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Committee against Torture considers the report of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Committee against Torture

5 May 2015

The Committee against Torture today concluded its consideration of the third periodic report of The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Introducing the report, Ilija Ristovski, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, said strengthening the independence of the judiciary remained a national priority.  The Government was strongly committed to continuing reforms of the penitentiary system with a focus on reducing overcrowding in prisons across the country by constructing new facilities and repairing existing ones, establishing a sustainable probation service system, strengthening the capacities of prison personnel, and improving the treatment of convicted offenders, including enhanced re-socialization activities.  There was a zero-tolerance policy on ill-treatment and corruption among law-enforcement bodies.  Punishments for the crime of torture had been made much stricter with the sentence increased to a maximum eight years imprisonment.  A new law on the Prevention of and Protection against Domestic Violence was adopted in September 2014.  Efforts to improve the living conditions in psychiatric hospitals and dehospitalization of psychiatric establishments in general were ongoing. 

During the interactive dialogue, Committee Experts expressed serious concerns about reports of inhumane conditions in prisons, noting that in the last 12 years the number of prisoners, including pre-trial detainees, had doubled.  They asked about the prohibition of and sanctions for the crime of torture and about reported acts of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment committed by law enforcement officials in the ‘Alfi’ unit.  Other subjects discussed included allegations of ill-treatment by prison staff, inter-prisoner violence and conditions for women and juvenile detainees.  Experts enquired about cases of acts of torture, ill-treatment and enforced disappearance that took place during the 2001 conflict.  The situation at the “Gazi Baba” Reception Centre for Foreigners and the general treatment of irregular migrants and asylum seekers were also raised, as were measures to combat violence against women and domestic violence and to tackle hate crimes directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. 

Mr. Ristovski, in concluding remarks, said the “Republic of Macedonia” saw the Committee as a partner; it appreciated the constructive dialogue and wanted to take advantage of the expertise and guidance offered by the Experts to work together to improve the situation. 

Claudio Grossman, Committee Chairperson, in concluding remarks, thanked the delegation for the information they had provided and said additional information could be sent to the Secretariat within the next 48 hours.  

The delegation of The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia included representatives of the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Health, Directorate for Execution of Sanctions at the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Unit for Human Rights at the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and the Permanent Mission of the “Republic of Macedonia” to the United Nations Office at Geneva. 

Today’s country review was the last of the session.  The Committee will publish its concluding observations and recommendations on the eight State party reports it considered (New Zealand, Republic of Congo, Romania, Luxembourg, Spain, Serbia, Colombia and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) after the session closes on Friday, 15 May 2015. 

The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 6 May to consider follow-up to Articles 19 and 22 of the Convention and reprisals.
 
Report

The third periodic report of The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia can be found here: (CAT/C/MKD/3).

Presentation of the Report

ILIJA RISTOVSKI, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, presented the progress achieved and activities undertaken since the submission of the report in 2013, and outlined future plans.  Mr. Ristovski said strengthening the independence of the judiciary remained a priority of the “Republic of Macedonia”.  Constitutional amendments relating to the justice system were currently being considered by Parliament.  The amendments would increase the number of judges on the Judicial Council, make the Minister of Justice and the President of the Supreme Court no longer ex officio members of the Judicial Council, expand the competences of the Constitutional Court to deliberate upon appeal cases, and establish a constitutional complaint mechanism.  New pieces of legislation included a law on the independence of the Public Prosecutor’s Office and a law on disciplinary procedures against judges.  He also said that in 2012 the Government had established an inter-sectoral body for human rights, composed of the Secretaries of State for all relevant ministries and representatives of independent human rights bodies, to advance the coordination of human rights activities. 

