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Macedonia Human Rights

General Country Conditions:

Despite the general improvement in human rights issues since the country's 2001 armed conflict between ethnic Albanian insurgents and the state's police and military forces, Macedonia's record on human rights faces both several persistent problems as well as new concerns.

First, while there has been limited progress made in specific cases, the Macedonian government continues to demonstrate impunity in prosecuting war crimes committed during the 2001 conflict. In particular, the government has been slow to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on cases still outstanding. The government has also acted with impunity in response to old and new accusation of torture and ill-treatment when in police custody.

Second, discrimination on grounds of ethnicity and gender continues in state institutions and at large, especially as it concerns Roms. This is despite the government's National Action Plan for the Decade of Roma Inclusion, which has seen little progress in its implementation. A recent public information campaign was also seen to advocate restricting women's constitutional guaranteed reproductive rights. The trafficking of women through Macedonia and domestic abuse also remain issues in need of further action. Furthermore, Macedonia's new draft law on discrimination has been accused of itself been discriminatory by failing to mention discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Third, the majority of over 1,700 refugees, mainly Roma and Ashkalia from Kosovo, currently seeking asylum in Macedonia, continue to be denied access to a full, fair and effective procedure for determining their need for international protection.

Finally, recent government actions have generated alarm over freedom of expression and church-state separation. Plans to build a church on the central square of Macedonia's capital, Skopje, were supported by the government through the sale of land to the Macedonian Orthodox Church for a nominal price. This move was interpreted by many citizens as the government endorsement of a particular religious platform, an interpretation bolstered by now scrapped plans to introduce religious education in state primary schools. Such moves risk exacerbating tensions between Macedonia's two largest ethnic groups, ethnic Macedonians, who chiefly share an Orthodox Christian heritage, and ethnic Albanians, who in Macedonia tend to share a Muslim heritage. Furthermore, a protest of the proposed church lead by university students from the School of Architecture resulted. The demonstrators were outnumbered and attacked by counter-demonstrators, apparently spontaneously organized by the Macedonian Orthodox church; the police reportedly failed to intervene to protect the architecture students, indeed some media reports described police officers as "passively observing the clash." Responding to these events representatives of the international community in Skopje called on the government to guarantee freedom of expression.

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