Macedonia: Smear campaign and administrative harassment against the Macedonian Helsinki Committee (MHC)

28/02/2017
Urgent Appeal

MKD 001 / 0217 / OBS 020
Smear campaign /
Administrative harassment
Macedonia
February 28, 2017

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Macedonia.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the smear campaign and administrative harassment against the Macedonian Helsinki Committee (MHC) in the context of a broader attack against civil society organisations, including human rights organisations, in Macedonia.

According to the information received, on December 6, 2016, the Public Revenue Office (PRO) informed the MHC about the launch of a financial inspection of its activities on December 14, 2016. This took place in the context of the run-up to the parliamentary elections that took place on December 11, 2016, during which financial inspections on 2016 activities targeted around 20 civil society organisations that received funds from the Foundation Open Society - Macedonia (FOSM). At the end of December 2016, the financial inspections were discontinued with an indication that they would continue in 2017. Some of these inspections resumed after January 29, 2017, but with an extended scope of five financial years rather than focusing on 2016.

Moreover, according to the MHC, PRO would have illegally leaked private financial information gathered during past inspections to the Civil Movement for the Defense of Macedonia (GDOM) [1] and some state media officers who used the information to substantiate smear campaigns against the MHC and other human rights organisations and defenders.

The Observatory notes that this wave of financial inspections follows political tensions that culminated with an anti-civil society campaign conducted by members of the incumbent governing political party VMRO-DPMNE, targeting especially foreign funded civil society organisations.

Indeed, on December 9, 2016, GDOM, circulated leaflets in Skopje listing more than 40 civil society leaders including journalists, professors, opposition party members, as well as MHC leaders Mr. Gordan Kalajdziev, Ms. Uranija Pirovska, and Mr. Kocho Andonovski with mentions of their respective salaries. In the leaflet, the GDOM alleged that “people who do not have good intentions towards our country are behind everything that has happened in our country in the past two years and that these people are shamelessly paid for every incident they instigate”. Moreover, the leaflet stated that FOSM had spent six million USD granted by foreign donors to create an army to “terrorise the state” and “spit on, throw colour against, or destroy monuments of the Macedonian culture, history, identity, and the buildings of the state institutions”. Prior to this, on April 21, 2016, GDOM had publicly called for the Constitutional Court to temporarily ban all non-governmental organisations and some political parties, which are “paid and working to destroy the Government and the State”.

Furthermore, on December 17, 2016, during a media interview, VMRO-DPMNE’s leader and former Prime Minister of Macedonia, Mr. Nikola Gruevski called for “de-Sorosoization” as part of a process aimed at regulating the work of foundations and NGOs operating in Macedonia. Mr. Gruevski portrayed civil society organisations as destabilizing elements that corrupt entire sections of the society and should be neutralized with specific measures. After this interview, several VMRO-DPMNE high-ranked officials publicly reiterated the same messages. The smear campaign reached its climax on January 17, 2017 with the establishment of a citizen movement supported by the ruling party “Stop Operation Soros”. This movement declared the de-Sorosoization of the civil society sector in Macedonia as its primary goal.

The Observatory strongly condemns the ongoing smear campaign targeting the MHC in the context of a broader smear campaign against civil society organisations in Macedonia. This runs contrary to Macedonia’s international obligations to create an enabling environment for civil society, including human rights defenders. Moreover, the Observatory recalls that the right of NGOs to funding, including foreign funding, is an integral and vital part of the right to freedom of association and must therefore be respected.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Macedonia asking them to:

i. Put an end to all forms of harassment and smear campaigns against all human rights defenders in Macedonia as they only aim at sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities;

ii. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of members of the MHC and more generally that of all human rights defenders in Macedonia;

iii. Immediately issue a public statement on behalf of the highest level of the State authorities to express full support for the work of human rights defenders in Macedonia, including when they express criticism;

iv. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially Articles 1 and 12.2;

v. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Macedonia.

Addresses:

· Mr. Gjorge Ivanov, President of the Republic of Macedonia. E-mail: contact@president.mk
· Mr. Agim Nuhiu, Minister of Internal Affairs. E-mail: kontakt@moi.gov.mk
· Mr. Valdet Dzaferi, Minister of Justice. E-mail: cabinet@mjustice.gov.mk, publicrelation@mjustice.gov.mk
· Mr. Nikola Poposki, Minister of Foreign Affairs. E-mail: mailmnr@mfa.gov.mk, vizencentar@mfa.gov.mk
· Mr. Idzet Memeti, Ombudsman of the Republic of Macedonia. E-mail: contact@ombudsman.mk
· Ms. Anastasija Ilieska, Acting Director, Public Revenue Office. E-mail: info@ujp.gov.mk
· Mr. Ljupcho Gjorgjinski, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Macedonia to the United Nations in Geneva. E-mail: geneva@mfa.gov.mk
· Mr. Petar Pop-Arsov, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Macedonia to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. E-mail: strasbourg@mfa.gov.mk
· Dr. Andrej A. Lepavcov, Ambassador of the Republic of Macedonia to the EU in Brussels. E-mail: brussels@mfa.gov.mk, mission.eu@mfa.gov.mk
· Dr. Kire Ilioski, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Macedonia to the International Organizations in Vienna. E-mail: mission.vienna@mfa.gov.mk

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Macedonia in your respective countries.

***
Geneva-Paris, February 28, 2017

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, an OMCT and FIDH partnership, is dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· E-mail: Appeals[at]fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39 / 41 22 809 49 29
· Tel and fax FIDH: +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / 01 43 55 18 80

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