The Government was strongly committed to continuing reforms of the penitentiary system with a focus on reducing overcrowding in prisons across the country by constructing new facilities and repairing existing ones, establishing a sustainable probation service system, strengthening the capacities of prison personnel and improving the treatment of convicted offenders, including enhanced re-socialization activities.  Efforts to promote a probation service and alternative sanctions to imprisonment included a draft law on probation and the purchase of transmitter bracelets to be worn by offenders, a GSP offender movement surveillance system, and IT equipment for holding convicted offenders under house arrest.  The Government pursued a zero-tolerance policy on ill-treatment and corruption among law-enforcement bodies in line with its strategy to improve the functioning of the country’s prison system.  Mr. Ristovski spoke about measures to strengthen the institutional capacity for the proper conduct of police authorization and measures to train police officers in the field of human rights.  The reception centre for foreigners had been partially refurbished, and the authorities planned to designate another State-owned facility that would be turned into a reception centre that would satisfy all international standards.      

Mr. Ristovski spoke about efforts to enforce a number of judgements by the European Court of Human Rights, in particular the four cases known collectively as the Jashar Group (Sulejmani, Dzeladinov, Trajkovski and Jashar) and measures taken to prevent the reoccurrence of similar violations of the Convention in future.  Punishments for the crime of torture had been made much stricter with the sentence increased to a maximum eight years imprisonment under the new Law on Criminal Procedure.  A new law on the Prevention of and Protection against Domestic Violence was adopted in September 2014 and regional training courses for professional teams at 30 social work centres across the country on the provisions of that law had been organized.  The process of the dehospitalization of psychiatric establishments had been ongoing since 2006, and measures were being taken to improve living conditions at psychiatric hospitals across the country, as well as the Demir Kapija Special Institute for Persons with Mental Disabilities where a full-time doctor had been recruited. 
 
Questions from the Experts
 
Most places of detention in The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia did not meet international standards, said an Expert, as found by the Council of Europe in its recent report.  The State party’s report emphasized that the official message of the Government regarding the treatment of detainees was one of ‘zero tolerance for the ill-treatment of prisoners’, said an Expert, but it appeared that the message was not being heard.  The State had not developed any rule book which specifically prohibited the torture and ill-treatment of prisoners.  

On prison overcrowding an Expert said in the last 12 years it seemed that the number of prisoners, as well as pre-trial detainees, had doubled, according to the State party’s own data.  The result was that in December 2014 the average overcrowding rate in places of detention was 130 per cent, while in some prisons the overcrowding rate was as high as 232 per cent.  The Committee noted the planned measures to increase prison capacity and improve conditions, as well as the funding provided by the European Union to pay for it, and asked when those reforms were expected to make a positive impact.   

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia had a bloated pre-trial detention population, said an Expert, which appeared to be growing.  What was the Government doing to promote non-custodial sanctions, especially for non-violent crimes? 

The Committee was seriously concerned by reports of inhumane conditions in prisons.  Detainees were often denied medical care, which in itself could be a form of ill-treatment or even torture, said an Expert.  Many allegations had been made by the Ombudsperson, the European Committee against Torture and other organizations, about guards using violence against inmates, carrying out beatings and using intimidation and threats.  There were reports of very poor hygiene standards.  

The Helsinki Committee had received an increase in complaints by prisoners, but recently had not been permitted to carry out visits to places of detention.  There were complaints that there was frequently a lack of water for two to three days and when water was supplied, it was full of bacteria and faecal pollution.  Toothbrushes and towels were very much in short supply. 

The delegation was asked about detention facilities for women, and whether male and female prisoners were mixed.   An Expert cited the case of abuse of a pregnant woman which was neglected by all institutions, including the judiciary, and who only received justice after there was a public outcry. 

Idrizovo Prison was an infamous institution that had been a matter of concern for many monitoring bodies, both national and international, said an Expert.   The Committee had received numerous concerns about high rates of inter-prisoner violence, poor material conditions, gross overcrowding, lack of healthcare and a general lack of a daily regime.  It had further received reports of numerous incidents of ill-treatment of prisoners committed by staff, consisting of kicks, punches and blows, with no possibility to provide a secure environment to prisoners such as ones who had committed sexual abuse and related crimes.   The delegation was asked to update the Committee on what it was doing to improve conditions in Idrizovo Prison.  

