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First session of the second cycle of Working group 3 – Judiciary and Fundamental Rights (Chapter 23) “Reform ideas for “cleared” judiciary through the prism of existing mechanisms”

The arranged time of 3 hours was insufficient for the debate, at today’s NCEU-МК session, on the subject “Reform ideas for “cleared” judiciary through the prism of existing mechanisms” as a part of the First session of the second cycle of Working Group 3 (Judiciary and fundamental rights – Chapter 23) which was held on the Zoom platform, noting the participation of over 50 Macedonian and Slovakian experts.

“We have enough mechanisms, and we feel that through them an independent judiciary system can be created. The goal is not to form new organizational bodies and to enact new laws to do the clearing, rather it is to use the existing ones, stated Bojan Maricic, the minister of justice in the Republic of North Macedonia. He reiterated that the goal of the Government is to focus on the reforms that will reinforce the judicial capacities, adding that according to the new methodology of the European Commission „the process begins and ends with the Fundamentals cluster“.

“The Ministry of Justice thinks that the reforms have to be done with help from the European Union, but with our active participants, as well. It is our goal to enforce the good laws and not only enact them. It has to be our common goal. We have all the prerequisites to make that difference,” said Maricic. He announced that the work evaluation model for judges is currently in development, and it will be used to assess the work done by judges and public prosecutors alike.

 

Prof. D-r. Mileva Gjurovska, the national coordinator of the NCEU-MK and president of the European Movement Macedonia remarked that one of the crucial areas, that starts and ends the negotiations is in fact the Fundamentals cluster containing Chapters 23 and 24.

“The success of all the other clusters will depend on the success of this cluster. As an important issue, the consolidation of the judicial system has complete legitimacy“, observed Gjurovska.

 

The UKIM professor, Nikola Tupanceski, agreed that with the current law regulation the judicial reforms can be enforced, primarily regarding the “clearing” or vetting and reminded the participants of the newly enacted laws such as the Public prosecution law, which was introduced in June of 2020, as well as the Judicial council law, and the Anti-corruption  law enacted in 2019.

„This one package is the basis of the reforms. In the closing remarks of the Public prosecution law it is stated that in order for it to work, bylaws need to be enacted within 60 days. So far, the new bylaws haven’t been enacted, and the old ones are no longer sanctioned,” said Tupanceski. In his address he also debated the statutory limitations, more specifically, the habit of closing unsolved cases.

“The statute of limitations is a complex issue How do we determine guilt for the statute of limitations running out? We have 20 subjects from the Primary to the Supreme court. This is where the principle of morality gets tested – leading us to ask why 5 years? How is it possible that one prosecutor lets the statute of limitations run out on 300 cases in 10 years? The error, the defect, the anomaly has to have a name“, stated Tupanceski.

In response to that, the judge Olja Ristovska countered that the judges are often put in situations where they have to fill in for each other, getting cold cases through no fault of their own.

Sofija Pejovska-Dojcinovska, vice-president of the State commission for corruption prevention of North Macedonia, claimed that the existing laws are simply not enough.

„The existing tools are not sufficient to investigate whether a public official earned their property legally. We have learned that property is skillfully hidden. Unless the state comes up with a mechanism consisted of more radical steps, like a new legal solution to provide basis for a legal investigation of all citizens, we will only be dealing with elected officials, whereas that type of new law will provide us with extra tools“, sated Pejovska-Dojcinovska

Margarita Caca Nikolovska, on the other hand, called for attention to be drawn to civil cases as well, not just the criminal cases, for the analysis of the judiciary to be comprehensive.

Slovakian expert Pavol Zilincik shared the Slovakian experience with judiciary “clearing”, claiming that earning trust in the judiciary is crucial in the reform process, mentioning the Dutch example, where leading psychologists tested potential judges’ ability to resist pressure, while his Slovakian colleague Tomas Strazay, demanded more transparency of the judicial reforms.

Recommendations, which will be additionally published, were taken into consideration at the conference, based on the opinions of Macedonian experts, but based on the Slovakian experts’ opinions as well, which are based on the experiences of several successful models within the European Union.