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News 25 Jul 17

Hate Crimes Spike Alarms Macedonia Rights Committee

Hate crimes, especially politically motivated ones, rose sharply last year and in the first half of this year, Macedonia’s Helsinki Committee for Human Rights said, presenting a new report.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
 Riots in Skopje. Archive photo: BIRN

Macedonia's Helsinki Committee registered 70 hate crimes last year, which was a rise of 60 per cent on the year before. However, the authorities raised criminal indictments in only 17 cases, the committee noted.

Its latest report said 34 attacks, nearly half of all registered hate crimes, appeared motivated by ethnicity and most happened between ethnic Macedonian and Albanian youngsters.

The committee said this development was worrying and could undermine overtall ethnic relations in the country.

However, the report noted a sharp rise in crimes motivated by different political affiliations as well.

Last year, it registered 21 politically motivated hate crimes, well up on the five registered in 2015.

Presenting the report, the head of the Committee, Uranija Pirovska, blamed the rise in politically motivated attacks mostly on hate speech coming from the centres of political power during last year's and this year’s political crisis.

She noted the storming of parliament in April 27 – when supporters of the former ruling VMRO DPMNE party went on a rampage and injured some 100 people, including 10 MPs – as a striking example of politically motivated hate crime.

“The incident was preceded by an extraordinary high level of hate speech and by calls for violence,” Pirovska told the press conference.

While the report noted no attacks motivated by different sexual orientation last year, the committee said this did not mean that the country had taken any real care to protect sexual minority groups.

As an indicator, Pirovska said that in June this year they noted a serious rise in hate speech based on sexual orientation and gender, which resulted in six charges being reported to the authorities.

This rise, Pirovska said, coincided with the news of the first sex change surgery in the country and with the holding of the Pride Weekend.

Migrants and refugees crossing the country on their way towards Western Europe had also fallen victims of hate crimes, the report noted.

It counted 11 such incidents in which Middle Eastern people were tortured, beaten and robbed, mostly by unidentified assailants.

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