There were no suitable juvenile detention facilities in the country.  There were reports of persistent sexual abuse of young detainees held in detention, that there had been no investigation into the allegations but on the contrary there were reports of a cover-up.  Children and adolescents were held in custody for long periods of time without being informed why they had been detained and for how long. 

Tetovo Educational Correctional Institution in Veles was somehow a smaller version of Idrizovo Prison when it came to the treatment of juveniles placed there, said an Expert.   The Institution had no normal daily activity regime for the young people, there was no possibility for them to continue their education, nor indeed any purposeful activities.  There was a high incidence of the use of violence by the staff and of cases of violence between the juveniles.  What was the outcome of the investigation into the case of a rape of a juvenile and was anybody prosecuted, asked the Expert.  He also enquired about plans to relocate the institution by 2016, and asked whether there had been any prosecutions for ill-treatment.   

The sanction for the crime of torture had increased from a previous minimum of six months imprisonment to a minimum of one year, and a custodial sentence of up to 10 years could be applied for aggravated offences.   An Expert asked how many prosecutions, convictions, sentences imposed and sentences suspended had been made in regard to crimes of torture.  She also asked about the definition of torture in domestic law. 

The 2011 Amnesty Law was highlighted by an Expert who noted that in its previous concluding observations the Committee had expressed concern that its scope was “all criminal acts related to the 2001 conflict”.   The Expert spoke about four cases of alleged war crimes which were dismissed by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and sent back to The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, after which no further action was taken.  Subsequently the international non-governmental organization Amnesty International had stated that “The Parliament appears to have created a climate of impunity”.  She asked the delegation to comment on that assertion and provide details of the cases to which the Amnesty Law had been applied.  She also asked how the Government ensured that acts of torture were not included in any amnesty and were thoroughly investigated, prosecuted and sanctioned. 

An Expert asked about a number of specific cases of acts of torture, ill-treatment and enforced disappearance that took place during the 2001 conflict and asked the delegation for an update on prosecutions of the perpetrators.  She asked whether any convicted officials still worked in the prison system and had contact with detainees.

Reported acts of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment by law enforcement officials in the ‘Alfi’ unit were raised by an Expert.  He said the continuing existence and operation of the ‘Alfi’ unit showed that the State party did not take its obligations under the Convention against Torture as seriously as it ought to.  The ‘Alfi’ unit should have been closed down following the Committee’s 2008 recommendation.  Instead the ‘Alfi’ unit continued to operate, albeit under a different name, and acted as an ‘authority outside authority’.  The Expert raised the March 2013 case of an assault of the Leader of the Opposition, in public, at the hands of the Alfi police.  He said that case was subsequently manipulated to make the victim look like the perpetrator.  The Expert also cited allegations that Alfi officials entered houses without warrants, arrested Roma children and extorted confessions from them, and that complaints against Alfi officials were not investigated.

An Expert raised allegations of attacks against members of the Roma communities.  She asked about the reports of an excessive use of force by police officers while trying to arrest a member of the Roma community, which had resulted in the serious injury of 10 members of the community, including three women.  Had anybody been prosecuted in relation to the incident? 

There were reports of frequent hate crimes directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, said an Expert.  Individuals frequently experienced violence and were beaten and attacked.  There was serious attack manifesting as a riot and including an arson attack on the Support Centre for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons during a public event.  What was the Government doing to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and human rights defenders from such abuses? 

The Committee believed that the current wiretap scandal in The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia raised fundamental questions about the fairness of the political and judicial systems, said an Expert.   She asked the delegation to outline what measures were being taken to ensure the safeguard of due process, rule of law and independence of the judiciary in The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.  The Expert also commented that the absence of data, such as statistics, made it difficult for the Committee to address the allegations versus the response. 

