News 14 May 13

Macedonia Constitutional Court Probes Paedophile Register

The constitutional court’s move to review a government decision to publish the names and addresses of paedophiles released from jail has angered top officials.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Macedonia's Constitutional Court

Social policy minister Spiro Ristovski says he was shocked to hear that the constitutional court has decided to reassess the government’s recent move to publish the names, addresses and photographs of convicted paedophiles who have been released from prison.

The court acted upon a plea from several convicted paedophiles who are demanding the removal of the register from the internet, arguing that it threatens their safety and that of their relatives.

“What kind of personal or family integrity are we talking about when it comes to people who have abused minors, moreover, when some of the perpetrators have committed acts of sexual intercourse with their own biological children,” said Ristovski.

“I hope that reason will prevail among judges,” he said.

But the head of the court, Branko Naumovski, described the minister’s reaction as inappropriate.

“The minister was shocked by the decision, but I am shocked by his statements and the evaluation of the decision that he obviously did not read,” Naumovski said.

“If you ask me personally, I opt for the highest penalty for paedophiles, but here, the court simply evaluated the procedure and its compliance with the constitution,” he added.

In June last year, Macedonia became the first country in the region to publish a paedophile register online.

Officials insisted that it would help keep children safe.

The register, containing more than 200 people, allows anyone to check whether convicted offenders live in their neighborhood.

But the move was considered problematic by some human rights watchdogs, with the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights noting that the register could encourage people to take the law into their own hands.

But others said that the fact that the register has been visited over 300,000 times so far showed that it was doing its job.

“The register is seriously helping to raise awareness and helps better protection,” said Miroslav Pendarovski, the head of the Association for Protection of Underage People NGO.

The controversy over the issue was also reflected during the constitutional court’s decision to review the establishment of the register, which was not taken unanimously, with only five out of nine judges in favour of it.

This gave the entire case a political tone as some pro-government media accused the judges who wanted to discuss the issue of being close to the opposition Social Democrats and their leader Branko Crvenkovski.

For severe sexual offences against minors, Macedonian law envisages sentences of up to 15 years in prison. For other sexual crimes, the law stipulates terms ranging from three to ten years in jail.

The law, adopted last year, which paved the way for the public paedophile register, also empowers the police to monitor convicted sex offenders more closely.

The latest government data shows that 231 people were convicted of paedophilia in Macedonia between 2004 and 2009.

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