed 1 December 2015]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
THE FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIAThe Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which became independent following the breakup of Yugoslavia, is a parliamentary democracy led by a coalition government. It has a popularly elected president. International monitors judged its second multiparty elections in 1994 to be generally free and fair despite numerous procedural irregularities. The judiciary is generally independent. The Ministry of Interior oversees a security apparatus that includes uniformed police, criminal police, border police, and the state intelligence service. Municipal police chiefs are responsible to the Ministry of Interior, not to municipal leaders. The Ministry is under the control of a civilian minister; a parliamentary commission oversees operations. The Ministry of Defense shares with the border police responsibility for border security. Some members of the police on occasion were responsible for human rights abuses. Historically, Macedonia was the least prosperous of the Yugoslav republics. Its economy was closely tied to the other republics, especially Serbia. Conflict in the region and sanctions imposed on Serbia and Montenegro, along with the problems of transition to a market economy, led to severe economic difficulties. A Greek trade embargo imposed in 1994, in a dispute over the country's name, flag, and Constitution was lifted in 1995 following the signing of an interim accord between the two countries. Trade sanctions against Serbia were suspended following conclusion of the Dayton Accords also in 1995. In the circumstances of these two border closures, gross domestic product fell an estimated 50 percent. Growth resumed during 1996 with a slight increase in industrial production, according to government figures. Growth in 1997 was approximately 2 to 3 percent. Official unemployment, which has been very high for several years, is 32 percent, although the gray economy is large. Some workers routinely receive their salaries several months late. The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, there were problems in some areas. Three people were killed in a clash between police and ethnic Albanian demonstrators in July. Over 200 persons were injured in the demonstration; a parliamentary commission is investigating charges that security forces used excessive force. The Government took no judicial or disciplinary action against the police. There were credible reports of occasional police abuse of prisoners and police harassment of political opponents of the Government. A police practice of compelling citizens to appear for questioning at police stations continued, despite government claims that the practice had ended pursuant to a new law. Violence and discrimination against women remain problems. Minorities, including ethnic Albanians, ethnic Turks, and ethnic Serbs, raised various allegations of human rights infringements and discrimination. Ethnic minorities made progress in securing more representation in state institutions, although ethnic Macedonians continue to hold a disproportionate number of positions. Ethnic Albanian representation in several government ministries has risen from less than 2 percent in 1990 to levels in the 7 to 12 percent range. Ethnic minorities are still poorly represented in the police and the civilian component of the Ministry of Defense.