An Expert thanked the delegation for the details provided in the report and the presentation on the provision of human rights training for law enforcement officers, but said little was mentioned about the provision of training on the prohibition, prevention, reporting and other aspects of torture.  He asked if officials were adequately trained on the provisions of the Convention against Torture. 

The treatment reserved for irregular migrants was far from regular, said an Expert.  No clear distinction was made between a migrant worker and an asylum seeker.  Many irregular migrants were detained simply to allow the authorities to gather evidence on the traffickers who had brought them there.  No special attention was given to the needs of women and children, and in particular unaccompanied children.  The Committee welcomed efforts by the Government to restrict the use of the accelerated procedure and it hoped that the ‘threat to national security’ measure would not be used for ill purposes in terms of detaining migrants. 

The “Gazi Baba” Reception Centre for Foreigners, located in the capital city Skopje, reportedly had appalling conditions and was one of the most problematic institutions in the country, said an Expert.  In a form of inhuman and degrading treatment, they were held in darkened and dilapidated rooms.  Unaccompanied children were placed in the same room as adult men and left alone there to fend for themselves.  The Reception Centre featured grossly overcrowded dormitories sometimes exceeding 200 persons, there was a serious shortage of beds and many migrants were compelled to sleep on the floor without a mattress.   There were reports of inter-migrant violence, clashes between different groups and a series of allegations that migrants were being ill-treated by custodial staff.  What steps, if any had been taken to tackle the issue?

In 2012, 638 persons applied for asylum in The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and none were granted, according to reports from Amnesty International, said an Expert.  Was that true and had any asylum applications been granted since that time?  How did the State party assess asylum seekers for signs that they had been tortured?  Most, some 75 per cent, of asylum seekers were male which was a reverse of the usual pattern, so did the State party have gender-sensitive proceedings?  The situation of unaccompanied minors found at immigration posts was another concern.  Efforts by the Government to combat trafficking in persons were also enquired about. 

Many irregular migrants were simply pushed back to the borders or returned to third countries in the absence of an official entry point.  Did The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia intend to set up a humane system of international protection, asked an Expert.  She said the Committee welcomed the new law to harmonize the status of persons who had been long-term residents in the country. 

The Committee noted measures taken to address and combat violence against women, including domestic violence, but was concerned that they were ineffective.  The action plans to address domestic violence and violence against women were not sufficiently funded, according to reports.  Did the measures encompass a preventative, civil, administrative and criminal approach, asked an Expert.  He said five women had been murdered in domestic violence cases in 2014 and so far in 2015 two were murdered.  If the authorities had done their job properly those murders would not have happened, said the Expert, because the perpetrators were habitual offenders, some were even members of the police or the army, and the acts were committed with State weapons.  There was widespread fear of making complaints about domestic violence cases.  Another Expert asked about reports that limitations on the new abortion law endangered the lives of pregnant women and asked what procedures were in place to protect the lives of women in the case of medical complications in pregnancy.    

Response by the Delegation

Regarding the definition of torture and its compliance with the definition in Article I of the Convention, the Committee was informed that Article I of the Convention had been incorporated into Articles 142 and 143 of the Penal Code.  Several types of acts were punishable offenses covered by Article 143 of the Criminal Code, in particular the infliction of bodily or mental abuse on a person suspected of committing an offence.  The notion of bodily or emotional suffering was not specifically mentioned in the Penal Code, but the State party was prepared to amend its Criminal Code in order to incorporate such provision.  In 2012, three people were convicted for offenses relating to torture under section 143 of the Criminal Code and in 2013 six persons were convicted under the same article.   There were no cases of torture before the Attorney-General of the “Republic of Macedonia”. 

There was an explicit ban on torture in the “Republic of Macedonia”, emphasized a delegate; when the physical and mental integrity of the convicted person had to be protected, any form of inhumane, cruel or degrading behaviour was strictly forbidden.  The right to security of a convicted person was provided by law.  The regulation of violence between detainees was implemented in a special rule book.  The use of batons by prison staff was completely forbidden, he emphasized. 

