By EDRi

Several leading human rights NGOs from Macedonia issued a reaction to
the Parliament and the Government of Republic of Macedonia on 24 June 2008,
regarding the recent changes in the Law on Criminal Procedure and the Law on
Interception of Communications, allowing special investigative measures
(such as surveillance).

The Foundation Open Society Institute – Macedonia, the Association for
Criminal Justice and Criminology of Macedonia and the Helsinki Committee for
Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia expressed deep concern because of
the fast-track adoption of changes in the legislation “without no expert
discussion whatsoever.” These changes can turn Macedonia from a state based
on a rule of law into a “police state unconcerned with respect of basic
human rights and freedoms.”

As a result of expert analysis of the new legislation, the signatories
stated: “Besides enlarging the possibility for implementation of special
investigative procedures for crimes outside of the sphere of organized
crime, these changes also allow wide preventive implementation of these
measures, even in cases without reasonable doubt of hard crimes and
corruption. These changes are not in line with the European and world human
rights standards, nor are common as acceptable method for fighting crime and
corruption.”

A similar manner of adopting the new version of the Law on
Interception of Communications is also expected these days. The current
draft also raises serious concerns regarding abuse of privacy.

NGO representatives require that the adoption of this type of
legislation should be accompanied by “widespread expert and scientific
public discussion involving the institutions of the judiciary and the civil
society, through a democratic process aiming to achieve reasonable balance
between the efficiency in fighting crime and corruption, and the basic human
rights of privacy.”

The EDRi-member Metamorphosis Foundation also voices concern from the
perspective of the development of the information society, especially
because the changes in the legislation do not define the mechanisms to
control and prevent arbitrary abuse of the new powers, and because the
minimum standards for public consultation including all stakeholders have
not been met during the drafting and adoption. New technologies enable easy
ways that directly influence the lives of the growing number of Internet
users in Macedonia, which can involve privacy abuse; therefore carrying out
the legislative process in an inclusive and transparent manner is of special
significance.

Popular Macedonian bloggers also voiced concern due to an unexplained
drastic increase of the state security budget (from about 0.4 million euro
to over 24 millione euro) and the changes in the Law on Criminal Procedure
which provide extremely wide powers to implement surveillance. The links to
such posts received high number of votes on the social bookmarking service
Kajmak.ot.

The influential blog Vuna reacted: “they raised the secret police
budget 60 times. Nobody offered an explanation. I wonder if they work 60
times more secretive, or will they survey 60 times more people. This is an
introduction to a dystopian scenario.”

The blogger Volan synthesised the information from the traditional
media on the changes of the Law on Criminal Procedure via links and quotes
in the post “‘The Big Ears’ – legalized. The Big Brother watches, listens
and records – legally this time. “providing space for discussion used by
tens of readers who posted various comments”.

(Contribution by Filip Stojanovski, EDRI-member Metamorphosis – Macedonia)