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In the past 12 months, within the project “Towards a Captured State in North Macedonia – Judiciary, Public Prosecutor’s Office and Police” BIRN Macedonia has prepared research stories on various topics related to the capture of institutions. Through various case studies and detailed analysis of systemic weaknesses of the rule of law, the project aims to identify the ways in which political control over institutions (judiciary, prosecution, and police) is exercised or the ways in which systemic governance weaknesses are abused.

A total of six studies were prepared that focused on six topics illustrative of the (non)functioning of the judicial system in a captive state.

Story 1. ”The state in the De-Sorosization Scenario” reveals a deliberate, politically motivated, coordinated operation of abuse of civil society institutions and all those who thought differently, called by the previous government as “de-sorosoization.” Journalists investigated that through this operation has been conducted intensive control over 22 NGOs for months and that nothing illegal was found, resulting in no responsibility for customers and implementers, or systemic changes that would prevent political institutions from being used for political calculations with civil society.

Story 2. In the text  “The Stockholm Syndrome of the Macedonian Prosecutors”, BIRN investigates the responsibility of the public prosecutors. The text illustrates their susceptibility to political corruption, direct and indirect influences, and the lack of effective mechanisms for their accountability. The survey found that 12 prosecutors were dismissed in 12 years, eight in 2008 alone – known as the year when the Nikola Gruevski government seized the judicial system. The research describes the relationship between the prosecution and politics with the “Stockholm Syndrome”, in which they are trapped but have developed an emotional and identifying connection with the aggressor, thus helping him achieve his goals.

Story 3. In the “Captive State in the story of the captive judicial software” study, BIRN found that software abuse for the automatic distribution of judges’ court cases was invisible to both the Judicial Council and the Supreme Court, although it was a public secret and there were official complaints by judges that they had been forced to work orally in some cases until that abuse entered the report of the expert group on systemic rule of law led by Reinhard Priebe in 2015.

Story 4. The text “The office armchair is the best protection against prison bars” investigates whether there is any truth in the fact that politicians never or rarely respond to acts committed while serving. Through research and analysis, BIRN came to the following conclusion: out of 89 registered officials, only 17 sat in court. Eight of them have been released. Four officials are on trial, one is on trial only in the first instance and is awaiting a higher court ruling, and five have been sentenced to prison. However, so far only two have served their sentences.

Story 5. The investigation into the abuse of political pardons is entitled ”Justice succumbs to unlawful mercy”. It is focused on this type of decision-making over the last ten years and on the views of several leading legal experts on the effects that the cases of giving mercy to political figures have had on society. The chronological approach and analysis of decisions and actions illustrate the situation in which different and conflicting interpretations of decisions related to the responsibility of public office holders are allowed.

Story 6. The latest research in this project is dedicated to the application of the strictest measure to secure a suspect and is entitled Detention as a punishment for everyday people”. A comparative analysis of the cases “Mavrovo Workers” and “Snake Eye”, in the area of detention, explores the differences in the attitude of institutions – how they act when the target of persecution is a politically “important player” whose detention can be revoked while is on the run, and when the target is “ordinary mortals.”

This research is funded by OSIFE, in collaboration with OSEPI. It was conducted by the Balkan Research Reporting Network Macedonia, together with the Coalition for a Fair Trial, the Institute for Human Rights, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights and the Foundation Open Society Macedonia.