Reporting on the steps taken by the authorities to strengthen the independence of the judiciary, a delegate stressed that a merit-based system for the appointment of judges had been introduced; thus, only a person who had passed the training for judges and prosecutors may submit an application to be a judge.  Furthermore, all candidates for the initial training for judges and prosecutors had to pass a qualification test for admission to that training and also pass a final examination at the end of the training.  Efforts were made to include a number of international standards in the functioning of the judiciary, said a delegate, drawing attention to the establishment of a commission which was responsible for follow-up to a complaint against a judge.  The authorities were considering the establishment of a complaint mechanism to the Constitutional Court, said a delegate, adding that such a complaint system would be an effective appeal mechanism from the constitutional perspective.

A new draft  law on the Office of the Ombudsperson was being prepared to make the institution fully compliant with the Paris Principles on national human rights institutions, the Committee was informed.  The activities and mandate of the Office of the Ombudsperson, whose work followed the principle of pluralism, were described to the Committee.  Those activities included the monitoring of human rights situations, pursuance of relevant research,  and informing the public in a timely manner.  The work that was most relevant to the Convention included acting as the national preventative mechanism, making recommendations and implementing them.  It also enabled unimpeded access to all detention facilities for the national preventative mechanism, its access to information, and ensuring that it had the possibility to interview persons deprived of freedom without supervision. 

A delegate described measures taken to improve prison facilities and reduce overcrowding in places of detention across the country, especially in Idrizovo Prison.  He said that a new €52 million project had been funded in the most part by the European Development Bank, and included €6 million in funding provided by the Government of “the Republic of Macedonia”.  The project would finance the construction of new prison facilities within the Idrizovo Prison, Tetovo Educational Correctional Institution, Skopje Prison and other places of detention.  The National Strategy on the Development of the Penitentiary System 2015 to 2019 was currently being adopted by the Government, added a delegate.  The National Strategy had 13 goals, including establishing a more efficient mechanism for handling inter-prisoner violence, and addressing cases of maltreatment of detainees.

Prison overcrowding could not be solved simply by constructing new facilities, said a delegate, which was why the Government aimed to develop a sustainable probation system across the country.  Efforts to promote a probation service and alternative sanctions to imprisonment included a draft law on probation and the purchase of transmitter bracelets to be worn by offenders, a GSP offender movement surveillance system and IT equipment for holding convicted offenders under house arrest.  The equipment had already been delivered and it was expected that by the end of the year, coupled with the new law on probation, the convict population would be reduced by around 12 per cent. 

Idrizovo Prison was a closed detention facility.  In April 2015 the total number of convicts held there was 1,856.  The convict population had grown by 37 per cent since 2012 due to the increased efficiency of the courts.  However, it was true that the larger prison population, particularly in Idrizovo Prison, had contributed to the deterioration of hygiene standards in places of detention, said a delegate.  Each prison facility kept records on the hygiene of convicts and lists on how to maintain hygiene standards.  Furthermore, repairs to sanitary facilities, showers and toilets, and regular disinfection was carried out, and convicts themselves were engaged in keeping their environment hygienic.  Responding to the question about the quality of drinking water in Idrizovo Prison, a delegate informed the Committee that the drinking water source had been replenished from a well; the water had been deemed as clean and completely in order. 

A new facility attached to the Tetovo Educational Correctional Institution for juveniles was expected to be completed by March 2016, with a capacity of 110 juvenile offenders.  In the meantime, following recommendations by the European Committee on Torture who visited in 2014, the facility in Veles for juveniles was being reconstructed and the electric wiring, sanitary facilities, fixtures and fittings were being upgraded.   

