"Several milestones have been reached since the signing of the Ohrid Framework agreement which ended the 2001 conflict, including in the areas of local government, the use of languages and equitable representation. However, deep politicisation along party lines and political patronage undermine social cohesion" said today Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, releasing a report based on his November 2012 visit to the country.
While "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" has a well-developed system of education in non-majority languages, the Commissioner stressed the importance of integrated education. "Ethnic Macedonian and ethnic Albanian students have very few chances to interact and are thus deprived of the possibility to learn about and from one another. Children and young persons should not be hostages to zero sum debates on community rights", said the Commissioner.
Action should be taken to resolve the human rights issues related to the 2001 conflict. "Impunity for gross violations of human rights committed in 2001 impedes lasting reconciliation between the two largest communities. Justice is needed to ensure accountability and to restore the rights and dignity of victims. The 2011 decision of Parliament on the interpretation of the Amnesty Law, which stipulates that the latter applies to all criminal acts committed during the 2001 conflict, adds to such difficulties. Amnesty should not apply to serious human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law".
The Commissioner also calls for the clarification of the fate of the remaining fourteen persons who went missing during the conflict and recommends that the authorities find durable solutions for the 334 remaining internally displaced persons, giving urgent attention to the 95 persons who are still living in collective centres.
While welcoming measures taken to improve the situation of Roma, the Commissioner underlines that serious problems persist. "Roma continue to be trapped in a cycle of poverty and unemployment, residing in separate neighbourhoods often featuring unacceptable living conditions. Roma children are over-represented in special-needs schools. This perpetuates their exclusion and violates their human rights. All children should have access to mainstream education."
Concerns also relate to measures adopted to control emigration. "Between December 2009 and November 2012, about 7000 Macedonian citizens, mainly Roma, were not allowed to leave the country and had their travel documents confiscated. Such measures interfere with the internationally established right to leave a country and undermine the right to seek asylum. Instead of penalising people for attempting to exercise their human rights, the authorities should better address the root causes of poverty and social exclusion which push individuals to seek refuge abroad in the first place."
As to lustration, Commissioner Muižnieks stressed that it should never be used for political or personal purposes or as an instrument of revenge. "A democratic state has sufficient means to ensure that the cause of justice is served and the guilty are punished. The Constitutional Court's decisions concerning lustration must be fully respected."
The report contains additional recommendations, including on addressing the situation of the more than 1 000 stateless people, ensuring that all Roma have identity documents, as well as on combating discrimination.