Date: Wed, 20 Jan 1999 22:12:31 -0600 (CST)
From: Panayote Elias Dimitras <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Macedonia: Minority Rights Violations
The Helsinki Human Rights Committee has observed a low level of tolerance between members of the majority and minority ethnic groups, especially Albanians and Roma. The committee thinks that the Albanians are continuously subject to so-called “quiet discrimination”, with constant violations of their human rights, dignity and perception of equality. Teaching staff is in short supply for Albanian-language elementary and secondary school instruction, and the issue of higher education in the languages of the minorities is still unresolved, the annual report adopted the Committee this Friday reports.
The Roma are subject to the most open discrimination, and it is also the case where discrimination is hardest to measure. Their rights are being violated by excessive police force, inequitable treatment in employment, discriminatory attitude of teachers in the education system. The Committee thinks that the Roma are not capable of fighting to protect their human rights on their own, because of the low level of education and their poor economic and social situation.
According to the Helsinki Committee, there are significant legal and practical shortcomings in the exercise of rights of arrested or detained persons. The procedure of the Ministry of Internal Affairs fails to satisfy the requirements of the “state governed by law”, and the police fails to secure a series of rights of the citizens during their stay in a police station. The Constitutional and legal procedure of obtaining court-issued arrest warrants is not respected either. The police makes arrests on its own initiative, and the demands for informative talks, searches and detention are just a formality, the Committee thinks. According to the report, the means for protection of rights and freedoms are inefficient, and the public ombudsman does not contribute significantly to citizens' exercise of their rights.
The Committee thinks that the Religious Communities and Groups Act confers privilege on some religious communities and is restrictive with respect to freedom of worship. Thus, according to the Committee, there is intolerance and limits to the right to worship. The committee is preparing an initiative for a Constitutional review of that Act.
The Committee thinks that the Parliamentary elections in 1998 were fair and democratic and represent “a great step ahead compared to the 1994 elections”. According to the Committee, the biggest problem was the distribution of voter cards, and there was also sluggishness on the part of the State Electoral Commission, indolence towards reporters and lack of official information on election results.
The Helsinki Committee observed a great deal of progress in the media and thinks that they have played a significant role in the election campaigns. the electronic media started functioning in the framework of the new Broadcasting Act, and for the printed media there was a continuation of the trend of new editions, reductions of prices and rise in circulation. Thus the monopoly held by “Nova Makedonija” was destroyed slowly but surely. The Committee thinks that “Nova Makedonija” is threatened by liquidation because of the harsh financial and staffing crisis.
In the framework of the “Attorneys for Human Rights” projects for providing legal advice, the Helsinki Committee has registered 145 cases from February to November of last year, mostly for discrimination in the right to citizenship and cases of overstepping police authority.