Regarding investigations into allegations or complaints of ill-treatment of detainees by prison staff, a delegate said there was an investigation in 2009 into the alleged beating of a dozen convicts in Skopje prison.  The case was subsequently closed.  In 2011 it was established that there had been a case of maltreatment in Idrizovo Prison; the investigation was stopped because the Public Prosecutor determined there were no grounds for a criminal case.  Of the 68 disciplinary measures brought against prison staff in 2014, three were for ill-treatment by prison personnel, and one member of the prison police was dismissed from his job and convicted, receiving a custodial sentence of one year.  An investigation into allegations of the ill treatment of a juvenile at Tetovo Educational Correctional Institution led to a member of staff being found guilty, given a disciplinary warning and a fine of three months’ pay.  Another member of staff at that institution was dismissed for repeated violent behaviour. 

Primary healthcare was available in prisons and 20 to 30 million Macedonian denars had been invested into improving health services for detainees.  A delegate referred to the case of a pregnant woman in detention raised by the Committee, explaining that as soon as the prison knew about her pregnancy she was given full medical care in the prison until 2 February 2015, when she was hospitalized at the gynaecological clinic, where she was subject to five specialized examinations.

Medical staff working in prisons, including at the three psychological hospitals of “the Republic of Macedonia”, were trained to recognize the signs of torture as well as to treat persons for torture.  The national preventative mechanism provided for engagement of medical personnel and since 2013 medical staff regularly played a part in the visits of the mechanism.  Medical staff were obliged to record and report any sign of violence or torture of a detainee when they examined them at the point of detention.

The guiding motive behind the new law on abortion was the health of the woman, said a delegate.  The law envisaged that the interruption of pregnancy was a medical intervention decided freely by the woman in order to protect her life and health.  The adoption of that law had not prolonged the abortion procedure; on the contrary if the pregnancy was less than 10 weeks the applicant could submit a written application to a specialist gynaecologist.  If the pregnancy was more than 10 weeks the applicant could apply to a regional commission which had to make a decision within seven days.  The interruption of pregnancy may be carried out without a decision by the commission if it was a matter of life and death. 

Regarding the allegations of attacks against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community, the delegation stated that three cases of that type had been recorded, including one particularly serious attack against the headquarters of the community of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons and one against a café frequented by members of the community.  Subsequently investigations were opened and charges were brought.   From 2012 to 2014, six crimes were reported by persons belonging to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, he added.

The Ministry of the Interior announced in February that in 2016 an independent mechanism would be created for oversight of the police force.  The mechanism would be a new, independent institution separate from the police force and accountable to the Minister of the Interior, and would be part of the system of external control and human rights oversight. 

In 2014 the ‘Alfi unit’ was transformed into a first-response and intervention unit and it operated under the oversight of the Ministry for Internal Affairs.   The unit achieved exceptionally good results in apprehending the offenders of the most serious crimes, said a delegate, and they were often the first to arrive at the scene of a crime.  In their work members of the unit were of course obliged to abide by all regulations covering police conduct, and six officers had undertaken human rights training in the last year.  The number of complaints about the unit’s actions had decreased: from a high in 2009 of 38 complaints, of which 26 were regarding the use of physical force, there were 23 complaints filed in 2013, of which six were regarding the use of physical force.   In 2013 one criminal charge was filed against an Alfi unit officer, two proposals for disciplinary proceedings were put forward, and five written warnings were given. 

In 2013 “the Republic of Macedonia” received 1,323 applications for asylum, none of which were accepted.  In 2014 there were 1,246 applications for asylum, of which 11 persons from Syria were recognized and granted asylum, and one person from Ukraine was placed under subsidiary protection.  Most applications for asylum were rejected either because no fear of prosecution could be established or the asylum seeker was regarded as a threat to the country.

Follow-Up Questions by the Experts

An Expert said he was pleased to hear the situation was moving in the right direction with regard to prison conditions and the reduction of overcrowding.  He then enquired about the conditions in cells in police stations, which were poor according to the Ombudsperson acting as the national preventative mechanism and other sources.

Were statistics on reports submitted by doctors on medical examinations of detainees available, asked an Expert.  She also repeated the question about the wire-tapping case and asked for more information on discrimination faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities. 

