The parliamentary commission tasked with the handling “national reconciliation” in Macedonia is hard at work preparing a draft law.
It will offer a selective amnesty to some of those involved in last year’s mob attack on parliament, which was designed to stop the formation of a new government.
The planned amnesty will almost certainly cover the opposition VMRO DPMNE MPs party now standing trial for their involvement in the April rampage, but who this October supported the all-import agreement with Greece in parliament, and conditioned their further support on an amnesty.
Expectations are that the draft will be presented by the end of this week. Judging by the available data, the only people who will not be amnestied will be the organizers of the attack and those who directly committed violence.
Meanwhile, the trial of 30 participants in the events last week heard new testimonies that shed fresh light on events behind the scenes on April 27 last year.
These may open a path towards new sets of charges for the alleged organizers of the incident, which main prosecutor in the case, Vilma Ruskovska, is already working on.
Breach of constitutional principles:
Ruskovska is frustrated by the government’s announcement of a selective amnesty when she and her team of prosecutors have invested so much effort in investigating the case.
“I don’t know how they plan to package it because a selective amnesty would breach one of the most important constitutional principles, about the equality of all citizens,” Ruskovska said in a recent interview for 1TV.
A prominent lawyer, Aleksandar Tortevski, agreed.
“The way this law is announced, it will be against the constitution and cannot be done without a serious breach of legal principles,” Tortevski told BIRN.
“They should let Mihajlo Manevski do it for them,” Tortevski said ironically, referring to the former Justice Minister from 2006 to 2011 who was seen as the architect of the decay of the justice system under the government of former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski who has since fled the country.
Tortevski likened such an amnesty to a “stove made of wood,” which would inevitably get burned.
Political science professor and human rights activist Mirjana Najcevska said such an amnesty would continue the culture and practice of impunity that had marred Macedonia for decades.
“Such a law would promote violence as a legitimate element of political struggle,” she said.
“Impunity for the attack on April 27, 2017 will be a continuation of the impunity for the attack on [opposition] MPs that happened on December 24, 2012. In future, this would produce fresh attacks that would similarly utterly destabilize constitutional order and prevent the establishment of the rule of law,” Najcevska added.
On December 24, 2012, then opposition Social Democratic MPs were violently expelled from parliament by security officers as they tried to block the adoption of the state budget for the following year.
The Social Democrat-led government under Zoran Zaev seems aware that the polls show the amnesty is not popular.
But it seems determined to push for it, in exchange for securing a much-needed two-thirds majority in parliament to pass the agreement with Greece on changing the country’s name.
A final vote on the constitutional changes that form part of the “name” is expected in January.
Uneasily aware of their previous statements that matched the slogan: “No Justice, No Peace”, used by the protesters in 2016 that helped topple the Gruevski regime, the new government is not trying to justify the amnesty in terms of principle.
Instead, it has shifted the argument towards political pragmatism, repeating that it is ready to pay a political price for its controversial offer.
In an interview for BIRN published in late November, the head of the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, Uranija Pirovska, warned it not to cross some of its own red lines.
“There should always be red lines when it comes to achieving certain political goals. No matter how important they are for Macedonia, they must not be a reason for breaching law and justice,” she said.
Necessary price for a greater good:
On the other hand, some political analysts told BIRN that they saw a selective amnesty, even if it did cross red lines, as a “necessary evil” to achieve the greater good of adopting the “name” agreement with Greece, as this would open up Macedonia’s stalled Euro-Atlantic perspectives.
Political analyst Gordan Georgiev said the government and the entire country trod a thin line.
“The role of the government, and to a lesser degree, of the opposition, is to create conditions for opening or solving the big issues that may have a key impact on the future and even on the survival of our country,” he said.
“In a situation where a large majority of citizens are against any kind of amnesty, the role of the government is to find the middle ground, which will allow it to move forward through the crisis without paying too high price for it … for the future health of the whole of society.”
Georgiev summarized that if the scope of the amnesty was too wide, that would legitimize similar violent precedents in future, while if its scope was too narrow, that would result in the failure of the “name” agreement.
“Cynicism – which has become our only credo for coping with the Macedonian political mist – teaches: ‘Do what you can, damn it, as long as we don’t pay too high a price!’” Georgiev concluded.
Political science professor Nenad Markovic, who supports the “name” agreement, agreed.
He told BIRN that the only thing worse than the adoption of the name agreement this way, with all the suspicions of political bargaining, would be if it failed to get adopted.
“If the agreement fails to pass the phases so far, that will be a complete and absolute defeat for all of us,” Markovic said.