In its latest report published today, the Council of Europe’s Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) sees positive developments in a series of measures taken by the authorities in Skopje since its previous report in 2010, including the adoption of a law to prevent and protect against discrimination and the setting up of a working group on hate crime in 2014 by the Ministry of Justice, in cooperation with the OSCE.
Likewise, the adoption of a new legislative framework for the civil service and public employment in 2014, intended to harmonise the recruitment process for all ethnic communities and monitor ethnic distribution, is also held up as an example of progress.
While further noting the adoption of the 2014-2020 Roma Strategy, the ECRI emphasises that the Roma community is heavily marginalised in socio-economic terms, particularly in the areas of education, employment, housing and health.
Gaps also remain with regard to criminal, civil and administrative law provisions to combat racism and racial discrimination. Ethnic tensions between the two largest communities remain high, and racist hate speech is a widespread problem. ECRI emphasises that the problem remains largely unchecked, partly because there is no adequate response from representatives of the State and political leaders to prevent a climate that nurtures racist violence.
Intolerance towards LGBT persons is another cause for concern and even alarm, given the extremely high levels it can reach. ECRI stresses that incitement to homo/transphobic hatred and violence is on the increase and not effectively prevented or punished by the authorities. It further notes that LGBT persons face other forms of discrimination and intolerance in their daily lives.
On the basis of its observations, ECRI makes a number of recommendations including the following two, which are to be implemented on a priority basis and will be the subject of interim follow-up by ECRI within two years:
ensure that the Ombudsman’s office is adequately staffed in proportion to its workload;
carry out a study on all forms of discrimination against LGBT persons with a view to preparing and adopting an action plan to end such forms of discrimination.
The report was drawn up following the contact visit made by ECRI in September 2015 and, unless otherwise specified, covers developments up to the end of December 2015. The comments of the authorities are appended to the report.
3. (§ 14) ECRI recommends that the authorities change the status of the Commission for protection against discrimination with a view of making it fully independent. Furthermore, ECRI recommends that the authorities bring the mandate and powers of the Commission and the Ombudsman, in general, in line with ECRI’s GPR No. 7. They should, in particular, grant both institutions the right to initiate court cases even when a specific victim is not referred to.
17. (§ 89) ECRI recommends that the authorities fill all the vacant positions in the Ombudsman’s office as a first step towards ensuring that the office is adequately staffed in proportion to its workload. In this connection, the authorities should also provide secretarial support staff to the Commission for the Protection against Discrimination.