For the monitoring of places of detention, non-governmental organizations had been included under the national preventative mechanism, which was slightly concerning as now non-governmental organization inclusion was at the discretion of the Ombudsperson.  Would the State party consider re-establishing access to places of detention for civil society as they had before?

An Expert asked about statutory rape, expressing concern that the burden of proof was on the victim from the age of 14 years, therefore a child aged 14 years and older would have to prove that they had been raped in order for a prosecution to take place.

The use of restraints in psychiatric hospitals and reports that women patients were chained to the beds with metal restraints were raised by an Expert.  She also asked about facilities for women prisoners, how detention facilities for migrants had been improved, and for a response about border returns of irregular migrants. 

Response by the Delegation

The wire-tapping case was unusual, said a delegate, but she informed the Committee that there was an ongoing investigation into all cases connected to it, including the contents of the wire-tapped telephone conversation, and that criminal charges had been  filed with the relevant public prosecution office.  A  person had admitted illegally using wire-tapping equipment to unlawfully record telephone conversations and had been convicted. 

The Government undertook continuous activities to combat discrimination, especially since the adoption of the Law against Discrimination in 2010.  The authorities received applications and complaints of any form of discrimination, including on the grounds of gender identity and notably from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community.  The Government carried out awareness-raising campaigns to inform the public on how to protect themselves from discrimination. 

The reception centre for foreigners had been partially renovated.  It had been painted and measures had been taken to improve the hygiene facilities, said a delegate, noting that the Government was searching for another facility to be used as a reception centre that would satisfy all international standards.  Concerning border crossings, she emphasized that the Law on Border Control held that it was illegal to cross the border at any place that was not an officially designated border crossing.  The attempt to enter the country using forged documents was an attempt to illegally cross the State border.  Police patrolling the border did not return illegal migrants but rather took them to a police station and carried out the proper procedure, and if the person was an asylum seeker they were processed properly. 

Concerning complaints by detainees, all prisons had letter boxes where detainees could drop their application – or complaint.  Most applications related to their treatment in prison, the benefits they received and the healthcare they could access.  The Directorate of Sanctions processed the complaints in a timely fashion, and organized fact-finding visits to prisons.   Prisoners may also file applications with the Ombudsperson, she added.  The delegate said the national preventative mechanism had had no problems cooperating with non-governmental organizations.   There was a women’s ward at the Idrizovo Prison which was located inside a separate building. 

Women prisoners were provided with healthcare, including reproductive healthcare, and those who were pregnant were allowed sick leave.  Convicted pregnant women were referred to the maternity ward of the institution four weeks before delivery.  They delivered their babies in public health care clinics or hospitals unless there were safe facilities for them to deliver in the prison.  Women remained in the maternity ward of the prison until the baby reached one year of age, unless the woman was released.  The birth certificate given to the baby could not contain information that the baby was born in prison, she added. 

There were ongoing efforts to improve psychiatric hospitals although they did not have enough staff like nurses and doctors, said a delegate, and the Government was trying to recruit more.  A new €400 million facility was being constructed for chronically ill patients, with separate facilities for men and women. 

There had been a rise in the number of cases of domestic violence reported in recent years as a result of public awareness-raising campaigns, said a delegate, noting that there were 800 cases in 2013 of which 598 were by women, and 999 cases in 2014 of which 720 were by women.
 
Concluding Remarks
 
ILIJA RISTOVSKI, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, said the “Republic of Macedonia” saw the Committee as a partner; it appreciated the constructive dialogue and wanted to take advantage of the expertise and guidance offered by the Experts to work together to improve the situation.  He noted that answers to any outstanding questions would be sent to the Committee and looked forward to continuing their cooperation in the future. 

CLAUDIO GROSSMAN, Committee Chairperson, appreciated the efforts of the delegation and said no delegations so far had managed to exhaustively answer all the questions of the Committee so the delegation should not be too concerned.  Any additional information could be sent to the Secretariat within the next 48 hours.   He thanked the delegation for the information they had provided.  

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