Macedonia: Fast-Track Lawmaking, Privacy Alert

Macedonian Parliament disbanded itself today, as part of the process of preparation for the June elections. The ruling majority used the previous period to rubber-stamp a huge number of draft-laws submitted by the government, including a new attempt to legalize unconstitutional police surveillance.

According to an analysis [.pdf, mk] by FOSIM, after the PM announced his acceptance of early elections, the government incurred new public debts of around EUR 505 million, and used the funds for advertisements, public administration jobs, stipends for students, and procurements. In the law-making sphere:

In only six weeks, in absence of the opposition, the government's parliamentary machinery surpassed itself and sneaked 171 draft-laws, and then with unseen speed voted to accept 43 laws. Only 2 of these laws are needed for harmonization with the EU's legal framework.

Even though in normal circumstances, all legislative proposals need to undergo a process of public debate, the fast-tracking reached comic proportions when the Parliament's “assembly line” processed 102 laws in one evening [mk].

Rubberstamp photo by Filip Stojanovski, published under CC-NC License

Rubberstamp photo by Filip Stojanovski, published under CC-NC License

During June 2010, Global Voices provided coverage of the previous attempt to pass legislative changes without public debate and against the provisions of the Constitution, which clearly states that surveillance must be performed upon court order only. As a reaction, a group of NGOs started an online campaign which gathered around 1,700 individual supporters.

Refering to this case, legal expert Kire Milovski analyzed [mk] the new “totalitarian invasion… of our bedrooms” on the Macedonia in EU blog:

…for reasons unfathomable to everyone else, [the Administration] persistently strives to provide some form of legality to police surveillance without court order. Last year they would have sneaked such non-constitutional changes into the Law of Electronic Communications. However they were stopped by the always awake and probably the only keepers of the right to privacy in this so-called state, the civic sector led by FOSIM, Metamorphosis and Transparency Macedonia. These organizations requested assessment of constitutionality of the [amendments to this law] from the Constitutional Court. On December 15, 2010, the Constitutional Court [invalidated] the amendments in question, defending the right to privacy of citizens of the Republic of Macedonia.


In normal states and democracy, these kinds of stories would finish with a happy ending, while here in Quasiland the story goes further. So on Saturday, March 31, 2011, without the opposition, the ruling majority in the first reading adopted the Draft Law amending the Law on Criminal Procedure [mk]. This law changes four articles of LCP, including the following unconstitutional provision. The previous version of the article stated:

“In order to provide information and evidence necessary for successful criminal procedure, which cannot be obtained otherwise or their provision would be linked with greater difficulty, the court may order the taking of special investigative measures related to the crimes contained in the Criminal Code.”

The proposal of the Government and the Ministry of Justice, just deletes the words “the court” and leaves the door open again for prosecutors from the Ministry of the Interior to take special investigative measures without judicial warrant. Is further comment necessary? Can we expect the ruling majority to come to their senses in the meantime and at the second reading to intervene with amendments to restore this provision in its proper position? Or we would need to put our faith in the Constitutional Court again, and prepare new initiatives for assessing the law's constitutionality?

Ajvan Doktor® [pun on the term Veterinarian, combining Turkish word for animal and the word doctor] wrote [mk] about other paradoxical legislative changes:

Hasty lawmaking often happens in Macedonia! Somebody said in the Parliament that it is much better to have any kind of law, instead of no law at all! As a result, we have loads of dysfunctional, unconstitutional, inapplicable, and ambiguous laws…

…There are even laws in conflict with each other, as the law on legalization of illegal construction, which is in conflict with at least five related laws, and in contradiction with the Constitution, as it legalizes the crime of constructing (“wild”) buildings without proper documentation, unheard of in most legal states!

The latest pearl is the Law on additional condition for performing public functions (what a sound-bite!) which requires:

“The Person from Article 5 of this law, who has performed a public function, and who is not deceased, is obliged to submit written notarized statement to the Commission for Facts Verification stating that he did not cooperate with the State Security organs…”

“And who is not deceased”!? Do our new laws now apply to deceased persons!? What a pearl! Imagine a deceased person submitting a statement…! Does this mean that this state will soon recognize Zombie-citizens?

In a fitting coincidence, Kire Milovski ended his post like this:

Possibly it is best to end this text with the questions posed by Gogol in his masterpiece Dead Souls, who compares Russia with a troika that madly rushes forward like the wind, without a known goal (English translation by D. J. Hogarth):

And you, Russia of mine—are not you also speeding like a troika which nought can overtake? Is not the road smoking beneath your wheels, and the bridges thundering as you cross them, and everything being left in the rear, and the spectators, struck with the portent, halting to wonder whether you be not a thunderbolt launched from heaven? What does that awe-inspiring progress of yours foretell? What is the unknown force which lies within your mysterious steeds? Surely the winds themselves must abide in their manes, and every vein in their bodies be an ear stretched to catch the celestial message which bids them, with iron-girded breasts, and hooves which barely touch the earth as they gallop, fly forward on a mission of God? Whither, then, are you speeding, O Russia of mine? Whither? Answer me! But no answer comes—only the weird sound of your collar-bells.

Does this address to Russia applies to Macedonia also???

I must not forget the European dimension. We'll read all about it in the October version of the (un)Progress Report in the process of European integrations.


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