Statement: Macedonia's adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights

41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council

The Balkan Civil Society Development Network (BCSDN), The Macedonian Centre for International Cooperation (MCIC) and CIVICUS welcome the government of North Macedonia's engagement with the UPR process. We also welcome improvements in legislation and practice to promote civic space, particularly the Government’s decision to end the financial inspections of the 22 civil society organisations (CSOs) critical of the previous government and the public conclusion clearing them of any wrongdoing.

The Government has revised the legal framework to safeguard freedom of expression and opinion and improved the general climate, particularly for independent journalists. We welcome changes in law, relating to the urgent reform priorities, and efforts to enhance the independence of the public broadcasting service and regulatory body. However, despite this positive trajectory, we remain concerned over the frequency of threats being made towards independent journalists. 

In light of this concern, our recent joint UPR Submission documented that since its last review, North Macedonia has only partially implemented the eight recommendations relating to freedom of expression and opinion.

We encourage the Government to amend existing legislation which undermines freedom of association. Namely, the Penal code, where legal representatives of associations and foundations are defined as public officials and carry the same responsibilities. Similarly, the recently proposed “Law on Lobbying” could subvert recent improvements by stifling civil society participation in policy dialogue.

Finally, while improvements were made in the Law on Police, there is still a need to improve the Law on Public Assemblies. Worryingly, this legislation contains burdensome obligations for organisers and requires foreign persons to receive permission before organising protests. While authorities have facilitated numerous gatherings that were peaceful, we remain dismayed at the use of disproportionate force against protesters. In June 2018, police used tear gas and shock bombs, leading to the injury of 25 people. Media coverage of the protest was also hampered by the violence.

Mr President, BCSDN and MCIC and CIVICUS call on the Government of North Macedonia to take proactive measures to address these concerns and implement recommendations to create and maintain, in law and in practice, an enabling environment for civil society.