Investigate violence against sexual- and gender minorities (LGBTI) in Macedonia

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee(NHC), The Norwegian LGBT Organization (LLH) and Amnesty International Norway expressed concern for the situation for LGBTI persons in Macedonia in a letter sent to Nikola Gruevski, Prime Minister of Macedonia, 6 November 2014.

Photo: Radio Youth Educational Forum (RadioMOF)

An attack on the Damar Coffee Bar 20 October 2014 in the Old Skopje Bazaar, during the celebration of the second anniversary of the opening of the LGBTI Support Center left two people with injuries to their heads and bodies. This is the sixth attack on the LGBTI Support Center since it was established two years ago. Previous attacks have included insults, beatings, stone throwing and arson. By now, proper prosecution has only been carried out in one of these cases; leaving an impression to homo- and transphobic forces that hate crimes against LGBTI persons can be carried out without consequences.

Being considered for pre-accession negotiations for EU membership, Macedonia is expected to follow a steady course towards fulfilling its human rights obligations of all its citizens. Still we cannot see that the state is taking any significant measures to address the major challenges that were addressed on these issues in the progress report on Macedonia: LGBTI persons suffers from hate crimes, hate speech, homo- and transphobia and difficult working conditions for civil society organizations. Anti-discrimination legislation does not include sexual orientation or gender identity, and is also not included in legislation on hate crimes.

Macedonia also got very critical remarks by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association’s assessment of the situation for LGBTI in Europe in 2014. Of the 49 countries reviewed, only Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Monaco and Ukraine got a more critical review. A constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between man and woman was adopted in the Parliament 27 August; awaiting its final reading later this fall.

It is important to note that also positive steps can be observed in the Western Balkans, largely due to comprehensive efforts made by civil society and activists in the region. Adoption of legislation prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, as well as inclusion of sexual orientation in the definition of hate crimes, is under positive development in the region. Inclusion of gender identity is, however, still insufficiently addressed, and implementation is not satisfactory. Pride parades have successfully been held in Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro this year. Although a constitutional amendment was adopted by a referendum in Croatia 2013 which defined marriage as a sole union between man and woman, the recent Law on Life Partnerships grants same-sex unions most of the same rights that married couples enjoy.

In the letter, NHC, LLH and Amnesty encouraged the Macedonian Government, the Ministry of Interior, the Public Prosecutor`s Office and the competent courts to publicly condemn all acts of violence and ensure proper investigation of hate crimes and prosecution of the perpetrators. We also encouraged the Government to demonstrate its commitment to the uman rights and inherent values of the European Convention of Human Rights, in particular article 14, which prohibits discriminating anyone in enjoying the rights set forth in the Convention.

The letter to Mr. Gruevski, which was also sent to the Minister of Internal Affairs, Gordana Jankuloska, and the Public Prosecutor Marko Zvrlevski, can be read here.