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Assistant Secretary-General voices deep concern at human rights challenges in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

SKOPJE/GENEVA (22 May 2015) - UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic on Friday expressed his concern about the shrinking of the democratic space in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and stressed the importance of broadening the dialogue that has begun between the government and the opposition.

“I am deeply concerned by serious challenges to the rule of law and the shrinking of the democratic space in the country,” Simonovic said at the end of a two-day visit. “Far-reaching improvements are needed in areas such as judicial independence, media freedom and the separation of state institutions from party influence, as different UN human rights mechanisms have previously highlighted,” he added.

The release of wiretapped conversations and the political crisis that developed around them had brought many human rights issues clearly into focus, he said.

The Assistant Secretary-General also urged prompt, comprehensive and impartial investigations into both the recent clashes in Kumanovo and the wire-tapping case.

“Despite these significant challenges, there are some grounds for optimism,” said Simonovic. “I welcome the opening of a dialogue between the government and the opposition to defuse tensions and address the current crisis. In addition, it is crucial to broaden this dialogue to include civil society. This is vital to build trust and engage the public in resolving the crisis.”

In addition, said Simonovic, “there is consensus among political actors, civil society and the public that the best hope for the country's future lies in practical reforms to foster a diverse and multi-ethnic society in which human rights are equally respected for all. I am encouraged by the inter-ethnic solidarity demonstrated by the public in recent weeks.”

“There is a lot of homework that remains to be done here,” continued Simonovic. “It is a shared responsibility among all actors of this country. Furthermore, implementing the reforms related to European Union accession and within the international human rights framework would help to move forward and overcome these challenges. The United Nations supports the country and its people and stands ready to assist wherever it can,” Simonovic concluded.

During his visit, Simonovic held high-level discussions with authorities and other stakeholders on the current political situation as it relates to relevant human rights considerations.

ENDS

Ivan Simonovic has been the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights since July 2010. He heads the New York Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/AboutUs/Pages/ASG.aspx

For more information on the work of OHCHR in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, see OHCHR website:http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/ENACARegion/Pages/MKIndex.aspx

For more information and media enquiries, please contact:
In Skopje:
Sandra Ismanovski (+389 70219648 / sandra.ismanovski@undp.org)
In New York:
Andre-Michel Essoungou (+1 917 367 9995 / essoungou@un.org)
In Geneva:
Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org) or Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org).

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