Downplaying Hate Crimes
Macedonia’s split from Yugoslavia happened without bloodshed, but ten years later a conflict erupted between different communities. The Albanian minority in Macedonia had for years tried to get full rights on equal terms with the other national groups in Yugoslavia – and later Macedonia – which culminated in a conflict in Tetovo, in 2001. The conflict was ended with the Ohrid Framework Agreement, signed at Lake Ohrid. The agreement promotes the concept of equal citizenship over the preferential status formerly given to ethnic Macedonians.
However, the implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement is only going slowly. A recent survey by the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights said that authorities are downplaying a rise in hate crimes. The survey says that in the past three years only 14 hate crime cases have been recorded in courts across the country. The maximum sentence given was five months in jail, while most perpetrators were freed on probation. “This figure does not correspond with the reality in Macedonia,” said Voislav Stojanovski, legal advisor for the Committee. Furthermore he pointed out: “Even when perpetrators are discovered, they are being charged with ‘violence’, not for committing a hate crime, which is a graver form of crime.”
According to the committee, based on reports from the general public, in the past three months only – since ethnically-charged protests erupted in Skopje in March – there have been at least 35 hate-crime cases.
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